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Richmond novelist, Studio Two Three, Firehouse Theatre & VMFA win NEA grants

Richmond novelist, Studio Two Three, Firehouse Theatre & VMFA win NEA grants

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Richmond author Kelli Jo Ford, as well as Firehouse Theatre, Studio Two Three and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, have been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Ford, author of “Crooked Hallelujah,” a coming-of-age novel set in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, received a $25,000 grant. Her debut novel was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of Time magazine’s must-read books of 2020.

Ford, who lives in Richmond’s Forest Hill neighborhood, said the grant will allow her to dial back her teaching responsibilities at the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Low Residency MFA Creative Writing program in Santa Fe, N.M., to focus on her second novel.

“I’m also working on adapting ‘Crooked Hallelujah’ for TV, something I’m really excited about,” Ford said.

The Firehouse Theatre won a $20,000 grant that will support its First Responders festival of world premiere one acts written by first responders.

“We’re producing the project in association with [Richmond author] David L. Robbins’ new writing group for first responders called First Line Writers, where he helps them turn their personal experiences into short stories and plays. David is currently working on developing four scripts with two firemen and two policemen,” said Joel Bassin, producing artistic director, via email.

Studio Two Three, the Scott’s Addition arts center and printmaking studio, has won its second NEA grant. The $20,000 grant will support its artist residency program, including its Make Art Work program, its visiting artist program and its book-making program. Make Art Work provides residency, business training and whole-person support to artists and low-income artists. The program offers 24-hour studio access, prepaid transportation, one-to-one mentorship and free workshops on the business side of art.

The VMFA won a $40,000 grant from the NEA that will support an upcoming exhibit called “The Art of the American Guitar” from curator Leo Mazow who last curated “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel.” Featuring approximately 100 works of art and 25 musical instruments, the exhibit will be the first to explore the instrument’s symbolism in American art from 1833 to the present day. It is slated to open in October.

“We expect that this multifaceted exhibition, highlighting one of America’s most quintessential emblems — the guitar — will have broad appeal and resonate with our visitors. We appreciate the NEA’s support for this exciting project,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s director and CEO.

The NEA announced the awards last week with 1,498 awards totaling nearly $33.2 million.

“These National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants underscore the resilience of our nation’s artists and arts organizations, will support efforts to provide access to the arts, and rebuild the creative economy,” said Ann Eilers, the NEA’s acting chair, in a statement. “The supported projects demonstrate how the arts are a source of strength and well-being for communities and individuals, and can open doors to conversations that address complex issues of our time.”

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran


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