Queer|Art|Prize Ceremony Honors Legendary Drag Politician/Activist Joan Jett Blakk, And More
On the evening of Friday, November 1, a vibrant -and extremely stylish-crowd of more than 200 LGBTQ+ artists and allies packed into the 3rd floor auditorium at The Center (208 W. 13th St.) for the 2019 Queer|Art Annual Party. The evening convened a celebration for the graduating Fellows of the 2018-2019 Queer|Art|Mentorship program cycle and occasioned the announcement of the winners for the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize (made possible with generous support from HBO and Bloomberg Philanthropies).
This year's Prize honored the legendary drag queen politician and Queer Nation/ACT-UP activist, Joan Jett Blakk, and dance artists, jumatatu m. poe & Jermone Donte Beacham, with awards recognizing their significant contributions to queer culture. Ms. Blakk was acknowledged in the category of Sustained Achievement, while jumatatu & Donte received the award for Recent Work for their touring multi-venue performance of "Let 'im Move You: This is a formation".
Joan Jett BLAKK aka TERENCE SMITH
For Sustained Achievement
For her memorable presidential campaign and for her powerful dedication to the lives of Black, LGBTQ+ communities across the nation, on behalf of Queer|Art and the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize Nominating Committee and Judges, we hereby award Ms. Joan Jett Blakk the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize for Sustained Achievement.
Terence Smith accepting the award for Sustained Achievement:
"Thank you so much. This year, this has been pretty fucking incredible! To have this award is amazing. And I have to say that I would accept this for not just me, but for all the activists and all the friends I've had who are not here. It's for them as much as it is for me and because... can you imagine what would've happened if they'd all lived? What kind of art would be in this world? We need to carry that on. This is my chosen family and so much of them are here tonight... if I don't stop talking, I'll just start crying because I still can't believe the Steppenwolf Theater [created a play about Joan Jett Blakk]! It's just, it's been... What a year I've had.
To see all of these young people - I have a friend here, Billy Miller, that we've known each other 45 years and there's so many of you that were not born and there were people in the [Ms. Blakk for President] play that weren't born when we did all this. And that's what's so wonderful; it just keeps going and going and going.
This is the world we've created. Hopefully they won't blow it up before we get to do anything! I can't thank you all enough, this is really amazing. And I'm just going to go sit down and try not to make a mess by crying so much! Thank you so much."
JUMATATU M. POE & JERMONE DONTE BEACHAM
For Recent Work
For gathering people in the spaces that exist within the margins, for responding in joy through slippage, and engaging the possibilites of Black and queer community resiliency, Queer|Art and the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize Nominating Committee and Judges award "Let 'im Move You: This is a formation" by jumatatu m. poe & Jermone Donte Beacham the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize for Recent Work.
Maria Bauman-Morales accepting the award on their behalf for Recent Work:
"Congratulations to jumatatu poe & Donte Beacham and all of us who are part of Let 'im Move You: This is a formation. My name is Maria Bauman-Morales and I am part of the cast of Let 'im Move You: This is a formation.
So juma & Donte are getting people in formation in Cincinnati, Ohio where part of the project is happening and they asked me to accept this award should it be granted to them on their behalf and I'm happy to. And really, what we want to share is that everyone who was nominated is fierce and amazing and thank god that we're all out here making art - these four finalists and all of us.
Big shout out and honor to the whole J-Sette community. J-Sette dance technique is the foundation of the whole Let 'im Move You series that juma & Donte have been working on for over a decade. And particularly, we shout out the Black, queer femmes who have been working and working and working and sweating and innovating on the form. So on behalf on juma & Donte, we are so beautifully queer and we really do take it seriously and honor the sisters on whose shoulders we are dancing and the people that we're dancing with. And shout out to being not only queer, and not only Black, but Black and queer all at the same time."
Queer|Art is also proud to acknowledge that Maria Bauman-Morales is an incoming 2019-2020 QAM Mentor within the Queer|Art|Mentorship program.
About the Winners
Joan Jett Blakk, aka Terence Alan Smith (Sustained Achievement), a Detroit native, called Chicago home from the late '70s to the early '90s when he worked as a fitness instructor, actor, political activist and drag performer at such clubs as Berlin and Lower Links. Smith was one of the founders of the Chicago chapter of Queer Nation, a political action group focused on queer issues at the height of the AIDS crisis. In 1990, Queer Nation asked Smith to run for Mayor, as his drag persona Joan Jett Blakk, against Richard Daley. The goal of Joan Jett Blakk's campaign was never to win the election but to garner as much media attention as possible for Chicago's queer community and the AIDS epidemic. In 1992, on the Queer Nation Party ticket, Joan Jett Blakk ran for President of the United States. Shortly after, Smith moved to San Francisco and joined the performance group Pomo Afro Homos, launched his talk show, Late Nite with Joan Jett Blakk, and continued to run for office. He still resides in San Francisco today.
jumatatu m. poe (Recent Work) is a choreographer and performer based between Philadelphia and New York City who grew up dancing around the living room and at parties with siblings and cousins. poe strives to engage in and further dialogues with Black queer folks, create lovingly agitating performance work that recognizes history as only one option for the contextualization of the present, and continue to imagine options for artists' economic and emotional sustainability. poe has performed in various cities around the U.S. and in Europe, and has received various awards including: a 2010-2011 Live Arts Brewery Fellowship (Philadelphia), 2010-2012 and 2017 annual Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Performance Grants, a 2011-2013 Community Education Center Residency Fellowship (Philadelphia), a 2012 Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Fellowship (Philadelphia), a 2016 18th Street Arts Center creative residency (Santa Monica), a 2017 Sacatar Residency Fellowship (Bahia, Brazil), a 2017 MAP Fund award with Jermone Donte Beacham, a 2017 NEFA National Dance Project Production Grant with Jermone Donte Beacham, a 2018 MANCC residency, three Swarthmore College Cooper Foundation grants for presenting other artists (Swarthmore, PA).
Jermone Donte Beacham (Recent Work) began dancing hip hop in high school, and was later introduced to the world of J-Sette by women. J-Sette historically refers to Jackson State University's female drill team that began in the 1970s. Beacham "created" the dance style, and thus far have made it a distinctive form of dance. Beacham was interested in this type of dance, but not entirely until seeing a group of males performing it. Currently, Beacham has established a J-Sette line, Mystic Force. Previously, Beacham served as co-captain of Dallas' Texas Teasers and performed in several events and competitions, including 2 SetteItOff video challenges, Atlanta Pride 2010, Tennessee Classics 2009, and Memphis Pride 2008.
2018-2019 Queer|Art|Mentorship Graduation
The evening also captured the formative influence and exchange that comes out of the Queer|Art|Mentorship program through a series of interludes provided by Queer|Art Mentor and Fellow duo, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen and Xandra Clark. We heard from 2018-2019 QAM Curatorial Fellow, Jeanne Vaccaro, who shared her remarks on the opening of this year's exhibition, "How do we know what we need you to know: Intimate access and collective care" (on view at BGSQD at The Center, November 1-January 9) featuring works and event programming to come by the graduating Fellows: J. Bouey, Daniel Chew, Xandra Nur Clark, Sarah Mihara Creagan, Cristóbal Guerra, Candystore, Russell Perkins, Ripley Soprano, and Natalie Tsui.
Before the awards ceremony, invited guests experienced an invaluable opportunity to hear from our outgoing 2018-2019 QAM Fellows with artwork in the exhibition "How do we know what we need you to know: Intimate access and collective care". The 10 Fellows led an intimate tour through the exhibition on view at The Bureau of General Services - Queer Division to talk about their work, their peers, and their experiences within the Mentorship program. An additional installation commissioned specifically for this event -The Queer|Art Community Portrait Project-featured a series of recent portraits of artists and organizers who are part of the Queer|Art community, by photographer and incoming 2019-2020 QAM Mentor Lola Flash with help from their 2019-2020 Fellow Felli Maynard.
The 2018-2019 Queer|Art|Mentorship Annual Exhibition is on view at The Center and the Bureau of General Services--Queer Division (208 W. 13th St.) through January 9, 2020. For a full list of programs and events, please visit www.queer-art.org/annual.