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3ARTS gives stipends to 10 local talents

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Updated: November 23, 2012 6:06AM

Actress-director Halena Kays and lighting designer Heather Gilbert — two theater talents who have made major contributions to Chicago stages but are not exactly household names — are among the 10 people named as recipients of the fifth annual awards presented by 3ARTS, the organization that helps support and advocate for Chicago area women artists, artists of color, and artists with disabilities.

The honor comes with a stipend of $15,000 for each of the 10 selected, chosen from the fields of theater, music, visual arts, the teaching arts and dance (a new category this year). All of the honorees must live within the Chicago metro area, though many are involved in projects that take them around the globe.

Gilbert, head of the lighting design program at Columbia College, has worked with countless Chicago theater and dance companies, including Court Theatre, Writers’ Theatre, Steppenwolf and Remy Bumppo Theatre, as well as the Hypocrites, for which she created the lighting for David Cromer’s landmark revival of “Our Town.” Kays is now the artistic director of the ever-experimental Hypocrites and was a co-founder and former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys, which teaches creative writing workshops in Chicago Public Schools and adapts the children’s writing into dynamic theater pieces.

The two choreographers selected are:

† Monique Haley, who spent nine years as a dancer with River North Dance Chicago until she shifted her focus towards choreography in 2010, working on musicals produced at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora and on projects with Ballet Nebraska, Dance Works Chicago and the Muntu African Dance Company.

† Nejla Yatkin (with Turkish roots and originally from Berlin, though now a resident of Lincoln Park), who was a 2008 Princess Grace Choreography Fellow, received the award for overall excellence in choreography from the New York International Fringe Festival for 2011 and 2012, and created “Wallstories” (seen in Chicago and many other cities), a dance theater piece focused on elements of boundary walls, migration and identity.

The musicians receiving awards are the popular, multifaceted vocalist and songwriter Dee Alexander and Hawaiian-born, Chicago-raised Lanialoha Lee, who for 14 years has been in residence at the Old Town School of Folk Music, where she teaches ukelele.

In the area of teaching arts, the awardees are: Miguel Aguilar, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who founded Defiance Gallery in 2003, works as a commercial graffiti artist for Fortune 500 companies and currently is program coordinator at Yollocalli Arts Reach and an adjunct professor in art history at SAIC, and Avery Young, whose work blends phonetics, linguistics, hymns, jazz and hip-hop, and who has written curriculum for the Chicago Public Schools Art Integration Department and Columbia College Chicago.

The two visual artists honored are: Harold Mendez, who received his MFA from the University of Illinois Chicago, and whose work has been exhibited at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art/P.S. 1 in New York, the Renaissance Society and beyond, and Maria Vergara, the Chilean-born artist who has pursued her masters’ degree on scholarships at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.

3Arts is celebrating a major milestone this year: To date it has given more than $1 million in awards and other fellowships to more than 100 Chicago artists, also supporting a program that enables past honorees to use the organization’s website to raise money for future projects via a crowd-sourcing “project support platform” called 3Arts Artist Projects (3AP). Through this initiative, 3Arts contributes up to one-third of each project’s total cost with the aim of further helping its awardees to build momentum in their careers.

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