Visual Arts

Boulder artist and CU professor Anna Tsouhlarakis awarded Creative Capital art grant – Boulder Daily Camera

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Boulder-based Native American artist and University of Colorado professor Anna Tsouhlarakis is one of 42 artists who has been awarded up to $50,000 by New York nonprofit Creative Capital — an organization that provides awards and advisory services to creatives in 34 different disciplines, including visual art, performing arts, moving image and literature.

A billboard from “The Native Guide Project” by Boulder-based artist and CU professor Anna Tsouhlarakis was displayed in 2019. Tsouhlarakis, one of 42 artists selected from a pool of 4,000, has been awarded with a Creative Capital grant that will provide her next project up to $50,000 in funding. (Anna Tsouhlarakis/ Courtesy photo)

“I am thrilled to receive this grant,” said Tsouhlarakis, who is of Navajo, Creek and Greek descent. “It is an honor to be given this type of support for such a large project that I’ve been interested in creating for a long time.”

The multi-faceted work of Tsouhlarakis —  that has been featured in venues such as Rush Arts in New York and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto — is strongly rooted in cultural identity.

From eye-catching billboards calling attention to Natives’ rights to photography where she is often the subject, her body of work prompts viewers to rethink their own preconceived notions and cultural expectations regarding Indigenous peoples.

According to Creative Capital’s site, through her recently-funded project, “Tsouhlarakis collects Indigenous jokes and stories and deconstructs them as part of an investigation in reforming an understanding of Native American identity and expression.”

“While there are various layers and possibilities within my work, I hope viewers will leave with the knowledge that Native people are still here — living, breathing and laughing as Native people,” Tsouhlarakis said.

Although her latest project is still evolving, its completion wouldn’t be possible without the significant grant awarded to Tsouhlarakis.

‘Indigenous Absurdities’ is in the early stages of development,” Tsouhlarakis said. “It is not a project I would have been able to do without the financial support of this award. Right now the end product is envisioned as an exhibition featuring video, installation and sculpture. Depending on how things progress with COVID-19 and the parameters of social distancing, it’s hard to know exactly how the project will be able to unfold.”

Tsouhlarakis — who received her Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College with degrees in Native American Studies and Studio Art and her Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in Sculpture — was selected out of a pool of 4,000 applicants.

A video still featuring artist Anna Tsouhlarakis, “12/ Make It Right,” from her exhibition “Incomplete Drawings of Decolonization” from 2020. (Anna Tsouhlarakis/ Courtesy photo)

The 35 chosen projects, by 42 individual artists, were picked by an eight-member, multidisciplinary panel of expert curators, producers, arts professionals and previous Creative Capital awardees.

“First and foremost is the quality and adventurousness of the work,” said Leslie Singer, Creative Capital’s interim executive director. “We seek out bold, innovative, forward-thinking art that defies easy categorization and Anna’s (Tsouhlarakis’s) ‘Indigenous Absurdities’ is exemplary of that.”

Creative Capital, founded in 1999, is offering a total of $1.75 million in Creative Capital Awards to this new crop of recipients who range in age from their 20s to their 70s.

“It’s absolutely vital that we do everything we can to support artists right now,” Singer said. “This spring we partnered with several other national grant makers in the arts to form Artist Relief, which has been distributing $5,000 emergency grants to artists since April. According to a survey co-presented by Americans for the Arts and Artist Relief, which sprung out of that effort, 95% of artists reported loss of income and 63% have become fully unemployed. And for many artists, with access to venues and performance spaces still cut off, things remain dire.”

Among the 42 winning artists, 76% identify as being persons of color, 55 percent identify as female and 10% identify as having a disability.

“I think being an Indigenous person, alive and interacting with society, is the activism,” said Tsouhlarakis, who is the Andrew W. Mellon Artist-in-Residence at Colorado College for the 2019-2020 academic year. “Placing my voice into the world on any vehicle could be considered activism. I just happen to make art as well.”

On Feb. 1, 2021, applications for the next cycle of Creative Capital awards will open.

“While it’s great to watch these projects evolve and come to fruition over time, we take a particular pride in the community that comes together around them,” Singer said. “Creative Capital Awards aren’t just about the financial support, they’re also about the community of fellow artists, sharing ideas and expertise and coming together to celebrate and support one another. That kind of vibrant creative community is especially vital now.”

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