New York, NY
Poet and playwright Marcus Gardley says that he writes “epic plays.” His works have included the story of an African American transvestite dur-ing the Civil War and a trilogy about a tribe of half-Black, half-Native American people who incorporated the first all-Black town in the U.S. His play every tongue confess (2010) was nominated for both the Steinberg New Play Award and the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play and received the Edgerton New Play Award. Gardley is a Visiting Lecturer at Brown University.
Theaster Gates employs urban planning, sculpture, and social practice in performances, installations, and urban interventions. In his expansive artistic practice, Gates has assembled gospel choirs, formed temporary unions, converted abandoned buildings into cultural spaces, and created sculptures. In The Dorchester Project (2009), Gates restored a building in Chicago to house a 14,000-volume library from an art and architecture bookstore as well as a collection of glass slides from the University of Chicago Art History Department, all of which are available to the local community. Gates is the Director of Arts and Public Life and Resident Artist at the University of Chicago.
San Francisco, CA
Guillermo Gomez-Peña is a performance, video, and installation artist, writer, and cultural theorist. He moved from Mexico to the U.S. in 1978. In his performances and writings, Gomez-Peña focuses on cross-cultural issues, immigration, the politics of language and the body, and U.S.-Mexico border issues. His mix of experimental aesthetics with activism results in works that have been called “Chicano cyber-punk performances.” Gomez-Peña has won several awards, including a MacArthur Fellowship (1991).
Jacqueline Goss works in film, video, animation, and programming. Goss often works in two-dimensional digital animation to create “animated documentaries,” where, in her words, “historical document meets the unabashedly subjective eye.” Her most recent film, The Observers (2011), documents the climatologists who work at the Mt. Washington Weather Observatory. Her works have been screened at numerous venues such as the Anthology Film Archive in New York and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and she has been awarded a Herb Alpert Award (2007), among other honors. Goss is an Associate Professor at Bard College.
David Hartt creates primarily photo-based works that often appear in installations. He says his works “serve as intimate portraits of dreams and ideals that have not failed as much as been subtly displaced or altered.” His recent project, Stray Light (2011), includes a video and photographs taken at the Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, producer of Ebony and Jet magazines and the leading arbiter of African American taste during the latter half of the twentieth century. Hartt records the original 1971 interiors, and the images serve as documents of African American cultural history.
Oklahoma City, OK
Edgar Heap of Birds works in multidisciplinary forms that include public art, large-scale drawing, paintings, and prints. He first came to prominence in 1982 with In Our Language, a work on the computerized billboard in New York’s Times Square, which melded English and the Cheyenne language to create phrases that referred to the colonization of Manhattan. He is also known for his series of Native Hosts signs, which announce the names of the local indigenous tribes in sites as varied as Vancouver, Utah, New York City, and the Virgin Islands.
Bin Laden U.S. Code Name Geronimo, from the Dead Indian Stories, 2011; photo credit Edgar Heap of Birds
Known primarily as a fiction writer, Aleksandar Hemon has, since 1993, lived in the U.S., where he became stranded during the outbreak of the Bosnian war while visiting from his native Sarajevo. He writes about displacement and exile, mixing autobiography and fiction. Hemon has published two novels and two collections of short stories. His first novel, Nowhere Man (2002), was shortlisted for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His second novel, The Lazarus Project (2008), was a finalist for the National Book Award. Hemon has received numerous honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2004.
San Francisco, CA
Dancer, choreographer, and performance artist Keith Hennessy stages his work in theaters and at protests, fusing performance art with community activism while often breaking the barrier between audience and performer. His works combine dance with speaking, dancing, and visual imagery, and they frequently address AIDS, race, and political injustices. Hennessy has founded several performance collaboratives, including ZERO PERFORMANCE, and has received many honors, including a Bessie Award for Crotch (2009) as well as several Isadora Duncan Dance Awards (1999, 2000, 2009).
LeAnne Howe is a novelist, poet, playwright, and screenwriter as well as a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her work deals primarily with American Indian experiences. Howe’s debut novel, Shell Shaker (2001), received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation as well as the Wordcraft Circle Writer of the Year award. Her second novel, Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story (2007), recounts the story of a Choctaw baseball pitcher and his team and moves between 1907 and the present. Howe served Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English and Native Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne.
Playwright David Henry Hwang is best know as the author of M. Butterfly, which won the Tony, Drama Desk, John Gassner, and Outer Critics Circle Awards (1988) and was nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize (1989). Although he is known as the premier Asian American dramatist, Hwang has had a varied career, including as the most-produced living opera librettist and the author of a story about the life of the Spanish playwright/poet Federico García Lorca. Hwang’s Yellow Face (2007) is a biting comedy about cultural identity in which a playwright inadvertently casts a white actor in the Asian lead role. The play received an Obie Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (2008).