2015-16 Crossing Boundaries Awardees

For Immediate Release | Nov 9, 2015

The CSRPC and Arts + Public Life initiative have chosen the recipients of the Crossing Boundaries Prize, which allows Chicago-based artists to pursue collaborative projects.  Read more here >>

Crossing Boundaries Prize provides a shared $7,000 award to Chicago based artists seeking to form a unique project based collaboration that stretches the boundaries of their work as individuals to date. This prize has been established to provide artists with the means and opportunity to stretch their practice across boundaries, including, but not limited to the following categories: creative discipline, generation, geography, identity, race, class, sexuality, ability, immigrant status, or gender. This award places an emphasis on supporting the formation and development of experimental collaborations between selected artists, with a preference given to artistic practices that:

  • Examine themes relevant to South Side communities
  • Engage issues of race and ethnicity, including, but not limited to, questions of discrimination, anti‐racism, and institutional manifestations
  • Deepen understandings of race, class, gender, and sexualities, as well as their interconnections and implications


Project #1:

Artist Sarah Beth Woods and professional hair braider Fatimata Traore will work together to hold open studio sessions around Chicago, teaching hair braiding and fiber manipulation techniques using hair, cloth and plastic. During these sessions, they will document the process, samples, personal braiding stories of the participants to be included in a publication. Then, select fiber samples from the sessions will be assembled together to create larger sculptural works that blur the line of authorship between Sarah Beth Woods, Fatimata, and the participants, resulting in a new series of collaborative sculptures.

Sarah Beth Woods is a Chicago-based artist who uses the languages of craft, sculpture, and public engagement to explore femininity through material culture, artifice and adornment. Woods received an MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BFA from Northern Illinois University. Her work has been included in shows at the University of Michigan's Work:Detroit space, Girls Club, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, A.I.R gallery in Brooklyn, New York, the Bob & Roberta Smith Kunstverein at Coventry University, Coventry England, and in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Western Exhibitions, The Franklin, Hyde Park Art Center, and Woman Made Gallery. Her work was recently published in the Chicago Tribune and Newcity magazine, where she was named one of the top 5 Subversively Conceptual Crafters in Chicago.  Artist website >>

Fatimata Traore is a Malian-American professional hair braider, teacher, and entrepreneur. Traore is president of the Illinois Association of Hair Braiders, a member of the African Political Action Committee and board member of Mali Relief. She has recently participated in Chicago based braiding events at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, Hyde Park Art Center, and the South Side Community Art Center. Traore is a graduate of the National School of Administration Bamako, Mali.

FINAL PRESENTATION: Sun, May 15BRAID/WORK catalogue release + workshop with Fatimata Traore and Sarah Beth Woods


Project #2:

Footwork dancer Jamal “Litebulb” Oliver and filmmaker Wills Glasspiegel will use the Crossing Boundaries prize to develop a multi-part archival initiative that includes creating spaces online and in person where anyone can engage with and learn the history of footwork culture. This documentation will then be incorporated into their performances and inform the creation of a musical family tree of footwork that tracks how it has spread globally and also the publication of a comprehensive map and genealogy of all the footwork dance crews that have performed in Chicago since the late 80s.

Jamal “Litebulb” Oliver is an artist and footwork dancer from the South Side of Chicago. He co-founded The Era Footwork Dance Company in 2014, and has performed at The Barbican in London, Hive in Tokyo, and MoMA PS-1 in New York, among other venues. Oliver began his dance career at a young age with performances and footwork battles in Chicago. Footwork is an indigenous black Chicago dance that originated in the 1980s and has more recently spread in popularity outside the U.S. Oliver is a leading practitioner and ambassador of the dance form, touring and performing with the Teklife DJ collective and the late DJ Rashad. This year, he received a grant from the Chicago Dancemakers Forum to begin production of 160, a multimedia dance performance depicting Chicago from the perspective of a footwork dancer. Oliver's goals include changing the perception of dance, moving dance from the background to the foreground of popular culture, and helping to bring an end to segregation in the dance world and beyond. As an educator, he is dedicated to teaching footwork to anyone who wants to learn. 

Wills Glasspiegel is a documentarian and visual artist from Chicago and New York. He directed the short film, Icy Lake, and co-founded the Shangaan Electro project in Soweto, South Africa. He is currently a PhD student in African American Studies at Yale, where his academic work includes exploring and documenting Chicago footwork dance and music. Glasspiegel has produced several long-form public radio documentaries, including an exploration of Nigeria’s Nollywood industry, and a history of Black electronic music in the Midwest. His projects span different mediums, from community films made for dancers in Chicago, to radio segments made for NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Wills’ photography has been featured in FADER Magazine, and his images and designs have been featured by prominent Chicago DJs on their album covers. Since 2009, he has worked closely with musicians in Chicago including RP Boo and the late DJ Rashad. The digitization of culture and art has been a concern of Glasspiegel’s work for the last decade, from Sierra Leone to South Africa, to the South Side of Chicago. His efforts have been supported by grants from the Harvard Hip Hop Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Yale's Department of African American Studies.  Artist website >>

FINAL PRESENTATION: Thu, May 26 - Footwork in Focus with The Era