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3Arts goes “Next Level” with third year of $150,000 Next Level/Spare Room Awards to three women visual artists

Visual artists A.J. McClenon, Pooja Pittie, and Reveca Torres each receive $50,000 as 2022 3Arts Next Level/Spare Room Awardees

3Arts, the Chicago-based nonprofit grantmaking organization, announced the recipients of the third annual 3Arts Next Level/Spare Room Award—a $50,000 unrestricted cash award given to three women visual artists who are past 3Arts awardees—during its 15th annual 3Arts Awards Celebration hosted virtually on November 7, live on YouTube. With support from an anonymous donor at the Chicago Community Foundation, this year’s 3Arts Next Level/Spare Room Award honors visual artists A.J. McClenon, Pooja Pittie, and Reveca Torres in recognition of their outstanding work in the arts and commitment to increased visibility for their communities.

“The Next Level program is an uncommon concept in the grantmaking field in which a second award at a higher level is distributed to a past recipient,” said 3Arts Executive Director Esther Grisham Grimm, “It is one of the many ways that we as an organization show our ongoing support to our 3Arts community of artists throughout their entire careers and reflects our commitment to investing in the creative heart of our city.”

The 2022 recipients of the 3Arts Next Level/Spare Room Award ($50,000 per artist):

A.J. McClenon

A.J. McClenon is an interdisciplinary artist, born and raised in Washington, D.C. and who now calls Chicago a second home. Among McClenon’s ongoing work, VEGA is an interdisciplinary project that includes performances, writing, video and mixed-media drawings/collages, and objects that explores histories of Black escapism and the future of renegotiations of human hierarchies among other species during escape routes into the skies and into the waters. McClenon received a Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Bachelor of Arts and minor in creative writing from University of Maryland and studied at The New School. McClenon has presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, LA Film Forum, Echo Park Film Center, Danspace Project, Woman Made Gallery, Roman Susan Gallery, Links Hall, National Museum of African American History & Culture, and Hyde Park Art Center.
“To me, this recognition is a vindication of faith: faith in the work, in the community, and in the process of creation. The 3Arts community works hard to push forward sustainable practices in the arts with unyielding intention, compassion, and the truest kind of empathy. This award will open up a new world of collaboration, a reachable focus, and the freedom to work in a way that I haven’t been able to ever before,” says McClenon.

Pooja Pittie

Pooja Pittie is a visual artist who lives and works in Chicago. Born and raised in India, Pittie began her career in accounting and finance. In 2016, she decided to pursue her lifelong passion for art and shifted her focus to painting full-time. Pittie has an incurable and progressive form of muscular dystrophy. Her painting process explores the constantly changing relationship between a slow-moving body and an active mind. Pittie is an alumna of the HATCH residency at Chicago Artists Coalition and the Center Program at Hyde Park Art Center. As a Board member of both organizations, she is an advocate for equity and accessibility in the Arts. Her paintings have been exhibited at EXPO Chicago, Art Miami, and the Union League Club of Chicago. Pittie is represented by the McCormick Gallery in Chicago.

“For the past few years, the 3Arts community has been a safe and inclusive space for me to learn and grow as a disabled artist. I am grateful for the opportunity to support each other as we navigate the complexities of working as disabled artists. The award will give me the freedom to dive deeper into the themes of my practice, and at the same time, allow me to take a deep breath and create space for new ideas,” says Pittie.

Reveca Torres

Reveca Torres uses painting, illustration, photography, film, movement, and other media as forms of expression and tools for advocacy and social justice. After completing degrees in Fashion Design and Theatre Arts, Torres worked as a costume designer and simultaneously with organizations doing disability work in health, advocacy, recreation, and peer support. She is founder of BACKBONES, a nonprofit and community for people living with spinal injuries (SCI) and is co-director of ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago. Torres received fellowships with the Hulu+ Kartemquin Accelerator Program as well as Docs in Progress. She was also selected for the Craig Neilsen Visionary Award for her art and advocacy work. Tres Fridas Project, Reveca’s collaboration with artists Mariam Paré and Tara Ahern, recently exhibited alongside Frida Kahlo: Timeless at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art.

“The Next Level award comes to me at a time where I am feeling more confident in the stories I am telling and the ways I am telling these stories through my lens as a woman of color with a disability. Receiving my second award from 3Arts makes me feel seen by my community, and puts me in a wonderful place by providing visibility and funds for me to make space for others with disabilities in the art world and society at large,” says Torres.

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