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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Arts awards nine local artists and groups in final round of grants

By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

Spokane Arts announced its third and final round of Spokane Arts Grants Awards for the year, with nine local artists and organizations receiving a total of $41,827 from the nonprofit arts advocacy group.

The nine successful proposals from a pool of 28 qualifying applicants will use the awards to fund projects in literature, dance, education, painting, therapeutic arts, storytelling and music. Many SAGA winners will make use of livestreaming, which has become necessary during the pandemic.

Illustrator, writer and health coach Donell Barlow won $6,400 to create an illustrated book combining her work in yoga with the Salish language. Her self-developed program, “Creature Teacher Yoga,” will provide the Native population in Spokane with a cultural resource that incorporates mindful movement.

A certified yoga teacher, Barlow began sharing her yoga program with local students in early 2020 in order to highlight Native American culture and Salish translations. Youths responded enthusiastically to the combination of physical activity with reading practice. For many students, it was their first experience meeting an author and/or doing yoga.

“Children need to see authors and books representing their identities and communities,” Barlow said. “This builds self-confidence and encourages them to apply themselves in other creative platforms.”

Interfaith engagement activist Skyler Oberst secured $4,000 from SAGA to fund a new streaming series that will feature young interviewers asking diverse faith and cultural leaders to share their wisdom in a casual way to younger generations.

The series will showcase leaders in an off-the-clock way centering on a hobby or interest that will anchor the interview and provide a humanizing context for each episode. Oberst and his team will film, edit and promote three pilot episodes of the series to jump-start a sustainable video production project that employs local talent and crew.

Community Minded Enterprises was awarded $5,000 to keep its Community-Minded Television (CMTV14) operations running. The Spokane-area community-access cable content provider (Comcast channel 14) offers video production training and distribution within an affordable framework for local organizations and individuals to share their vision and impact others.

The money will allow CMTV to continue to represent underserved populations and generate interest in topics that affect the entire community.

YWCA Spokane received $4,000 to equip survivors of domestic violence with the technology and support they need to capture their stories in art journals, digitize their work and share their experiences anonymously through online platforms. The YWCA will use its existing art therapy as an entry point for survivors to enroll in the project titled “Story.”

YWCA will provide small groups of survivors with art supplies including watercolor palettes, brushes, pencils, mixed-media journals, art instruction and creative writing prompts to help them create an art journal that communicates their experiences.

Once the arts journals are complete, survivors will have the option to digitize their journals for “Story” and share their works anonymously through an online library hosted on their website.

Downtown restaurant and music venue Neato Burrito won $10,000 in SAGA funding to support a livestreaming service for local and regional talent.

Neato Burrito and its attached Baby Bar will use the award to provide an outlet in which musicians can perform and produce shows safely for the community during COVID-19, with the goal of expanding audiences for the artists post-pandemic.

Stage Left Theatre Association garnered $10,000 to continue its work reimagining what “live theater” looks like. In addition to helping fund Stage Left’s current creative programming of festivals, monologues and productions using online streaming, the money also will go to mounting full productions using new technologies.

With an eye toward fulfilling its mission to serve marginalized communities, Stage Left will use livestreaming to promote Spokane’s local theater scene and storytellers to wider regional and national audiences.

Published author and illustrator Chelsea Martin landed a $1,090 SAGA grant to help support the creation of her next novel, “Art School.” The book is about a 19-year-old art student who is suddenly grappling with big questions: What ties us to our family? What should we look for in friends? Do poor people deserve to make art? What is the purpose of art?

The goal of “Art School” is to inspire others by shedding light on the choice to be an artist when one doesn’t have the financial means or background to support that lifestyle.

Madeline McNeill and Maura Garcia will receive $1,000 to write, compose and choreograph a film, “Pandemic Spring in Spokane,” about the true story of two artists (themselves) meeting in Spokane in 2020. Garcia is an indigenous woman (non-enrolled Cherokee and Mattamuskeet), dancer and choreographer who recently moved to Spokane.

McNeill is a Filipino and Caucasian woman born in Spokane who lives as a singer, playwright and composer. Through poetic conversation and original music and dance, the story will explore the women’s friendship as they navigate the pandemic as artists of different backgrounds.

Painter Neil Martin will receive $337 to acquire the materials he needs to mount an exhibition at Object Space gallery next year. After studying music composition, electronic synthesis and visual arts, Martin’s work has shifted to layered mixed media, which he will include in the show.

Not only will this event be the artist’s first solo exhibition, it also will be the first exhibition at Object Space at 1818 ½ E. Sprague Ave. since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Spokane Arts is a nonprofit organization dedicated to amplifying the city as the artistic and cultural hub of the Inland Northwest. The organization awards SAGA grants through a competitive application process based on artistic merit, effectiveness and community impact.

This year, SAGA was able to support its largest number of requests ever, due in part to the release of additional funds. This final round brings Spokane Arts’ grant-making total to $151,211 in 2020, supporting 29 individual artists, organizations and collectives in the Spokane area.

Spokane artists from all disciplines, nonprofit arts organizations, heritage groups and art collectives and members of the community are encouraged to apply. The next application deadline is Feb. 1. For more information, go to