The Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation have announced the 2022 Disability Futures Fellows, two of whom are based in Los Angeles.
The multidisciplinary initiative, managed by United States Artists, each awards $50,000 to 20 disabled American artists and creatives whose work “promotes the cultural landscape.” The unlimited funds — $1 million in total — are intended to further the creative pursuits of fellows.
This year’s recipients — emerging, mid-career, and established artists — work in a variety of fields, including theatre, film, visual arts, music, dance, poetry, comic writing, fiction, non-fiction, journalism and activism.
Los Angeles and San Francisco-based visual artist and filmmaker Alison O’Daniel said she identifies as “d/Deaf/Hard of Hearing”.
“The little ‘d’ are people who are hard of hearing or deaf but were not raised in a deaf culture,” she said. “I have a fully hearing family and grew up in a hearing school. I really had to find my connection with the deaf world.”
O’Daniel, a 2022 Guggenheim fellow who… exhibited her work at the Hammer Museum in LA and the Center Pompidou in Paris, among other institutions, was in the studio working on a textile piece for an upcoming gallery show when she learned she had been awarded the grant. She plans to use the money to secure long-term studio space and to finish a film she’s been working on for 10 years, “The Tuba Thieves,” about “the sound of LA.”
The fellowship is particularly meaningful to her, she said, because it provides “the feel of a cohort.”
“It builds this recognized community of really different value statements about disability,” she said. “It’s a celebration of — from an outside organization, but it’s also an acknowledgment that there’s a growing excitement and celebration from within. There are a lot of us who are really empowered and excited about what we have to offer.”
The other local Disability Futures Fellow this year is Silver Lake filmmaker Nasreen Alkhateeb, who was a lead cameraman for Kamala Harris’ vice presidential campaign and for two episodes of Oprah’s Emmy-winning series “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” among other projects. Despite her professional success, Alkhateeb said, the fellowship award is still “a complete game changer over the course of my career.”
“This award means that I will be regarded in circles that I have never considered before,” she said. “It means everything to me as a filmmaker. It means that I have a sustainable method of progressing on the projects I work on, projects that focus on disability.”
Alkhateeb described himself as having “seven identities and six disabilities, five of which are invisible.”
“I’m black, Iraqi, multi-heritage, I was raised Muslim, I’m part of the LGBTQ community, I’m first-generation and I’m disabled,” she said. “The disabilities I’m talking about are: I’m neurodivergent, I live with chronic pain every day, as well as PTSD and ADHD.”
The Disability Futures Fellowship was originally intended to be a two-year initiative, but last summer United States Artists announced an additional $5 million in funding and a commitment through 2025. It is the only national award of its kind to support disabled artists and creatives. .
The initiative is conceived as a way to “center and uplift people in disabled communities across the country and across cultures,” Judilee Reed, President and Chief Executive of the United States Artists, said in the announcement. “We are excited to see the podium expand with this new class of fellows, and are honored to celebrate together.”