City of Asylum receives grant for annual concert



Photo by Renee Rosensteel
Oliver Lake performs for the crowd gathered between Sherman and Monterey streets in during the Jazz-Poetry Concert in September, 2013.


By Alyse Horn

In correlation with the Jazz-Poetry Concert, the City of Asylum has received a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help support the annual event.

City of Asylum was one of 895 non-profit organizations nationwide to receive a NEA Art Works grant.

Henry Reese, co-founder and President of City of Asylum said, “This generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts for the Jazz-Poetry Concert helps us to keep this very special event free and accessible to all.”

The Jazz-Poetry Concert is set to take place on September 6, 2014. This year will be the 10th anniversary for the event and the organization.

Acting Chairman for the NEA Joan Shigekawa said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support these exciting and diverse arts projects that will take place throughout the United States. Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement, or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable experiences for the public to engage with the arts.”

Elizabeth Baisley, marketing and communications manager for City of Asylum, said every year the budget for the event varies because of the diversified artists who are brought in from around the world.

Baisley said City of Asylum recently started planning for the concert, and at this point the plan is to do “kind of a reunion concert.”

“We want to bring in musicians, writers and performers who have been highlights of the concerts in previous years,” Baisley said.

Reese said that “as always,” there will be some surprise guests.

Every year, the acclaimed jazz saxophonist and composer, Oliver Lake, serves as music director for the event.

Past participants have included Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, poets Yusef Komunyakaa, Toi Derricotte, and Joy Harjo, City of Asylum’s resident exiled writers Huang Xiang, Horacio Castellanos-Moya, Khet Mar, Israel Centeno, and Yaghoub Yadali, plus special guests such as the Flying Wallendas.

Baisley said last year the organization was fortunate to be able to hold the event outside because of “fantastic weather,” and that about 650 people attended the performances.

Founded in 2004, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh is a model for arts-based community development, bringing writers, readers and neighbors together through global literature and cultural exchange. Located on Sampsonia Way, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh has redeveloped five houses to serve both as homes for writers exiled under threat of persecution and as public artworks. It has also presented over 250 authors and musicians from 42 countries in free readings and concerts on or near Sampsonia Way., its online journal of free speech, literature, and justice publication serves as a virtual home for persecuted writers and serves a growing global audience online.


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