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Queer|Art|Prize Ceremony Honors Drag Activist Joan Jett Blakk & Dance Artists Jumatatu M. Poe & Jermone Donte Beacham

Queer|Art|Prize Ceremony Honors Drag Activist Joan Jett Blakk & Dance Artists Jumatatu M. Poe & Jermone Donte Beacham

Published on November 13, 2019
Still from video from Media Burn Archive of Joan Jett Black.

On the evening of Friday, November 1, a vibrant —and extremely stylish—crowd of more than 200 LGBTQ+ artists and allies packed into the 3rd floor auditorium at The Center (208 W. 13th St.) for the 2019 Queer|Art Annual Party. The evening convened a celebration for the graduating Fellows of the 2018-2019 Queer|Art|Mentorship program cycle and occasioned the announcement of the winners for the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize (made possible with generous support from HBO and Bloomberg Philanthropies).

This year's Prize honored the legendary drag queen politician and Queer Nation/ACT-UP activist, Joan Jett Blakk, and dance artists, jumatatu m. poe & Jermone Donte Beacham, with awards recognizing their significant contributions to queer culture. Ms. Blakk was acknowledged in the category of Sustained Achievement, while jumatatu & Donte received the award for Recent Work for their touring multi-venue performance of "Let 'im Move You: This is a formation".

Tarell Alvin McCraney as Joan Jett Blakk in Steppenwolf's Ms. Blakk For President. Photo: MICHAEL BROSILOW

For Sustained Achievement

For her memorable presidential campaign and for her powerful dedication to the lives of Black, LGBTQ+ communities across the nation, on behalf of Queer|Art and the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize Nominating Committee and Judges, we hereby award Ms. Joan Jett Blakk the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize for Sustained Achievement.

Terence Smith accepting the award for Sustained Achievement:

"Thank you so much. This year, this has been pretty fucking incredible! To have this award is amazing. And I have to say that I would accept this for not just me, but for all the activists and all the friends I’ve had who are not here. It’s for them as much as it is for me and because... can you imagine what would’ve happened if they’d all lived? What kind of art would be in this world? We need to carry that on. This is my chosen family and so much of them are here tonight… if I don’t stop talking, I’ll just start crying because I still can’t believe the Steppenwolf Theater [created a play about Joan Jett Blakk]! It’s just, it’s been… What a year I’ve had.

To see all of these young people – I have a friend here, Billy Miller, that we’ve known each other 45 years and there’s so many of you that were not born and there were people in the [Ms. Blakk for President] play that weren’t born when we did all this. And that’s what’s so wonderful; it just keeps going and going and going.

This is the world we’ve created. Hopefully they won’t blow it up before we get to do anything! I can’t thank you all enough, this is really amazing. And I’m just going to go sit down and try not to make a mess by crying so much! Thank you so much."

jumatatu m. poe & Jermone Donte Beacham. Photo courtesy of the artists.

For Recent Work

For gathering people in the spaces that exist within the margins, for responding in joy through slippage, and engaging the possibilites of Black and queer community resiliency, Queer|Art and the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize Nominating Committee and Judges award “Let ‘im Move You: This is a formation” by jumatatu m. poe & Jermone Donte Beacham the 2019 Queer|Art|Prize for Recent Work.

Maria Bauman-Morales accepting the award on their behalf for Recent Work:

"Congratulations to jumatatu poe & Donte Beacham and all of us who are part of Let ‘im Move You: This is a formation. My name is Maria Bauman-Morales and I am part of the cast of Let ‘im Move You: This is a formation.

So juma & Donte are getting people in formation in Cincinnati, Ohio where part of the project is happening and they asked me to accept this award should it be granted to them on their behalf and I’m happy to. And really, what we want to share is that everyone who was nominated is fierce and amazing and thank god that we’re all out here making art – these four finalists and all of us.

Big shout out and honor to the whole J-Sette community. J-Sette dance technique is the foundation of the whole Let ‘im Move You series that juma & Donte have been working on for over a decade. And particularly, we shout out the Black, queer femmes who have been working and working and working and sweating and innovating on the form. So on behalf on juma & Donte, we are so beautifully queer and we really do take it seriously and honor the sisters on whose shoulders we are dancing and the people that we’re dancing with. And shout out to being not only queer, and not only Black, but Black and queer all at the same time."

Queer|Art is also proud to acknowledge that Maria Bauman-Morales is an incoming 2019-2020 QAM Mentor within the Queer|Art|Mentorship program.

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. Photo by Lia Chang.

2018-2019 Queer|Art|Mentorship Graduation

The evening also captured the formative influence and exchange that comes out of the Queer|Art|Mentorship program through a series of interludes provided by Queer|Art Mentor and Fellow duo, Mashuq Mushtaq Deen and Xandra Clark. We heard from 2018-2019 QAM Curatorial Fellow, Jeanne Vaccaro, who shared her remarks on the opening of this year's exhibition, "How do we know what we need you to know: Intimate access and collective care" (on view at BGSQD at The Center, November 1-January 9) featuring works and event programming to come by the graduating Fellows: J. Bouey, Daniel Chew, Xandra Nur Clark, Sarah Mihara Creagan, Cristóbal Guerra, Candystore, Russell Perkins, Ripley Soprano, and Natalie Tsui.

Before the awards ceremony, invited guests experienced an invaluable opportunity to hear from our outgoing 2018-2019 QAM Fellows with artwork in the exhibition "How do we know what we need you to know: Intimate access and collective care". The 10 Fellows led an intimate tour through the exhibition on view at The Bureau of General Services – Queer Division to talk about their work, their peers, and their experiences within the Mentorship program. An additional installation commissioned specifically for this event —The Queer|Art Community Portrait Project—featured a series of recent portraits of artists and organizers who are part of the Queer|Art community, by photographer and incoming 2019-2020 QAM Mentor Lola Flash with help from their 2019-2020 Fellow Felli Maynard.

The 2018-2019 Queer|Art|Mentorship Annual Exhibition is on view at The Center and the Bureau of General Services--Queer Division (208 W. 13th St.) through January 9, 2020. For a full list of programs and events, please visit


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