Since 2006, the Chicago-based non-profit United States Artists has awarded more than 500 artists with over $25 million of direct support over all creative disciplines. Today, the organization has revealed the 2019 USA fellows from across the US who will receive the $50,000 unrestricted cash awards.
Recipients of the unrestricted funds grant include Flint-based artist Tunde Olaniran and Detroit-based performance collective, Complex Movements among the 45 fellows to win. USA has represented some top notch pillars in the creative world, so accordingly both Tunde and Complex Movements are among the phenomenal talent recognized in 2019.
Artist of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities are considered from fellows who contribute to the world of film, music, writing, dance, and more. Their contribution to society is needed to make this planet exciting, including the work of two Michigan artists that are included in the announcement.
Tunde Olaniran is the kind of musician you think of when you think of a total package; he incorporates lyrics, sound, dance and costume to create a universe all his own to become a staple in the Detroit music scene. Making music that dates back to 2012 —with his powerful single “Brown Boy,” he embodies the spirit of a supernatural trap star, shifting perspectives that everyone can relate to. The powerful combination of Olaniran’s singing, rapping, choreography and activism in his songs and community work on the ground is a powerful voice for black and brown people.
In 2016, he grabbed the industry’s attention with his unshakable single “Namesake” that became a hit. The track starts off with a high tempo, bass strong and instantly grabs your attention and his lyrics, he spills out affirmations of self-love that everyone could use. It’s a bold anthem that affirms your right to be yourself, but his boldness doesn’t stop there. Olaniran is a force on stage he takes on the role of a chameleon performer taking the audience on a journey. The attention to details such as lighting with the stellar movements of his dancers all cultivate to one purpose–to cultivate the soul.
His latest project, “Stranger” was released in October 2018 and this album touches on levels of releasing enemies and moving “Mountains.” Taking his performances to SXSW, NPR included him in their “All Things Considered SXSW Preview.” Another huge success for the native of Flint- he also joined the national tour with noise-pop group Sleigh Bells. With the latest news from USA, we can’t wait to see what he plans to do next.
Olaniran isn’t the only bombshell that’s winning throughout the Detroit scene however. The Detroit artist collective, Complex Movements is another local winner of the USA fellowship. They use interactive performance installations to create a conscious sci-fi experience. Their work continues to bring innovative techniques that leaves much to discover and revel.
Pulling inspiration from their surroundings in Northeast Detroit, as a group they touch on complex science and social justice movements. They exist in the future of this world, somewhere between a future not so far away, as if your mind is floating close-by in the Universe.
The five-person mixed gender collective has been around since 2013. Their latest experimental project “Beware of the Dandelions” was released in 2016, which is a mix of hip-hop and Detroit techno that takes listeners on a musical learning experience. Those engaged quickly find out they are in a game fit for reality, trying to survive on “Planetation Hub,” the last livable place on planet earth. If you are lucky enough to have this experience, you’ll have to learn and gather the necessary survival skills to coexist and thrive.
“Beware of Dandelions” is brought to you through a mobile art installation in a 400 square foot polyhedron dome full of visual art and dynamic architecture. It moves to various locations as a performance and workshop space. Complex Movements took the visuals, music and igloo-like structure on a three-city tour for the project premiere in Seattle, Dallas and Detroit.
The collective has exhibited at the Allied Media Conference, Cranbrook Art Museum, Detroit Science Center, Freedom Dreams and One Mic Hip Hop Culture Worldwide Festival, and the Movement they’ve created has also been featured in Vice Media, The Fader, Art In America and The Knight Foundation.
Both Tunde Olaniran and Complex Movements bring something unthinkable to the table and being provided the funding and acknowledgement through a national platform is well-deserved. Their creative expression is undefinable, and it makes those fortunate enough to experience their work up close feel like they are right there inside their imaginations.
“We believe in artists and are honored to support and care for them in this way,” said United States Artists President & CEO Deana Haggag. “At USA, we know artists are essential to a just and open-minded society and are thrilled to honor the 2019 Fellows,” said United States Artists Board Chair Steven H. Oliver. “Each Fellow is a reminder of the breadth of our cultural landscape, and the 2019 cohort is yet another testament to how much incredible work is happening across the country.”
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