Artists Jonathan Lauture, Amir Windley, Iyana Shelby and Aubrey Hunt after receiving grants at Mae Mae’s Cafe & Plant Shop on Dec. 12. Photo by Eliot Force.

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Four Bronx artists have received a total of $20,000 in grants from an awards program run by the Port Morris-based catering business Great Performances. 

The winning artists were Jonathan Lauture, for an animated YouTube series that educates and entertains kids through music; Aubrey Hunt, for a book about life lessons, self-love and healing; Iyana Shelby, for a multimedia art display capturing the collective journey of processing grief; and Amir Windley, for a film about the bonds of childhood friendships.

All four work for Great Performances by day and work as artists by night. They each received $5,000 from the company’s Artist Fellowship Awards, which is only available to employees of Great Performances, to further their artistic endeavors and careers.  

“We wanted to pick artists and projects for which $5,000 can really make a difference,” said Liz Neumark, founder and CEO of Great Performances.

It was the first time Great Performances has given out grants since 2019, as the awards program went on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the first time the awards have been given out at the company’s headquarters at 2417 3rd Avenue.

A panel of judges with ties to Bronx cultural mainstays, like the Bronx Council of the Arts and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, was assembled by Great Performances to judge around 20 applications for the Artist Fellowship Awards. 

The awards were handed out on Dec. 12 in Mae Mae’s Cafe & Plant Shop, which is run by Great Performances and makes up a small part of the three-story space they occupy. A few dozen individuals were in attendance. 

“It can be really tough to go to work all day and then go home afterwards to work on your art,” said Lauture upon receiving his check, “but it’s also not work if you love it.” 

After being handed their checks, each of the artists briefly discussed the projects they are working on that won them the grant. 

“My book is about healing my inner child,” said Hunt. “It has lessons I wish I had when I was younger.” 

Great Performances began in the early 1980s as a waitress staffing company with the intent to provide flexible part-time employment for women with aspiring artistic careers. 

According to Neumark, the company has since evolved into the largest independent catering company in New York City, servicing the greater New York area out of their headquarters right below 134th Street. 

Traducido por Eduardo Salazar Uribe.

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