The Kentucky Foundation for Women has awarded $100,000 in grants to Kentucky artists. The grants are awarded to feminist artists and organizations to develop their artistic skills, explore new techniques or create new works.
Small grants ranging from $1,000 to $7,500 will support projects ranging from a Lexington music series focused on African American female composers to a nonfiction book and website about life as an active-duty military wife. Of the 36 artist enrichment grants awarded this month, 12 totaling $34,000 will fund Louisville-based artists and their projects.
The Kentucky Foundation for Women defines feminist art as work that makes Kentucky better for all people, not only women. Executive director Judi Jennings says KFW believes in the power of individual artists to enact powerful social change.
“Really, feminism is a lens of social justice for all people, and our feminist art for social change isn’t just for a few people,” says Jennings. “It really is to make Kentucky a better place through the arts and culture, and we believe that to be a very powerful way for Kentucky people to shine and to advance because we have a strong tradition here.”
Aimee Zaring, who has taught English as a second language in Louisville for five years, believes her project will do just that. She received a KFW grant to help her create “Kitchen Refuge,” a cookbook of recipes her refugee students brought with them to the United States.
Zaring says the book will also include 50 recipes and 25 narrative profiles of contributors who hail from countries like Bhutan and Burundi, whose stories aren’t widely told.
“Kentucky receives about 1,500 refugees every year. And about 85 percent of them are resettled right here in Louisville,” says Zaring. “And a lot of people don’t know anything about where they’ve come from and what they’ve gone through. And I just think that by sharing these amazing stories, along with their native foods, we’ll learn a lot more about their cultures, their cuisines.”
“There are a lot of immigrant and international cookbooks out there, but a lot of these countries aren’t featured. This will be unique cuisine and new to a lot of people,” she adds.
Zaring estimates that her manuscript will be finished within a year, and she’s already shopping around for a publisher, a process she says will be easier now that she’s received a KFW grant.
“I knew I needed the financial support to make this book possible. But receiving a grant from KFW, it gives you a sense of validation, that your work is valued and important,” says Zaring. “And it also gives your project a little added credibility. It helps get the attention of the larger community.”
Zaring’s refugees are primarily women, which mirrors the statistics — 80 percent of refugees are women and adults, according to Refugees International.
“But I have full families in the kitchen sometimes, all helping, from babies up to grandparents,” she says.
Zaring says proceeds from the cookbook will benefit local agencies that work with refugees, like Catholic Charities and Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
The private foundation was formed in 1985 with a $10 million gift from Louisville native Sallie Bingham. KFW will award another $100,000 dollars in arts activism grants in the fall.