Roots & Wings perform their newest piece at yesterday's press conference at X | Photo by Eli Keel
Roots & Wings perform their newest piece at Monday’s press conference at Sweet Peaches. | Photo by Eli Keel

For Insiders waiting to hear if nascent theater and poetry company Roots & Wings would receive an ArtPlace America grant, the wait is finally over. On Monday, the artist group announced it has received the $280,000 grant.

In their own words delivered via poetry:

We are deeply rooted; purpose manifested … ripened fruit all from the same fertile tree

We are legs, hands, hearts and minds dipped … in ink, in passion, in justice, in community,

We … are Roots & Wings, and make magnificence from the things we were and weren’t handed … and just in case you were wondering … WE GOT THE GRANT!

Roots & Wings is a performance collective focused predominantly on lifting up African-American artists and using those artists for community outreach.

They have had an impressive first year, starting with the “Smoketown Poetry Opera” last summer. The group also performed a “West End Poetry Opera” to a full house at the Bomhard Theater last winter.

Roots & Wings began as a collaboration of Louisville artists brought together in the Creative Innovation Zone (CIZ) in Smoketown, a program funded by a previous ArtPlace America grant to Louisville.

It’s exciting that ArtPlace — a philanthropic organization that focuses on creative place making — has chosen Louisville for major grants two years in a row. Last year, they awarded IDEAS and YouthBuild another grant of $250,000.

Roots & Wings co-director Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye | Photo by Eli Keel
Roots & Wings co-director Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye | Photo by Eli Keel

Roots & Wings was one of 38 grantees chosen from more than 1,300 applications. ArtPlace awarded two grants in Kentucky — the other was Appalshop in Whitesburg, Ky., which nabbed a $450,000 grant.

Support for Roots & Wings comes from Bridge-Kids International, Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, Metro Louisville’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, and IDEAS.

Theo Edmonds, co-director of Roots & Wings, shared his excitement with Insider.

“When the Roots & Wings group came together less than a year ago to create the ‘Smoketown Poetry Opera,’ we had no idea we would all band together like family to continue creating work that engages communities from Smoketown to west Louisville,” said Edmonds. “The thing that brings us all together is our belief in art’s ability to change lives. Sharing that with others is what we are all about.”

The news was announced at local eatery Sweet Peaches in the heart of west Louisville. Those familiar with the West End poetry scene know Sweet Peaches as the venue for a string of well-attended poetry slams, many of which feature Roots & Wings poets and performers, including lead artist Lance Newman II.

“This grant will help support artistic exposure within the communities that respond to and need it the most,” Newman told Insider.

The grant will help the Roots & Wings team grow their infrastructure, but it also will fund community work in the five Louisville “Zones of Hope” neighborhoods: Newburg, Russell, Parkland, Shawnee and California.

Roots & Wings will create five performances in each neighborhood, working for and with residents. The group has been able to do amazing things with a limited budget, and it will be exciting to watch them grow as they put this sizable grant to use in Louisville.

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Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at amanwalksintoablog.wordpress.com.