Friends with Money: Julia Steele Allen

Image provided by the artist.

Image provided by the artist.

Name: Julia Steele Allen

Aka: Um…Mister? Boss-of-one?

Hometown: NYC! Born here!

Neighborhood: Currently living in Prospect Heights/ Crown Heights but soon Flatbush (again)

Favorite thing about your neighborhood:

Living close to Prospect Park! But…moving from here again soon. Love living in Brooklyn, but housing uncertainty is the new normal and it’s rough.

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Friends with Money: Stacy Kovacs/BatalaNYC

Artistic Director Stacy Kovacs. Image provided by artist.

Artistic Director Stacy Kovacs. Image provided by artist.

Name: Stacy Kovacs/BatalaNYC

Aka: Artistic Director

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Neighborhood: Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Favorite thing about your neighborhood:

I love the diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

What did you get funded for?

The Carnival Project, Year 2. The Celebration Continues!
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Friends with Money: Carolyn Butts-Schmalenberger

Artist Carolyn Butts-Schmalenberger. Photo provided by artist.

Artist Carolyn Butts-Schmalenberger. Photo provided by artist.

Name: Carolyn Butts-Schmalenberger

Aka: Founder and Festival Director for  Reel Sisters of the Diaspora

Hometown: Brooklyn

Neighborhood: Crown Heights

Favorite thing about your neighborhood:

Love the people and the small town feel of Brooklyn neighborhoods. My favorite places to people watch is Tom’s, Brooklyn Bridge and Prospect Parks. I enjoy dancing at Franklin Park bar on Fridays.

What did you get funded for?

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series.

What’s that all about?

Reel Sisters presents films produced, directed and written by women of color across the globe. It is the first Brooklyn-based film festival devoted to women in film.

What else do you have coming up?

Launched an exciting new website devoted to showcasing artists and writers. The Artivist Rises, an exhibition on activism in the arts, is on view until May 4, 2015 at 1199SEIU Gallery in Times Square.

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Friends with Money: Gretchen Van Lente/Drama of Works

Drama of Works production still. Image provided by artist.

Drama of Works production still. Image provided by artist.

Name:  Gretchen Van Lente

AKA: Artistic Director of Drama of Works

Hometown: Brooklyn

Current Neighborhood: Boerum Hill

Favorite thing about neighborhood: Such a mix of people, not fully gentrified yet…

What did you get funded for: Blood Red Roses: the Female Pirate Project

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Friends with Money: Rina Kleege of PLG Arts

Rina Kleege

Rina Kleege

Name: Rina Kleege
AKA: Co-President, PLG Arts; band member, Axiom Addicts Hometown: Brooklyn
Neighborhood: Prospect-Lefferts Gardens
Favorite thing about neighborhood: Diversity of people and cultural activities
What did you get funded for: Jazz @the Inkwell

What’s that all about? Twice-monthly performances at the Inkwell Jazz Café by up-and-coming and established jazz musicians are a vital component of PLG Arts, a local nonprofit arts group with the mission of cultivating creativity in the community. Performances on the second and fourth Friday of each month (except August, since we all need a break) provide an opportunity for neighborhood musicians and audiences to gather at a local ven ue, where music becomes an active force for the neighborhood spirit of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens (the PLG of PLG Arts) as performers and music fans get to know one another. Suggested (not required) $5 donation at the door allows attendance regardless of ability to pay.
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Friends with Money: Nicki Miller of Only Child Aerial Theatre


Roping at Circus Warehouse. Photo by Carrie Firestone.

Name: Nicki Miller
Hometown: Northampton, MA
How long have you lived in Brooklyn? 6 1/2 years
Neighborhood: Williamsburg

Favorite thing about neighborhood: Within a 8 block radius live more than 10 of my dearest friends which makes it feel like real neighborhood. Also the West Cafe and Cheers Thai see a lot of me.

What did you get funded for? Only Child Aerial Theatre’s ASYLUM

Tell us a bit about your funded project: I am artistic director of an aerial theatre company called Only Child, and ASYLUM is our first full length piece. It is a work of devised theatre using aerial and acrobatic choreography as our primary vocabulary against projected photographs and voiceover to tell the story of five people living in an asylum in the 1970s as the mass closings of American asylums was underway. It began at Circus Warehouse in 2013 and is having it’s first run June 26-28, 2014 at The Muse Brooklyn.

What else are you working on: I just finished doing the aerial choreography for Ripe Time’s The World is Round at BAM in April which was an amazing experience. I’m also working with Circus Now to develop an online resource to raise awareness of safe aerial practices for theatre artists interested in integrating it into their work.

What’s next after ASYLUM is over? Two weeks in Montreal for the Completement Cirque Festival!

What’s inspiring you right now? I have total artist crushes on Codhi Harrell and Laura Stokes of Ricochet, a New Mexico based duo. I also love the work of James and Aureila Thierree, Kneehigh Theatre, Double Edge Theatre and Vesturport.

Anything you’re you totally over? I moved to New York to be an actress and have increasingly found that less and less desirable as a lifestyle for me. Aerial Theatre is where I’m at; and training, performing, creating, directing, producing and choreographing for it where I’m going to be for a long time…

When not making art you are: Meditating in the mornings, coffee with friends, making collage pendants called PopFace, and working as a personal trainer and aerial instructor.

Nicki Miller‘s fascination with aerial sparked in London in 2005 after seeing theatre that seamlessly integrated aerial and acrobatics into its storytelling. After graduating from Syracuse University with an Acting degree, Nicki discovered NYC’s aerial community and began training circus skills. She has performed, taught, produced, curated and choreographed for aerial theatre in NYC since 2010. In 2011, she co-founded aerial theatre company Only Child, which explores aerial acrobatics as a vocabulary for heightened storytelling in theatrical productions. Credit Highlights include: aerial choreography and performance for Rachel Klein Productions (Symphony of Shadows), aerial choreography for Ripe Time (The World is Round) at BAM Fisher, a supporting role in feature film “Art Machine”, Circus Now Community Project “Aerial For Theatres 101.”

Friends with Money: Gabriella Dennery of Grace Drums



Name: Gabriella Dennery
AKA: Grace Drums, percussion and vocal ensemble, along with 4 other amazing women artists
Hometown: Ottawa, Canada and yes, as a kid I played ice hockey and loved it.
How long have you’ve lived in Brooklyn? 16 wonderful years. I love Brooklyn!
Neighborhood: Currently East NY (7 years). I also lived in Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Bed-Stuy.

Favorite thing about neighborhood: The community gardens. I have three boxes in a garden. I started last year, planting veggies and herbs. What a declaration of independence: growing healthy food in the city, under the brakes of the trains overhead. The best day to plant is Sunday mornings, when I also get treated to live gospel from a neighboring church. Very inspiring and very zen. I also love the incredible vibrancy of the sunflowers when in full bloom. These sunny giants are everywhere in this neighborhood, and when they’re swaying to the rhythm of the wind on cool fall day, it’s the most beautiful sight in the world.

What did you get funded for: I got funding for The Women Gather Project.

Gabriella in her home garden in East New York.

Gabriella in her East New York garden.

Tell us a bit about it: To me, individual expression is pivotal to person’s healing and empowerment. Drumming is such a captivating embodiment of personal power. With The Women Gather Project, Grace Drums is bringing drumming to survivors of domestic (DV) and sexual violence (SV) in two ways: Interactive drumming workshops for clients and staff of collaborating DV and SV programs, and Grace Drums’ annual concert, an energy and joy packed celebration of victories over violence. The workshops began in March 2014 and we’re growing our network of collaborators in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Some of the workshops will be open to the public, but not all. The safety and confidentiality of the participants is priority one. Our second annual concert is on Saturday Nov. 1 at LUI Kumble Theater and it is open to the public. Last year we sold out and had to turn people away at the door. This year we have a larger venue. I have no doubt we’ll sell out again. In this day and age a message of dignity, of empowerment, especially for women and girls resonates deeply with many, men women and children, because that’s your sister, your mother, your teacher, your friend, your spouse, your reflection.

What else do you have coming up? Coming up, Grace Drums will have a live CD out before the end of the year, Yeah! We have several concerts coming up including the Spoke The Hub Local Produce Festival in Park Slope at the Old Stone House (5th ave and 4th street) at 5pm, and the Harlem Arts Festival this June 29. The Women Gather Project has drumming workshops scheduled for June and July. I’ll know more about which are open to the public in a few days, and it will be posted on the Grace Drums FB page, as well as our website and twitter.

What’s your jam? Personally I’m working on finishing 2 big compositions and I’m excited because they incorporate what music feels to me, down to my DNA. If the tune connects to every cell of my being, and makes me want to get up and dance, then I know it will touch hearts. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like that, so it takes a while to get them done. I’m making great progress though. Can’t wait to hear them live…. before the year is out!

Anything you’re you totally over? Yup. I’m over all the admin hours! It’s worth it. Grace Drums has definitely grown in the last year. I’m still trying to find the right balance though between keeping up with all the admin and my primary reason for being, which is creating life affirming music for stage and recording!

When not making art you are: Cooking, gardening, crafting with fabric, napping.

Gabriella Dennery is a Brooklyn based percussionist who left the practice of primary care medicine to pursue her love of music as a teacher and performer. In 2010, she founded the all women’s percussion and vocal ensemble Grace Drums, adding an eclectic blend of harmonized vocals and contemporary styles to traditional djembe. Recent performances include BAC’s Harbolore Festival, Union Theological Seminary, the Roulette Theater/YWCA gala, and the Queen’s Public Library 28th Annual World Music series. In 2013, she launched The Women Gather Project, bringing African drumming to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Gabriella is a two-time recipient of BAC’s CAF grant, and was recently honored with a citation from the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office for Women’s History Month. Connect with Gabriella and Grace Drums at, tweet at @GraceDrumsMusic.

Friends with Money: Chriselle Tidrick of Above and Beyond Dance

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

Name: Chriselle Tidrick

AKA: Chris

Hometown: Poland, Ohio

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? 17 years

Neighborhood: Boerum Hill

Favorite thing about neighborhood: I know my neighbors, so it really feels like home.

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

Above and Beyond Dance, photo by Julie Lemberger

What did you get funded for? Dreamscapes, a new work of circus-infused dance being created by my company, Above and Beyond Dance.

What’s that all about? Dreamscapes is choreographed for 5 dancer/circus arts performers and fuses contemporary dance, aerial harness, aerial fabric, static trapeze, and stilt disciplines to depict the ethereal wonder of dreams and the surreal terror of nightmares. Various realms are born out of each dreaming figure’s inner consciousness, generating a series of fantastical vignettes ranging from grotesque, misshapen bodies in a landscape of destruction to an otherworldly scene of angelic beings in aerial fabric. The completed work will run about 35 minutes and will premiere September 19-21 as part of Dreamscapes and Other Imaginings, a co-production with The Muse in Williamsburg Brooklyn.

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Friends with Money: JP Howard of Women Writers in Bloom

Welcome to our new profile column Friends with Money, where you can get to know the people that bring BAC Grants to life!

I was honored to take part in JP Howard’s funded project, Women Writers in Bloom, this past weekend. I was welcomed into a salon member’s beautiful home in Fort Greene, where I was surrounded by dynamic women artists. The environment was so nurturing, I even read some work of my own for the first time! Read on to find out more about JP Howard and her work. – mlt 

JP in curator mode

JP in curator mode, photo by Akinfe Fatou

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