John Pena and Toi Derricotte receive first Carol Brown Creative Achievement Awards

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Artists John Pena and Toi Derricotte will be honored Monday at the first Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards, sponsored by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

The ceremony and reception, free to the public, will be at 6 p.m. at the O'Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., in the Downtown Cultural District that Ms. Brown helped to create.

Mr. Pena, who works across disciplines, will be named Emerging Artist. Ms. Derricotte, a poet, will be named Established Artist. Each will receive $15,000.

The awards are part of the Investing in Professional Artists: The Pittsburgh Region Artists Program, which was designed to support artists through the creative process, from concept to completion.

Candidates were nominated by artists and arts leaders. An independent panel reviewed applications and work samples. Twenty-five applications were submitted by nominees from dance, film and video, literature, multidisciplinary arts, music, theater and visual arts.

The awards also honor their namesake, Carol R. Brown, who led the cultural and economic transformation of Downtown's Cultural District as president of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust from 1986 to 2001.

During her tenure, a 14-square-block area was transformed from a red-light district to a nationally recognized district with theaters, galleries, world-class public art and public spaces.

"An artists awards program in Carol's name is the perfect match, since her ongoing concern has been that our region's wonderful individual artists are too often invisible to us," said Janet Sarbaugh, senior director of the Heinz Endowments' Arts & Culture Program.

The awards continue the original Achievement Awards program established by Ms. Brown herself at the Trust in 1999.

"I am thrilled and honored by this recognition," said Ms. Brown. "A strong cultural community begins with the artists. The community is facing similar economic challenges today as in 1999 and artists across the country are finding it difficult to raise the funds for quality production."

Mr. Pena arrived in Pittsburgh for graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University after growing up in the Pacific Northwest. "Pittsburgh is a great place for artists, very livable, and the community is accessible and helps you make things happen."

Through his artwork, Mr. Pena attempts to communicate with nature and in many ways emulates it as well.

Ms. Derricotte has published five collections of poetry, most recently "The Undertaker's Daughter" (2011), and co-founded Cave Canem Foundation for African-American poets. She is a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and serves on the Academy of American Poets' Board of Chancellors.

Reservations for the awards ceremony are requested, but not required, at www.pittsburghartscouncil.org/crbrownawards.

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Sally Kalson: skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610.


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