Our organization was founded with the belief that all artists deserve the opportunity to pursue their passions and share their talents with the greater community. Through our arts grant program, we provide financial support to artists who are often overlooked or underrepresented in the arts. We currently award three grants of $1,000 each annually and all artists who submit to the TBC show are eligible. We strive to foster a culture of inclusivity and diversity in the artists we support.
2023 Artist Grant Awardees
Interviews By Hannah Tishkoff
A Conversation with Werllayne Nunes
Werllayne Nunes is a self-taught painter from Brazil who is currently based in Washington D.C. His years living in Brazil, Europe, and the United States have deeply shaped the central focus of his work: how structural racism operates in racially diverse societies. Integrating faces, colors, and cultural and religious traditions from Brazil and other African diasporic countries, his paintings represent portraits of empowerment that provide counter-narratives to the media’s uni-dimensional and stereotypical depictions of people who are marginalized because of their race and socioeconomic status. His work challenges these stereotypes by creating visually striking images that reflect the complexity and agency of individuals in marginalized groups. His paintings have been shown in galleries, museums, and public spaces in Brazil, Spain, and the United States. From artist's website.
Hannah Tishkoff: Hi Werllayne, so tell me about your art practice and your approach to art making?
Werllayne Nunes: I was born in Brazil, and I left Brazil when I was very young. I’m a self-taught painter, and I didn’t go to art school. I started painting this series about 25 years ago when I still lived in Spain. My subject before this series was landscapes in a very colonialist, Rococo and Renaissance style and then I developed this current series about 25 years ago.
I show different perspectives on portraits of children from marginalized communities around the world. I show images of kids from difficult socioeconomic situations which can create stereotypes about those people as helpless, powerless, sometimes primitive because of their skin color. We used to travel a lot before the Pandemic, so I would take pictures of kids and then paint them, but since the pandemic I use models. I’ll make a narrative with the kids first before I paint them because I try to capture all the power that kids have in that moment in their life – I paint the kids exactly the way I found them first and then change the background to show the story they tell me about how they imagine themselves. I show a little story behind the image because people sometimes don’t know those stories exist.
It’s about when I was a kid, it’s about my community, and the power we have to transform our lives, through dreams and hopes and happiness. But it’s not glorified, it just shows this perspective. One of the most important paintings I have is a painting I made of a kid I met in Cuba. I took a picture of him and he told me his story – it was exactly like mine – he said I’m a soccer player, I play in the street and I want to be a famous player playing in Real Madrid. I thought “Wow that’s just like me!” In reality this kid is so poor – but there is this dream that he has of his family, that he can help his family, help his parents, and be a rich kid that can be successful. The name of this painting is called “The Dream Collector” it shows a collection of his dreams, with 5 or 6 soccer balls above his head.
H: How did you become familiar with The Billboard Creative and how do you plan to use the funding from this grant?
W: I saw the Instagram message about you guys, and I applied! I was very happy to receive this grant. Thank you again to Adam, and the team and everyone involved in this process. The grant came at a wonderful moment for me where I really needed it – came to me like a blessing, I can’t really understand it, how things just happen sometimes.
I’m going to have my first solo show in DC in January where I’m doing an installation, this is my first time making an installation. I am building a favela house, which is a group of poor houses that people live in in Brazil. I’m building a replica of one in the gallery – and it’s like a 3D version of my painting. This grant helped me be able to finish building this installation – I’m very happy, it’s been a blessing, so thank you so much.
When you do a show like this you always have a budget. I spent more money on this installation than might be necessary, but you have to do what you have to do when you make art, and money doesn’t matter in that moment, what matters is that it’s going to be great. It’s like when I do my paintings, I try to put these kids in the best place possible using imagination. When you grow up where I did, and many millions of kids play soccer in the streets, that moment is so blessed, you are so happy to play soccer in the street with bare feet and dream that you don’t see the poverty around you. You feel your dreams and hopes that help you be resilient for the rest of your Life. This imagination you have in your mind when you play and dream is all you see – and that dream and hope makes you resilient, so I try to put these kids in the best place that I can.
For my show, I had to make it wonderful, and I had to expense a little more money than I had, and you helped me finish that – so I’m very grateful for The Billboard Creative Grant and I appreciate it.
A Conversation with Gail Postal
Gail Postal is a self-taught painter based in New York City. A lifelong artist, she came to paint full-time after retiring as a school teacher. Using models, she draws and paints portraits and later embellishes them using her own patterns and design motifs. A multimedia artist, she often combines graphite, oil paint with rhinestones and glitter. Her work is inspired by the circus and figurative artists like Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.
Hannah Tishkoff: Gail, so tell me a bit about your background and your art practice?
Gail Postal: I work with a model in the mornings. The model is there for 3 weeks every morning from 9:00-12:30 and it takes 3 weeks to do the drawing, and then I start painting which can take 3 months. So, it’s a long process! I was a teacher until 1999, when I retired, I took a drawing class and then I just kept on constantly since 2000, so it’s now been 22 years.
H: So, it sounds like you came to identify as an artist later in life, or did you always identify as an artist?
G: I always wanted to be an artist but we didn’t have too much money and I had to support myself. Being an artist is not that secure, so I became a teacher. I taught for 26 and a half years, and we did a lot of art and creative stuff because that’s what I love and then when I retired, I wanted to make up for lost time.
H: It seems like time well spent!
G: Oh yes. The highlight of my entire artistic was when I got the billboard in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I flew out there, and I was hopping around the street underneath it I was just so excited!
H: How did you hear about the billboard creative?
G: From the internet! I saw the application for it online. I applied for a long time before I got the billboard, and I kept applying year after year, and then I got this grant.
H: How do you plan to use this grant from the Billboard Creative?
G: You see how much I do? It costs a lot! I paint on gesso board, the paints I use are Vasari paints. Plus, it’s an affirmation, it’s not just the money which of course I can use, but it’s a wonderful affirmation that somebody thinks I deserve this. I didn’t even realize that there were grants when I filled out the application, and then I got an email thinking it was spam and then he called and left a message saying this isn’t spam, so that was a wonderful surprise! Thank you so much.
A Conversation with Lola Del Fresno
Lola del Fresno is a visual artist whose projects involve large-scale mixed-media installations with an active public component that involves the viewer as part of the project in the space. Her work comprises mixed media pieces including drawings, photography, paintings, and sculptures. She has exhibited her work locally and internationally. Her large-scale installations and paintings are housed in well-known private collections and museums. From artist's website.