Links Hall and Choreographer Onve Ozuzu Awarded $50K Joyce Award

The Joyce Foundation recently announced that Links Hall and dancer/choreographer Onye Ozuzu have been awarded a 2018 Joyce Award to activate their community engagement art collaboration in Chicago.

The $50,000 award will support the commission of a new work called Project Tool by dancer and choreographer Onye Ozuzu. The commission by Links Hall will survey histories of black migration and the connections between Chicago, Louisiana and Haiti by examining the ways that labor shapes the movement of a people over time, space and geography. Project Tool grew out of Ozuzu's contemplation of experiences as a child being charged with household chores while growing up in Ohio (the birthplace of her American Mennonite mother) and during years living as a family in Nigeria, West Africa (the birthplace of her father).

"Everyone at Links Hall is over the moon that Onye Ozuzu is receiving a Joyce Award and joining such a jawdroppingly impressive group of past and current awardees. Our partnership with Onye to date has been taking the Burnham 'no little plans' credo to heart,” said Roell Schmidt, director of Links Hall. “Now with the Joyce Foundation's support, Onye intends to push past the limits of the current dance ecosystem in Chicago and create space for dance to evolve.”

​Project Tool is creating modular dance with sprung wood floor sections that can be arranged and configured in numerous ways to transform any and every place into spaces where dance can happen. The act of building the floors will explore the use of tools as if they are partners in a dance with the body. With this project, Ozuzu will craft a live performance that is meaningful to watch, think and talk about while also leaving behind a physical artifact, a resource that can be used by dancers ongoing. Links Hall will produce Project Platform engagements for Project Tool's live performances as mini festivals that will showcase dance that is thriving in communities all over the City of Chicago as well as in New Orleans and Haiti.

“The support that has poured forth for Project Tool has been a profound affirmation that there are many of us who need to respond to the urgencies of being human and remaining humane in this time with hands on, body engaged, productive radical action,” said artist Onye Ozuzu. “We are dancers. We affirm that to move is to know. Our bodies embody the knowledge of the humans we have descended from. We build our own floors in order to know our full selves and to stand, and dance our own ground.”

The 2018 Joyce Awards marks the program’s 15th year. Started in 2003, the Joyce Awards is the only regional program dedicated to supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities with the goal of elevating their visibility and recognition in their craft. A distinctive feature of the Joyce Awards is the call for commissioned artists and their host institutions to include a robust community engagement plan as a main component of their projects.

​“We are thrilled to support and celebrate the work of Onye Ozuzu and Links Hall. Both artist and organization have taken on important leadership roles in Chicago’s dance and performance community. What stands out about this project is the two-fold work it does in linking the histories of Haiti, Chicago, and New Orleans; and in connecting ideas of how the body moves at labor to how the body moves in dance,” said Tracie D. Hall, Culture Program Director at the Joyce Foundation. “This kind of investigation and innovative approach to the making of work has come, for me, to distinguish Joyce Award winners.”

The competition has awarded nearly $3.25 million to commission 59 new works and collaborations between artists and cultural organizations in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The $50,000 award is used towards supporting an artist in the creation and production of a new work and providing the commissioning organization with the resources needed to engage potential audiences, new partners, and their surrounding communities at large.

​For more information on the foundation and the Joyce Awards, please visit

Links Hall performance space in Chicago's Lincoln Park (photo courtesy of Links Hall).