At Duolingo, we are proud to be a Pittsburgh-based company, and we strive to be the best neighbors we can in our East Liberty community. That’s why, in October 2020, we committed $150,000 to a community arts initiative that would provide funding and resources for public art projects in Pittsburgh. We’re excited to share an update on that program, and announce our next wave of funded projects!

Since the initial announcement, local artists Natiq Jalil and Alison Zapata unveiled a mural in East Liberty this past April honoring the legacy of East Liberty entrepreneur Cecilia Price-Knight in a piece called “The Legacy of Butterflies.” We partnered with filmmaker Chris Ivey on his “East of Liberty” documentary series—which tells the story behind the mural and preserves its legacy for future residents. We also sponsored programming at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, a local non-profit arts venue that focuses on uplifting the work of queer artists and artists of color, and making their work available to all audiences.

"The Legacy of Butterflies" mural | (c) 2022 Ray Carrington

We believe that artists help communities maintain their vibrancy and social cohesion. This year we’ve decided to open up the criteria to include all art forms rooted in the local community. As we strive to be good neighbors, we've found that partnering with anchoring arts organizations like the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and supporting artists and arts programs has been vital.

Now, we’ve selected the next round of artists to sponsor through the Duolingo Community Arts Program. The selected artists all proposed very creative projects and articulated a clear intention to engage directly with local community members. Read on to learn a little bit about these local creatives and their work!

Meet the 2022 Duolingo Community Arts Program grant recipients

From left: Ebony Castaphney, Dominick McDuffie, Lori Hepner

Ebony Castaphney, African healing garden in Larimer

Ebony Castaphney is a native Pittsburgher who uses movement, poetry, storytelling, and vocal expression as forms of wellness. Ebony’s passion for preserving Black cultural arts and history drives much of her artistic work: She started the Nia dance ensemble three years ago to help at-risk youth find purpose and confidence through song, movement and the melodic rhythms of Africa. She hopes that her public art project, an African healing garden, will provide free arts programming like dancing, singing, storytelling, arts and crafts, and wellness education to underserved communities in Pittsburgh.

Dominick McDuffie, program to empower self-taught Black photographers

Dominick McDuffie is a self-taught Pittsburgh-based artist working in film photography. His process is rooted in community, cultural preservation and authentically documenting Black spaces, as well as the people in and around them. His work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions such as the August Wilson House, Point Park Playhouse, and 38A Gallery. He wants to empower local Black artists by paying them to create work within their communities that will eventually be exhibited as a collective, inclusive work.

Lori Hepner, inclusive portrait series

Lori Hepner is an artist working primarily in photography, new media performance, and public art in community centered projects. She has spent time over the last five years in community centered artist residencies in two Pittsburgh neighborhoods, in a small Arctic Community in coastal Norway, as well as residencies in Finland, Iceland, and the Canadian Yukon. Her personal photographic work has been featured everywhere from Time Magazine to the Houston Center for Photography, and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Lori’s project will be a collaborative still and moving portrait series with community members in East Liberty as well as hosting art-making workshops.

We’re also proud to sponsor the following organizations, who not only produce and present world-class artistic work, but support local artists through training and other professional development opportunities.

Alumni Theater Company
The Equity | Impact Center’s SCALE Fellowship
Legacy Arts Project
Kelly Strayhorn Theater
Office for Public Art
Pittsburgh Glass Center
Silver Eye Center for Photography
The Union Project

The applications for the next round of funding will open up early next year. In the future, we hope to see more applications from artists who were able to take advantage of the training and professional development offered by our partnering arts organizations.

To learn more about the Duolingo Community Arts Program, please visit our website, or email with any questions.