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!
We believe that artists help communities maintain their vibrancy and social cohesion. Our Community Arts Program allows us to not only support the efforts of those who make our neighborhood special, it also opens the door for meaningful, ongoing relationships that strengthen the fabric of our community.
Like last year, we’ve selected three winners for the artist grant. This year, in addition to the winners, we’ve included a merit award given to another three artists to partially fund exceptional projects.
We are proud to announce this year’s winners: Evangeline Mensah-Agyekum; Roderick Ramsey III; Lena Chen and Caroline Yoo.
We would also like to congratulate merit award recipients: ANQWENIQUE; Sarah Zeffiro and Nick Liadis; Studio Racine.
These artists proposed well-thought-out projects that intentionally involve, empower, educate, and advocate for the community in which the projects will occur.
Meet the 2023 Duolingo Community Arts Program grant recipients
Evangeline Mensah-Agyekum is a multidisciplinary artist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Primarily creating through photography, film, and fashion, as a self-taught artist, her hybrid genre in these mediums lend itself well to portraying undaunted characters through their vulnerability. Much of her work aims to capture individuals, in part by transforming them. She is inspired by womanhood and the Black experiences, worlds she traverses by recontextualizing the banalities of daily life. Evangeline received a Bachelors of Science from Carnegie Mellon University.
Roderick Ramsey III
Roderick "Ryuki X" Ramsey is the owner of Ocular Arcade. He is a Black multi-disciplinary artist with a concentration in videography, graphic art, digital collage art, illustration, and conceptual art. The focus of his artwork is centered around 3 words: Imagine x Manifest x Question. As a visual artist, he feels it his responsibility to explore imagination, manifest ideas into reality, and question the outcome to gain insight into improvement. His goal as a visual artist is to challenge societal norms built on constructs and inspire critical thought toward a more mindful tomorrow.
Lena Chen & Caroline Yoo
Lena Chen is a Chinese American writer, scholar, and artist currently pursuing a PhD in Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. A recipient of Mozilla Foundation’s 2022 Creative Media Award and B3 Biennial of the Moving Image’s 2019 “Best Emerging Talent", she has exhibited and performed at Transmediale (Berlin), Die Digitale (Düsseldorf), Centre for Contemporary Art (Derry~Londonderry), Museum of Modern Art (Antwerp), Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, Färgfabriken (Stockholm), Baltimore Museum of Art, Science Gallery Detroit, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), among others. Born in San Francisco and raised in Los Angeles, she earned a B.A. in sociology from Harvard University and a MFA from Carnegie Mellon School of Art.
She has co-founded several collectives, including JADED, an AAPI artistic platform named Pittsburgh City Paper's 2022 "People of the Year"; Maternal Fantasies, a collective of seven mothers/artists and ten children (recipients of the Arthur Boskamp Foundation Advancement Award 2019/2020); and Heal Her, an expressive arts initiative working with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in seven countries.
Caroline Yoo is an interdisciplinary artist who was born and raised in the United States to Korean immigrants. Through her art practice of performance, social practice, intimate gatherings, and video installations, Yoo uses translation as a tool to map forgotten histories – to reveal psychological shadows haunting the diaspora – and perform contemporary translations of rituals for the living. She is a co-founder and leader of Hwa Records, JADED, and Han Diaspora Group. Graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2023, Yoo has performed, exhibited, and culturally produced at Carnegie Museum of Art; Institute of Contemporary Art, San Francisco; University of Michigan Ann Arbor; Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh) and more.
Meet the merit award recipients
Pittsburgh native ANQWENIQUE is an extremely versatile vocalist and educator specializing in opera, classical music, jazz and soul. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Voice Performance from Indiana University of PA. In 2017 she was named “Best Singer” by the Pittsburgh Magazine readers and listed among "Who's Next in Music" by The Incline and 40 Under 40 by Pittsburgh Magazine and PUMP.
ANQWENIQUE is a master teaching artist, serving learners from early childhood to adulthood. In addition to her vocal and performance practice, ANQWENIQUE consults frequently as a teaching artist, program designer, and cultural advisor. She was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in 2018 to create an original story for early childhood audiences in collaboration with composer Doug Levine entitled Jazz Time! Currently, she serves as Director of Programs for Arts Education Collaborative.
Studio Racine is the multi-disciplinary photography and education practice founded by Jacob and Haley Pesci. Combining their vision, the artists create and publish books while building classrooms structured around the art of photography and visual language. Studio Racine’s mission is to create equitable opportunities in art and photography while empowering and lifting the voices of diversity. Fighting for truth and justice, equality and inclusion; their work focuses on developing social and emotional intelligence through creative exploration to impact the world for the better and create opportunity, security, and prosperity for all.
Sarah Zeffiro and Nick Liadis
Sarah Zeffiro, founder of Zart Studios, is an innovative artist and educator with 20 years experience in museums, schools, and community organizations. Zart Studios guiding principles are creativity, community, and collaboration. Sarah’s projects include writing and teaching educational curriculum, public art, and designing creative and therapeutic spaces for all ages. Sarah is committed to whole person growth through Social and Emotional Learning, play, and interdisciplinary connections that develop authentic connections to self, others, and the world.
Nick Liadis is an Avian Conservation Biologist and Educator whose work is centered around research, education, and community science. He’s particularly interested in how birds have adapted to live within human-altered landscapes such as cities and suburbs and has started a 501(c)(3) called Bird Lab. Central to his conservation is the creation of educational programming that fosters a love of the natural world and birdlife across all ages. The creative process is integral to how he teaches about birds. By creating immersive educational experiences, students' scientific knowledge is made memorable through the creative process. He believes that the empirical, measurable approach to science should be balanced with more experiential and poetic understanding of the natural world. His work creates initiatives to conserve and bring back birds that will contribute to biodiversity protection, climate resilience, and environmental justice.
Our 2023 sponsored arts organizations
In our ongoing effort to be a good neighbor, we recognize the importance of supporting the community we’re excited to be a part of.
As such, we are pleased to sponsor art organizations who, in their endless community work, simultaneously create, maintain, and uplift the lively culture that sustains us all. These arts organizations include: Assemble; BOOM Concepts; Bunker Projects; Legacy Arts Project; Office for Public Art; Pittsburgh Glass Center; The SCALE Fellowship Program; YMCA Lighthouse 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.