Bitsie Clark Fund for Artists

Supporting Individual Artists, Their Projects and Their Dreams

Frances 'Bitsie' Clark has been called "the mayor of New Haven" because of her tireless civic work in the arts and politics. Read more Photo credit: Arnold Gold Hearst Connecticut Media

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The Bitsie Clark Fund for Artists celebrates the contributions of Frances (Bitsie) Clark to the arts and cultural community of Greater New Haven.

Bitsie served as executive director of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven for nearly two decades. She is credited with being one of the founders of the Audubon Arts District, and a driving force in establishing the arts as an important economic industry in the region.

She also gave continuous advice and support to the region’s artists.

The mission of The Bitsie Clark Fund for Artists is to continue Bitsie’s commitment to artists in Greater New Haven, where there is an abundance of innovative artists but few sources of financial support. The Fund, in partnership with nonprofit arts organizations, offers grants for individual artists, allowing them to pursue significant goals that might otherwise be out of reach.

Since its inception in 2018, The Bitsie Fund has awarded four grants.

Hip-Hop artist, poet and playwright Aaron Jafferis is the 2020 recipient of a $5,000 grant through the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. The grant supports Jafferis’ continued development of Smooth Criminal, a Hip-Hop play which poses this question: “As a white dude, is it criminal, or simply smooth, for a white playwright to use a Black/Latinx-born art form to try to undo white supremacy?” After spending years, as he describes, “talking smack” about privileged white guys in his work, he investigates whether he may, in fact, be one. He takes a searing look at himself, his family and the world around him.

In 2019, The Fund awarded $5,000 grants to two artists: musician/composer Adam Matlock, and photographer/musician Harold Shapiro.

Adam is composing an opera about the Greenwood Massacre, a horrific event in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, when a white mob set fire to hundreds of black-owned businesses and homes in Greenwood, a prosperous business district dubbed “Negro Wall Street.” An estimated 75-300 people were killed; hundreds more hospitalized, and up to 10,000 Blacks left homeless. This grant, through the Neighborhood Music School, is giving Adam concentrated time to compose, and enabling him to pay instrumentalists and singers for rehearsals and performances. He will bring them together for live recording time when the pandemic allows.

Working in conjunction with the Creative Arts Workshop, Harold Shapiro’s project, “Luminous Instruments”, merges his two lifelong passions of music and photography. In extraordinary black and white photos of musical instruments, his mastery of both the technical and creative aspects of his craft allow him to produce images which evoke movement and music.

The initial grant in 2018 was presented to artist/printmaker Barbara Harder and her collaborative partner, Creative Arts Workshop. The $2,500 award has enabled Barbara to explore extraordinary printmaking techniques, which she will share with students.

The Bitsie Clark Fund for Artists will continue to enrich life in Greater New Haven by supporting its artists.