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Philadelphia's Cultural Treasures awards new project grants, to Odean Pope and 38 others

Matthew Altea

Over the course of his 70-year career, composer and tenor saxophonist Odean Pope has not only demonstrated magnificent artistry but also amassed a collection of musical materials. Now, through the Philadelphia’s Cultural Treasures project grant initiative, he’s been awarded a grant to create an archive of these materials.

Philadelphia’s Cultural Treasures awards project grants to BIPOC artists who have based their careers in Philadelphia for at least the last five years, as well as organizations, collectives and projects that are Philadelphia-based and have an annual operating budget of no more than $300,000. This year, 39 grantees have been selected across the categories of archives and documentation, creative collaborations, creative freedom and experimentation, and organizational capacity building. More than $1,000,000 has been awarded to grantees to further their work.

Pope has been selected for the grant under the category of archives and documentation to continue creating an archive of materials accumulated throughout his nearly lifelong tenure as a musician. His rich career, which includes more than 20 years with the Max Roach Quartet and dozens of collaborations, makes him an excellent subject for this grant.

The recognition is hardly a first for Pope, 85, who has long been a beacon of the Philadelphia jazz scene. Last fall he received Ars Nova Workshop’s fourth annual Nova Award at a ceremony that included a tribute performance from alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, a former student of Pope’s, and Marshall Allen, a prior Nova Award recipient. He has also received awards such as The Pew Fellowship in the Arts for Music Composition in 1992 and the Mid Atlantic Living Legacy Award in 2017.

Among the other 2024 Cultural Treasures grantees are familiar names like percussionist Shakoor Hakeem and poet Trapeta B. Mayson, who each received a grant for creative freedom and experimentation. Hakeem made a guest appearance at WRTI last year, where he performed with the Aùra Trio in our studio. His grant will support the recording of an album by another trio, In Our Ancestors We Trust, featuring fellow percussionist Khary Shaheed and tenor saxophonist Hiruy Tirfe.

Mayson was recently recognized as one of Jazz Philadelphia’s Hometown Heroes, and spoke with Bobbi Booker about the honor, as well as the work she does in the city. Her grant will support the further development of Healing Verse Philly, which, according to its mission, "uses poetry as a foundation to promote wellness, mental health, and mental well-being across the city, country, and world."

In addition to the project grants, Philadelphia’s Cultural Treasures awards artist fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based BIPOC artists who make a material difference in their communities on top of their challenging career work. This year, the second round of fellowships will go out to 12 more fellows who qualify, following the first group announced in late 2022. Fellows can receive up to $120,000 in funding, depending on how long they’ve been contributing to the longevity of their communities.

Philadelphia’s Cultural Treasures is overseen by an advisory group of representatives from The Barra Foundation, Neubauer Family Foundation, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, William Penn Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and Ford Foundation. For more information, visit the organization website.