Austin choreographer Allison Orr just received one of the larger arts awards on the national landscape.
Orr is one of just 45 artists from around the country to receive a $50,000 unrestricted award from United States Artists, a Chicago-based non-profit founded by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations.
Awards are given across artistic disciplines and this year’s were chosen from a peer-nominated pool of over 500 applicants. Awardees may use the $50,000 in whatever manner they choose to.
Through her Forklift Danceworks company, Orr has carved a singular artistic profile for herself as a dancemaker, collaborating with groups of non-dancers — sanitation workers, city arborists, warehouse employees, college food service employees and retired Negro League Baseball players, among others.
Orr’s typically sight-specific and sprawling performances transform the skilled movements of everyday work and life into potent and thoughtful artistic consideration of people whose physical work shores up so much of contemporary society yet goes unnoticed.
Orr’s current project “My Parks, My Pool, My City” focuses on Austin’s public swimming pools.
Orr said that her in her initial application she outlined plans to use the USA award “to finish a book I have started writing about our work at Forklift.”
Now that she’s won, she’s still considering the book, but wants to explore other project possibilities. An award of this size, she said, “is a lot to contemplate.”
Orr is the only Texan to receive a USA award this year. Recipients in years past include choreographer Deborah Hay, playwright and Rude Mechs co-producing artist director Kirk Lynn, musician Hannibal Lokumbe, poet A. Van Jordan and filmmakers Anne Lewis and Heather Courtney.