Alum Keijaun Thomas is Queer|Art’s First Recipient of Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists

A Black woman stands nude in front of a large body of water, hugging herself with closed eyes. Gold clips line the hairline of her long, dark hair that reaches her lower back. Gold paint shimmers all over her body.
Keijaun Thomas, "I Looked Up at the Sky and I, Imagined All of the Stars Were My Sisters," 2020. Photo: Charles Rice

Alum Keijaun Thomas (MFA 2014) is the first winner of the Queer|Art Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists. According to ArtForum, “The award, the first of its kind, is aimed at correcting the exclusion of Black trans women artists from the larger art canon while opening a path for others.” The New York–based alum will receive a $10,000 cash grant, as well as individual artistic support in the form of periodical studio visits from the judges’ panel. 

Thomas, a multidisciplinary artist who studied in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Performance department, was chosen for the honor from a pool of 17 talented artists from around the country. Her work across performance, multimedia installation, and poetry reflects on collective ancestral memory, centers Black healing, and disrupts monolithic representations of Blackness.