San Francisco's Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced today, Jan. 22, that Rhodessa Jones, an acclaimed performance and community artist, has been named to receive the 2013 Mayor’s Art Award.
“Rhodessa Jones embodies the spirit of the Mayor’s Art Award, as an artistic powerhouse of international acclaim whose work has saved and transformed lives,” said Mayor Lee. “It is my great honor to recognize one of our City’s most prized cultural treasures and to acknowledge Rhodessa’s tremendous contributions to the cultural, artistic and civic life of San Francisco.”
“I’m so honored to receive this award. Politics don’t work, religion is a bit too eclectic, but art could be that parachute that catches us all,” said Rhodessa Jones.
“Rhodessa Jones is a force, a pinnacle of our artistic community who practices what she preaches,” said Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “For over 30 years she has made groundbreaking work that shines a light on important social issues related to power, race, class, gender and historically under-represented voices. It is an understatement to say that she is magnanimous. She is truly one of a kind and a true San Franciscan.”
Rhodessa Jones is Co-Artistic Director of the acclaimed performance company Cultural Odyssey with her talented partner Idris Ackamoor.
An actress, teacher, singer, dancer, and writer, Jones is also the Founder and Director of the award-winning Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women, a performance workshop designed to achieve personal and social transformation for women in the prison system. Over the past decade, Jones has worked with more than 300 women, helping many of them make a return to society.
Jones is no stranger to a difficult path. One of 12 children, a daughter of migrant workers, Jones found herself pregnant at 16; she didn't marry the father. She eventually ended up working as a nude dancer to pay the bills. Even there she was an activist, organizing the women for better working conditions. Finding the experience more fascinating than demeaning, she knew that there was a story to tell from it. Her notes eventually became the inspiration for her breakthrough piece, "The Legend of Lily Overstreet."
Jones continues to draw on the experiences from her life. Her more recent piece, "Hot Flashes, Power Surges and Private Summers," speaks about womanhood after 50.
The message of the Medea Project has taken her around the globe, including South Africa where she made history by directing a full-length theater production with female inmates inside “Sun City Prison”. Jones also collaborated with the Women’s HIV Program at UCSF Medical Center, conducting workshops and residency activities, which resulted in the world premiere of “Dancing with the Clown of Love” in 2010.
In 2001, her film collaboration “We Just Telling Stories,” which profiles Jones and her work with the Medea Project in the San Francisco County jails, won Best Documentary at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
Mayor Lee will present the 2013 Mayor’s Art Award to Rhodessa Jones on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 6 p.m. at an event at City Hall hosted by the San Francisco Arts Commission.