The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Rothko Chapel's Óscar Romero Award Programming

Grant Information
Categories Education , Environment , Peace , Arts , Community
Location Texas
Cycle Year 2022
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Rothko Chapel
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Rothko chapel
EIN 22-7229934
Contact Information
Contact Name Mr. James Hays
Phone 713-660-1409
1409 Sul Ross St
Additional Information
Used for Since 1986, the Rothko Chapel has given awards to grassroots activists who are working under extraordinary circumstances to advance human rights, often without widespread recognition and at great personal risk. This award is named in honor of Saint Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who is recognized internationally as a martyr and has inspired countless others to advocate for justice even in the face of great economic and political pressure. Funding will be used to support the ceremony and related programming tying into the ceremony where we will learn about each of the three awardee's causes and work.
Benefits The Rothko Chapel has given 14 Oscar Romero Awards since 1986 with the conviction that securing basic dignity and freedom for people worldwide requires that individuals and organizations challenge abuse from the grassroots. At a time when many urgent, intersecting civil liberties and human rights are under attack and actively losing protections in the US, the 2023 Rothko Chapel Óscar Romero Award recognizes individuals and organizations exercising courageous, grassroots, human rights advocacy to further civil rights in the United States. Related public programs serve the Chapel's mission to foster dialogue between people across religious, economic and political spectrums, inspiring action through the power of art and contemplation, and providing a rallying place for all.
Proposal Description

When civic leaders and art patrons Dominique and John de Menil commissioned artist Mark Rothko and architect Philip Johnson to create the Rothko Chapel in 1964, they did so with the intent to establish a sanctuary open to all for reflection, spiritual development and the active promotion of human rights. The Rothko Chapel opened in 1971 as a public work of art, a sacred space of contemplation, meditation, and prayer where persons of all beliefs can explore and share spiritual bonds and discuss problems of worldwide interest while actively pursuing peace, justice, and the well-being of society. Fourteen iconic canvases by Mark Rothko grace the Chapel walls. Linking the Chapel to the grounds is Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk, dedicated to the life and service of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Together, these works of art continue to inspire people to contemplation and action on the critical spiritual, social justice and community issues of today.

The cornerstone of these activities is the biennial Óscar Romero Award (ORA).  Established in 1986, the award celebrates and furthers the efforts of courageous, grassroots human rights advocates addressing some of humanity’s most intractable problems. By spotlighting the work of ORA honorees, the Chapel focuses attention on targeted global concerns, which are also echoed in the Chapel’s programming, and inspire others to take action within their own communities.  Our 2023 Awardees include The People's Paper Co-Op, an arts and advocacy program focused on incarcerated women and those in reentry, based at the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philly; Rev. Erika Forbes, a reproductive rights advocate who utilizes a spiritually-driven approach; and Secunda Joseph, a multifaceted local community activist.  

The People’s Paper Co-Op is a women-led arts advocacy initiative located in Philadelphia, connecting incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women with artists, civil rights lawyers, and other urgent resources to amplify their stories, dreams, and visions for a more just and free world. Since 2018, they have organized exhibitions, parades, press conferences and original artwork sales to raise bail funds to free Black mothers and caregivers from incarceration for Mother’s Day. The People’s Paper Co-Op brings art and activism together to remove the stigmas and obstacles created by a criminal record and advocate for the rights of women directly impacted by the criminal justice system.

Rev. Erika Forbes is an interfaith minister and community organizer from Dallas, who is on the spiritual frontlines of the reproductive justice fight here in Texas. She regularly speaks at state and national rallies on reproductive rights, and preaches on the topic, openly citing her own personal experiences.  She partners with Texas health clinics to provide spiritual and pastoral care, often escorting patients to their appointments through encounters with protestors. Rev. Forbes is the co-host of the podcast “At the Edge of the Lege: Where Abortion, Faith and Politics Collide” and is committed to intersectional rights work from a faith perspective, including LGBTQ+ rights.

Secunda Joseph is a grassroots community organizer and beloved activist here in Houston, who works toward community empowerment and equity through mutual aid in the areas of food, healthcare, and housing access, as well as prison and bail reform. She cofounded ImagiNoir/Black Lives Matter HTX focused specifically on Black women’s rights, and organizes with countless other groups in the city on racial justice issues including with ProjectCurate, Restoring Justice, Project Row Houses, and Kindred Stories. Secunda works tirelessly day in and out across Houston to bring different communities together for sustained and coordinated strategic action for social change.

As the $30,000 awardee stipends are supported by a dedicated endowment, funding from the Dudley Dougherty Foundation will be used to support programs that lead up to the ceremony where we explore the civil rights issues each of these three awardees are targeting in the areas of arts, spirituality and human rights. One of the Rothko Chapel’s greatest strengths is the ability to plan and deliver exceptional programming using diverse artistic and spiritual media that focuses on critical issues of the day.