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Meet Jaquan Fields, a Philly performer with dreams of starting a circus as diverse as his city

Fields, aka Quany the Clown, is seeking funding to launch the circus, with no luck so far. Listen to his story in this installment of's Thriving audio series.

Jaquan Fields, aka Quany the Clown. (Photo by Dominique Nichole)

This report is part of Thriving, a yearlong storytelling initiative from focused on the lived experiences of Philadelphia and comparative city residents. The goal is to generate insights about the economic opportunities and obstacles along their journeys to financial security. Here's who we're focusing on and why.

While some young people dream of running away to join the circus, Jaquan Fields dreams of staying at home to start his own.

“Our goal is to bring the joy, magic of the circus into your living room,” Fields said recently. He has his own business, Quany World, and performs as Quany the Clown at birthday and block parties.

He’s been trying to get funding to start a new Philadelphia-based circus that mirrors the diversity of the city — something sort of similar to UniverSoul Circus.

“Let’s show them that we’re unified, but also don’t want to be judged as the brown people or the Black Circus, which UniverSoul Circus had the title and yeah, it’s owned by a Black man,” he said. “But it’s a melting pot of different cultures.”

Fields is one of about 80,000 Black men under the age of 25 who live in Philadelphia. Roughly three-quarters of his peers live in poverty — a total similar to other big cities, but worse than economic powerhouses like Boston, Seattle and DC. Those men all have dreams of their own, and their ability to realize their dreams will shape Philadelphia’s future.

“Our goal is to bring the joy, magic of the circus into your living room.”Jaquan Fields

And all of their dreams depend on the resources they can access.

For Fields to start his circus, he’d have to apply for a new business license and a few different permits. He’d need to purchase special insurance. He’d have to buy the big red-and-white striped tent, equipment and costumes. He’d need to pay the performers and provide transportation for them. He’d also need to pay to promote the event.

Even after calling in favors, to fund just one circus event, Fields said he’s looking at least $35,000.

Fields tried to take advantage of grants during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he’s new to all this.

“It’s one of those things, when you’re in the world of entertainment or the arts, so many things are hard to find because most art grants are very specific,” he said. “Performance arts is harder to get grants than visual arts. Visual arts are accepted by everybody. But if you’re doing performing arts, you always have your niche. Your certain group that likes this certain crowd of performers is not usually a universal thing, to a degree.”

And Fields did not win the few grants he did find.

“The only grant we have found is, you better go book a show and you better be a good person and save your money,” he said.

These Thriving audio stories feature reporting by Nichole Currie and audio production by Rowhome Productions.

Series: Thriving

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