For Community Arts Partnership, grants give muscle to the mission

By The Columbia Chronicle

Columbia recently received a total of $210,000 in grants. The grants benefit the office of Community Arts Partnerships. The department established in May of this year, is designed to provide an infrastructure through which the college’s different community based projects can communicate.

“Columbia has always had an urban mission. We have a committment to being part of the life in the city of Chicago.” said Julie Simpson, the department’s director. According to Simpson, Columbia’s committment is what makes this school different from the other school located in the urban areas. Columbia actually cares to extend themselves to the community and the community returns the committment through jobs or internships provided for our students or financial support for our programs. This is the case with the recent monies received.

The Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund provided a $50,000 grant. This is a planning grant that will enable Columbia to develop youth arts programs in six diverse communities. This particular grant was by invitation only. There were only about 15 institutions invited to submit a proposal for this funding. The grant allows Columbia to plan a four year program, which will be run by Columbia faculty, staff, and students through internships. Once the program is planned out, Columbia will automatically be eligible for a grant to implement the arts program. Simpson estimates the program will cost millions of dollars. However, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund will provide perhaps 250,000 of that money for them to get started.

The Channel 50 Foundation was also very generous providing a $75,000 grant to DanceAfrica this year. Each year, Channel 50 provides free advertising for the program. Simpson explains that last year they expressed an interest in sponsoring the program and this was their opportunity. However, DanceAfrica’s move from the Medinah Temple to the Auditorium Theater brought about the need for this year’s sponsor to contribute $35,000 more than last year.

A grant of $65,000 was provided by the Surdna Foundation to support the “Urban Credo Project, which is in it’s third year. . This program consists of students from Antonia Pantoja, Roger C. Sullivan, and Whitney Young high schools, in Chicago. The goal of the program is to enhance the understanding, appreciation, and practice of dance and various cultural exchanges.

They work with Chuck Davis, official griot of DanceAfrica Chicago ‘98 and also the artistic director of the African American Dance Ensemble. Also working with Urban Credo is Rennie Harris, artistic director of the hip-hop group Rennie Harris Puremovement. Urban Credo made its major debut at DanceAfrica Chicago ‘98 and will be performing at different high schools and community centers from January 199 through August 1999.

A grant of $20,000 was provided by Arts International, a division of the Institute of Education. This grant provided a three week artistic exchange between the hip-hop based Rennie Harris Puremovement group and the traditional Iwisa Music and Dance Company of Zimbabwe, who also performed at DanceAfrica this year. The exchange was one of knowledge, culture, and technique.

According to Julie Simpson securing a grant is pretty basic. You have to have a good knowledge of what the organizations want and they have to know what you want. It’s all about knowing people and developing trusting relationships. Then of course you have to do an actual written proposal. The proposal must make sense and make both parties happy.