Museum helping more at-risk students learn through art

[Note: This was written for The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.]

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — More underserved children in Asheville, Buncombe County and three rural counties in Western North Carolina will have access to arts education and activities through a $25,000 grant to the Asheville Art Museum to build partnerships with local schools and parks-and-recreation centers.

The funds, from The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation in Durham, will help the Museum provide nearly 10,000 hours of visual-arts programming to 950 students in kindergarten through fifth grade in McDowell, Henderson and Madison counties.

During the course of a year, the Museum will offer to 1,200 pre-school children and their caregivers in Asheville and Buncombe County a weekly program it has piloted on a monthly basis since 2012.

“The arts are an essential component in developing critical thinking skills that lead to success, yet over the past 20 years there has been a steady decline in funding for the arts,” says Pamela L. Myers, the Museum’s executive director. “We partner with schools throughout the region to ensure that the diverse population of students have full access to art and education, and to programs that allow for students with different learning styles to excel in the arts and in their academic studies.”

Mimi O’Brien, executive director of the Biddle Foundation, says the Museum’s expansion of its programs will provide new opportunities for underserved students and preschoolers to thrive.

“The arts are a powerful, inspiring tool that helps children and adults alike learn, grow and connect with the people and places in their lives,” she says.

The Foundation made the grant as part of the celebration of its 60th anniversary.

Arts and education

Established by artists in 1948, the Asheville Art Museum is the only accredited visual arts institution serving all 24 counties in Western North Carolina, a region of over 1.2 million residents and some of the most underserved and low-wealth school districts in the state.

For school districts in the region, particularly in the face of increasingly tight budgets for education, access to educational innovation and auxiliary services such as arts education is limited.

“They are places in which teachers and school administrators struggle to provide enrichment to the diversity of their students,” Myers says.

To help fill that gap, the Museum serves as the arts education partner of schools.

‘Literacy Through Art’

In 1994, the Museum launched its Literacy Through Art program, a partnership with school districts to boost student literacy by integrating the arts with learning. Yet with the steady decline in public support for enrichment programs beyond the traditional curriculum of reading, writing and math, the Museum has been providing a growing share of resources for the program.

With the involvement of principals and classroom teachers, the Museum provides nine lessons of 60 minutes each in participating schools. Leading the classroom lessons, which meet state goals and objectives in language arts and visual arts, are artist-educators.

The 10th and final lesson includes a visit to the Museum — with some schools providing transportation — for a gallery tour and hands-on studio activity.

And by collaborating with the artist-educators, participating classroom teachers can build their skills to incorporate art into their classroom activities.

An evaluation of the program by a researcher at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching suggested that students benefit academically from the program because it addresses multiple learning styles to build visual and language art skills.

In McDowell, Henderson and Madison counties, which will get the program as a result of the Biddle Foundation grant, the poverty rate is above 17.2 percent. And the percentage of students who get lunch that is free or at a reduced price totals over 63 percent in Madison and McDowell counties, and 54 percent in Henderson County.

Without the Museum program, and in the wake of budget cuts and limited resources for many school districts, visual arts would not be part of the curriculum for most students in those counties. Madison County, which was part of the program when it was launched in 1994, has not participated since 2004 because of budget cuts.

‘Tot Time’

Four years ago, the Museum began piloting its Tot Time program, which features guided art activities for pre-school children and their caregivers. Offered once a month at the Museum, each session focuses on a different topic or theme.

The program uses a range of art activities to improve motor skills, language development and visual learning, while fostering interest in the arts and providing socialization for preschoolers and their caregivers.

Now, through the Biddle Foundation grant, the Museum will conduct five Tot Time programs a month for a year for a total of 60 visits to public libraries and parks-and-recreation centers that will reach 1,200 pre-school children and their caregivers from diverse and disadvantaged populations in Asheville and Buncombe County. One location will be Stephens-Lee recreation center, located in one of the city’s historically African-American communities.

Museum expansion

To better serve underserved, rural and low-wealth students throughout Western North Carolina through outreach activities, on-site programs and teacher-training opportunities, the Museum is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $24 million to renovate and expand its facilities, including doubling its education spaces.

With funds from the campaign, which already has raised $18.5 million, the Museum will have over twice the amount of studio classroom space, divided into two classrooms and accommodating larger class sizes and school groups, as well as multiple programs for different audiences at the same time.

By expanding its Literacy Through Art and Tot Time programs during the renovation and expansion of its facilities, the Museum can “learn from the diversity of our communities what our partnerships should look like going forward for the next generation,” Myers says.

A key question is “how can the Museum best serve this diversity of communities,” she says. “The Museum doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

The arts “spread everyone’s wings and open up a universe of inspiration, innovation and creativity that can affect every aspect of one’s life,” she says. “They provide a whole other way of opening up dialogue and discourse among people and individuals who interact with the creativity found in the arts.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 11.04.16

United Way, NFL, schools team up on curriculum

Starting this school year, a required course in life-management skills for all ninth-graders in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will include materials developed by a digital-learning tech firm in collaboration with the National Football League, United Way Worldwide, and local United Ways in selected NFL markets outside North Carolina.

EverFi, the Washington, D.C., company that developed the materials, will train local school officials and teachers to use them, United Way says.

The materials aim to equip students in grades six through nine to build and keep healthy relationships and focus on topics such as character development and social-emotional learning.

United Way Worldwide is funding the use of the materials this school year in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, and United Way of Forsyth County will invest $15,750 for their use in the 2017-18 school year, says Kim Thore, vice president of marketing and engagement for United Way of Forsyth County.

Overall, United Way, the NFL and EverFi together are investing at least $2 million a year in the project for three years through cash and in-kind support, says Tracey Holmes, director, NFL Partnership, for United Way Worldwide.

The school system this week provided training for every teacher of life-management skills in all 16 high schools in the county, provided a course outline, and showed teachers how to “embed” the six 30-minute modules in the curriculum, says Nancy Sutton, program manager for healthful living for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Teaching of the new materials is set to begin early in 2017.

High Point University gets $3 million

David Couch, CEO of The Blue Ridge Companies in High Point, and his wife, singer and songwriter Stephanie Quayle, are giving $3 million to High Point University.

Congdon Hall, an academic facility on campus, now will be named Couch Hall.

The facility had been named for Earl and Kitty Congdon. In 2015, the University named Congdon School of Health Sciences for the couple. The School, now under construction, is scheduled to open in 2017.

Community Housing Solutions gets $120,000

Wells Fargo awarded $120,000 to Community Housing Solutions in Greensboro.

The nonprofit will use the funds to expand its work to provide homeownership opportunities in Ole Asheboro through a collaborative effort it leads that includes Ole Asheboro Neighborhood Association, Greensboro Housing Development Partnership, City of Greensboro Neighborhood Development, Greensboro Builders Association, Housing Consultants Group and Carolina Bank.

A Lotta Love getting $31,000

A Lotta Love has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Women’s Giving Network of Wake County to remake rooms in Wrenn House in Raleigh, and $1,237 from the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Community Involvement in Chapel Hill through a donation with funds raised by Alpha Chi Omega during theTaste of UNC Greeks cooking contest.

Roberts chairs Go Red For Women Campaign

Kimberly S. Roberts, vice president of cultural development at law firm Crumley Roberts in Greensboro and creator of Crumley Roberts Employee Wellness, has been named chair of the 2016-17 Guilford County Go Red For Women Campaign of the American Heart Association.

Bikers give $11,000

Bikers at the Ray Price Capital City Bikefest in Raleigh raised $11,393 for the USO of North Carolina and U.S. Veteran’s Corps.

Greensboro Urban Ministry to host events

Greensboro Urban Ministry will celebrate its 25th Feast of Caring on November 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church at 1000 W. Friendly Ave., and this year will add a special event, Feast of Caring Express, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the same day at the same location.

Adams named VP at Food Bank

Gideon Adams, former senior manager for programs and outreach at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh, has been named vice president for community health and engagement, heading a newly formed department.

Heart Association to host health expo

American Heart Association will host its inaugural High Point Healthy For Good Expo at Oak Hollow Mall of High Point University on February 18, with Cornerstone Health Care, an affiliate of Wake Forest Baptist Health, as signature sponsor.

Thanksgiving pie sale to benefit two nonprofits

Alliance Medical Ministry and StepUp Ministry, both in Raleigh, are teaming up again for a fundraising effort, “Share the Pie,” that recruits Triangle bakers to bake Thanksgiving pies for sale to the public for pickup in Raleigh and Cary on November 23.

All proceeds benefit the two nonprofits.

Nonprofit to give away Thanksgiving dinners

I Am A Queen in High Point will given away up to 300 boxes of turkeys and nonperishable food items on November 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Windsor Recreation Center at at 1601 E. Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro.

Arts momentum in Durham grows with arts directory, artist grants

[Note: This was written for The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.]

DURHAM, N.C. — An online arts directory and continued investment in career development for emerging artists are the focus of a $25,000 grant to the Durham Arts Council that underscores Durham’s growing reputation as a hub for the arts.

With about two-thirds of the funds, from The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation in Durham, the Arts Council plans to develop and launch by late next summer an online directory of artists and arts organizations.

The Arts Council will use the remaining funds to support grants it has made each year to local artists since 1984, when it created a grant program for emerging artists that has become a model for counties throughout North Carolina.

“We are working to create opportunity for artists and arts groups to work collaboratively among themselves, to work across sectors, to apply for grants, to be more accessible, and to get the training they need,” says Sherry DeVries, executive director of the Arts Council.

Mimi O’Brien, executive director of the Biddle Foundation, says the Arts Council is “helping to build Durham’s growing brand as a major arts center that attracts and connects artists, arts groups and visitors.”

The arts “inspire, and are helping to transform Durham into a stronger, more vibrant community,” she says.

The Foundation made the grant as part of the celebration of its 60th anniversary.

Arts catalyst

Formed in 1954, the Arts Council operates with an annual budget of $2.7 million, with 31 percent of it through the donation of goods and services, and a staff of 10 people working full-time and two working part-time. It raises about $1.3 million through its annual fund and special projects, with 57 percent of it from local, state and federal government sources.

The Arts Council serves 400,000 visitors and program participants a year, over 1,500 artists, and over 60 arts organizations through arts classes; artist residencies in schools; exhibitions; festivals; grant programs for arts organizations and artists; technical support and training; arts advocacy; creative economy initiatives such as research and development of an arts district; and information services.

Arts directory

Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Durham represent an economic engine: According to the most recent data, from five years ago, the combined economic impact of those organizations totals $125.5 million.

Connecting those organizations with one another, with the artists they depend on, with the public, and with anyone wanting to connect with the arts will be the focus of the new arts business directory that the Arts Council will develop with $17,000 from the Biddle Foundation grant.

Expected to be launched by late summer 2017 with an initial database of 300 artists and 80 arts organizations, the directory will be the only local, non-membership-based, publicly-accessible directory of artists and arts organizations in the Triangle.

The Arts Council has opted to use a database from Artsopolis selected by local arts councils in cities like Charlotte, Memphis, Houston and Fort Lauderdale. It will allow artists and arts groups to create their own profiles and keep them up to date, and for the general public to find them.

The Arts Council plans to promote the directory to the arts community, and provide orientation sessions on how to use it, along with help in uploading profiles. It also plans to promote the directory to the public and to specialized sectors once artists and arts groups have begun to create their profiles.

And the Arts Council will cross-link its directory with, the arts calendar maintained by the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Emerging artist grants

Every year, based on over 110 applications it receives, the Arts Council awards 15 to 16 grants for mid-career development projects to individual arts in Durham, Chatham, Orange, Granville and Person counties.

Inspired by the late Durham philanthropists James and Mary Semans, founding trustees of the Biddle Foundation and launched in 1984 in partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council and the Foundation, the emerging artists grant program has awarded 500 grants totaling $553,000.

That grant program served as a model for the development of grant programs for local artists by local arts councils throughout the state in partnership with the state Arts Council.

Continuing its long-term support for the Durham emerging artists grant program, the Biddle Foundation this year again is contributing $8,000.

The artist grants represent our “belief and investment in individual artists,” says Margaret DeMott, director of artist services for the Arts Council.

The grants also provide recognition and validation that artists can use to secure other funding, and expand their range of opportunities and their networks of professional connections, she says.

Artists typically use the funds for needs ranging from attending conferences, buying materials and equipment, and conducting research to securing larger studio space, creating new art and increasing their visibility.

Arts capital

Building on its reputation for higher education, medicine and, more recently, food, Durham has long been a magnet for art and artists.

As Durham’s arts community continues to grow, the Arts Council is helping to spearhead initiatives designed to build that community and make it more accessible.

In partnership with Americans for the Arts, for example, it is just beginning a study — conducted every five years — of the local economic impact of the arts.

In cooperation with North Carolina Arts Council and City of Durham, it is working on the creation of an arts-and-entertainment corridor — a $10 million, 10-year initiative known as Durham SmArt — that will run south to north along Blackwell, Corcoran and Foster streets.

To begin to put the project into place, the Durham Arts Council last May was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Arts Council is focusing “on building the reputation and excitement of Durham as an arts and cultural center,” DeVries says. “It’s our desire to create more recognition and more visibility for the arts sector as a whole.”