The Children’s Theatre Company, The Loft Literary Center, and the Walker Art Center announced today they are the sole Minnesota recipients of 2006 Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards in recognition of their individual efforts to more deeply engage and diversify audiences. The Children’s Theatre Company has received a $1.5 million award; The Loft $500,000; and the Walker $2 million.
The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards were created to recognize those leading organizations who are effectively building participation in the arts with imaginative efforts to broaden, deepen, or diversify their audiences. The Award program requires honorees to match the grant on at least a one-to-one basis and create permanent endowments or revolving cash reserves that will be committed to continuing participation-building initiatives.
“The goal of The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards is to encourage organizations to sustain and expand the impact of their work with local constituencies and to draw national attention to the importance of participation building to the health and growth of the arts field,” said Christine DeVita, President of The Wallace Foundation. “The Excellence Awards honor organizations that have made a commitment to engage people more deeply in the arts part of their organization’s DNA. The Awards are an important part of our efforts to develop and share effective ideas and practices for enhancing arts participation and bringing the transformational benefits of the arts to all.”
The Children’s Theatre Company
The $1.5 million Wallace Excellence Award will provide cash reserves and endowment funds in support of programs for teens, including the development of world-class plays and productions for teen audiences on the new Cargill Stage, dedicated to programming for teens and preschoolers. The grant will support CTC’s strategies aimed at building teen participation in the arts, including an annual teen play series; the continued commissioning of new work specifically for teens; Around series programming specifically for teens; and a cadre of teen consultants, with special access to the knowledge and artists of CTC, who help develop marketing plans as well as generating interest and word-of-mouth among their peers.
CTC presented three plays for teen audiences in the 2005-2006 season, including two new commissions. Danny Hoch directed Flow, conceived, written, and performed by acclaimed actor, rapper, playwright, educator, and CTC alumnus Will Power. Whit McLaughlin again directed Prom, designated by the Minneapolis City Pages as 2004’s Best Stage Production. Artistic Director Peter Brosius directed Anon(ymous), the current production on the Cargill Stage. This world-premiere production is playwright Naomi Iizuka’s powerful re-imagining of the Odyssey set in a contemporary America peopled by recent immigrants and refugees from countries ravaged by war. The theatre will continue to create plays for teen audiences through its new play development program, Threshold. Of the plays CTC has commissioned for the 2006-2007 season, two are for teens. New York playwright Lonnie Carter will tell the story of The Lost Boys of Sudan and their odyssey from a war zone to a refugee camp to relocation in Fargo, North Dakota. Diane Paulus will direct her piece Fashion/Ronan 47, celebrating all the dish, dirt, desire, and dynamism of the runway.
From 2003 to the present, a Wallace Foundation Leadership and Excellence in Arts Participation (LEAP) grant assisted The Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) in broadening, deepening, and diversifying its audiences through new and enriched programs. The Around series offers events, residencies, and workshops related to the themes of the plays on CTC’s stages and provides a context for the issues, cultures, and stories represented in the productions. The Stand festival, a component of the Around Series, is specifically intended to deepen the theater-going experience for teens. The LEAP grant also supported Whittier Family Night, a program CTC has conducted for seven years. For this occasion, 500 Whittier students—even the kindergartners—see a specially selected production at CTC, attend workshops led by CTC teaching artists, and write and create artwork in response to themes presented in the play. On Family Night, students invite their families to CTC to see an exhibition of their work, attend an informal reception, and see the show. Family Nights represent the international diversity of the Whittier neighborhood, including immigrants from regions of Africa, Central America, and Asia.
The Loft Literary Center
The continued support of the Wallace Foundation with this year’s $500,000 grant, for its endowment and a cash reserve, will enable the Loft to continue providing opportunities and a home at Open Book for literary artists of all backgrounds. The Excellence Award will help ensure that the Loft’s programs aimed at participation-building activities will continue to thrive. The Loft offers Equilibrium workshops for high school and college students, a creative writing workshop for teen parents in Twin Cities’ public schools, and a creative writing program for Minneapolis Head Start parents and their children.
In fiscal year 2006 (July 1, 2005-June 30, 2006), the Loft cosponsored a Teens Rock the Mic Benefit at the Women’s Club and helped sponsor a trip to the national competition for the youth. Some of the Loft’s Equilibrium shows included the group WGI, a large ensemble cast of young women, Louis Alemayehu, and the jazz duo Ancestor Energy. Also, Equilibrium held a special showcase featuring African American writers paying tribute to writers of the Harlem Renaissance; over 100 people attended this event to see local African American writers share the stage with Tyehimba Jess and Fly. Over 70 people from Muslim and/or Somali communities attended the Mideast in the Midwest Open Mic, an event co-sponsored by the Loft. The series remains the only open mic specifically devoted to showcasing Middle Eastern and Arab writers in the country. Spoken word artist Robert Karimi led a workshop for a diverse group of community members and former Equilibrium spoken words artists. The Loft co-sponsored the How Big is Your Voice Workshop, for Asian Indian American Youth, led by Shailja Patel. Other events included a Somali Writers presentation, which included a panel discussion conducted in the Somali language and a reading and discussion with the author, Mohamud Gaildon, conducted in English. In addition, over 200 people attended local author Ed Bok Lee’s Real Karaoke People book launch. The Loft’s Basic Needs and Partnership for Access to Literacy participants present their work at Open Book in a formal publication reading setting.
In March 2002, the Loft received a Leadership and Excellence in Arts Participation grant from the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds, now the Wallace Foundation. This crucial support enabled the Loft to address and tackle barriers to participation in the arts through new and expanded programs such as free groups for readers and writers, new workshops, enhanced Web content, a regionally broadcast book club and interdisciplinary programming, helping the Loft to broaden and deepen participation among diverse audiences of younger adults. The Loft created a young adult advisory committee, which consisted of 16 young adults (six of whom were from communities of color), ranging in age from 18 through 30 years old. These dedicated committee members took Loft classes, attended and performed at Loft events, and reviewed Loft catalogues. Based on feedback from the committee, the Loft piloted workshops aimed at younger writers and expanded its Web content to include interactive capabilities, among other activities. The LEAP grant also provided support to the Loft’s spoken word program, Equilibrium. Over the course of the grant period, more than 3,500 young people of color attended or performed at Equilibrium events.
Walker Art Center
The Walker’s $2 million Excellence Award, for its endowment, will provide vital support for ensuring that its newly expanded facility be a place of convergence, bringing artists, art forms, and audiences together in innovative ways. The grant provides an extraordinary opportunity for the Walker to offer audiences a wider range of experiences on a daily basis. The new Walker magnifies the ways in which audiences can become more active participants in discovering the links between art and life, as well as among multiple artistic disciplines. For example, visitors may attend open rehearsals for new dance or theater performances being created by artists-in-residence; participate in community forums, post-screening discussions, and book club programs; or explore the permanent collection using the Art on Call audio guide. The Walker’s new interactive educational spaces, critical components of the expanded facility and the Walker’s overall participation-building strategies, allow visitors to enjoy audio and film/video programs; to access an extensive archive of images, audio and video clips, and text via Dialog, a tabletop computer interface; and discover playful and dynamic information gathering by conversing with a computer-animated dolphin that expands its vocabulary with each discussion. Additional alternative ways for sharing information include podcast audio guides, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, and online blogs (blogs.walkerart.org).
As the first art museum in the country to devote full-time staff solely to creating and implementing programs for teenagers, Walker Teen Programs continues to serve as an international model for how cultural institutions can effectively and creatively engage teens and young adults. For more than 10 years, the Walker has integrated teens into all programming areas, offering opportunities to develop new skills, express themselves creatively, and promote interaction with peers and mentors. Popular programs such as Target Free Thursday Nights and the monthly Free First Saturdays for families make the multidisciplinary nature of the Walker more visible. With its new social and learning spaces, sophisticated technology, and highly visible spaces for each of the artistic disciplines, the Walker will continue to expand and create new programs that focus on deeper levels of participation.
Over the past 10 years, the Wallace Foundation has provided vital support as the Walker Art Center has deepened the connections between artists and audiences and defined a new model for a 21st-century cultural institution. A 1994 grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund supported “New Definitions/New Audiences,” an institution-wide project that expanded the accessibility of the permanent collection for new as well as traditional audiences. Throughout the grant period the Walker focused on making the Education and Community Programs Department a full partner in program planning; strengthened programs for previously underserved audiences, including people of color, low-income families, and teens; analyzed how new technologies can assist in engaging audiences; and developed an acquisitions strategy for a growing collection that is both international and multidisciplinary in scope. In 2000, the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds’ Leadership and Excellence in Arts Participation (LEAP) grant allowed for the enhancement of the artist-in-residence initiative, the popular Free Thursdays program, community programming in the mobile art lab Walker on Wheels, and interactive Web-based programs.
The Wallace Foundation
The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. Its three current objectives are: strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement; enhancing out-of-school learning opportunities; and expanding participation in arts and culture. More information and research on these and other related topics can be found at The Wallace Foundation Knowledge Center at wallacefoundation.org or by calling 212.251.9783.
The Children’s Theatre Company is located at 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404. For more information, call 612.874.0500 or childrenstheatre.org.
The Loft Literary Center is located in the Open Book building at 1011 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis. For more information, please call 612.215.2575 or visit loft.org.
The Walker Art Center is located at 1750 Hennepin Avenue—where Hennepin meets Lyndale—one block off Highways I-94 and I-394, Minneapolis. For public information, call 612.375.7600, or visit walkerart.org.
Linda Jacobs, 612.872.5186; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Children’s Theatre Company
Sarah Caflisch, 612.644.0766; email@example.com
The Loft Literary Center
Karen Gysin, 612.375.7651; firstname.lastname@example.org
Walker Art Center
Mary Trudel, 212.251.9815; email@example.com
The Wallace Foundation