UNC School of the Arts: Fostering Creative Innovation

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) established its Alumni Artpreneur of the Year Award to support alumni who generate creative projects of the highest merit, artistic excellence, or innovative potential.

photo by Stacy Van Berkel, courtesy of UNC School of the Arts

With a three-year grant of $75,000 from The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (MDBF), three UNCSA graduates will each receive one-time funding of up to $25,000. The awards will go to generative/lead artists actively working on a creative project with a screening, opening, or publication scheduled within one year.

This award is part of the Chancellor’s Artpreneur Initiative, which also includes grants for graduating students and for creative enterprises undertaken by faculty, staff, current students, or alumni. UNCSA defines an Artpreneur as “an artist who is not defined by what is, but inspired by all that could be; who is business savvy and technologically aware; who is devoted to creating value and impact through their creative practice; who reaches beyond existing disciplines to create new ways to connect with others; who is willing to take creative risks in order to positively transform our world.” The Artpreneur awards are part of the university’s strategic goal to establish itself as an incubator for arts-based innovation and entrepreneurship by increasing student and alumni opportunities for artistic and entrepreneurial exploration.

Founding MDBF trustees Dr. James H. and Mary D.B.T. Semans were instrumental in establishing UNCSA, the nation’s first state-supported conservatory for the arts. They nurtured a relationship between the foundation and the school that continues to this day.

Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle: Building Capacity for Artistic Expansion

A three-year capacity building grant of $75,000 will support organizational capacity to achieve ambitious artistic and operational goals of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle.

courtesy of The Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle

Based in Chapel Hill and founded in 1982, the orchestra is expanding its programming and its role in the region's art's community. Four advanced music students at Triangle universities will get a special opportunity, as fellows, to train and perform with a professional orchestra. Five new works drawing inspiration from African-American songs and spirituals will be commissioned over five years. A young professional string quartet will get a three-year contract for a 12-week residency each year, and will participate in 40 or more outreach events at local public schools, retirement communities, universities, and other civic settings.

COT will use the grant to cover part of the salary of one of three new full-time positions it is creating to expand its programming and its role in the region's art's community. All three positions provide the staffing capacity essential to achieve the Chamber’s artistic goals.

The orchestra expects to realize an increase in attendance and income; more successful marketing; a more unified "look" for the orchestra' printed and online materials; and more effective communication and a deeper relationship with patrons. In so doing, it seeks to be a more relevant regional force for great music and advocacy for young performers.

Full Frame School of Doc: Afterschool Program

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is adding an after-school program to its highly successful School of Doc summer program, with support from a three-year grant of $75,000 from The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.

Kevin Seifert Photography

Established in 2011, the School of Doc brings Durham public high school students together to work as a crew to produce a PSA for a local nonprofit organization, free of charge. Coursework includes all technical elements of the craft: camera, lights, sound, editing, and special effects, as well as pre- and post-production considerations such as rights and clearances, graphics, and credits. Part of what makes the School of Doc distinctive is that students create a team and learn valuable skills beyond filmmaking, such as conflict resolution, compromise, and collaboration. School of Doc students requested an afterschool program to continue to develop skills and build competitive portfolios that can be used to apply for film schools, internships, or jobs.

Through this program, students will refine their skills and delve into more advanced techniques to produce a short documentary film. Additionally, the program schedules speakers and field trips that connect students with professionals who hire interns or film-making staff. It works with students to develop their job-seeking skills, including how to approach professionals and pitch themselves and their work. By the end of the program, students will have identified a local connection to serve as a potential employer or mentor.

East Durham Children's Initiative: Preventing Summer Learning Loss

Since 2011, the East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) has provided a comprehensive pipeline of programs and services for low-income children and families living in distressed neighborhoods in Northeast Central Durham. A key focus is connecting students with high-quality out-of-school learning programs that produce measurable results in reading and math proficiency and also provide critical social-emotional supports.

Kevin Seifert Photography

Given the correlation between poverty and school performance, it is critical to engage students in East Durham in these programs, particularly to prevent summer learning loss. In 2017, EDCI started the STEAM Summer Camp, a full-day, six-week academic enrichment program for public school students in grades three to five. A three-year grant totaling $75,000 from The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation will allow EDCI to increase enrollment by 20 students, bringing total enrollment to 180.

In the summer camp, students receive full-day, small-group instruction (1:10 teacher to student ratio) in reading, writing, and math, as well as immersive workshops and field trips that focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. Small group instruction enables teachers to identify students' individual learning needs, academic strengths, and personal interests. Evaluation results from the 2017 Camp indicate that this highly individualized form of instruction yields significant increases in reading fluency and comprehension for students with a wide range of academic proficiency levels.

Mary Duke Biddle was intentionally broad in her directions to future trustees on how and where to distribute grants.Over our history, we have given to a range of causes, including but not limited to arts and culture, education, and health and human services.She had the foresight to suggest that the trustees from “time to time” reconsider the best ways to accomplish her goals, recognizing the need to look forward and adapt to changing issues. Her vision for current and purposeful giving drives the work of the foundation’s trustees and staff.

Over the past few years, the board and staff have scrutinized both internal operations and grantmaking practices to ensure that the foundation retain its strong philanthropic practices going forward. In fall 2017, the foundation refined the focus of its non-Duke University grantmaking to have greater impact. Grants will continue to support Biddle’s long-standing interests in arts organizations, artists, and K-12 education. Changes include the definition of specific goals and criteria within the arts and education programs and the decision to make grants only in the Triangle region of North Carolina.These decisions were made after careful consideration of how the foundation’s limited financial and staff resources could be best deployed. While the majority of funding has long gone to Triangle-area nonprofits, the foundation had supported programs in other regions of North Carolina and in New York City. An exception to this Triangle focus is the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, in recognition of the family’s and foundation’s long relationship with the school. More detail about grant interests, guidelines, and eligibility can be found here [hyperlink].

The Board of Trustees firmly believes that the foundation is well poised for the future, moving forward the mission developed by Mrs. Biddle, Dr. and Mrs. Semans, trustees, and staff, and carried out by those within the organizations we have been privileged to serve.

The Arts

The arts are essential to strong, vibrant communities. A dynamic cultural sector is a catalyst for growth, attracting and retaining businesses and visitors. They strengthen neighborhoods and communities by preserving the culture and memories of specific places and have a positive impact on health and well-being. The arts provide spaces to allow people from different backgrounds to engage with one another and opportunities to build community. Perhaps most importantly, they offer personal enjoyment to individuals, groups, and families, and give voice to the human condition.

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation focuses its arts grantmaking on efforts that strengthen arts organizations, encourage collaboration, and nurture artistic talent.  This program focuses on adult artists. Please see the K-12 Education grant program for guidelines for projects that engage school-aged participants.

Durham Independent Dance Artists, photo by Zoe Litaker

Preserve and Enrich the Triangle’s Cultural Life and Landscape

The Biddle Foundation remains committed to a strong and thriving cultural sector in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties in North Carolina. The arts contribute significant value to communities, fueling creativity, beautifying city and town spaces, and providing joy. Long-standing arts organizations in the Triangle have created a strong infrastructure through consistent excellent programming, while newer organizations are expanding opportunities and venues that appeal to new and diverse audiences.

MDBF supports cultural organizations that demonstrate artistic excellence and elevate the profile of the Triangle’s arts scenes, both locally and nationally. MDBF also supports new, emerging, or grassroots cultural organizations and initiatives that document, preserve, or present the values, spirit, and diversity of the Triangle’s cultural community. Grants are made to develop and sustain strong Triangle-area organizations.The maximum grant is $10,000.

This program focuses on adult artists. Please see the K-12 Education grant program for guidelines for projects that engage school-aged participants.

Single-year grants in the following areas:
  • Capacity-building efforts designed to create or advance operational, programmatic, financial, and/or organizational stability, leading to increased sustainability and effectiveness, for projects including:
    • Audience development, such as sustained efforts to attract new and non-typical audiences or to expand the number of attendees
    • Leadership development, such as board and staff development and leadership succession planning
    • Marketing and communications, such as projects that are part of a comprehensive or strategic plan
    • Resource development, such as fundraising, earned income, or volunteer recruitment/retention
    • Specific efforts to enhance the organization’s mission or program delivery
    • Technology improvements, such as hardware, software, consulting, and other resources necessary to advance the organization’s mission that have been identified through a strategic or comprehensive plan
  • Innovative partnerships and collaborations by two or more arts organizations that promote the arts, address a community challenge, or address a need of or opportunity for both organizations for projects including:
    • Evaluation and assessment of programs
    • Future project planning
    • Joint performances, presentations, or visual arts programming
    • Joint training or learning opportunities
    • Resource development
  • Operating support grants to arts organizations committed to excellence, innovation, and sustainability. These grants are by invitation only, typically focusing on organizations with which the foundation has an established relationship.

Criteria

Characteristics of competitive applications include:
  • Projects have clearly identified goals, action plans, and evaluation measures.
  • The role of the organization’s board in the project, if applicable, is clearly defined.
  • Collaborative efforts identify why a collaborative approach is beneficial and have the full participation of all organizations. While one organization serves as the applicant, all organizations are actively involved in the project’s development and implementation.
  • Projects include racially, culturally, and economically diverse participants as appropriate to the program.
Institutional and project eligibility
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status; fiscal sponsorships are allowable.
  • The applying organization must be located in and project must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses under $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • Project budgets should not exceed $100,000.
  • Projects should be new or have been operating for fewer than 5 years.
  • Organizations may have only active grant at a time. A final narrative and financial report on the organization’s previous grant must be received by the foundation before a new LOI is submitted. If you have questions about your organization’s eligibility, please call the foundation before submitting an LOI.
  • Exhibition support is limited to distinctive projects that involve audiences not typically engaged in the art form, such as making arts accessible to those with limited vision or hearing, or whose subject matter addresses a compelling topic or issue.
  • Day-to-day technology needs (e.g., computers, printers, sound systems) are not eligible.
  • Requests for recurring festivals and season support are not eligible.

Develop and Nurture Artistic Talent

The vibrancy of the arts sector depends on artists who create, refine, or present new work. MDBF supports organizations in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties in North Carolina that work directly with artists or create new work. Grants focus on nurturing the current and next generations of artists, deepening and expanding talent, developing professional and business skills, and creating new works. The maximum grant is $10,000.

This program focuses on adult artists. Please see the K-12 Education grant program for guidelines for projects that engage school-aged participants. All creative disciplines—music, dance, theater, visual, and digital/photography/filmmaking—are eligible.

Single-year grants for projects such as:
  • Artist residencies operated by arts organizations
  • Career development services—including business/financial planning andleadership development—to help artists realize their visions and build sustainable practices
  • Innovative partnerships and collaborations by two or more arts organizations that support and promote artists
  • Re-granting programs to arts organizations to support individual artists at any stage of their careers to pursue projects that further their artistic development, including creating new works, developing promotional materials

Criteria

Characteristics of competitive applications include:
  • Organizations demonstrate a successful history of providing services and support to artists.
  • Projects have clearly identified goals, action plan, and evaluation measures.
  • Re-granting programs have clearly identified application and selection processes.
  • Projects include racially, culturally, and economically diverse participants as appropriate to the program.
Institutional and project eligibility
  • Grants are made to arts organizations for organizational projects.
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status; fiscal sponsorships are allowable.
  • The applying organization must be located in and project must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses under $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • Project budgets should not exceed $100,000.
  • Projects should be new or have been operating for fewer than 5 years.
  • Organizations may have only active grant at a time. A final narrative and financial report on the organization’s previous grant must be received by the foundation before a new LOI is submitted. If you have questions about your organization’s eligibility, please call the foundation before submitting an LOI.
  • Exhibition support is limited to distinctive projects that engage audiences or perspectives not typically represented, such as making arts accessible to those with limited vision or hearing, or whose subject matter addresses a compelling topic or issue.
  • Individual artists’ projects are not eligible for support. Fiscal sponsorships of individual projects are not accepted.
  • Requests for recurring festivals and season support are not eligible.

K-12 Education

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation has a longstanding commitment to youth education. We focus this grantmaking on two areas: Student Success and Learning  and Arts education. In both areas, the foundation makes grants to help children, especially those in underserved communities, acquire the knowledge, skills, and behaviors they need to succeed in school, career pathways, and life.

We make grants to organizations located in and serving students in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties in North Carolina.

North Carolina Arts in Action, photo by MaryBeth Carpenter

Student Success and Learning

MDBF advocates for a high quality, forward-looking educational experience for all children. In our challenging, changing, and increasingly interconnected world, it is essential for youth to be inspired and prepared to become productive and fulfilled lifelong learners and contributors.

MDBF’s education grantmaking funds programs for underserved K-12 students that provide innovative, creative, and effective approaches to teaching and learning, particularly those that address the opportunity gap these students can experience. For the purpose of our grants, underserved students are those who lack access to programs, opportunities, or support because of economic conditions, race or ethnic background, geography, disability, abuse, or neglect.

MDBF funds in-school and out-of-school programs that strengthen and support academic achievement. The foundation has a strong interest in projects that provide students with opportunities to think critically, problem solve and problem find, work collaboratively, and/or communicate effectively. The maximum grant is $10,000.

Single-year grants for projects with innovative and creative approaches in one or more of the following areas:
  • Academic proficiency in English/language arts, STEM/STEAM subjects, history, government, and civics
  • Grade-level reading proficiency
  • Digital literacy
  • Project-based learning, experiential learning, and other hands-on learning opportunities
  • Comprehensive student success to help students prepare for college or career
  • Professional development opportunities to educators in the above areas

Criteria

Characteristics of competitive applications include:
  • Projects clearly identify connections with critical thinking and problem solving, communication, digital literacy, collaboration, and/or creativity skills.
  • Projects provide a sustained learning experience for the same group of students.
  • Projects have clearly identified goals, action plan, and evaluation measures.
  • Partner organizations, if involved, have agreed to participate at the time of application.
Institutional and project eligibility:
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status; fiscal sponsorships are allowable.
  • The applying organization must be located in and the project must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses under $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • Project budgets should not exceed $100,000.
  • Projects that begin before the funding decision will be made are not eligible.
  • Projects should be new or have been operating for fewer than 5 years.
  • Projects that begin before the funding decision will be made are not eligible.
  • Organizations may have only active grant at a time. A final narrative and financial report on the organization’s previous grant must be received by the foundation before a new LOI is submitted. If you have questions about your organization’s eligibility, please call the foundation before submitting an LOI.
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.

Arts Education

Participating in the arts confers numerous benefits, from providing captivation and pleasure, to providing a vehicle for self-expression, to promoting cognitive growth and the capacity for empathy. Arts education can also provide the means for sharing ideas and images, cultural and political knowledge, and insights about humanity across generations. By nurturing creative thinking, collaborative, and other competencies, arts education can play a vital role in preparing students for successful lives and careers.

MDBF funds arts education projects that provide opportunities for underserved K-12 students to participate directly and meaningfully in the arts. For the purpose of our grants, underserved students are those who lack access to programs, opportunities, or support because of economic conditions, race or ethnic background, geography, disability, abuse, or neglect.

All arts disciplines—music, dance, theater, visual, and digital/photography/filmmaking—are eligible. Projects may take place within a school setting or outside of school. Projects that provide professional development opportunities to educators may be considered. The maximum grant is $10,000.

Single-year grants for innovative and creative projects that:
  • Provide experiential, hands-on art instruction
  • Bolster critical cognitive and non-cognitive skills
  • Develop technical, conceptual, and creative skills

Criteria

Characteristics of competitive applications include:
  • Projects provide a sustained learning experience for the same group of students.
  • Programs are delivered by qualified arts educators.
  • Projects have clearly identified goals, action plan, and evaluation measures.
  • Partner organizations, if involved, have agreed to participate at the time of application.
Institutional and project eligibility
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status; fiscal sponsorships are allowable.
  • The applying organization must be located in and project must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses under $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • Project budgets should not exceed $100,000.
  • Projects should be new or have been operating for fewer than 5 years.
  • Organizations may have only active grant at a time. A final narrative and financial report on the organization’s previous grant must be received by the foundation before a new LOI is submitted. If you have questions about your organization’s eligibility, please call the foundation before submitting an LOI.
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.

Mary Duke Biddle specified in the foundation’s charter that half of its funding go to Duke University. Her family was instrumental in bringing its predecessor, Trinity College, to Durham, and their philanthropy supported Trinity’s development into a thriving university named for her grandfather, Washington Duke. As the leadership of the foundation has passed to subsequent generations of family members and trustees, this relationship with Duke has been carefully cultivated to ensure that the foundation’s funding honors the family’s legacy while assisting the university in achievingits goals.

 

Together, foundation trustees and the university’s leadership work together each year to identify where MDBF’s awards can have significant impact. The arts have been a central focus, with consistent support for the music, dance, theater, film, and art and art history programs as well as for the Nasher Museum of Art and Duke Performances, the university’s performing arts presenting organization. In addition, grants assist the continued development of the renowned Duke Gardens, named by Mrs. Biddle in honor of her mother. In Duke’s world-class medical school and hospital, the foundation supports student scholarships and Arts and Health at Duke, a pathbreaking program that makes art available to patients and staff at Duke Hospital. In recent years, the foundation created the Duke University Special Projects Initiative to fund innovative, collaborative projects that demonstrate potential for having strategic impact at the university.

 

Proposals from Duke are coordinated through the Office of Foundation Relations in Duke’s University Development office. The foundation does not accept proposals from Duke faculty or staff outside of this process.

Mrs. Biddle valued the input and wisdom of her friends and trusted advisers, and, from the beginning, the foundation’s Board of Trustees has included family and non-family members. The foundation continues her practice of actively engaging members of the community to serve as trustees. Currently, the board is comprised of three family and four non-family members.

Since its inception, Mrs. Biddle’s family has played an integral role in guiding the foundation.The original trustees included her son Nicholas D. Biddle, daughter Mary D.B.T. Semans, and son-in-law James H. Semans, M.D. Dr. and Mrs. Semans both served on the board for nearly 50 years, as chair and vice-chair, respectively. Succeeding generations have continued to oversee Mrs. Biddle’s philanthropic legacy. Granddaughter Mary Trent Jones was a board member for 32 years, including eight years as chair. Today, family trustees are great-grandsons Chris Harris (chair), Ben Jones, and Joe Lucas (joins  the board in January 2020).