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 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

Arts Grant Program

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (MDBF) has a long-standing commitment to a diverse and thriving cultural sector in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties in North Carolina, one that provides meaningful artistic experiences for communities throughout the Triangle region. MDBF strikes a balance between supporting the region’s established institutions and newer and emerging organizations that reflect the full breadth of our cultures and neighborhoods.

About 57% of MDBF Arts grants go to organizations with budgets less than $300,000 and 26% go to organizations with operating budgets between $300,000-$1,000,000, while about 17% organizations with operating budgets greater than $1,000,000.  

MDBF is a strong proponent of arts education, which is funded through the K-12 Education program.

MDBF focuses its arts grantmaking on strengthening arts organizations and nurturing artistic talent. Grants support a broad range of creative disciplines and practices—music, dance, theater, visual, digital/ photography/filmmaking, literary, and audio (such as audio dramas).

 

Funding Program Goals
  • support cultural organizations that demonstrate artistic excellence and elevate the profile of the Triangle’s arts scenes, both locally and nationally;
  • support new, emerging, or grassroots cultural organizations that document, preserve, and/or present the values, spirit, and diversity of the Triangle’s cultural community; AND/OR
  • support arts-focused organizations that work directly with artists to nurture the current and next generations of artists, deepen and expand talent, develop professional and business skills, create new works.

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: MDBF views our arts grantmaking through an equity lens. We are particularly interested in supporting organizations led by people of color, that incorporate arts accessibility into their work, and whose boards and staff reflect the diversity of the Triangle. By accessibility, we mean opportunities to encounter, appreciate, and participate in the arts. We support organizations that embrace and advance DEI practices and work towards equitable access and engagement in the arts.

 

Grant Opportunities

Beginning in 2021, MDBF is shifting most of its grantmaking from project-based support to operating support for organizations that align with our Arts Grant Program funding goals.  MDBF offers two grant types described below that are awarded through an open and competitive grant process. There are separate and distinct eligibility and application processes for these grants.

 

Operating Support Grant

We offer a two-year grant of $10,000 each year for a total grant of $20,000. These grants will be made to organizations with which MDBF has an existing funding relationship, defined as having had at least one grant between 2011-2020. We anticipate making 10 two-year grants.

 

Eligibility for 2-year Operating Support grants

  • Grants are made to arts organizations. Arts education programs are funded under the K-12 Education grant program.
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status or have a fiscal sponsor.
  • The applying organization must be located in and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organization’s mission, goals, and programming directly relate to MDBF’s funding goals.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses less than $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation). Schools, units, and departments within larger organizations, such as universities, are not eligible even if their budgets are less than $5 million.
  • Organizations with smaller operating budgets are eligible. Have evidence of impact or success of primary programming/mission
  • Organizations may have only one active MDBF grant at a time.
  • Individual artists’ projects are not eligible for support. Fiscal sponsorships of individual projects are not accepted.

Evaluation criteria for 2-year Grants

  • Alignment of the organization’s arts mission and programming with MDBF’s funding program goals
  • Organization’s track record of delivering programming that aligns with funding program goals
  • Impact and benefit of programming to one or more counties in the Triangle
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—including accessibility—in its governance, staffing/artists, audiences, and programming
  • A demonstrated commitment to collaborate with other organizations
  • Organization has the capacity to achieve their goals: staffing levels and experiences (including volunteers), board governance, and financial resources
Opportunity Grant

We offer a one-year $5,000 Opportunity Grant targeted to organizations that have never received a grant from MDBF or to those that haven't received a grant since 2010. This grant provides an opportunity for MDBF to get to know new organizations.  We anticipate making 5 one-year grants.

 

Eligibility for 1-year Opportunity Grants:

  • Grants are made to arts organizations.
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status or have a fiscal sponsor.
  • The applying organization must be located in and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organization’s mission, goals, and programming directly relate to MDBF’s funding goals.
  • These grants will be made to organizations that have never received a grant from MDBF or have not received a grant in the previous 10 years.
  • Preference given to organizations with operating budgets under $300,000.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses under $1 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation).
  • MDBF has a history of supporting start-up nonprofits and those that are relatively early in their life cycles. They are eligible to apply.
  • Individual artists’ projects are not eligible for support. Fiscal sponsorships of individual projects are not accepted.

Evaluation criteria for 1-year Grants

  • Alignment of the organization’s arts mission and programming with MDBF’s funding program goals
  • Impact and benefit of programming to one or more counties in the Triangle
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—including accessibility—in its governance, staffing/artists, audiences, and programming
  • Organization’s capacity to achieve their goals: staffing levels and experiences (including volunteers), board governance, and financial resources

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

K-12 Education Program

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation has a longstanding commitment to youth education. We focus grantmaking in two areas: Student Success and Learning and Arts Education.

MDBF advocates for a high quality, forward-looking educational experience for all children, with a particular interest in organizations working with underserved K-12 students to provide innovative, creative, and effective approaches to teaching and learning.

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 nurtures creative thinking, collaboration, and other competencies.

We support organizations that help children in underserved communities acquire the knowledge, skills, and support they need to succeed in school, careers, and life. 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, or differing abilities. We make grants to organizations located in and serving students in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties in North Carolina.

 

Funding Goals

 

Student Success and Learning: Provide and promote learning environments that equip underserved students to succeed in college or career. Support for organizations that strengthen and support academic achievement, work to close the academic opportunity gap, prepare students for careers and college, and/or build a foundation of confidence and creativity to foster growth and success. Organizations that provide professional development for teachers are eligible.

 

Arts Education: Provide opportunities for underserved students to engage directly in high-quality arts programs. Support for organizations that seek to strengthen in-school and out-of-school arts instruction, particularly that in which students actively participate in making art. We encourage opportunities that include culturally-affirming arts. Organizations that provide professional development for teachers and teaching artists are eligible.

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We view our education grantmaking through an equity lens. We are particularly interested in supporting organizations led by people of color and whose boards and staff reflect the population(s) served by the organization.

 

Grant Opportunities

Beginning in 2021, MDBF is shifting most of its grantmaking from project-based support to operating support for organizations that align with our K-12 Education funding goals, below.  MDBF offers two grant types, awarded through an open and competitive grant process.

 

Operating Support Grants: We offer a two-year grant of $10,000 each year for a total of $20,000. These grants are primarily focused on organizations with which MDBF has an existing funding relationship. However, it is possible for an organization that hasn't received funding to receive this grant.

 

Opportunity Grant: We offer a one-year $5,000 Opportunity Grant targeted primarily to organizations that have never received a grant from MDBF or haven't received a grant in the past 10 years. Preference is given to smaller organizations with operating budgets under $300,000.

This grant provides an opportunity for MDBF to get to know new organizations.

The application process is the same for both opportunities.

We anticipate making 10 two-year grants and 5 one-year grants.

 

Preview the K-12 Education Program application form here.

 

Institutional Eligibility

 

Eligibility for 2-year Operating Support grants:
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status or have a fiscal sponsor.
  • The applying organization must be located in and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organization’s mission, goals, and programming are directly related to the MDBF’s funding goals.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses under $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation). Schools, units, and departments within larger organizations, such as universities, are not eligible even if their budget is under $5 million.
  • Have evidence of efficacy of primary programming/mission
  • Demonstrated success and measurable patterns of student achievement or success in the programs operating by the organization. Organizations unable to show proven past results are less likely to receive a grant.
  • Preference given to organizations with which MDBF has an existing funding relationship. However, it is possible for an organization that hasn't received funding to receive this grant.
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.
  • Organizations may have only one active MDBF grant at a time.
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.
  • Public school foundations are eligible to apply.

 

Eligibility for 1-year Opportunity Grants:
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status or have a fiscal sponsor.
  • The applying organization must be located in and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Preference given to organizations that have never received a grant from MDBF or have not received a grant in the previous 10 years.
  • Preference given to smaller organizations with operating budgets under $300,000.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses under $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation). Schools, units, and departments within larger organizations, such as universities, are not eligible even if their budget is under $5 million.
  • Organization’s mission, goals, and programming are directly related to the MDBF’s funding goals.
  • Organizations may have only one active MDBF grant at a time.
  • Public schools and charter schools are not eligible to apply.
  • Public school foundations are eligible to apply.

 

Evaluation Criteria

In reviewing grant proposals, MDBF will use the following evaluation criteria:

  • Alignment of the organization’s education programming with MDBF’s funding program goals
  • Efficacy and impact of the organization’s programming
  • For Operating Support Grants, the organization’s track record of delivering effective programming that aligns with the MDBF funding program’s goals
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in its governance, staffing, and work, reflecting the population(s) served by the organization
  • Organization’s financial stability, including support from other areas of the community.
  • Organization has the capacity to achieve their goals: staffing (including volunteers), board governance, and financial resources

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).