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Thriving Minds to Thrive — Thanks to New Multi-Million Dollar Grant


by Jerome Weeks 14 Jan 2010

The city-wide arts-education partnership among Big Thought, Dallas Independent School District, the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Wallace Foundation and some 100 area arts organizations will continue — and head to the next level. That was the good news announced this morning at the Charles Rice Learning Center: The Wallace Foundation is handing over […]

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logo_big_thoughtThe city-wide arts-education partnership among Big Thought, Dallas Independent School District, the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Wallace Foundation and some 100 area arts organizations will continue — and head to the next level. That was the good news announced this morning at the Charles Rice Learning Center: The Wallace Foundation is handing over another $4.3 million, with JPMorgan Chase Bank coming up with $350,000 to fund, specifically, the after-school arts program at Rice.

The “creative learning” partnership among those groups is called Thriving Minds, which once upon a time was called DALI (Dallas Arts Learning Initiative), which got national attention for trying to offset long-term, crippling neglect and cutbacks in arts programs in schools. In 2006, Big Thought was awarded an $8 million grant by the New York-based Wallace Foundation to establish DALI as a three-year program. Dallas was the only city to win such a grant. That money was leveraged into nearly $40 million as DALI became linked to the addition of new music and arts specialists throughout the Dallas school system and to the implementation of the first arts-education requirement in DISD since 1978.

In 2008, DALI became Thriving Minds– as the program spread city-wide, expanding into South and West Dallas out of its original enclaves in Pleasant Grove, Oak Cliff and Far East Dallas.

A large part of the early effort (Phase I) was directed at just tabulating what was already ‘out there’ in terms of available programs, resources and facilities. As Gigi Antoni, president of Big Thought, pointed out in 2008, one major hindrance for children accessing arts programs is their parents’ lack of knowledge of what’s available. A related issue is the lack of coordination among schools, arts organizations and funders.

Now the focus–

— has turned to “out of school time” programs (after-school and on weekends) like Rice’s (Phase II), and the hope is that all of Thriving Minds, as several speakers declared, will become a model of “best practices” for other urban school districts across the country.

So this morning, everyone — Antoni, Mayor Tom Leppert,  Daniel Windham of the Wallace Foundation, Anne Motsenbocker of JPMorgan Chase and DISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa — thanked everyone else for cooperating. They’ve been trying to create what Windham called a “seamless web of support.”

“It’s not about the money,” said Windham — who introduced himself as the man in New York who helped Texas get $50 million in grant money. “It’s about the public will” — the desire and determination of civic and educational groups to work together to improve Dallas children’s exposure to creativity.

For his part, Dr. Hinojosa extolled DISD’s commitment to arts education — to classes that aren’t governed  by the Holy Grail of the TAKs test —  and to getting arts teachers into every school. Dr. Hinojosa didn’t explain that this came about partly through the loss of arts teaching positions at Sidney Lanier Arts Vanguard and Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet High School and through DISD’s attempt to blame those and other learning-center cuts on federal funding issues.

We’ll be posting Antoni and Windham’s Thursday radio interview on Think with Krys Boyd over on the news and feature side of Arts & Seek.

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