The University of Chicago’s Civic Knowledge Project, a four-year old arts and humanities program to enhance the University’s connections with its surrounding communities, got a huge boost last month when an anonymous donor gave the program $1 million.
One of the largest single contributions to the University’s Division of the Humanities, the $1 million gift will create an endowment for the CKP at a crucial time, said Bart Schultz, Director of the Civic Knowledge Project and Senior Lecturer in the Humanities.
Created by former Humanities Dean Danielle Allen, the effort to enhance the University’s relationship with its surrounding neighborhoods through arts and humanities programming has grown tremendously over the past year, adding new programs and expanding student and faculty participation.
“We’re delighted,” said Schultz, “It’s a very smart gift from a donor who is very familiar with our needs, and the critical mission of this program.”
“This is an extremely generous and timely gift,” said Martha Roth, Dean of the Division of the Humanities, “The CKP has made tremendous strides over its first four years, with a staff dedicated to linking the University and its outstanding faculty and resources with the South Side community.”
By creating an endowment, the gift will provide support for the CKP’s core staff structure. This is tremendously helpful, said Schultz, because it not only ensures that staff costs will be taken care of, it also gives the CKP a chance to shift its fund-raising efforts to its programs. And this, said Schultz, is a much easier task than raising money for infrastructure costs.
During its first years, the Civic Knowledge Project has grown with generous support from the Chicago Community Trust, the Spencer Foundation and private donations.
But over the past year, Schultz, who became the project’s director last fall, said, the CKP’s growth has accelerated. Located in the basement of Walker Museum, the project has added two part-time staff members and five student interns. Last winter, Joanie Friedman joined the CKP to coordinate its rapidly growing Southside Arts and Humanities Network. The network, which provides support and resources for South Side arts and humanities organizations, now has more than 200 members.
More recently, the CKP added Erika Dudley, an expert in community development and adult literacy education, to coordinate the Odyssey Project, a one-year course in the humanities for adults living at or below the poverty level. In addition to coordinating that program, Dudley will function as Parent-Education Coordinator at the Donoghue campus of the University of Chicago’s Charter School, 707 E. 37th St.
The CKP also has added student coordinators. Hannah Jacoby, fourth-year in the College, now directs Winning Words: Orate, Debate, and Enact/Verbal Arts for Democratic Practice, the CKP’s year-long after-school program for high school and middle school students; while fourth-year Clare Johnson now coordinates the CKP’s Institutional Policy/Know Your Neighborhood program. Additionally, Ben White, a graduate student in Anthropology, Nalika Vasudevan, second-year in the College, and Naima Booker, a fourth-year in the College, are working as interns for CKP.
During the coming year, Schultz said, the CKP is planning to add a variety of new programs with a focus on fostering connections between Chicago students and faculty and the neighboring community.
One of the major goals of the coming year is to expand CKP’s “green” initiatives and sustainability initiatives. “For instance, during Orientation Week, the CKP will bike students across the Midway to The Experimental Station for a workshop on bikes and urban ecology,” said Schultz. Another planned project? “We are trying to build support for ‘bio-blitzing’ Washington Park and Jackson Park to map their biodiversity.
“There are a lot of exciting programs ahead,” said Schultz. “We’re so grateful for the generosity of this donor.”
More information about the Civic Knowledge Project is available at its Web site: http://civicknowledge.uchicago.edu.