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King Records' legacy lives on through new collaborative education program


Despite launching the career of James Brown and spawning major hits like “The Twist,” Cincinnati-based King Records fell into relative obscurity. The studio on Brewster Avenue was once a bustling hive for both country and R&B recording artists, but was closed in 1975 and all but forgotten in the years that followed.

A new educational initiative led by King Studios LLC — a collaboration between Xavier University and the neighborhood of Evanston — seeks to change that.

The King Studio’s Traveling Suitcases are a set of five different kits filled with replica historical objects and lesson plans in key subject areas. K-12 Cincinnati teachers can check out a suitcase for a week at a time from local nonprofit Crayons to Computers, which is handling pick-up and drop-off logistics.

The cases were fabricated by the Cincinnati Museum Center and contain curricula developed by a group of classroom teachers and Xavier professor Dr. Christine Anderson in one of five subject areas: Great Migration, Civil Rights, Science, Math and Music.

According to education committee co-chair Sean Rhiney, who also serves as director of the Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning at Xavier, the traveling suitcase project has been eight years in the making. Part of the reason for the long period of development is that the cases were collaboratively made, drawing on community and teacher feedback to ensure they would be relevant in today’s classroom.

“We started by asking teachers how they would share the King story," says Rhiney. "We heard back ‘Well, we’re limited in class time,' so they worked with us to develop the suitcases with tested subjects.”

The King Records story is a unique one. “King was innovative in that everything happened under one roof — recording, promotion, publicity and pressing," says Rhiney. "Very few major studios were doing that at the time and King was independent."

King was also special in that it blended genres, bringing together African-American and Appalachian artists during a time when strict segregation was the norm. These parts of King Records' history are woven throughout the lesson plans in the traveling suitcases, which Rhiney says are a fun, powerful way to tell stories while reinforcing core subjects.

Rhiney is excited about how the traveling suitcases will make Cincinnati history relevant to young people. “It’s our history and I think it’s important," he says.

The first cases were made possible in part by support from the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation and the Charles H. Dater Foundation, but the goal is that the program will grow; there are plans to create five more suitcases, if funding is available.

For more information or to reserve a traveling case, visit the King Studios Education Website.
 


Four local nonprofits receive $101,000 each from Impact 100


Impact 100, a local organization that dedicates time, effort and resources to help the community, awarded $101,000 to four organizations during its annual awards ceremony on Sept. 12.

Started in Cincinnati in 2001 by Wendy Steele, Impact 100 was created with the idea of promoting philanthropy among women — if 100 women each donated $1,000, a grant of $100,000 could be awarded to a nonprofit community organization.

Since its inception, the group has become a worldwide name with more than 30 chapters in the U.S. and two in Australia. In Cincinnati, Impact 100 has raised more than $400,000 annually, enough to give $100,000 grants to four recipients.

This year's recipients were selected from a pool of more than 100 regional charities that applied for funding in five impact areas: culture; education; environment, preservation and recreation; family; and health and wellness.

The 2017 grant recipients include First Step Home, Lighthouse Youth and Family Services, NKY Community Action Commission and Ohio Valley Voices.
 
  • First Step Home, an addiction treatment center, will utilize its $101,000 grant for the expansion of its programming for opiate-addicted pregnant women and their newborn babies.
  • Lighthouse Youth and Family Services will be using its grant money to expand its experiential learning opportunities for children in foster care or the juvenile justice system. The organization will also start work on its Lighthouse Charter School Agricultural Learning Center.
  • The NKY Community Action Commission will put its award toward the Lincoln Grant Scholar House, as well as new computer equipment. Single mothers who wish to pursue a secondary education will not only have an affordable living option, but a chance to learn about generational poverty.
  • Ohio Valley Voices is looking to relocate, as well as add a new audiology clinic and purchase new equipment for infant diagnostic testing. Its long-term goal is to increase its services by 50 percent.
“It is a privilege to support these organizations — they are making a tangible impact on our communities,” says Donna Broderick, president of Impact 100. “While we could only choose four, as an organization we learn so much about all of the wonderful groups that are working so selflessly to make a difference.”
 

Past winners include Crayons to Computers, the Freestore Foodbank, Supports to Encourage Low Income Families and the Women's Crisis Center.

For more information on the Impact 100 grant process and how to apply for the 2018 round of funding, click here.
 


Vision 2020 works to offer CPS students real-world experience


The Vision 2020 initiative strives to improve the city's public schools by offering students real-world experience at an early age to better prepare them to be successful students and contributing members of the community.

Established in 2016, Vision 2020 started specialized programming at seven Cincinnati Public Schools with focuses based in the surrounding community — high tech, student enterprise and environmental science.

This year, nine schools have been added to the list, along with updated programming.

CPS asked stakeholders what they would like to see improved in neighborhood schools, and Vision 2020 was born.

The perception is that magnet schools are better, says Dawn Grady, public affairs officer for CPS.

Magnet schools with specialized programming were established in the 1970s to diversify and integrate Cincinnati’s public schools. Vision 2020 brings that specialized programming to neighborhood schools to help increase learning outside the classroom and strengthen the community.

The goal is that by the year 2020, neighborhood schools will offer improved programming that offers relevant programs to get students immersed in the community, while reinforcing what they’re learning in the classroom.

Near Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Cincinnati Zoo, Avondale's Rockdale Academy specializes in global conservation. Students venture on field trips to learn about consciously taking care of themselves, their community and the environment.

Rothenburg Preparatory Academy in Over-the-Rhine learns from its proximity to the neighborhod's booming business district. Specializing in entrepreneurship, the school hosted a pop-up shop last year to sell coasters designed by students.

The West End's Hays-Porter School focuses on new technology to prepare students for the fast-moving technological world. Students work on designing and programming, along with the typical everyday classwork.

With the updates to Vision 2020, additional schools are beginning to specialize in subjects, including environmental science, high technology, expeditionary learning, contemplative arts and sciences, global environmental literacy and math and science discovery.

“Vision 2020 is about achieving equity, making sure everyone has access to programs at magnet schools,” Grady says. Hearing something in a classroom is only part of it. “If you can apply those skills, that means you can actually learn it.”

The initiative allows students to connect the dots with what they learn in the classroom to how it relates to the real world in an effort to better prepare them.

“It’s all about real-world experiences and starting it young,” Grady says.

The initial seven schools include Chase School in Northside, Woodford Paideia Academy in Kennedy Heights, Pleasant Hill Academy in College Hill, Gifted Academy West at Cheviot School, Hays-Porter, Rothenberg Prep and Westwood School.

The nine schools added to Vision 2020 this year are South Avondale School, Frederick Douglass School in Walnut Hills, College Hill Fundamental Academy, Mt. Washington School, Rockdale Academy in Avondale, John P. Parker School in Mariemont, Roll Hill Academy in East Westwood, Bond Hill Academy and Ethel M. Taylor Academy in Millvale.

 


New Herzog Music in the CBD much more than record store

 

As soon as you walk into Herzog Music, it’s obvious that this place is more than a record store.

Andrew Aragon describes himself as the “day-to-day guy” at Herzog Music, which officially opened July 22. Aragon says Herzog was the brainchild of Elias Leisring, the owner of Eli’s BBQ.

“Even though he’s known for the barbecue, music is a huge part of his life — it’s a huge part of everyone’s life,” Aragon says.

Herzog Music resides in the former Herzog Studio, the last standing space where Hank Williams Sr. ever recorded. Leisring is a member of the Cincinnati Music Heritage Foundation, an organization that managed the studio space before Herzog opened.

“We’re here so we can bring awareness to that space, the history and its importance to the city,” says Aragon. “The ultimate end goal is to make sure that space is not only preserved, but transformed back into a working studio so we can keep the music heritage of Cincinnati flowing.”

The store prefers an “adopt, don’t shop” policy, stocking vintage records and antique musical instruments that range from rare guitars to well-loved saxophones and an Omnicord. Aragon says Herzog will acquire new things, but they are fortunate to have a diverse inventory. Their records span genres that represent a little of everything: Christmas albums, comedy, indie, R&B, classic rock and more.

“Overall, we want to facilitate not only people that play music; we want to be able to help out people that just love listening to it. We want to grow that community in the central part of downtown,” Aragon says.

In addition to its eclectic merchandise, Herzog endeavors to be more than a store.

It's also home to the Queen City Music Academy, where student musicians of all ages can take lessons. In the future, the space will host other educational opportunities for the community.

“We’re going to have everything from a kids’ folk puppet show to a clinic on how to spot vintage guitars and how to use microphones properly,” Aragon says.

Herzog hopes to draw residents and tourists to experience Cincinnati culture in a different part of downtown.

“It’s just like any culture, you experience the most of it through the food and the music,” Aragon explains. “We’re trying to put the best foot forward of our culture here through the things that we know the best.”
 

 


Preschool Promise: A Q&A with Anne Sesler


Cincinnati Preschool Promise is a burgeoning program created with the express interest of assisting families with the cost of early childhood education, while also improving the quality of eligible preschools. Anne C. Sesler, media relations for Preschool Promise, answered some questions readers might have concerning the program.

Describe Preschool Promise to a family of three with a household income of $36,000.
We all want all of our children to succeed in school, and a key to success in kindergarten is a good start at a quality preschool. Preschool Promise is kicking off this fall and may be able to help you pay for quality preschool.

Quality preschool will help your child learn, develop cognitive and social/emotional skills and succeed in kindergarten. Children who have quality preschool before entering kindergarten are more likely to enter school prepared, succeed in school, graduate from high school and become productive citizens.

Where does funding come from?
Preschool expansion is made possible thanks to a significant investment from taxpayers who approved a five-year Cincinnati Public Schools levy in 2016. The levy includes $33 million a year to strengthen K-12 education and $15 million a year to expand access to quality preschool. The taxpayer investment with this levy for both K-12 and preschool education is $5.35 per week for a home valued at $100,000. CPS will utilize expansion funds for preschool tuition assistance at CPS preschools, and Preschool Promise will utilize expansion funds for tuition assistance and quality improvement supports at community-based preschools.

How are those funds transferred to the eligible preschools?
Parents select a preschool and apply for tuition assistance. The tuition assistance is paid directly to the preschool.

What prompted this program to begin?
There are 9,200 3- and 4-year-old children in Cincinnati, and nearly half live at or below the federal poverty level. As our children enter kindergarten, more than 40 percent of Cincinnati’s children are not prepared. The gap is even greater for low-income children. While there is some public funding preschool tuition assistance available, it is not sufficient to meet the demand.

With a quality preschool education, children are ready for kindergarten, read successfully by the end of third grade, do better in school and graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. Investing in quality preschool also generates strong economic returns, conservatively estimated at $2-4 for every $1 invested by taxpayers. For these reasons, a coalition of educators, community and business leaders came together to advocate to expand access to quality preschool.

How is a preschool’s eligibility determined?
There are two options for preschool provider participation depending on the preschool’s “Step Up To Quality 1-5 star rating, as administered by the state of Ohio. Tuition Assistance reimbursements for qualifying students are for 3-5 star rated providers. Quality Improvement supports are for unrated and 1-2 star rated providers with a goal to get to and maintain 3-5 stars.

To apply, a provider must be located within the CPS district boundary, complete an application and comply with reporting and other requirements. The application and provider manual is available at AskPreschoolPromise.org or providers may request a copy to be sent via mail or email by calling 447-4CPP.

How will the quality improvement grants affect preschools in need?
Preschool Promise is designed to expand access to two years of quality preschool and to build the supply of quality rated preschool programs in Cincinnati — with the goal of helping every child enter kindergarten ready to learn. Preschool Promise will expand access to quality preschool for children in Cincinnati by helping preschool providers achieve and maintain high quality ratings.

Research shows that early childhood education is key to laying a foundation for success throughout life, and that quality is critical for preschool to be successful. A major component of Preschool Promise is to expand the number of quality-rated programs and seats that are available to preschool eligible children. Preschool Promise will award quality improvement supports to help providers currently unrated or not quality rated to achieve a high-quality rating — 3, 4 or 5 stars on Ohio’s Step Up To Quality scale.

What message is most important for you to share with our readers?
The time is now for parents and providers to apply to participate.

Talk with your preschool provider or call us to find out if you qualify. Families can apply for tuition assistance if their child is enrolling in a participating Preschool Promise program. Questions? Call us at 447-4CPP (4277).

How to get involved:
Tomorrow, help the United Way of Greater Cincinnati "Stuff the Streetcar." The nonprofit is chartering a streetcar from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to collect new school supplies for kids and items for preschool providers and their classrooms. You can drop off donated supplies at select stops along the route. From 4:30 to 7 p.m., volunteers will gather at Rhinegeist to assemble the donated items into preschool kits for distribution to local families and preschool providers. For more information, including a list of needed supplies and dropoff locations, click here.

On June 23, local band Over The Rhine is playing in Washington Park. Attendees are asked to make a suggested donation of $20, all of which will go to the United Way to help lift children and their families out of poverty. You can start coming down for the show at 4 p.m.; the show will start at 6. For more ways to help, visit the United Way's website.
 


New Montessori school will invest in more than just education


Caroline Caldwell imagined a school for her daughter where the focus was kindness rather than performance. “I just felt like I wanted something very specific for her,” she says.

Caldwell, along with Anna Ferguson, Brett Hornberger, Nayana Shah and Mark Stroud, founded Heärt Montessori, a school that will prioritize empathy and compassion, intertwined with core academics.

“It’s not that other schools don’t teach empathy and compassion but we wanted it to be the focus,” Caldwell says.

Heärt will educate children in a typical Montessori style, with an emphasis on developing higher self-esteem and high self-acceptance through yoga, meditation, mindfulness, art and music. Caldwell says it’s important for children to learn tools to be kinder human beings.

“The main impetus is for students to manifest the most exquisite version of themselves,” says Caldwell. “Now more than ever with kids being bullied and kids having low self-esteem, integrating practices like yoga, mindfulness and meditation helps kids deal with stress and pressure in a healthy way rather than taking it out on others.”

Heärt plans to start its inaugural pre-school/kindergarten learning group in Jan. 2018. Meanwhile, the school building, located at 268 Ludlow Ave., is undergoing renovations that reflect its philosophy of living in harmony with the earth.

“Sustainability is important,” Caldwell says. The renovations use sustainable, green materials whenever possible, like painting the interior walls with clay-based paint.

Green living and sustainability will permeate many aspects of the school’s programs and curriculum. After spending the first two hours of the morning on typical Montessori work, children will have extended “outside time.” Students can expect to learn using natural materials, exploring Burnet Woods and learning to tend the school’s garden.

“I get so excited for that opportunity for my daughter,” Caldwell says.

Heärt will provide healthy, organic, plant-based lunches and snacks for its students using the produce from the school's garden. Mark Stroud, one of the founders, is an acclaimed vegan chef who will prepare the nutritious meals.

“Optimally, we’ll be cooking food that we grow in season,” says Caldwell. “We’ll have healthy, plant-based meals that are organic and amazing.”

In the afternoons, students might take a nap, have one-on-one time with their teacher or take time for yoga, art, music or meditation.

Heärt is a private school and parents can enroll their children online via its website. Caldwell encouraged interested parents to attend an open house to learn more.
 


Brewing Heritage Trail moving along, new app on the way


Cincinnati loves good beer, and it turns out that that’s nothing new. Thanks to the droves of skilled brewers who immigrated from Germany and settled in Cincinnati prior to Prohibition, it's long been known as a mecca for beer aficionados.

The Brewing Heritage Trail, which will begin in Pendleton and weave its way through OTR and into the Mohawk area, is gradually nearing completion, and will help tell the storied past of the Queen City’s role in the world of brewing. The trail will showcase former brewery buildings, share brewery information and tie all of that beer culture it into Cincinnati history.

Steven Hampton, executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Urban Redevelopment Corporation, took some time away from Bockfest festivities to provide updates on the trail and to give some insight to the motivation behind the trail.

How would you describe the Brewing Heritage Trail to a tourist who's never heard of it before?
It is a fun and engaging way to learn and experience our city’s rich brewing heritage through signage, art, digital experiences and guided tours through the streets and historic breweries. It is not just the story of how much beer we made and drank, which was a lot, but the story of Cincinnati and America told through the lens of beer.

Has construction started on the trail? What kind of work needs to be done to complete this project?
In partnership with ArtWorks, there are almost a dozen public art pieces along the trail already. The first 3/4-mile physical segment of the trail, including signage and bronze medallion way finding, will be under construction this summer with completion around September, thanks to funding from the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati. We are also just about to launch the first version of the smartphone app for iOS and Android to lead you along the trail digitally and share even more content.

How is the trail organized?
The trail has three initial story segments, of which we are building one plus small portions of the other two as key connectors. The segments generally tell the overall story of brewing beer in Cincinnati, with many sub-stories that are tied to specific locations and buildings along the route.

The first segment we are building is the middle segment, “Glasses and Growlers." During the second half of the 19th century, breweries began playing a controversial role in the proliferation of saloons in cities across the nation. The "Glasses and Growlers" segment of the trail will explore the role that Cincinnati’s hearty beer industry, unregulated saloon trade and thirsty population played in shaping Americans’ relationship with beer.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the Brewing Heritage Trail will be accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Once the app launches, you can download it for Apple or Android here.


Gateway Tech now offering historic preservation arts classes


For the first time, Gateway Community Technical College in Covington is offering historic preservation arts classes. Stemming from an effort led by Progress with Preservation, a local group of Covington residents and regional advocates for the preservation of the region's architectural heritage, the Historic Preservation Arts programming continues its development through the input of regional historic preservation officers, tradesmen, real estate professionals, contractors and engaged citizens.

According to Patricia Mahabir, executive vice president at Gateway, the program is just one way Gateway is joining the movement to uphold the historic element in the area.

“The Historic Preservation Arts program is an excellent example of how Gateway can come alongside the community and become part of the energy and movement being led by stakeholders,” Mahabir says. “We have come to the table and are serving as a convener and catalyst to place greater focus on the importance of preservation. We just launched our first series of courses, most of which are focused on theory and developing a strong understanding of what historic preservation is and why it is so important.”

Mahabir began meeting with Progress with Preservation in June 2016, and began learning about the significant existence and importance of preserving the historic architecture of the region.

Donovan Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics, stated: "In Kentucky, $1 million spent on rehabilitating a historic building adds $730,000 in household income to our state's economy — $95,000 more than $1 million spent on new construction.”

The significant shortage of skilled tradesmen in the Greater Cincinnati area has led to waiting lists of up to two years for restoration work on historic properties. In creating a program like this in the area, Gateway now has the capability of teaching young professionals and community members the importance of maintaining historic ground. 

The first course, Philosophy of Historic Preservation, began on Feb. 2. There are five additional courses scheduled this year, which are being taught by Beth Johnson and Steve Oldfield, who are both experts in historic preservation. The courses include Historic Preservation Standards, Urban Architectural Photography, Research of Early American Architecture, Application of Preservation Theory and Philosophy and Historic Preservation Practice.

For the last two classes, students will work with the City of Covington’s Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council to complete the Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory, which will include all of the historic buildings in the City of Covington.

Because the courses are being offered as a pilot to the Community Education area, the courses are open to anyone. Each course has an associated fee ranging anywhere from $75-160. If the pilot courses go well, a second phase will be implemented to include credited courses as well as opportunities to join the energy in the community.

Mahabir encourages the community to join one of the upcoming events at Gateway's Urban Metro Campus in early March to learn more about restoration in the area.

“On March 11, Gateway will host the Northern Kentucky Restoration Weekend on our Urban Metro Campus," Mahabir says. "This annual event draws more than 250 individuals from throughout the region and state who come together to learn about various aspects of historic preservation. From May 17-31, Gateway will host a special exhibit showcasing photography and work of students from the historic preservation courses and beyond, as May is Historic Preservation Month.”

For more information about the courses, program structure, costs and more, visit Gateway’s Community Arts Education page here
 

St. Bernard/Elmwood Place School District plans new combined school for all grade levels


Changes are coming to the St. Bernard/Elmwood Place School District with the construction of a new combined elementary, middle and high school.

The school, which will house more than 1,000 students, will replace the existing elementary and junior/senior high school. The existing schools will remain open until the completion of the new combined school, which is projected to be finished in fall or winter of 2019. Initial construction stages are set to begin next spring.

While an architect has not yet been selected for the project, the layout for space, cost and location are already in full swing. The 144,000-square-foot school would be built on the existing 6.6-acre site that is currently shared by St. Bernard-Elmwood Place High School and St. Bernard Elementary School, which are located at 4615 Tower Ave. and 4515 Tower Ave., respectively. Those locations will be demolished upon completion of the project.

According to Emily Hauser, treasurer of the school district, the project was made possible by funding from the state. The estimated cost of the project is about $37 million, with $27 million of that coming from the state. The remaining $10 million is covered by a 2016 bond levy.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission is the lead on the project, having previously assessed the need for improvements in the existing schools.

“The OFCC evaluated our current buildings about three years ago, and determined that new construction was the most cost efficient manner to proceed,” says Mimi Webb, superintendent of St. Bernard/Elmwood Place City Schools. “The OFCC provides a concept called ‘Educational Visioning,’ which includes a wide spectrum of people to discuss what they want to see in the future for their children and grandchildren. During this visioning piece, a transition plan will be developed to address how we will transition from three buildings to one. The visioning aspect will include the development of classroom space and how instruction is best delivered in the 21st century.”

One of the goals of this project, aside from updating the existing conditions at the current schools, is to begin a solid foundation for students from a younger age. By incorporating the proposed changes to the school district, students will be together longer.

“We wanted to combine our two elementary buildings so students could begin their education together sooner, thus allowing friendships to begin in preschool rather than make the transition in seventh grade,” Webb says.

Because the district and OFCC are so early in the process, other specifications are still in the works. The district put out a request for qualifying construction managers on Dec. 30, and all final proposals were due yesterday.

The district will request project proposals and short-list firms in February with interviews and selection to take place in March.
 

Upcoming event series at Know Theatre to focus on active citizenship


For an upcoming three-night event, Know Theatre is encouraging area residents to be more active citizens.

The theater company is known for showcasing “unexpected voices, new works and plays that embrace the inherent theatricality of the live experience." Democracy in Action is a three-part event series that addresses how to be a more active citizen in local government issues via political, humanitarian and artistic means.

According to Alice Flanders, the managing director for Know Theatre, the idea to create the series stemmed from the 2016 presidential election.

“The results were not what we expected, nor what we desired, but they incited us to action,” Flanders says. “Maggie (education director for Know Theatre) and I both have scheduled weekly calls to those in power to voice our minds and to make sure our opinions are heard by our elected representatives.”

Once word spread about the plan they were developing, more people wanted to get involved. “A friend of ours suggested a sort of ‘citizen training’ evening where we taught people what we knew about affecting change on a local level,” Flanders says.

The first event, “Getting Involved in Local Government,” will be held on Jan. 31 and invites local politicians and representatives to help answer questions about how to get involved. The panel, including Aftab Pureval, Tamaya Dennard, Chris Seelbach and others will answer questions about what local government can do and how getting involved on a local level can affect change nationally as well.

Tuesday's event will be hel at Greaves Hall at Northern Kentucky University, which is located within the university's Fine Arts Center. NKU's campus is located at 100 Louie B. Nunn Dr., Newport, 41099.

The second event, “Arts and Politics: A Group Discussion,” will be held on Feb. 7 as more of a group discussion that will center around how the arts and culture community can use their professional skills and talents in the current political climate.

“We're very committed to this being open to all art forms, not just theater,” Flanders says. “We want to know how writers are combating the attacks on civil rights, we want to know how crafters are using their embroidery and knitting to fight for equality, we want to know how performance artists are campaigning for our natural resources.”

The third event, “Bystander Training,” will be held on Feb. 21 to teach people how to react when faced with an altercation, from being a simple witness and calling for help to standing in solidarity for what you believe in. This could be groundbreaking, as many people are concerned about raising their opinions about local and national issues due to fear of controversy.

“The Know has always been a place that has striven for equal representation, and we believe a program like this falls well within our mission statement to give a stage to voices that are traditionally underrepresented," Flanders says.

Know Theatre, a contemporary black-box theater, is located on Jackson Street in Over-The-Rhine. For more information on the event series, visit the Facebook event page or the Know Theatre website.
 

Nine local nonprofits and individuals receive funding from NEA for creative projects


For its first round of grant funding in 2017, the National Endowment for the Arts doled out more than $300 million to nonprofits and individuals in 48 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
 
This year’s grants cross all artistic disciplines, and fall into one of the four grant categories: Art Works, Art Works: Creativity Connects, Challenge America and Creative Writing Fellowships.
 
Nine local organizations and one individual received a total of $180,000 in this round of funding.
 
Center for Great Neighborhoods
The Center received $20,000 in funding, which will be used for the design and art commissions for the lobby at the new Hellmann Creative Center. The goal is to turn the lobby into a work of art; additional funds will be used for collaborative art pieces, open workshops and artist or resident-led classes.

Cincinnati Ballet
Hip-hop choreographer Jennifer Archibald, as part of the Kaplan New Works Series, will use the Ballet's $20,000 grant to help support the creation of a new piece. New Works is an all-female choreographic production that will explore poverty, hope, finding beauty in surprising places and shared connections between choreographer and artist. Performances will be held at the Aronoff Center for the Arts later in the year.
 
Cincinnati Opera
The $20,000 NEA grant will support the Opera's performance of “The Magic Flute” by Mozart. Music will come to life through larger-than-life animation and visual storytelling, and concerts will combine film, performance and music to give the traditional piece a fresh and unique look. Up to three performances will take place at the Aronoff this summer.
 
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park
The $10,000 grant will go toward the premiere of “All the Roads Home” by Jen Silverman. The production will feature three generations of women and the legacies they inherit, which aligns with the Playhouse’s mission to produce new work to help support the evolution of the American theater canon, as well as its continued commitment to celebrating women’s stories and the issues they deal with. Performances will be held at the Shelterhouse Theatre this spring.
 
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
The $10,000 in grant funds will be used for PROJECT38, an arts and education initiative. Throughout the year, students will explore Shakespeare’s canon, and students from local schools will work with Cincinnati Shakespeare’s Resident Ensemble of teaching artists to co-create 38 interpretations — dramatic, musical, visual and dance — of his 38 plays. The project will culminate in a weekend festival where students will come together to share what they’ve created with family, friends and the community.
 
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
The $40,000 NEA grant will support the CSO's Classical Roots concert, which will feature guest artists and the Classical Roots Community Mass Choir. The concert will be held at Crossroads Church, and will serve as a community-wide celebration of African-American musical heritage.
 
Contemporary Arts Center
The CAC received $25,000, which will be used for Ugo Rondinone's “Vocabulary of Solitude” series — an immersive experience that will combine a variety of materials and objects, gallery architecture and visitors as collaborators. The installation will feature a neon rainbow, colored gels on windows, floating mandalas, paintings, painted windows, life-sized clown sculptures and public programming that will be developed in partnership with a variety of community organizations. There are plans for the piece to be recreated in several other venues.
 
Contemporary Dance Theater
The $10,000 grant will be used to support the presentation of CDT’s 44th and 45th Guest Artist Series. In addition to performances, artists will share a variety of activities with the community, such as classes, lectures, workshops and receptions. Performances will be at the Aronoff in partnership with the Cincinnati Arts Association.
 
Corey Van Landingham received $25,000 for a creative writing fellowship.
 

PAR Projects opens new space to art installations


Since its inception in 2010, PAR Projects has had many different homes in Northside, but never one that the organization has owned outright, until now. PAR’s new space, which is located in an old lumberyard at 1662 Hoffner St., will undergo a complete transformation within the next year.

The organization's goal is to create a space for exhibits, arts education and an outdoor movie theater, all made entirely from shipping containers.

Lisa Walcott’s “Swarms” is the first installation in PAR’s 1,100-square-foot gallery, called The Nook. Her whole exhibit, Making Space, is on display at PAR through Nov. 27.
 
PAR purchased the two-story, 6,000-square-foot building and surrounding lot in 2014. They originally planned to demolish the building and start from scratch, but after discovering that the roof wasn’t as bad as originally thought, they decided to keep the building and renovate it.
 
A few years ago, PAR started a traveling art gallery — Makers Mobile — in a shipping container. The container is currently sitting at the Hoffner site, and houses another part of Walcott’s exhibit. It will become the first piece of a new building that will be built entirely from shipping containers.
 
Another two shipping containers will be stacked to create the outdoor theater screen, by next spring, PAR hopes to start showing movies. The group wants to add two more containers to create classrooms for the media arts.  
 

People's Liberty grantee takes his mobile science lab to streets


Aaron Greene has a passion for science. As the program chair for bioscience technology at Cincinnati State, his work “encapsulates everything from pharmaceuticals to environmental biology.” Bioscience technology is applied to things as varied as the creation of insulin for diabetics, techniques for cleaning up the Mill Creek watershed and the development of new foods and flavors.

Though Greene is well-versed in the many applications of science in our everyday lives, he recognizes that not everyone shares his understanding, and that many people regard science as intimidating.

“What I hear is that ‘science isn’t for me, I’m not good at it’,” he said. “But it’s not something for somebody else, and it’s not something you’re good at to start with. It’s for everyone.”

A desire to dispel the misconceptions about science led Greene to apply for a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant for a project he calls It’s Just Science.

“My main goal is to show people that it’s not scary," Greene said. "It’s much more accessible than people give it a chance to be.”

When he applied for the grant, he had to clarify exactly how he’d make science approachable for the general public.

“How do we get it out there and into the hands of people?” Greene briefly considered using a tent or a pop-up camper to house a portable science lab. “But we really wanted to reinforce the accessibility and make it as mobile as possible, so we settled on a tricycle.”

Greene worked with a custom tricycle company based in Oregon to create a collapsible lab on wheels. The trike includes fold-out shelves on the side, which Greene will pack with microscopes and DNA extraction kits as he travels throughout the city.

Greene is busy reaching out to local libraries, community centers, events and even breweries to bring his mobile lab to learners of all ages and experience levels. “The trike is to break down the initial barrier, lowering the hurdles to the public," he said.

“Demystifying science is at the heart of this whole project,” Greene said. The soft launch of the It’s Just Science tricycle will happen in the coming weeks, but Greene already has his sights set on big goals for the future.

“I’m looking at a physical presence in an unused storefront to do a larger launch,” he shared. Ultimately, Greene has dreams of establishing a community lab where people can explore science in a less stressful environment than the classroom, under the supervision of scientists and graduate students who know science and can answer questions.

“As a scientist, I already understand the uses for these technologies,” Greene said.

But he anticipates that engaging people from different backgrounds in scientific exploration could yield new approaches to old problems. “I’ll be interested to see what comes out of it. When you think outside the box and let new minds come in, that’s where you get a lot of new innovation.”

To get up-to-date information on upcoming It’s Just Science appearances and find out where you can catch it next, visit its Facebook page.

Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.

 

People's Liberty project grantee, Who 'They' Is


Jasmine Humphries is spending six weeks working with 20 teenagers from all over the city on a creative placemaking project in Avondale. Her idea, Who ‘They’ Is, was funded through a $10,000 People’s Liberty grant.
 
Who ‘They’ Is focuses on “they” as a singular entity, as in: “They said this…” or “They did that…”
 
“The goal is to use different ways to humanize and demystify ‘they’ to empower citizens,” Humphries said.
 
The project officially launched on Oct. 1 at People’s Liberty, and will wrap up with the big reveal scheduled for Nov. 5. During the six-week project, the teens will be exploring the world of planning and design, and will use what they learn to create a park within Lincoln Park in Avondale.
 
“Lincoln Park is underutilized, and I want to help make things happen,” Humphries said. “Other things will happen because of this project.”  
 
Who ‘They’ Is won’t culminate in permanent or semi-permanent construction due to time constraints, but rather in a placemaking event like Parking Day, called Space to Pla(y)ce.
 
Students will learn about the park designing process, including planning, designing, empowering a community and meeting stakeholders. Although Humphries doesn’t have a formal planning background — she has a degree in economics and spent a year as an AmeriCorps vista working at LISC — she believes that everyone should be introduced to planning and design and the different career paths available.
 
The first week, students worked on teambuilding, and the park will grow from those connections and teamwork. The second week included a site visit in Avondale.
 
“First we have to build a social community among ourselves and identify leadership styles,” Humphries said. “Then we will start talking about building the physical community, which is in this case, a park.”
 
Long-term, Humphries wants to focus on diversifying the workforce, and to start to mold socially responsible and culturally aware professionals. She also wants to show the people of Cincinnati and its organizations that young people are capable of designing, and that their opinions and voices are important and valuable.
 
“Through this project, lots of people will see these kids’ designs and their feedback; they’re going to be blown away,” she said. “I want to tap into the human capital, and I feel that kids have a lot of potential. We as adults are asking questions and trying to answer them, but imagine if you gave that problem to a 12-year-old. They will come up with an entirely different solution.”
 
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
 

UC Blue Ash to host another Entrepreneur Speaker Series


JTM Food Group, one of the world’s leading food-processing companies, is sponsoring an entrepreneurial class at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash. The fourth installment of the Entrepreneur Speaker Series will feature Tony Maas, president of JTM, whose family started the company more than 50 years ago with a butcher shop.
 
The class is open to business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone who is interested in hearing from an international business leader. During the class, Maas will share secrets to his family’s success.
 
Maas will share details of how in 1960, his father founded Maas Brothers Meats and created a vision for the company and identified growth opportunities. Today, JTM products can be found in delis, restaurants, schools, convenience stores and grocery stores around the world. JTM also provides packaged foods to the U.S. military.
 
 Kent Lutz, UC Blue Ash business/economics professor will interview the speaker on stage and take questions from the audience in this interactive format.
 
Past ESS speakers include Patty Brisben, founder of Pure Romance; Craig Kurz, owner of Honeybaked Ham; Buddy LaRosa, founder of LaRosa’s Pizza; and Jeff Wyler of Wyler Automotive Group.
 
UC Blue Ash College Entrepreneur Speaker Series featuring Maas will be held on Oct. 26 from 7 to 8 p.m., with a reception to follow, in the Muntz Auditorium on the UC Blue Ash Campus. The event and reception are free and open to everyone.
 
Seating is limited and registration is required. To register, visit www.ucblueash.edu/ess, or call 513-936-1632 for more information.

You can watch past ESS events here, as well as view photos.
 
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