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What will be the cost?

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Different SAIC community outreach programs deal (or can’t) with the economic downturn.

It seems the bad economy has affected yet another important aspect of the SAIC community: outreach programs. For SAIC students, these programs provide valuable experience in their chosen field, engaging opportunities with the community and, in some instances, money for students with little funding to pay the high cost to attend SAIC. Additionally, these programs have noble aspirations to address some of our most salient societal challenges.

The Poetry Center’s Hands on Stanzas program

The Poetry Center’s website describes Hands on Stanzas as a program that “wants to fulfill the need for creative learning opportunities in Chicago classrooms.” Hands on Stanzas enhances literacy through poetry, by placing paid Chicago poets in public school classrooms for 20-week sessions. In 2008, Hands on Stanzas poets were in 120 classrooms at 37 schools across Chicago, working with approximately 3,600 students and 120 classroom teachers. Current poets-in-residence with the Hands on Stanzas program include SAIC alumni Margaret Chapman, Kristiana Colon, Cecilia Pinto, and MFAW students Sarah Janczak and Angela Kim.

Although the Poetry Center receives its funding from many individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies, it’s funding also heavily relies on grants. According to Francesco Levato, the Poetry Center’s Director, recent individual donations have stayed steady and membership has actually increased, but the Poetry Center has had a rough year because of the cuts from foundation endowments.

According to Angela Kim, the Hands on Stanzas programming was so impacted by the reduction in funding, that it had to abruptly end its 20-week program two weeks early. The poets-in-residence, however, did not end the program early and chose to still go into their classrooms without pay.

The Poetry Center does have a 3-year plan, in the face of the recent economic downturn, to make the Hands on Stanzas program self-sustaining by increasing a school’s contribution fee. This incremental increase would occur over a three-year span. Levato states that even though the schools are being charged more, this program still costs much less than other programs of its kind, and there is still a waiting list for the program. Additionally, the Poetry Center is trying to make the program self-sustaining by reducing the maximum number of classes it services for each school.

Unfortunately, this will mean the amount of students benefited are also reduced, and with the increased costs to the program, the attrition of the schools dropping out of the Hands on Stanzas program may have to do with an inability to afford the program.

The Art Therapy Department and ArtWorks

ArtWorks’ mission is to serve “as a bridge between diverse groups of people” and “work toward personal empowerment and meaningful social change.” The Art Therapy Department has partnered with ArtWorks to provide integrated internships for SAIC students. While the internships do meet the American Arts Therapy Association requirements for a graduate degree in Art Therapy and board certification, they do not offset the cost of rent or supplies for the program.

In the past, ArtWorks has been completely funded by grants. Since the recent cut to endowments, ArtWorks has received no funding. According to Valery Shuman, ArtWorks’ director, one foundation declined funding to the program on a recent site visit, stating that “if it had been a year ago [ArtWorks] was applying for the grant, [it] would have received it.” Another foundation approached by ArtWorks informed Shuman that it was not accepting applications this year. Shuman has applied for at least 30 grants and still has not been able to receive any funding.

As a result of the lack of funding this summer, ArtWorks has canceled its Monday and Thursday workshops, but is still continuing its free Open Art Studios on Wednesdays and Crochet/Knit Circles on Sundays.

ArtWorks is in a precarious position with regard to rent because it receives very minimal individual funding and does not have a membership fee (as membership may counteract the sense of community). ArtWorks also cannot move to a residence at SAIC because the alternative art space cannot effectively work to bring the diverse Uptown community together if it is located downtown at SAIC.

The Open Studio Project

The Open Studio Project, also affiliated with SAIC, is an outreach program designed to engage under-served populations through collaboration between interns and a variety of social service agencies “with a special emphasis on using the creative arts to inspire personal growth, interpersonal understanding, and social change through workshops, classes, exhibitions, and community partnerships.”

Open Studio Project seems to be sustainable due to their diversity of funding and because they are not largely dependent on endowments and grants. They do receive funding from private foundations and grants (35%), but also receive individual donations (23%), fees based classes (14%), fundraising contributions (14%), and government grants (4%).

Global Alliance for Africa

Global Alliance for Africa, based in Chicago and East Africa, is another non-profit organization able to deal with endowment and grant cuts through diversity of funding. The program develops therapeutic art programs in Tanzania and Kenya for orphans or other children affected by the AIDS pandemic. Art Therapy Department Chair Catherine Moon will be traveling there with a couple of students this summer.

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