Big Thought Receives $100,000 Grant From National Endowment for the Arts

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Dallas students can continue to step up their creative game next summer thanks to a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

The NEA will award the Art Works grant to Big Thought, which has teamed up with the city of Dallas and the Dallas Independent School District for the Dallas City of Learning (DCOL) collective impact project, a program that seeks to strengthen communities through the arts. The initiative also strives to boost public engagement, lifelong learning and diversity among the arts.

The money will provide students in-person as well as internet-based creative learning experiences.

"This past summer, we served more than 24,000 students," said Leila Wright, DCOL senior manager of programs. "We anticipate that number will grow this coming year. Since its inception in 2014, DCOL has served more than 50,000 students."

The Dallas City of Learning is a citywide, public-private initiative that works to make sure all Dallas area students have access to learning opportunities during the summer months to keep their learning momentum going. Hundreds of partners pull together to form a resource-rich network for students in poor neighborhoods.

"When we use our imagination, we tap into our full creative and intellectual potential, including important skills such as empathy, leadership, creativity and critical thinking," says Big Thought institute director LeAnn Binford. "Art ignites young imaginations, engaging children and building their confidence in their abilities and voice, ultimately equipping them to chart their own course in life."

While the majority of Big Thought's programs are free, a handful of the programs do have a cost associated with them, Wright says. Students and their parents can search for programs by cost at dallascityoflearning.org.

“The arts are for all of us," says NEA chairman Jane Chu. "By supporting organizations such as Big Thought, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts. Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”

Collectively, more than $30 million in grants have been approved by Chu for the endowment's first major funding announcement for the fiscal year 2017, according to the press release.

“We are so grateful and appreciative of Chairman Chu and the National Endowment for the Arts,” says Big Thought President and CEO Gigi Antoni. “We, as an organization and as a city, have been committed to stemming summer learning loss in our quest to close the opportunity gap and improve the academic and socio-emotional outcomes of our children. This community has come together for our kids, and with the NEA’s generous support we can make an important impact in their lives.”

A few years ago, Dallas became home to one of the first City of Learning projects supported by the MacArthur Foundation. The support paved the way for innovative, visionary systems of peers and mentors that provide youth with opportunities to follow interests such as video making, fashion design, poetry, robotics and computer coding.

Binford says Big Thought brings game changing opportunities — ones that ignite the imagination — to Dallas kids who need them most.

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