Campus: CSU, Monterey Bay -- October 7, 1999

CSU Monterey Bay Receives Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Fund Grant Reciprocal University for the Arts to build bridges between higher education and underserved local youth

California State University, Monterey Bay is one of only six sites selected nationally by the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund to receive a grant to fund an arts partnership with the surrounding communities. The Reciprocal University for the Arts is a program that will enable university students, faculty, and guest artists to produce performances, projects, and classes in the community. As part of the reciprocal arrangement, it will bring community artists, youth supporters, and youth to the campus to take part in performances and art projects.

The four-year, $600,000 grant will enable youth from Monterey, Seaside, Watsonville, and Salinas, their families, and their communities to develop a closer relationship with the university and add to the desire to continue on to college. An additional goal is that CSUMB students and community youth will come to understand the role art and artists play in transforming community life. With the experience of such an art program, more students and youth will see the arts as a career opportunity and as an essential part of public life.

"Through the arts we will foster cultural citizenship, community pride, and the recognition of these diverse communities' funds of knowledge," said Dr. Amalia Mesa-Bains, director for the Institute for Visual and Public Arts. "The cultural celebrations, activities and histories of community building, the cross-cultural awareness and ethical problem solving skills drawn from struggles for social justice are all part of this knowledge. Our hope is that we can create an art and cultural exchange across communities and in so doing change the perceptions they have of each other." Diminished arts education in public schools and the lack of other programs in communities to fill this gap have left many youth with little exposure to or involvement with the arts. To help replace what's missing in the lives of large numbers of American youth and to enable to better serve their communities, six leading professional arts colleges and universities around the country are receiving grants totaling $4.1 million from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. Recipients of the four year grants include CSUMB, Columbia College of Chicago, Cooper Union in New York, Institute of American Indian Studies in Santa Fe, Maryland Institute-College of Art in Baltimore and Xavier University in New Orleans.

Working in partnership with community-based organizations, the six participating schools will use their award to increase young people's access to high-quality arts experiences including educational activities, performances and exhibitions. This program will also help the next generation of artists-students enrolled in the participating arts schools who will serve as teachers and mentors to young people-develop skills in engaging audiences.

"The colleges and universities that we are supporting to create arts partnerships come to this work with a great deal of enthusiasm both for what they have to offer young people and what they, their faculties and students get in return from serving their communities in innovative and powerful ways," said M. Christine De Vita, president, Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund.

The Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund seeks to enhance the cultural life of communities and encourage people to make the arts and culture an active part of their everyday lives through support of programs in the performing, visual, literary and folk arts, adult literacy and urban parks.

In Monterey partners include the Monterey Museum of Art and the Monterey chapter of the YMCA teen youth group. In Seaside partners are the Monterey County AIDS project's African-American Outreach program, the Young Professional Men and Women's group and Seaside High School. In Salinas, Second Chance and Alisal Cultural Center will be involved and in Watsonville, Fenix Services and the Old Adobe conservation project will be included.

The expressed goals for the grants are:

- To increase youth self-esteem and resiliency through the arts and to increase student entry into CSUMB and other colleges by offering high quality educational, performance, concert, and exhibition programs.

- To increase community organizational capacity of art and youth-serving organizations in small rural communities, and to develop supportive relationships between them, thereby increasing the number, quality, and diversity of arts programs for youth.

-To increase community-campus partnerships by developing relationships with organizations and civic leadership in surrounding communities, thereby furthering the mission of CSUMB.

-To expand CSUMB student learning about community and to develop curriculum on community-based learning through the arts that can be a model for college level art education.

- To bring together aesthetic excellence with community problem solving around youth issues, and to use arts programming to change the regional perception of local communities.

Dr. Mesa-Bains and Richard Bains, the Director of the Institute for Music and Performing Arts at CSUMB are the lead faculty for the grant. After the four years of funding, according to Dr. Mesa-Bains, "We will have physically transformed some of the public space which will affect the feeling of the community. We will change the perception people have of their own communities and of the youth in their communities." At the same time, continues Mesa-Bains, "because this grant is a way to help youth to look at the university as a destination - a place to end up - we have a strong youth population enrolling at CSUMB who are from the underrepresented working class populations in the tri-county areas."

The Vision Statement of CSUMB embodies a commitment to diversity, community, cross-cultural competence, global interdependence, ethical problem solving, responsible use of technology, and the integration of learning, service, and reflection. The campus distinguishes itself in its commitment to historically underrepresented populations. The Institutes for Visual and Public Arts and Music and Performing Arts prepare students to be arts practitioners with skills that will make them active and responsible citizens.

The University will be working to expand the program's activities over the course of the grant and to extend them into the future. Additional funding will be sought to provide additional arts programming both on and off campus. Interested parties can contact the project coordinator, Elizabeth Ross, at 582-4330 for more information on participation and involvement in the Reciprocal University.

Members of the media may contact Holly White at the numbers listed above for additional information or to arrange interviews.

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