Lowcountry’s underrepresented stories get boost from Donnelley Foundation

$755,500 divided throughout foundation’s service area

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation—which supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and the Chicago metro area—announced 12 recipients of its groundbreaking “Broadening Narratives” initiative yesterday.

The initiative aims to fund specific collections projects that bring forward underrepresented stories.

This announcement represents the third and fourth rounds of organizations to receive the Broadening Narratives grant. The projects collectively illustrate BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+ perspectives, working-class narratives, small community experiences, as well as other underrepresented groups and viewpoints.

The five Lowcountry-based organizations are Atlantic Beach, C. Williams Rush Museum of African-American Arts & Culture, College of Charleston, Open Space Institute, and South Carolina Humanities Council. The seven Chicago-based organizations are the Chicago Theological Seminary, Korean Cultural Center of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, National Indo-American Museum, The Newberry Library, Southeast Chicago Historical Museum, and Urban Juncture.

Additionally, the foundation renewed its $25,000 grants to each of the five Broadening Narratives advisory groups that assisted with the formation of the Broadening Narratives funding initiative and have continued to provide counsel: College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Digital Library, Southeastern Museums Conference, Black Metropolis Research Consortium, Chicago Collections Consortium, and the Chicago Cultural Alliance.

“We are thrilled to illuminate these important voices in collections work, who capture vital perspectives of historically underrepresented groups in their communities,” said David Farren, foundation executive director. “This type of collections work taps into an unmet need in communities where recorded history has failed to capture diverse voices and narratives. These grantees fill in those critical gaps in our collective history and begin to shape a more whole and true story of Chicago and the Lowcountry.”

Readers curious about the Chicago-based grant recipients and non-arts Lowcountry recipients can read more about them here. The Lowcountry projects featuring arts and culture include are these:

  • The C. Williams Rush Museum of African-American Arts & Culture will research the seldom recorded Negro, Colored, Black, and African American Schools of Williamsburg County, which were created during Reconstruction and continued through the Jim Crow era. This project will provide funds to identify and research the early Negro, Colored and Black Williamsburg County schools that were started after slavery, during Reconstruction, the Rosenwald Schools, through the Equalization schools of the 1950’s to current times.

“If it is not documented, it never happened, and time is of the essence in researching and documenting the early Colored, Negro, and Black schools of Williamsburg County. The Rush Museum is very appreciative of the foundation for the support of these vital research efforts,” said Cassandra Rush, CEO and president of the C. Williams Rush Museum of African-American Arts & Culture.

  • The South Carolina Humanities Council will share its traveling exhibit, Resilience and Revolution, which presents cultural and historical information from the perspective of the Native peoples of the 18th century, with five Native American communities in the Lowcountry. The exhibit provides insights into the multicultural world of the era and challenges and augments existing narratives of American history. Accompanying resources will support current descendants of Native peoples in their retention and preservation of their unique heritage.

“The exhibition explores the struggles and resilience of Indigenous peoples in South Carolina to retain their independence through the upheavals, unrest, and uncertainty following the establishment of the Carolina colony by the British. The funding provided by the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation will enable exhibit display in direct descendant communities across the Lowcountry and will encourage collection and heritage preservation,” said Project Director Dr. Alice Taylor-Colbert.

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. GDDF awards $750,000 annually through the Broadening Narratives strategy. For more information, visit www.gddf.org.

Broadening Narratives provides support for capacity-building, projects, technical assistance, collaborations, networking/advocacy, and field building. In addition to the traditional repositories of museums and libraries, Broadening Narratives defines collections and collecting organizations expansively. Some organizations that hold community and cultural collections serve multiple functions. An organization is eligible to apply as long as collections are a significant part of their mission–though it need not be their primary mission–and they have resources dedicated to the ongoing care, management, and sharing of collections.

The foundation also supports arts organizations in the following ways:

  • Supplying multiyear general operating support to all of its arts grantees.  Anecdotally, multiyear general operating support is the “gold standard” most valued by grantees. It supports organizational stability, provides flexibility, and helps build further trust in relationships between funders and grantees.
  • Providing value in addition to dollars. The foundation’s strength is in the overall “value proposition” of its grants—the award dollars, plus technical assistance support, hosting convenings, providing informal coaching, and underwriting scholarships for conferences and other organizational development opportunities.
  • Establishing multiple touchpoints with grantees throughout the grant cycle. Every foundation grantee, no matter the grant size, has contact with its program officer at least once a year, usually more often. Program staff attend cohort meetings, learning sessions, and informal gatherings with various grantee clusters.