JCFA receives $210,000 grant

Watch out theatre world—Butler University is bringing an international flavor to Indianapolis.

The Christel DeHaan Family Foundation recently gave a $210,000 grant to the Jordan College of Fine Arts theatre program and the Butler Community Arts School.

William Fisher, theatre department chair, said the department will use their four-year $140,000 portion to establish the Visiting International Theatre Artist program.

The program is designed to bring one international theater professional to campus for an eight to 10 week period of the year in order to teach seminars and design or to direct a production.

“We are really thrilled,” Fisher said. “It’s a great asset to the department, the college and the university to have this kind of support.”

Fisher said the opportunity to have an international theater experience available for students directly on campus is incredibly unique for a university environment.

“This adventure is built upon years of work and tradition—not just something out of the blue,” he said. “It is a logical and natural step for the theater department to our next stage of development as an exceptional program.”

Fisher said London’s Tim Hardy, a Royal Shakespeare Company actor and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art professor, will be the first artist in the VITA program.

Hardy visited Butler last year as a guest faculty member and the department is looking forward to his return.

While searching for VITA visitors for fall 2011 and beyond, Fisher said Butler will place the utmost importance on international diversity and variety.

“We are not geographically specific but looking to go beyond the obvious,” he said. “We wish personal interest to be pushed very far in that the amount and kinds of diversity are highly challenging and expand our students ideas of experience and theatre.”

Fisher said this sort of experience is something that students can take beyond the classroom and apply to real world experiences.

“We hope students will not only encounter exciting and prominent artists from another culture but to go further and make other kinds of connections in separate fields either locally or nationally,” he said.

The Butler Community Arrts School received the remaining $70,000 of the grant from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation.

Karen Thickstun, director of BCAS, said the grant will go towards funding need-based scholarships for underprivileged children who cannot afford the music lessons, dance classes or arts classes that BCAS offers.

Part of this grant is restricted to providing classes at Christel House Academy, one of the outreach locations where Butler students teach piano, violin, dance, percussion and guitar.

Thickstun said the BCAS serves an important role within the Butler community and it provides students with otherwise unavailable opportunities.

“In addition to the impact on underprivileged youth, it is important to note that BCAS experiences also impact Butler students,” she said. “Some have changed their major after working with youth.

“Others report back about how the experience has improved their teaching, or their ability to relate to youth, or their knowledge of what it takes to communicate and work with diverse socio-economic backgrounds.”

Thickstun said the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation has awarded an annual grant to BCAS since 2003 in support of their dual mission—bringing an arts education to underprivileged children and also providing diverse teaching experiences for Butler students.

“Butler students are connected with area schools and community centers that lack arts enrichment programs, and underprivileged youth receive instruction in dance and music that they couldn’t otherwise afford,” Thickstun said.

“Support in the early years was crucial in developing outreach locations and helping BCAS grow to its current size and scope. This grant allows BCAS to maintain its current outreach activities.”

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