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2011 Winter Newsletter


1/14/2011

Supporting New Artistic Works in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis

Four Midwest arts organizations will each receive grants of $50,000 to support new works by minority artists in dance, music, theater, and visual arts.

This year‘s winners are:

  • DANCE: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Chicago) to commission African American choreographer Alonzo King to create a new dance work to be performed jointly by Hubbard Street and King’s company, LINES Ballet of San Francisco. This will be his first new work on the Chicago stage in more than a decade.
  • MUSIC: VocalEssence (Minneapolis) to support a new composition by African American composer/musician Hannibal Lokumbe, tentatively titled In the Spirit of Being, which will highlight the stages of human existence and incorporate spiritual leaders in the community.
  • THEATER: Children's Theatre Company (Minneapolis) to support the development and production of a new play based on classic Japanese folktales by Asian American playwright Naomi Iizuka, recipient of a 2004 Joyce Award for Theater with the Goodman Theatre.
  • VISUAL ARTS: Central Indiana Community Foundation (Indianapolis) to commission African American visual artist Fred Wilson to create a new public art sculpture for permanent installation on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

Since its inception in 2003, Joyce has awarded more than $1.6 million to support new works by artists of color in major midwestern cities. The Joyce Awards is the only program that exclusively supports artists of color in the Midwest to create art that strengthens cultural venues and draws together people of diverse backgrounds. Award winners will present their works to their host institutions’ traditional audiences and will also have the opportunity to work with community groups, school children, and public art projects.

“We are pleased to recognize the artistry of these talented individuals and the lively organizations that will showcase these works,” stated Ellen S. Alberding, president of the Joyce Foundation. “On behalf of the Joyce Foundation, we are proud that our Joyce Awards provide a springboard to highlight the vibrant array of artistic talent in the Great Lakes region.”

Drawing the Line on Redistricting

After each decennial census, state governments are required to redraw boundaries of their state and federal legislative districts to reflect the addition or loss of seats and to equalize their population. The drawing of these district lines either rests exclusively with or is heavily influenced by legislators themselves, essentially providing elected officials with the power to choose their constituents rather than the other way around.

To make matters worse, the public plays almost no role in the process. Citizens have little awareness or understanding of how redistricting works and how abuses of map-drawing procedures can negatively affect individual communities. One solution is to better connect the public to the process by shedding more light on how Great Lakes states are approaching redistricting. Last year, Joyce began supporting efforts by Midwest political reform advocates to create a multi-state strategy to better engage community leaders in the redistricting process. 

Coordinated by the Midwest Democracy Network, a coalition of civic engagement and government reform organizations, state coalitions are planning the Draw the Line campaign to promote more transparency and public involvement in the legislative map-making process. For example, Illinois Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, the largest redistricting coalition in the Midwest, is drafting a model transparency bill and concept maps to highlight state legislative districts. The map will be presented at public forums throughout the state in order to better engage citizens, inform the news media, and make it more difficult for political leaders to keep redistricting plans hidden. Other state initiatives in the Draw the Line campaign include:

  • Michigan Redistricting Collaborative is creating sample maps and analysis, a public redistricting guide, and outreach materials for coalition members to distribute around the state;
  • Minnesota Democracy Network is developing a Redistricting Monitoring Commission to oversee the drawing of state legislative districts. The group is working with local nonprofit organizations to engage community leaders on the issue;
  • Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting is inviting the public to join an online mapping competition, in which participants draw their own maps to spark community dialogue;
  • Wisconsin Campaign for Accountable Redistricting is monitoring state, municipal, and local redistricting measures and providing regular updates to the news media and the public.

As part of the initiative, the Midwest Democracy Network will join forces with the Public Mapping Project, a coalition of nonprofit organizations led by Dr. Michael P. McDonald of George Mason University and Dr. Micah Altman of Harvard University. Together, these groups will launch District Builder, an open source, web-based redistricting application designed to give the public transparent, accessible, and easy-to-use online mapping tools. “Redistricting in 2011 will be truly different,” said Catherine Turcer, director of the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting. “Changes in technology will allow citizens to engage in new, interactive ways and finally bring redistricting out of backrooms and into the open.”

Developing Smart Energy Solutions in Illinois and the Midwest

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, America’s power grid is “the largest interconnected machine on Earth.”

More than 300,000 miles of transmission lines deliver service across the country, powering the nation like a high-tech circulatory system. During the last century, the power grid helped to provide electricity for businesses and family homes, establishing a strong foundation for economic expansion in the United States.  

The current power system delivers service as it was originally designed to do. But, advancements in technology along with an expanding global marketplace will continue to challenge the century-old structure. Designing improved and efficient service delivery methods or “smart grid” technologies will reduce demand for power, lower electricity rates, and increase grid stability. Smart grid technology combines delivery of electricity with two-way digital communications, allowing both a utility provider and customer to continuously monitor or adjust power use. 

For example, home appliances could be programmed to operate in the middle of the night when electricity demand and cost is lowest. Such interactive improvements will help decrease the demands on the network while increasing its reliability. Fortunately for Great Lakes residents, Illinois is one of the states developing a comprehensive strategy around smart grid costs and benefits. In 2008, the Illinois Commerce Commission established an Illinois Smart Grid Collaborative to develop a plan for smart grid deployment in the state. Furthermore, Illinois’ Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) has developed a smart grid pilot program in nine Chicago communities

Energy experts are tracking results to determine gains in energy efficiency and strategies to expand such a program. With support from Joyce, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) will join forces with the Illinois Citizens Utility Board (CUB) to maximize the progress of the Illinois smart grid pilot program. The team will work to quantify the environmental and economic benefits of the new technologies and services, sharing results with others working to improve the Midwest electric utility system. 

In addition, EDF and CUB will work with Illinois’ regional grid operators on technical standards necessary for smart grid efficiency gains to be sold into wholesale power markets. “Simply put, smart grid is about marrying the very best of modern information technologies to our electric grid,” said Mark Brownstein, deputy director of EDF’s energy program. “With better information about the true cost of energy, consumers can make smarter choices in when and how they use electricity, and utilities can operate their systems more efficiently. This reduces pollution and saves money. That’s good for the Midwest’s economy and good for the Midwest’s environment.”

Advocating for Teacher Quality in all 50 States

Until the last few years, teacher and principal evaluations received little public attention from district leaders and federal officials.

Likewise, there was little focus on how state policy could be adjusted to help teachers do a better job. Last year’s Race to the Top competition, the $4.35 billion initiative by the U.S. Department of Education to reward states for passing sweeping education reform policies, helped redirect the spotlight toward statehouses across the country. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a nonpartisan research and policy organization, understands the power state governments have to assess and improve the effectiveness of teachers. 

NCTQ monitors and evaluates state policies concerning teacher compensation, preparation, and evaluation. The group also provides guidance and recommendations for improving statewide measures to raise the level of teaching. With a Joyce grant, NCTQ will analyze the recent state level policy progress that was made during the Race to the Top competition. By the end of 2010, 12 states passed new state teacher/principal evaluation laws; NCTQ will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each. 

This detailed analysis is both timely and necessary as state committees begin to finalize plans for implementation. Results will also help states stay on track with their reforms, allow states to learn from one another by sharing information, and assist new states that want to pass similar laws. In addition, NCTQ will continue to produce The State Teacher Policy Yearbook, a 52-volume encyclopedia, measuring the full range of all states’ policies affecting the teaching profession. 

The guide provides a comprehensive analysis of each state while measuring states’ policies against a realistic outline for reform. Once complete, the Yearbook is disseminated to state legislators, education leaders, and policy advocates. In some cases, NCTQ will meet with state leaders and assist them in implementing Yearbook recommendations. “Ultimately, our goal is to provide policy makers and advocacy groups with the resources they need to make informed decisions about teacher quality evaluation laws,” said Kate Walsh, president of NCTQ. “Support from Joyce allows us to critically analyze the different ways states approach teacher effectiveness policies.”

Reinventing City Colleges of Chicago

According to a study by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, more than 60 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary certifications or degrees by 2018.

To achieve the training and education necessary to acquire one of these career-building jobs, students need access to a quality education toward high market value credentials and degrees. City Colleges of Chicago has recently begun building the momentum to deliver on this promise for its students and area businesses. 

The challenges are large. City Colleges has struggled with boosting its student outcomes and local businesses have been hesitant to hire its graduates. The institution has also suffered from a lack of quality data to guide reforms or set policy standards. In 2010, City Colleges established a plan to remake the institution to prepare their students for the demands of the 21st century economy. 

Under the leadership of Chancellor Cheryl Hyman, a former executive of People’s Gas and herself a graduate of Chicago’s community colleges, City Colleges has been laying the groundwork to achieve ambitious plans for its students. The goal: To provide students with education and training options for a positive career track and to give Chicago’s business community confidence that City Colleges can produce workers with the skills to succeed in a range of work environments. 

With support from Joyce, the Civic Consulting Alliance (CCA), a partnership of pro bono business teams and government leaders, will engage with City Colleges to begin implementation. The collaboration with CCA will include leveraging local and national investments to guide City Colleges to increase the number of students who:

  • Obtain credentials needed to qualify for jobs in the region;
  • Transfer to four-year colleges to pursue bachelors’ degree programs;
  • Qualify for college-level programs by obtaining necessary, prerequisite skills.

“Our success is critical in helping students reach their potential as working professionals in this city and beyond,” stated Brian Fabes, chief executive officer of CCA. “We are confident of the positive impact this initiative will have on City Colleges of Chicago and ultimately Chicago’s workforce.”

Reducing Handgun Violence in Pennsylvania

Last month’s shootings in Tucson, Arizona left six people dead and 19 people injured, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

This incident has reignited discussions on policies that might reduce the levels of gun violence that threaten communities across America. As an example, from 2003-2007 Pennsylvania had more than 6,500 gun deaths. To address this tragic loss of life, groups like CeaseFire Pennsylvania Education Fund (CeaseFire PA) are activating citizens and leaders to address the problem. CeaseFire PA, a statewide network dedicated exclusively to reducing handgun violence in the Keystone State, seeks to prevent firearm injuries and deaths by reducing easy access to handguns by criminals, minors, and the mentally ill. 

Working with coalitions of mayors, police chiefs, and faith leaders, the group advocates for strengthening local and state laws to reduce firearm violence and protect the public. CeaseFire PA has made steady progress in recent years. Since 2008, 46 Pennsylvania municipalities have instituted ordinances or resolutions requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement, CeaseFire PA’s top policy initiative. Information about lost and stolen guns can help law enforcement combat illegal gun trafficking and deter straw purchases. 

Another program priority involves closing the “concealed carry loophole,” which allows Pennsylvania residents to obtain out-of-state carry permits even if they are ineligible under Pennsylvania law. Unlike Arizona, where the alleged shooter was not required to have a permit to carry a concealed handgun, Pennsylvania has strict requirements governing who is eligible for a concealed weapons permit. However, those state standards are undermined when residents who would not qualify under Pennsylvania law can simply obtain a permit from another state with lower standards. With Joyce support, CeaseFire PA will continue building its citizen engagement strategies by adding a grassroots coordinator to the organization. 

Plans include expanding the base of supporters, and building a coalition of college and university students who support common sense gun violence prevention policies.  CeaseFire PA will also increase its participation with Philadelphia’s Gun Violence Task Force, an initiative aimed at ensuring judges focus serious attention on court cases involving straw purchasers or others involved in illegal gun sales. Working with local prosecutors, CeaseFire PA representatives monitor courtroom activities and provide testimony on the impact of illegal firearm transfers on the community. “We know that the majority of Pennsylvania residents support laws that can reduce the flow of illegal guns and prevent gun crime and violence,” said Phil Goldsmith, president of the board of CeaseFire PA. “Our goal is to engage them in our cause.”

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