Announcing 11 collections projects to be funded by Broadening Narratives grant initiative to illuminate underrepresented stories


Grants total $670,000 to 11 collecting organizations and five advisory groups in Chicago and the Lowcountry of South Carolina; Grant recipients will receive a range of $20,000 to $200,000 to fund new projects.

CHICAGO [Dec 8, 2021]—The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (the Foundation)—which supports land conservation, artistic vitality, and regional collections for the people of the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and Chicago—is proud to announce the 11 recipients of the Foundation’s groundbreaking “Broadening Narratives” initiative, which aims to fund specific collections projects that bring forward underrepresented stories.

This announcement represents the second round 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 eight Chicago-based organizations are the Bronzeville Black Chicagoan Historical Society, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Public Art Group, Lewis University, Muslim American Leadership Alliance, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, South Side Community Art Center, and Trickster Cultural Center. The three Lowcountry-based organizations are Clemson University, The Gibbes Museum of Art, and The Educational Foundation of the University of South Carolina Lancaster’s Native American Studies Center.

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

“While the purpose of collections is to ensure that stories are preserved, many narratives are often overlooked because of decisions based on race, gender, sexual identity, educational background, economic or social status, or because they are perceived to be outside the conventional thinking of the day,” said David Farren, Executive Director of the Foundation. “We are thrilled to announce these grant recipients and want to thank these organizations for being part of this new way forward in collections thinking that shifts focus from the processing of material objects to the telling of broader and more inclusive narratives.”

The Chicago-based organizations and projects to be funded by Broadening Narratives:

  • Bronzeville Black Chicagoan Historical Society (BHS) will work with a metadata specialist to better understand, code, and describe their collection which has been scattered between several storage units for the past 20 years. Funds will also support BHS’ transition to their newly opened space in the historic Parkway Ballroom building. This work will help create additional historical resources about the African Americans who helped shape Chicago and America be made available to children and a broader audience.

“Bronzeville is recognized as one of the most vibrant, historic, and culturally important African American communities in Chicago,” said Founder Sherry Williams. Clearly, the Foundation recognized the importance of preserving our archive holdings and thanks to the Broadening Narratives grant, photographs and documents in the archive will soon reach thousands via our new metadata project.”

  • The Chicago History Museum (CHM) will collaborate with community partners to recover and integrate missing voices into its permanent exhibition, Chicago: Crossroads of America, that aims to provide a full representation of the people who are part of Chicago’s history and future. A new signature exhibition will showcase and interpret CHM’s collection in ways that are compelling and accessible to a diverse public and preserve access within the communities represented by avoiding extracting materials from their rightful places.

“The Broadening Narratives initiative is a rare, yet critical, grant model that supports the deep community engagement required for any organization hoping to reflect our history back to us in meaningful and accessible ways,” said Senior Vice President John Russick. “We are grateful for the support of the Foundation and understand the responsibility we carry as the city’s history museum to seek and share a full and inclusive story of Chicago.”

  • Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG) – a 49-year-old organization that has contracted artists to create murals across a span of Chicago neighborhoods and gave birth to the Chicago mural movement – will catalog their archive of community murals and the artists who worked on them, making the information accessible to the public.

“CPAG is grateful for this funding and opportunity to analyze and organize its archives with the goal of sharing the research to the public, including the history and language of Chicago’s communities,” said Executive Director Chantal Healey. “With CPAG’s 50th anniversary starting in 2022, this grant could not have come at a more important time as CPAG plans to unveil its archives at an exhibit at Chicago Art Department in September and October 2022.”

  • Lewis University was selected by the Council of Independent Colleges to join a collaborative group that will surface the unheard narratives of Black communities along the Illinois and Michigan Canal, with an emphasis on Joliet, as part of the Legacies of American Slavery project. The digitization of pertinent materials will ultimately result in a digital exhibition and two traveling physical exhibitions with accompanying public programs developed to bring greater awareness of these narratives.

“The 20th century history of African Americans in Joliet includes the prominent role of Black churches, which serve not only as religious institutions, but also as hubs for the region’s civil rights movements,” said Dr. Laura Franklin, Dean of General Education and College of Humanities, Fine Arts & Communications at Lewis University. “This grant will make it possible to recover first-hand narratives of this period, and also to engage new audiences in learning about this history.”

  • The Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) will enhance its oral history project, Muslim American Journeys, with additional stories from Chicago’s Black Muslim community. In addition to recording up to ten new interviews, MALA will revisit past Chicago interviewees to record updated testimonials.

“MALA’s goal is to use the power of storytelling to amplify the voices of Black Muslims in Chicago and broaden the cultural narrative to be more inclusive, diverse, and equitable,” said Deputy Director and Co-Founder Ahmed Flex Omar. “We are honored to have the support of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; this funding will empower MALA to embark on a more robust approach to oral history work that will allow the voices of Chicago’s Black Muslim communities to receive the recognition, respect, and consideration they deserve.”

  • Puerto Rican Arts Alliance (PRAA) will plan for the expansion of its El Archivo Project with images and stories of Chicago’s Puerto Rican/Latinx LGBTQ community, in partnership with the Association of Latinx Action (ALMA), Chicago’s only Latinx LGBTQ organization. The funds will support a preliminary scan of available materials and themes, engage community stakeholders, and help form an advisory committee to move the project forward.

“The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance is excited to receive funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation,” said Founder & Executive Director Carlos Hernandez. “This special support now allows PRAA to deepen its El Archivo Project research and meaningfully connect with first voice LGBTQ+ Latino(a) pioneers and other leaders. Our El Archivo Project would be incomplete without this inclusion, and the important narratives this community will bring to the table.”

  • South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC) will conserve and digitize works by Black women artists and organizers affiliated with this important organization. The project will stabilize select artwork and assemblages of historic materials, which will then be digitized and made available on the University of Chicago’s Visual Resources Center and on SSCAC’s website through a platform that creates interactive historical narratives incorporating images from the archives and collections.

“Since its founding in 1940 by artists and community members including Dr. Margaret Burroughs, the South Side Community Art Center has always been a haven for the work of Black women as both artistic creators and community organizers,” said Executive Director Monique Brinkman-Hill. “We are especially grateful for the support that will enable us to present their work in its full glory.”

  • Trickster Cultural Center a creative and community hub for Native peoples in Chicago’s northwestern suburbs – will create a series of videos that document the traditional use of plants in  Native American healing and wellness practices. The project will interview Native elders on practices unique to their communities as well as document the planting, maintenance, and harvesting of a  medicine garden. The videos will be made available on Trickster’s website.

“We are grateful to the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation for helping us inform the general public about traditional Native American plant medicine, and to be able to share this knowledge and cultural practices with our community,” said CEO Joseph Podlasek. “This project supports our vision of serving as an authentic first voice of Native American veterans and cultural arts.”

The Lowcountry-based organizations and projects to be funded by Broadening Narratives:

  • Clemson University will partner with the nationally registered Seashore Farmers’ Lodge and the Sol Legare community to provide collections management training; conduct conservation assessment, treatment, and interpretation for objects in the collection; and develop manuals for ongoing care and management. The project will shed light on the site, which was once the heart and backbone of the early African-American community providing farmers aid and insurance in a time of need in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“The historic African American community of Sol Legare in the Lowcountry of South Carolina is unique in the measures that community members have taken to interpret and preserve their history in the built environment and cultural objects,” says Dr. Jon Marcoux, Director of the Historic Preservation program at Clemson University.  “The community’s historical importance has gone unrecognized in broader narratives of the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and Civil Rights eras. The project has the authenticity of fourth-generation residents playing an intricate role in protecting hundreds of donated objects that represent the full 150-year-old history of Sol Legare. We are honored to partner with the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation to preserve and share this significant collection.”

  • The Gibbes Museum of Art will create an exhibition drawing parallels between noted Charleston Renaissance artist Ned Jennings and British Aesthete and artist Aubrey Beardsley, re-contextualizing the Renaissance by examining the historically taboo topic of LGBTQIA+ contributions to the art world, still largely untold in the South. In particular, the exhibit will consider the role of queer artists in the Charleston arts community and the influence of queer aesthetics on the Charleston Renaissance via an exploration of Jennings’ works and life.

“By considering the impact of the British Aestheticism movement of the late 19th century on one of Charleston’s most original artistic minds, Edward “Ned” I.R. Jennings, we’re able to engage in a long overdue conversation about the LGBTQIA+ influences, histories, and kinship networks that existed between World Wars I and II when the visual arts flourished; a period that would become known as the Charleston Renaissance,” said Angela Mack, Executive Director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. “Thanks to the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation’s commitment to telling this story, we are able to reengage with the work of an artist whose life was tragically cut short and whose originality and impact for too long has been marginalized.”

  • The Educational Foundation of the University of South Carolina Lancaster’s Native American Studies Center (NASC) will continue its study of South Carolina’s Native American peoples, their histories, and their cultures by gathering oral histories, artifacts, and conducting research related to Lowcountry tribes. The Lowcountry was a significant site for Native American tribes across the region for trade and was a nexus for interaction with European settlers and enslaved Africans.

“Very little scholarly work has been done to document and preserve the living traditions of South Carolina Native Americans, particularly in the Lowcountry. The small, often isolated but vibrant Native communities have existed largely under the radar of outside scholars. Some members of these communities were enslaved by European colonists; others found their tribal communities driven to near extinction. Some identified, at times, as white; others were labeled as African American. With the generous support of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the NASC will help document, preserve, and share these rich cultural traditions maintained by the life experiences and in the memories of the elders and leaders of these communities,” said Dr. Stephen Criswell, NASC Director.

About Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

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.

For over five years, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has convened five advisory groups to assist with the formation and execution of the Broadening Narratives funding initiative by providing important feedback, keeping the Foundation apprised of trends in the field, and serving as valuable connectors and conveners. The groups include Black Metropolis Research Consortium, Chicago Collections Consortium, Chicago Cultural Alliance, College of Charlestons Lowcountry Digital Library, and the Southeastern Museums Conference.

For more information on the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, visit


Chicago Press Contact:
Amanda Berrios
The Silverman Group, Inc.


Lowcountry Press Contact:
Erin Spencer
Blue Ion

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