A $50,000 grant from the Bainum Family Foundation will allow the WVU College of Creative Arts to expand outreach in West Virginia schools. (WVU File Photo/Brian Persinger)
Schoolchildren throughout West Virginia will experience dance, music, theater, puppetry, arts education and more as the West Virginia University College of Creative Arts expands outreach efforts thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Bainum Family Foundation’s Family Philanthropy program.
Through its newly established Equal Access to the Arts Fund, the College of Creative Arts is planning at least 25 performances and presentations in schools across West Virginia and at the WVU Canady Creative Arts Center through December 2023. The additional funding builds upon existing opportunities for residents in communities throughout the Mountain State to participate directly in artistic endeavors and express their creativity.
The goal is to visit at least 20 of West Virginia’s 55 counties and target towns in every region – including Keyser and Shepherdstown to the east, Parkersburg and Point Pleasant to the west, and Hinton, Lewisburg and Marlinton to the south.
“Engaging with communities across the state has been a long-term goal of the College of Creative Arts,” Dean H. Keith Jackson said. “Thanks to the Equal Access to the Arts Fund, we can now expand the reach of all of our schools to engage with local communities, especially K-12 students. For many of these students, this engagement will be the initial exposure to the arts, an exposure that is a powerful tool in preparing students for learning and long-term success.”
College of Creative Arts alumna Sandy Bainum invited WVU officials to apply for the grant. She serves on a multigenerational family committee at the Bainum Family Foundation, which was established by her mother- and father-in-law in 1968. The Bainum Family Foundation focuses primarily on early childhood and what children need for a strong start in life, while its legacy programs support other issues important to the Bainum family.
Bainum first discussed the outreach program with College of Creative Arts leaders last year, when she returned to campus to share her experience as a successful actor, singer and dancer with students. The idea resonated with Bainum because her exposure to the arts was limited as a child growing up in rural Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. She received scholarship support to attend WVU, which offered her first opportunities to audition for a role, perform in a musical and enjoy acclaim as a performer.
“I wanted to do something that would be meaningful and make an impact and help WVU tell the story and educate West Virginia kids,” Bainum said. “It meant something to me.”
The outreach effort offers dual educational benefits. WVU students enrolled in College of Creative Arts programs will have the opportunity to gain real-world experience performing, teaching and more in West Virginia communities. Meanwhile, Mountain State schoolchildren will have more opportunities than ever before to enjoy and learn from WVU arts performances and programming.
College of Creative Arts officials said the outreach efforts will help children learn and prepare them to excel. Exposure to the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking and verbal skills. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence and teamwork.
Bainum understands the impact of access to the arts for children. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from WVU in 1982, and she has two children of her own.
“I believe in the arts, things that allow kids to discover something within themselves,” Bainum said. “And maybe they don’t, but even if they grow to have a sense of appreciation of music or appreciation for a beautiful painting or even graffiti – when you think about how beautiful graffiti can be if you start to look at it as art and expression – it can turn a switch for some people who might never get out of an economic disparity that is tragic, really, if they’re talented. Art also gives people hope, I think. If you can lose yourself in art at times, it makes the world a better place.”
Bainum has performed extensively in theater, film, television and cabaret. She resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with husband Stewart Bainum Jr., chairman of the board for Choice Hotels International.
The Bainum Family Foundation grant was awarded through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.