Lied Center receives Mellon Foundation grant for new DEI curriculum leveraging the performing arts

Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist Frank Waln and dancer Lumhe Micco Sampson, Seneca/Mvskoke Creek, performed for a crowd on the Lied Center stage in the 2017-18 season.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $466,000 grant over a three-year period to the University of Kansas’s Lied Center to support the “Utilizing the Performing Arts to Enhance Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives” project.

The project will consist of the creation, implementation and assessment of a new curriculum at KU that will explore issues of diversity, equity and inclusion through the performing arts. The DEI curriculum will have an interdisciplinary approach and will feature Lied Center guest performing artists who represent and uplift marginalized identities and voices through their work. The curriculum framework will be developed through collaboration among the selected visiting artists and a DEI workgroup, which will include members from KU’s Office of Diversity and Equity, Center for Undergraduate Research, Office of First Year Experience and Center for Teaching Excellence, as well as Indigenous consultant Jancita Warrington.

The implementation of the new curriculum will provide the opportunity for faculty, staff and students to engage in meaningful and immersive workshops, presentations and class discussions centered on the visiting performing artists, exploring topics and themes relating to social justice, marginalized identities, intersectionality and more.

“Thanks to the generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this project will amplify how the arts can contribute to research and creating community at the University of Kansas,” said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “In particular, the development of a new curriculum will support our University’s DEI initiatives by leveraging the presence of visiting performing artists curated by the Lied Center.”

The workgroup supporting the DEI curriculum will include individuals with experience and knowledge in curriculum development and assessment, broaching difficult and sensitive subject matter, and working with diverse audiences to create an adaptable, interdisciplinary framework that centers on the visiting performing artists’ work.

Overall, the goal of the “Utilizing the Performing Arts to Enhance DEI Initiatives” project is to improve accessibility of the performing arts and to create new and impactful engagement opportunities that broaden the way people experience and think about the arts. Another important goal of the project is to make an impact on the community by representing KU’s diverse student body and community in the performing arts—which can have profound effects for individuals who see their own identities represented onstage, and can also help increase understanding and empathy for those who aren’t represented in marginalized groups by learning more about these topics.

Lied Center Executive Director Derek Kwan comments, “The Lied Center has a programming history representative of a wide variety of marginalized identities, and we have been fortunate to partner with many offices across campus to create meaningful student engagement opportunities. We are truly grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for allowing us to greatly broaden the reach and deepen the impact of these efforts through the new DEI curriculum.”