Every year, the Capitol Hill Community Foundation provides grants and other support to dozens of neighborhood organizations that strengthen the fabric of our community through social services, contributions to arts and culture, youth programming, and more. But beyond these grants of up to $5,000, the foundation provides $25,000 Keller and Franzén Grants to two outstanding organizations to help fund major new initiatives.
This year, the foundation is proud to award these grants to Story of Our Schools and Chiarina Chamber Players for their efforts to enrich education and the arts in our neighborhood and its schools. “We have a long history of supporting these two groundbreaking organizations,” said Mark Weinheimer, chair of the Capitol Hill Community Foundation’s grants committee. “These grants give us the opportunity to help create unique experiences that will captivate our residents.”
Story of Our Schools
Jen Harris founded Story of Our Schools in 2015 to celebrate the role of schools in our city’s history by creating permanent exhibits that bring community stories to life. Through its partnerships with DC schools, SOOS invites students themselves to research and develop the storylines that showcase their school’s past, with the guidance of teachers, parents, community members, and museum professionals. Then SOOS transforms the students’ work into museum-quality exhibits that inform, inspire, and instill a sense of pride among the school’s community.
SOOS has produced exhibits at five schools, including Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, Payne Elementary School, and Eliot-Hine Middle School. The Keller Grant will help fund one of the next three projects underway through a partnership with Eastern High School, known as “the Pride of Capitol Hill.”
“Schools not only educate their students but also serve as community hubs,” said Harris. “A permanent exhibit, honoring the history of Eastern while lifting up community voices, is a long-term investment in the Capitol Hill community. We are excited to help bring together the past and present through primary research, our neighbors’ stories, and historical photographs that will help to tell a powerful story for generations to come.”
Like all SOOS projects, this effort is built on community collaboration, with students at the heart of the project. Harris will manage the project’s partnerships, fundraising, school engagement, community outreach, and exhibit design and installation. Ellen Dodsworth, Eastern High School’s reference librarian, will lead an SOOS program that engages Eastern students, with the research support of Kimberly Springle, the executive director of the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives.
The students will learn about the history of Eastern based on the information collected by Dodsworth, Springle, and Harris. The three collaborators are poring over artifacts that have been collected by Eastern High School and Sumner’s archives for decades. Next they will develop an exhibit “script,” mapping out the school’s story, timeline, and artifacts to be included.
In the fall, the participating students will bring their own insights and stories to the project. Each of them will design a project based on a section of Eastern’s history, showcased through formats such as artwork, poetry, video, movie shorts, and oral history interviews, which ultimately will be included in the exhibit. Following the exhibit’s professional design, Harris expects it to be installed and unveiled by January 2023 — just in time for the building’s 100th anniversary.
The full cost of the project is estimated at about $80,000, with the Keller Grant supporting outreach to Eastern’s tight-knit community of residents and alumni as well as new members of the community. “Projects and exhibits of this caliber are expensive, but they are big and bold,” said Harris. “They attract interest and encourage conversations about tough topics like gentrification and education equality. They also engage the senses on a level not often encountered in our daily digital worlds.”
Chiarina Chamber Players
Since its founding in 2015, Chiarina Chamber Players has been delighting Capitol Hill audiences — and no one more than John Franzén, who was one of the ensemble’s most ardent supporters. So it is fitting that the first annual grant awarded in Franzén’s memory will support this pillar of our arts community.
Chiarina founders Efi Hackmey, a pianist, and Carrie Bean Stute, a cellist, assemble a world-class roster of guest musicians from Washington and beyond to perform about seven concerts every year. With the Franzén Award for the Arts, this September and October they will expand this work by collaborating with the Grammy-award winning Attacca Quartet on a series of educational workshops and concerts in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The quartet features Domenic Salerni, a renowned violinist and composer who has appeared with Chiarina several times as a guest artist.
The Attacca Quartet has performed at some of the nation’s most celebrated venues, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Wolf Trap, and Tanglewood. Now three Hill public schools and St. Mark’s Church will join the list. “Our hope is that by presenting one of the country’s finest string quartets in an accessible setting, we will add to the quality of life and vibrancy of our neighborhood, while also inspiring public school students with a unique musical experience,” said Hackmey. “This is a rare opportunity to hear a touring ensemble of the highest caliber in our own backyard.”
“The Attacca Quartet has a long track record of presenting in-school concerts and educational residencies,” said Bean Stute. “They have a robust curriculum for public school students and will tap into their full range of expertise by providing in-school demonstrations and performances.”
The quartet’s residency will culminate in two public performances to open Chiarina’s 2022–2023 season — both featuring the Attacca Quartet performing its own repertoire, paired with a piano quintet with Hackmey in the first concert and a cello quintet with Bean Stute in the second. As Hackmey notes, “It’s very exciting to start our season with performances funded by the inaugural Franzén Award.”
“We share the Capitol Hill Community Foundation’s vision for making our neighborhood a cultural destination,” said Bean Stute. “And through this collaboration, we will reach as broad a constituency as possible—people who have never heard a string quartet before as well as regular concertgoers.”
“Thanks to the generosity of our foundation’s many donors, we can support the kind of extraordinary educational and cultural experiences that make Capitol Hill unique,” said Nicky Cymrot, the foundation’s president. “It is truly a privilege to contribute to the work of Story of Our Schools and Chiarina, as well as dozens of other nonprofits dedicated to sustaining our robust community life.”
The foundation will celebrate its 38th Annual Capitol Hill Community Achievement Awards with a garden party and awards presentation on May 24 at St. Mark’s Church, Capitol Hill. Tickets to the fundraising event can be purchased beginning on April 1 at CapitolHillCommunityFoundation.org.