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Keller and Franzén Grants – 2024

Through two major grants, the Capitol Hill Community Foundation is investing in organizations that cultivate outreach networks to enhance our neighborhood’s quality of life. While the recipients of these $25,000 grants have distinct missions and constituencies, both are deeply rooted in local partnerships that strengthen the fabric of our community.

Sasha Bruce Youthwork will receive the Arnold F. Keller, Jr. Grant, created to fuel new initiatives or expand existing programs. The Franzén Award for the Arts, honoring John Franzén’s dedication to making our neighborhood a cultural hub, will help Mosaic Theater Company expand and deepen its relationships across Capitol Hill.

“The Foundation aims to do more than just provide funding,” said Mark Weinheimer, chairman of the Foundation’s grants committee. “These grants enable us to help create and sustain connections among key community organizations and resources.”

Sasha Bruce: Early Intervention for Youths in Crisis
As Sasha Bruce celebrates 50 years of providing housing, counseling, job training, and other services for thousands of young adults experiencing homelessness, the Keller Grant will support its new program to help prevent youths from becoming arrested in situations when providing family support and respite would produce better results. “We know that once young people are exposed to the juvenile justice system, they are more likely to be involved with it in the future,” said Deborah Shore, Sasha Bruce founder and director. “This program can help avoid that by reaching young people and their families at the earliest point of the rupture—the moment of crisis.”

Sasha Bruce is piloting the program in partnership with the District’s Metropolitan Police Department, Office of the Attorney General (OAG), and Department of Human Services (DHS) to respond to 911 calls involving intra-family conflict that have often been resolved by arresting the child. Instead, through the program, two Sasha Bruce crisis intervention specialists will respond alongside the police and immediately offer respite for the youth as well as family counseling services for as long as necessary.

Shore said there’s been an increase in the number of families calling the police in moments of conflict, which then requires the OAG to help determine whether to make an arrest. In many cases, the family later declines to press charges against the teenager, leaving the factors that led to the crisis unaddressed. In addition, even when the juvenile justice system becomes involved, it has traditionally focused on youths outside of the context of their families.

Through the new program, Sasha Bruce will introduce family-oriented social services for young people who have run into trouble at home or at school. Working with law enforcement, Sasha Bruce crisis intervention specialists will identify these youths early and, with the parents’ consent, take them to Sasha Bruce House on Capitol Hill—the city’s only shelter for people under age 18. There, skilled family counselors will provide support to resolve the conflicts, provide case management, and connect the youths and their families with an array of services, including family counseling at their home and help in accessing public benefits.

Shore notes that the youth crime rate is exacerbated by the same factors that contribute to chronic homelessness among young people, including conflict with a parent, guardian, or a non-related adult living in the household, as well as poverty, housing insecurity, and behavioral health issues. “This new program is a logical extension of the work we’ve been doing for years to address homelessness,” said Shore. “It’s a wonderfully innovative way to direct these families in crisis to the services they need and help families to stay together and be stronger”

And for some teenagers, it could mean staying in school, pursuing their dreams, and avoiding involvement in the juvenile justice system for good.

Mosaic Theater: Multifaceted Outreach for the Arts
At a time when countless theater companies nationwide have succumbed to financial strains and diminished audiences following the pandemic shutdown, the Mosaic Theater Company has thrived. Much of its success stems from its partnerships across Capitol Hill and the entire city, which attract and cultivate new audiences for Mosaic’s productions of new plays and world premieres. Each year, the company collaborates with over 40 partner schools and organizations that are deeply connected to Washington’s multifaceted communities and cultures.

“Confederates” actors with residents of Aspenwood Senior Living Community and high school student participants after an Intergenerational Matinee performance and post-show discussion. Photo: Chris Banks.

As Mosaic celebrates its 10th season, the Franzén Grant will provide additional resources for hosting discussions and events in collaboration with partners such as The Hill Center, Folger Theater, Capitol Hill schools, and the Smithsonian Institution. “These partnerships are mutually beneficial,” said Serge Seiden, Mosaic’s managing director. “In theater, there have always been co-productions, but the idea of cross-promotion that un-silos organizations is a new and wonderful thing.”

Reginald L. Douglas, Ifa Bayeza, and Phylicia Rashad at Reflection Series post-show discussion of “The Till Trilogy.” Photo: Tony Powell.

From its inception, Mosaic has used its productions to engage the community in meaningful dialogue, learning, and action through its Reflections Series, including concerts, readings, panel discussions, and symposiums. Most recently, the Museum of the American Indian hosted an interview by Theater J Artistic Director Haley Finn with Rhiana Yazzie, the Navajo playwright who penned “Nancy,” a play produced at Mosaic in April. “This was an opportunity to showcase our artists while bringing new audiences to the museum,” Seiden said.

In fact, in just 10 years Mosaic has programmed over 700 panel discussions and conversations in-person and online. For example, Mosaic followed every performance of “Confederates” with a post-show discussion featuring Black women talking about what freedom means to them and introducing audiences to various nonprofits, such as the Georgetown Racial Justice Institute, Arts Administrators of Color, the Student Internet Equity Coalition, and numerous area museums and theaters.

“Monumental Travesties” Reflection Series event with Mosaic and Hill Center staff at the Emancipation Memorial with Howard University Professor Dr. Kay Wright Lewis. Photo: Sabrina Garland Sash.

“We have seen how the arts can be a powerful tool for bringing people and communities together,” Seiden said. “We intentionally work across the H Street and Capitol Hill communities because they are distinct yet interconnected neighborhoods.” For “Monumental Travesties,” Mosaic partnered with The Hill Center to delve into the history and controversy surrounding the Emancipation Memorial—a statue of Lincoln standing over a cowering formerly enslaved man that is familiar to anyone who has crossed Lincoln Park. The play unfolds when a Black performance artist removes Abraham Lincoln’s head from the statue in an act of protest. Mosaic and The Hill Center hosted a walking tour at the memorial and a discussion with the playwright, Psalmayene 24, Mosaic Artistic Director Reginald L. Douglas, and Dr. Kay Wright Lewis, a Howard University history professor.

In addition, Mosaic’s free Intergenerational Matinees for high school students and older adults contribute to the Reflections Series. These performances include pre-show study guides and post-show conversations with Mosaic’s staff, actors, and audience members of all ages, bringing various experiences and perspectives to the discussion. (The next Intergenerational Matinees will be held on May 23 and 30 at 11 a.m.)

“The effort to produce the Reflections Series is significant,” Seiden said. Douglas conceptualizes the series, but it takes hours of staff time to coordinate the program and make it work. The Franzén Grant will support hiring a dedicated engagement consultant as well as providing honoraria for the participants. “The Foundation has been an early partner and believer in our vision to cultivate new audiences, foster community partnerships, and spark conversation, learning, and action around critical issues facing our community and our world,” Seiden said. “We are excited to continue to strengthen and expand that work.”

To learn more, visit CapitolHillCommunityFoundation.org, SashaBruce.org, and MosaicTheater.org

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