28th Annual Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grant Program Call for Proposals—Mini-Grants to Honor Ezra’s 100th Birthday by Accepting Only Keats-Themed Submissions
Nearly $850,000 Given Directly to Educators at Public Schools and Libraries across the United States—Deadline Extended to March 31, 2016
Recent EJK Mini-Grants Helped Disadvantaged Teens Get Creative in Blue Island, IL; 2nd Graders Make Murals in Philadelphia, PA; and Young Artists Discover Nature in Piermont, NY
New York—The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, which fosters children’s love of reading and creative expression in our diverse culture, celebrates the 28th year of its Mini-Grant program—and Keats’s 100th birthday—with a call for proposals that reflect the work and vision of the program’s namesake.
Approximately 60 grants of up to $500 each will be awarded to qualifying teachers and librarians at public schools and libraries across the country. The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2016, and decisions will be emailed to all applicants in early May, allowing educators to plan for the next academic year.
“For almost 30 years it has been our pleasure to fund programs focused on the widest variety of subjects proposed by educators across the country,” Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, said. “This year, to honor Ezra’s centenary, we’re excited to invite teachers and librarians to join in his birthday party by devoting their Mini-Grant proposals to fund programs that celebrate some aspect of his books and his vision of childhood. Ezra’s 100th Birthday Mini-Grant Celebration is a once-in-a-lifetime event!”
Since 1987, the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has provided nearly $850,000 in support of Mini-Grant programs spanning the 50 states and the U.S. Commonwealth. To learn more about Mini-Grants, including this year’s criteria, visit Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grants.
Keats is best known for his beloved classic picture book The Snowy Day, which broke the color barrier in mainstream children’s publishing. His words and images reflect the experience of childhood in our diverse culture.
Last year’s exceptional Ezra Jack Keats Mini-Grant programs included:
Creative Nonsense Library Zine (Blue Island Public Library, Blue Island, IL)
Using professional-grade art supplies purchased with EJK Mini-Grant funds, the Teen Open Studio of the Blue Island Public Library created a “library zine,” a self-published periodical of writing and visual art.
“The art supplies have opened up a whole new world, since we are poor and surrounded by poorer,” says Deborah Beasley, the library’s Youth Services Manager. “If you can’t afford food, and the recession has hit the area hard, a parent cannot spare the money for ink, paint or paper. The materials purchased with the grant money are university- or professional-grade, and our teens are aware of this privilege and appreciative.”
Adds librarian Micah Rademacher, who runs the Library Zine program, “For our teens, having a creative outlet and the chance to create something beautiful cannot be overstated. I am continually surprised with their constructive criticism and non-judgmental support of each other. In a very short time, they have formed a cohesive and productive work group.”
Keats-Inspired Mural (Penn Alexander School, Philadelphia, PA)
An EJK Mini-Grant was used to finance a Mural Arts project for 72 second-grade students.
First, students examined murals, a vibrant part of Philadelphia public art, on buildings surrounding their school. They also studied Keats’ books, paying special attention to the characters and artwork. Next, working with an Artist-in-Residence, the students began sketching and painting individual pictures based on their research. And finally, they combined their pictures to create a massive mural, which was hung in the school’s atrium. At the end of the school year, students took home their artwork, and copies were bound in a commemorative book for permanent display in the library.
Says Maryann Milewski-Moskal, the teacher who applied for the EJK Mini-Grant, “What made the Mural Arts project so fabulous is that it included many aspects of the school curriculum. Students learned to plan, sketch, measure, imagine and create—and combine literature, art and math in a unique way.”
Capturing the Natural Environment Through Art (Dennis P. McHugh Piermont Public Library, Piermont, NY)
Fourteen students, grades 4 to 8, became Artists-in-Residence, exploring, sketching and taking pictures of Sparkill Creek, the Hudson River and the 11,000-year-old, 1,000-acre Piermont Marsh, an ecologically unique component of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Their observations would result in an exhibit of prints, paintings and photographs of this inspiring natural environment.
The EJK Mini-Grant provided students with disposable cameras and printmaking materials to learn block printing, monotype and photo-transfer. Library staff and a member of a local environmental committee were on hand to help with research on ecology and wildlife, while the students bonded as they explored their surroundings.
For a full month, Piermont Library featured the artists’ work in an exhibit in the Library Gallery. Noted Alexis L. Starke, children’s art teacher at the library, “Sometimes we take for granted our everyday surroundings even when we live in quite beautiful and dramatic ones, as we do here in Piermont. Seeing the landscapes, animals and vegetation of the area interpreted in the students’ artwork allowed everyone to appreciate them more and see them from a new perspective.”