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Brown Arts Initiative debuts David Dornstein ’85 Grant

New BAI grant allows graduating student artists to apply for up to $25,000 

The Brown Arts Initiative introduced the David Dornstein ’85 Artist Grant on Jan. 4. The new grant will award a total of $50,000 annually to at least one graduating senior and graduating graduate student, with each being eligible to receive up to $25,000. 

Applications for the grant, which are available on the UFunds website, opened on Jan. 12 and will close on Feb. 15. Applicants are required to submit a written narrative of their desired project, responses to a series of short response questions, a budget proposal and three letters of recommendation. Top applicants will move on to an interview with a faculty committee of arts professors in March, with final decisions made in early spring. 

This program is designed “to provide an exceptional next step opportunity for truly motivated students who want to investigate life as an artist after graduation,” said Thalia Field ’88 MFA ’95, faculty director of BAI and professor of literary arts. 

She noted that while many smaller artist grants exist, this new grant is for students who wish to complete an ambitious project beyond the scope of existing grants. 

“It is a game changer for the arts on campus,” Field said. 

The BAI was approached by an anonymous donor that wished to honor Dornstein and impact students in a large way. After many conversations, the David Dornstein ’85 Artist Grant was formed. 

Dornstein was one of 270 victims in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988. “He was returning home to New York from Israel after working on a project for Alternatives in Jewish Education” when the tragedy occured over Lockerbie, Scotland, according to the David Dornstein Family Papers. While at the University, he wrote for The Herald and studied writing. 

Chira DelSesto, director of programs and operations at the BAI, said that this grant has debuted at a particularly difficult time for artists. 

“During this time, when artists have been so hard hit by the pandemic, and people have seen gigs dry up, it’s really hard for students to be able to find jobs in the arts once they graduate,” said DelSesto. “This is a way to kind of bridge that gap a bit.”

This grant could cover anything from screenplays to art galleries or theatrical performances. The BAI has other small grants and has funded groups such as the Ivy Film Festival, Fashion@Brown and individual students like Madeline Greenberg ’21.

Greenberg recently received the BAI Student Grant, which, unlike the Dornstein Grant, only awards up to $1,000 per student. Her project, called “Face the Data,” is a portfolio from 2017 to the present day that includes all of her digital movements on social media, internet searches and pictures, The Herald previously reported. 

Greenberg used her grant money to help fund her collaboration with three artists, Maya Man, Lins Derry and Addie Wagenknech. Her project, which is to be featured on the BAI website as an interactive exhibition, will be available for viewing in February. 

As someone who has gone through the process of applying for and receiving a BAI Grant, Greenberg had a few words of advice for future Dornstein Grant recipients. 

“Don’t be intimated, go for it. The process of applying is as valuable as the work itself,” she said. “Practicing putting words to the projects you find meaningful is the first step to understanding what you find to be transformative or powerful.”


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