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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Grant funds LA Opera, kids programming

The Helen Renwick Claremont Library recently received a $100,000 Presidential Initiatives grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in honor of Claremont native Danielle Allen.

Ms. Allen, a 1989 Claremont High graduate, is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, and is the former past chair of the Mellon Foundation’s board of trustees.

The grant will enhance the library’s children’s and teen materials collection, establish the Danielle Allen Creative Cultivation Project, which will promote arts enrichment programming for children and teens, and fund an artist in residence program beginning in July with a series of visual art classes for kids.

Ms. Allen attended Foothill County Day School and CHS.

“I spent many, may weekend hours in that library, and some of my happiest childhood memories flow from that experience,” she said. “I love the library and hope it can inspire other children. My main hope is that the grant will help even more children become lovers of books, reading, and the life of the mind.”

Head Librarian Amy Crow was the grant’s primary proponent at the library.

“It was really exciting to have the opportunity,” she said. “We were contacted by The Mellon Foundation. Danielle Allen had identified organizations that she was interested in having apply for grant funding, and we were one of the organizations. It was really wonderful that she remembered her good experiences at the Claremont library.”

The $100,000 grant will be used over the next five years, with half of the money going toward purchasing children’s and teen titles, and the other half for enhanced arts programming.

The artist in residence program will be administered with assistance from Los Angeles-based art education organization Theater of Hearts. The five-week programs, with two-hour sessions once a week, will focus on different art mediums each summer, including storytelling, dance, theater, creative writing and dance. July’s program will focus on visual arts.

“It’s really kind of designed for eight- to 16-year-olds to come in and work with the same person each week to really develop a project over the course of the five weeks,” Ms. Crow said.

Last week’s LA Opera production of German Opera Tales was the first program funded by the grant.

“It’s a way to introduce attendees to the stories of the operas, and the performance aspect and the music,” Ms. Crow said. “And adults too, because it’s not an art form that everybody is just automatically exposed to. We wanted to jump on the opportunity to have the Opera Tales program because they’re really spectacular.

“We will have very special, professional caliber arts programs happening every summer.”

Ms. Allen is among Claremont’s most accomplished exports. Along with her Harvard professorship, she is a political theorist who has published widely in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought.

She is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), and Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. (2017), among other titles. She is the co-editor of the award-winning Education, Justice, and Democracy (with Rob Reich) and From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age (with Jennifer Light).

Along with her service on the Mellon board, she is also the past chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Ms. Allen is also the principal investigator for the Democratic Knowledge Project, a distributed research and action lab at Harvard University.

Ms. Allen visits Claremont regularly to see her mother.

“I am looking forward to the upcoming Fourth of July events,” she said.

Ms. Crow, 42, grew up near New York City and has lived in Claremont for 12 years. She was effusive when asked about the added value the grant money will bring to Claremont kids, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

“Today is my five year anniversary,” she said when the COURIER talked to her last week. “I started May 6, 2014. I just realized that when I was talking to my staff this morning. Today is five years exactly!”

More information about library programming is at lacountylibrary.org/claremont-library or (909) 621-4902.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

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