Belcher College announces new Catalyst Grants funding initiative

George H. Brown, dean of Western Carolina University’s David Orr Belcher College of Fine and Performing Arts, led the roll-out of a new Catalyst Grants initiative that will provide funding for innovative projects across the college during a meeting of its faculty and staff Tuesday, Aug. 13.

Allison Thorp (right), director of choral activities in WCU’s School of Music, discusses the new Catalyst Grants initiative with Mark McCoy, president of DePauw University.

The grant program is designed to address how the college can make the arts vital to WCU’s current and future students, the university community and the region. The mission of the Belcher College is “to inspire, educate and train our next generation of artists, scholars and teachers in the intellectual foundations and creative processes of the fine and performing arts while fostering excellence and artistic curiosity across Western North Carolina and beyond.” College leaders say the grants will support that mission and focus on three main areas: curricular innovation and development, creative placemaking and community engagement, and audience education and development.

As a part of the initiative roll-out, the Belcher College invited Mark McCoy, president of DePauw University in Indiana, to present to the college’s faculty and staff on the topic of innovation in relation to the new grant program. McCoy previously served as dean of the DePauw School of Music, and in that position he led a school “re-invention” that included the launch of the 21st-Century Musician Initiative, a complete re-imagining of the modern-day music school.

McCoy spoke to Belcher College faculty and staff during the college’s fall semester opening meeting about the need to be vulnerable, take risks, not fear failure and support each other’s ideas. “For these grants, there is no better way to kill innovation than with the word ‘how.’ It needs to be ‘wow’ before ‘how’,” he said.

The grants will fund innovative and impactful initiatives of students, faculty and staff that change the way the college engages the public through the arts. Funding proposals up to $10,000 will be considered. The grants will be awarded in November, with funded projects occurring throughout the 2020 calendar year.

All Catalyst Grants must address inclusiveness and diversity by seeking to eliminate barriers to the arts such as financial, cultural and educational, as well as be used to present and promote inclusiveness through the creative works or educational innovations developed through any award funding.