In 1994, Polk Bros. Foundation issued a Request for Proposals that announced, “The Foundation seeks proposals for educational outreach programs that go beyond events and visits – beyond entertainment – to provide a lasting set of experiences to enhance and improve children’s lives and learning. We are interested in programs that integrate the arts into teaching and learning; where cultural institutions and schools work together to create these programs; and where children, teachers and parents all gain in the process…”
In two subsequent RFPs issued in 1998 and 2000, the call was expanded to include Chicago’s collections- and research-based scientific institutions and emphasis was placed on classroom change and evaluation. Thirty-five grants, totaling $2,112,300, were awarded through those RFPs.
An independent evaluation indicated that the program was “helping to transform these institutions and to reach populations of students they would not otherwise reach.” Indeed, these partnerships have resulted in the development of rigorous professional learning programs for teachers and inspiring, interactive learning experiences for students, and have energized teaching and learning across the city in science, math, and the humanities. The successes and learnings from the “major culturals” initiative encouraged the Foundation to fold this approach into its regular Arts Access and Learning grantmaking.