New Grant Program to Support Paid Nonprofit Co-op Opportunities for Dragons

Bearded Ladies Cabaret is one of the organizations which received the 2021 Art Works grant, and which Drexel co-op students could have the opportunity to work with starting next year.
Bearded Ladies Cabaret is one of the organizations which received the 2021 Art Works grant, and which Drexel co-op students could have the opportunity to work with starting next year.

Drexel University’s Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships is working with the Forman Arts Initiative (FAI) and the Philadelphia Foundation on an initiative that will connect Drexel co-op students with more nonprofit work opportunities. The new $3 million grant program called Art Works will support arts and culture initiatives and emerging artists in the Greater Philadelphia Area — and will tap Drexel students to help facilitate further assistance.

Above and beyond the grant to the artists and arts organizations, FAI is providing funds for interested students to work with organizations that reflect the region’s diversity and commitment to community as well as the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) leaders at the helm, all while also earning a working wage.

“It’s an unusual opportunity because this type of funding that addresses both student employment and the needs of the arts community doesn’t come around every day,” said Rosalind Remer, the executive director and vice provost for the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships, who serves as the liaison between Drexel and these art organizations. “It has the potential to really enrich the students' understanding of the nonprofit world and the art world.”

According to a press release announcing the Art Works initiative, the program will select four organizations annually to receive two-year, unrestricted grants of at least $50,000 per year. Four emerging visual or performing artists will also receive two-year grants of $10,000 per year. On July 20, the initial awardees were announced, including artists Jorge Rullán Fantauzzi, José A. Ortiz-Pagán, Sabriaya Shipley, and Tshay Williams, as well as local organizations Bearded Ladies Cabaret, Big Picture Alliance, BlackStar, Scribe Video Center, and Twelve Gates Arts.

These organizational recipients will be given the option to advertise for a co-op student to assist them for the span of the endowment. The Lenfest Center, with funding from FAI, will distribute students’ salaries to the organizations to employ the students — similar to what the Center has done since 2017 with funding from late philanthropist H. G. “Gerry” Lenfest and the Lenfest Foundation. This makes the situation a win-win all around, as artists and organizations will gain access to eager workers, and students will have the opportunity to gain valuable, paid experience working in the nonprofit sector.

With the focus on tackling long-term projects, Remer hopes co-op students will become exposed to the inner mechanics of these nonprofit teams and strive to complete tasks that have been on standby due to a lack of resources and disruption from the pandemic. From web design, to accounting, to communications, these organizations are looking for tenacious students from all disciplines to help build their infrastructure, Remer added. With $375,000 of funding allocated over five years, Drexel students will have the opportunity to apply for these positions starting the spring/summer 2022 co-op cycle.

“Drexel’s role is to help support the efforts of these arts organizations by providing co-ops who can join their teams to enhance their capacity and sustainability,” said Remer. “Chances are most of the positions will involve specific projects and deliverables.”

Melissa Fordyce, executive director of marketing and communications for the Philadelphia Foundation, said there is an incentive for students to work in the nonprofit sector, especially smaller organizations, as they stand to gain greater access to leadership development opportunities than might be available to them at larger companies.

“A lot of individuals [students] are attracted to intern or work for smaller nonprofit organizations because they can get more hands-on career experience,” she said. “A lot of times, individuals will be afforded the opportunity to be more intimately involved in the work of the organization (i.e. special events, team meetings and overall team planning), which also translates to a greater opportunity for impact.”

Having similarly gained nonprofit experience early on in her career, Fordyce encourages students from all academic backgrounds to consider these opportunities, despite their ultimate career goals or range of experience.

Remer also stated the importance of this grant’s mission statement, which is to help BIPOC organizations that have historically lacked funding. According to the release, the Art Works  initiative has come to light as a way to aid emerging artists and diverse organizations that help underserved communities through cultural and artistic endeavors, especially following the financial strife created by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent study by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, 41% of regional art organizations were not anticipated to survive the pandemic this year based on current contributions and earned income.

In essence, the grant aims to support young organizations and artists with funding for operational costs to cover day-to-day operations — from rent to art materials. Do you also want to help support such important artistic endeavors and work? Interested students should keep an eye out for future listings and apply.

“It’s a really cool opportunity that will only be going on for the next five years,” said Phil Fitzgerald, executive director of grantmaking for the Philadelphia Foundation, and 2002 Drexel graduate with a BS in International Area Studies. 

Are you a Drexel student interested in these future co-op opportunities? Potential applicants are advised to keep a close eye on the upcoming listing of co-ops and are encouraged to reach out to Remer about any questions, comments, or concerns at