Inaugural Community Guest Small Grants

Students in Linda C. Samuels’ urban design studio listen to Julia Allen while on a tour of the Ville neighborhood.

Posted by Liz Kramer February 11, 2021


Engaging community in coursework can add tremendous value to the curriculum, but it also can be a time-consuming endeavor for the community members involved. Scheduling, coming to class, sharing their expertise, and answering questions take time and energy. Community partners become co-educators, working side-by-side with faculty to help students learn. 

This school year, the Office for Socially Engaged Practice launched the CityStudioSTL Community Guest Small Grants (CGSG) to support more mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationships with individuals and organizations across St. Louis. CGSGs provide a small honorarium to community members from the St. Louis region who are participating in courses across the Sam Fox School, from guest lectures to reviews to partnerships. Faculty are particularly encouraged to invite guests who will bring diverse and/or underrepresented experiences and perspectives into the classroom, including guests representing diverse racial, socioeconomic, and gender perspectives.

In the first semester of the program, three courses applied for grants to support their guests. In architecture, visiting assistant professor Ian Trivers received funding for his course River City Redevelopment to support the participation of two Alton community members: Penelope Schmidt and Libby Reuter. Schmidt, a longtime Alton resident and an active community member, participated regularly in the class, including supporting Trivers in identifying readings, sites, and content for the course. Reuter joined the class to speak specifically about her Watershed Cairns project, in which she assembles and installs a site-specific, found glass sculpture to mark a particular watershed. 

 “I was pleased to share my accumulated experience with the class and happy to assist the students’ curiosity when they had follow-up questions,” Schmidt said. “The practice of social engagement with the community is a wonderful laboratory for testing academic theories and real-world problem solving. It has been a privilege for me to be involved.”

Reflecting on the grants, Trivers said, “Having community guests speak to the class was critical to illuminate the rich history and pressing issues of Alton—especially in a remote semester where most of the students could not visit the city in person. Even without visiting, we developed an intimate understanding of the issues, hopes, and concerns of many in the Alton community. It was important that we could recognize the valuable contributions of the community members to the class through the Community Guest Small Grants.”

Lecturer Sage Dawson and professor Jack Risley applied for funding to support bringing local artists engaged in artist-run spaces in St. Louis to join Methods and Contexts I, a course focused on juniors in studio art. The artists Kevin McCoy (MFA19) and Dani McCoy of Work/Play and Yowshien Kuo—are all active in the St. Louis art community, managing spaces, staging exhibitions, and engaging broadly in critical St. Louis topics. 

As an example of the impact of the visits, Dawson mentioned the conversation between the students and Kuo. “Kuo spoke in depth about his studio practice and his experience co-organizing the artist-run gallery space Monaco,” Dawson said. “Our students asked a lot of questions at the close of the lecture, and the result was a candid conversation about cultivating a sustainable artistic practice.” 

In urban design, associate professor Linda C. Samuels sought support to engage Julia Allen, co-founder of 4theVille, a community-based tourism and arts organization created by multi-generational Ville residents and volunteers to restore pride in the legacy of this neighborhood. As part of the graduate studio, Allen was a significant community contact, sharing her knowledge about the neighborhood and her vision for its next steps through reviews and other visits to class. 

Samuels noted that Allen brought depth to the class, in part through her personal experiences. For example, during a tour with Aaron Williams, one of the other co-founders of 4theVille, “[Allen] filled in with lived experiences from her long-time history as a resident of the Ville neighborhood. In addition to personal reflections of her own childhood and the evolution of her family home, she described Sumner High School when it was full of thousands of students, the parades that Annie Malone would emcee on the main streets of the neighborhood, and how busy and lively the scene was,” Samuels said. “She really recreated a sense of the experience of being there for the students, a sense of why these sites are so significant to remember as active and living components of St. Louis’s rich Black culture. It was wonderful to pair her experiences and narrative with Aaron.” 

Applications for CGSGs are currently open for spring 2021. Submitted applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, assessing for relevance to learning objectives, potential impact of participation, and the opportunity to add diverse voices, experiences, and perspectives to class. Faculty who are applying for CityStudioSTL Course Grants or Studio Grants are required to include community honorarium in their grant applications for the same course. 

About CityStudioSTL

CityStudioSTL supports a series of community engagement and outreach projects that bring together students in architecture, art, and design with partners in the city of St. Louis. It is generously supported by Gina and Bill Wischmeyer, BA69/MArch71. More information is available here>>

About CityStudioSTL Community Guest Small Grants

Community Guests Small Grants (CGSG) provide a small honorarium to compensate community members acting as co-educators in Sam Fox School courses or studios for their time and energy. CGSG funds seek to encourage more equitable engagement with the St. Louis community, and to bring perspectives from community leaders, those with lived experience, and local organizations into the classroom and studio. Grants are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the semester. More information is available here>>