A University of Arkansas at Little Rock student has received a $25,000 grant to hold a Summer Arts Intensive program for students in Arkansas after participating in a grant writing class at UA Little Rock.
Neff Lankford, who is earning a master’s degree in education in the Learning Systems Technology Program, received the grant for Alliance of Arts, Inc., a Little Rock based nonprofit Lankford runs with her husband, Terence Lankford, an assistant principal at ScholarMade Achievement Place.
“My husband and I started Alliance of Arts in 2018,” Lankford said. “He’s a UAPB music major, and Terence recently graduated from UA Little Rock with a master’s degree in education. We first met working as artists in Little Rock’s live music sector. We soon realized that we both worked for Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School. He was the band director, and I was the dance instructor. Our careers took a turn into higher education and administration. We weren’t reaching the arts any more on a regular basis, so we decided to start a nonprofit to continue that opportunity.”
Alliance of Arts Inc. is one of 20 community foundations in Arkansas selected to receive funding from Facebook, Inc. to manage grant making to support Black communities and Black-led nonprofits. This commitment is part of Facebook’s broader $1.1 billion investment in Black and diverse suppliers and communities in the U.S.
The Community Foundation, in partnership with the Arkansas Black Philanthropy Collaborative, provided grants of up to $25,000 to support programs and initiatives specifically designed to impact Black people and communities in the Little Rock metropolitan area, which includes Pulaski, Saline, Perry, Grant, Faulkner, and Lonoke Counties.
“Facebook, Inc. provided the funding, the Community Foundation provided the infrastructure to make the grants and Black leaders in Central Arkansas determined which nonprofits received them,” said Heather Larkin, president and CEO of Arkansas Community Foundation.
The Lankfords will hold the four-week summer program in June 2022 at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock. The program will be open to up to 50 students in 6th-12th grades who have an interest in dance and music.
During the program, students receive an interdisciplinary program about art infusion. In addition to the arts, students also learn about mathematics, college test preparation, technology, English, and social and emotional well-being.
The Building Black Communities Fund grant also comes with social media training.
“They are coaching the nonprofits on how to build a strong social media presence, and they give us credits to promote our nonprofit organization on Facebook,” Lankford said. “They coach us on how to be a successful nonprofit. Those workshops have been very beneficial to my up and coming nonprofit.”
The last Alliance of Arts summer intensive program took place in 2019 and was funded by a $10,000 grant from philanthropist Clinton McDonald, an NFL defensive end player who assisted the Lankfords’ efforts to create programming for their summer program.
During the spring 2021 semester, Lankford joined Dr. Barbara L’eplattenier’s grant writing class with the goal of receiving a grant to fund the summer program.
“I wanted to take grant writing because I need to know how to tap into resources to provide for my students,” Lankford said. “A lot of times, the money has come out of our pockets. My husband is very articulate. We walked through the grant writing process together. I was completely grateful that I followed my heart. The class was a wealth of knowledge from Dr. Barb. I learned the importance of community in trying to create a winning grant proposal.”
In the grant writing class, students learn where to search for grants, how to create a budget, and how to write a grant in a narrative form that gets the story across to the grant reviewers.
“It’s thrilling when a student in the class gets awarded a grant,” said Dr. Barbara L’eplattenier, professor of rhetoric and writing. “It’s even more exciting when it’s for their own nonprofit. Because of this grant, kids had access to free private music and dance instruction. Ms. Lankford’s awarded grant shows how UA Little Rock and UA Little Rock students impact their communities.”
Lankford said she and her husband dream of one day opening an interdisciplinary performing arts academy that prepares students for successful futures as artists, musicians, educators, and business owners.
“I want to create an arts-infused interdisciplinary approach to education that creates awareness of the performing arts here in Arkansas,” she said. “We want to get our students educated, and we want them to go into great careers so they don’t have to be starving artists. They can be smart artists. A lot of artists live paycheck to paycheck, so we want to start something new and create a legacy of music, art, business, and education.”