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Culture Works awards University of Dayton's Graul Chair in Arts and Languages $10K for second Dayton Funk Music Symposium

By Ashley Junkunc '21

Culture Works and the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District awarded University of Dayton Graul Chair in Arts and Languages Sharon Davis Gratto $10,000 to support the second Dayton Funk Symposium.

Gratto hosted the first funk symposium in 2018 and hopes to present the second event in 2021, celebrating the rhythmic groove-based musical genre with deep roots in Dayton. She is passionate about global music and spreading its transformative benefits, and was ecstatic to learn that, of the 15 awarded applicants, her grant for the second Graul Chair Dayton Funk Music Symposium scored in the top three.

“My goal as the University’s Graul Chair is to make interdisciplinary connections and initiatives with the Dayton community,” Gratto said. “This project connects higher education to the local African American community.”

The symposium brings together scholars, teachers, students and performing artists to explore funk music. Dayton helped fuel the 1970s funk music boom, with nearly a dozen local bands on major record labels during the latter half of that decade, including the Ohio Players, Lakeside, Zapp and Heatwave. The event will include a collaboration with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and its Rockin' Orchestra series for a funk concert featuring Dayton artists.

The grant will be used to bring performers and presenters to campus, including keynote speaker, Ricky Vincent, the award-winning author of Funk: The Music, the People and the Rhythm of the One. Gratto wants to include more female speakers this time and invite back some presenters from the 2018 symposium, including author and UCLA African American studies and history professor, Scot Brown.

Culture Works, a nonprofit arts organization working to inspire, support and sustain arts and culture in the Dayton region, awarded the grant through a special projects program funded by the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District (MCACD). The organizations are aligned in their missions and partner on several programs and initiatives.

The special projects grant program, launched in 2020, awards up to $10,000 toward arts and cultural projects such as festivals, performances, programs and exhibitions. Culture Works and the MCACD awarded a total of $133,925 to 15 recipients for the 2020 cycle.

“I feel very fortunate to have received the maximum amount,” Gratto said. “These are tough times for the arts, and thank goodness for organizations like Culture Works, who support the arts. The arts are government-supported, not government-funded. We have to work harder to get the money and keep the arts alive, and we have to rely on philanthropic donors. This is everyone’s heart and soul, and we don’t want to lose that.”

Karen Maner, Culture Works grants manager, said grant recipients were chosen based on how each project will engage and impact the community, the professional experience of the artists and other personnel involved, and the quality of the plan in place.

“The University of Dayton’s proposal for the second Dayton Funk Music Symposium shined in all of these areas,” Maner said. “This event will present such a unique opportunity for our community to engage with locally, nationally and even internationally acclaimed artists and develop a deep appreciation for how Dayton has redefined music and art.”

Gratto worked with Jennifer Speed, the College of Arts and Sciences’ former grant advisor, to write the grant. Gratto submitted the proposal in May 2020. Her grant was chosen in July 2020.

The second symposium will be presented at Daniel J. Curran Place and is free to the public. Originally scheduled for September 2020 and then rescheduled for April 2021, the event has been postponed to November 2021 because of COVID-19 public health measures. Gratto hopes to host the symposium in person at a time when it is safe for attendees.

“People need to come and see what we do here at the University,” Gratto said. “UD is very active with social service projects, and this symposium is social interaction for educational reasons.”

Gratto, music professor and director of the University’s World Music Choir, joined the faculty in 2008 as department of music chair, a position she held for nine years. In 2017, she was appointed as the first female and fifth Graul Chair in Arts and Languages, a position named for Dr. Thomas C. and Janet M. Graul to promote interdisciplinary approaches with a focus on international perspectives.

For more information, visit the Dayton Funk Symposium’s website.

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