VCUarts Theatre receives $5M gift to create empathetic culture
6/23/2022, 6 p.m.
The Department of Theatre in the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCUarts Theatre) has received a $5 million gift to create three endowed funds to promote education and social awareness. The funds will help explore social justice through the lens of theatre and to cultivate an equitable and inclusive culture for students, faculty and staff.
“It is important to create art that informs us and challenges our point of view,” said Bonnie McCoy, chair of the Department of Theatre. “There are many contemporary topics that we can use theatre as a tool to examine issues related to social justice.”
The donor, James H.T. McConnell Jr. of Charlottesville, is a longtime supporter of a supporter of public education and children’s education. For almost two decades, he has supported the National Jewish Theater Foundation. “Social justice theatre is focused on getting the audience involved,” Mr. McConnell said. “The purpose is very appropriate today. VCU is the best school in the commonwealth for this purpose.”
Carmenita Higginbotham, an art historian and dean of the School of the Arts the “funds will continue to support rigorous work and expand our interests in the theatre department and social justice.”
Of the funds, $1.5 million will be used to establish the James H.T. McConnell Jr. Theatre Fellowship in Social Justice, which will support graduate students with a focus on advocating for social justice through theatre. The remaining funds will establish the James H.T. McConnell Jr. Theatre Chair in Social Justice and the James H.T. McConnell Jr. Theatre Faculty Fund in Social Justice, which will support a chair and faculty whose work, teaching curriculum and community focus demonstrate a commitment to social justice.
“It’s important to have grad students in the field who are able to go out and use theatre as a medium of education,” Mr. McConnell said. “Whether it be for simply lighthearted performances or something more serious.”