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Our Mission

Art of Culture (formerly Donda’s House Inc.) cultivates creative potential through artist & professional development, showcases and workshops.

We provide workshops and classes in order to enhance our artist’s song-writing and live performance skills. Our artists have access to professional instructors, mentors and industry professionals who help them grow and achieve their individual artistic goals. We also support the professional growth of our artists as they learn about “the business of art” including marketing, legal, and collaboration skills.

We develop and provide access to performance opportunities including intimate and large scale stages. From referring artists to external partners to curating large scale events like our Bridges to the Blues Program in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (DCASE) and Teens in the Park (TIP) Fest with Chicago’s Park District, we provide opportunities for young artists to showcase their art.

We connect artists to facilitate peer-to-peer learning communities. In 2019 we are launching our Artist Exchange Program where Chicago based artists will have the opportunity to travel to other global communities to learn about their culture, their artistic practices and their entrepreneurial infrastructure. The communities we visit will also visit Chicago to learn about our culture, artistic practice and entrepreneurial infrastructure as we facilitate a global community of artists who share values, work and culture.

We are responsive to the needs of our participants as we regularly provide events and learning opportunities based on the feedback and requests of the artists in our community.

To receive updates about our events, programs and opportunities for artists please click here to join our mailing list.

 
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Paying It Forward

“They opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me to be seen,” [Matt] Muse said. “I opened for Big Krit through Donda’s house. I performed at the Aahh! Fest with J. Cole and all of them.” These days he pays the spirit of his experience at Donda’s House forward, working in the local creative community as a teaching artist at Young Chicago Authors, where he helps youthful writers and performers find their voices and find their way.”

— Matt Muse Interview with Chicago Reader

 

Timeline of art of culture inc.

2010

- Che “Rhymefest” Smith announces his candidacy for 20th Ward Alderman for the City Council of Chicago. One of his ideas was to start an Art Center for youth in the Community.

2011

- Che “Rhymefest” Smith discusses this idea with multiple people including Kanye West. Donda’s House Inc. was founded by Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Kanye West & Donnie Belcher (formerly Donnie Smith) in December.

2012

- The founding members establish the Board of Directors, meet with potential partners and identify the type of programs and services it will initially offer.

2013

- Donnie Belcher becomes founding Executive Director of Donda’s House Inc. and the organization launches its first program “Got Bars” at the Ark of St. Sabina on August 1st.

- In December, the organization hosts “Behind the Boards” with S1. The event is the first of a series of intimate professional workshops where students and community have premium access to some of the industry’s most recognizable figures.

2014

- The organization starts hosting Open Mics in partnership with Common’s The Common Ground Foundation in preparation for AAHH! Fest at Union Park. The event happens September 21st and performers include MC Lyte, Lupe Fiasco, Jay Electronica, De La Soul, Kanye West, Common with host Dave Chappelle.

- In May, Donda’s House hosts Behind the Label w/ No ID. No ID is the Vice President of Def Jam Records.

- In July, Donnie Belcher, Executive Director is selected as an Open Society Foundation Black Male Achievement Echoing Green Fellow.

- In September, the organization takes a group of 15 to Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival. The organization hosts a tent in Cause Village with other nonprofit organizations including The Shawn Carter Foundation.  This is also the first event the organization participates in outside of Chicago.

- In December, Donda’s House launched a partnership with Second City resulting in an Improv Program for youth. The program continued for one full academic year.

- Donda’s House partners with Amnesty International and Hadiya’s Promise to host “Write 4 Rights” an event that encourages people to write letters on behalf of human rights issues and causes.

2015

- In January, The organization in partnership with Young Chicago Authors hosts Behind the Mic with Big Sean.

- In April, The organization hosts Behind the Curtain with Chester Gregory, a Broadway Actor from Gary, Indiana.

- In the Spring Cohort of “Got Bars,” Killer Mike of Run The Jewels visits the class to speak to the students.

- In June of 2015 Donda’s House hosts Behind the Mic with Big K.R.I.T. Lupe Fiasco also joins the conversation.

- In July of 2015, the organization partners with Creative Cypher to host “The Cycle” at Blue 1647, an event that features a short film followed by a panel discussion of policing and violence.

- In September, the organization takes a group of 15 to Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival. The organization hosts a tent in Cause Village with other nonprofit organizations including The Shawn Carter Foundation.  

2016

- The organization is invited by the Chicago Park District & Night Out in the Parks to co-produce Teens in the Park (T.I.P.) Fest. TIP Fest becomes the largest free music event for teens in the city with an attendance rate of 3,000+. Performers include Kweku Collins, Mark Hood, The Boy Illinois, Jamila Woods, Sir The Baptist, with a surprise performance by Katie Got Bandz.

- In March, Donda’s House hosts Behind the Label with Amir Windom.

- In September, Donda’s House was selected as the charity partner for Virgin Hotels Chicago via the Kind Traveler Platform. The partnership has included employee engagement opportunities, events and more.  

- The organization co-produces Community Day for AAHH! Fest with the Common Ground Foundation. Main Stage Performers include Sir The Baptist, The Internet, Common, The Roots, Bilal, J.Cole and Ice Cube. Community Day performers include Tink, Taylor Bennett, Vic Mensa, Chance the Rapper and host Malik Yusef.

- For the second time, Donda’s House co-produces Teens in the Park Fest (TIP Fest) with Chicago’s Park District and Night out in the Parks. Performers include:

- Donda’s House receives its first Safe and Peaceful Grant in order to host programming to prevent and address Chicago violence.

- In the Fall, Donda’s House hosts “Got Bars” at Columbia College.

- In November, Donnie Belcher, Executive Director & Che Smith, Creative Director are selected as recipients of New York University’s Hip Hop Education “Courage” Award for their work with Donda’s House. Other recipients include:

- In December, Donnie Belcher, Executive Director is selected as one of Ebony Magazine’s Ebony Power 100 Award Recipients in the “Woman Up” Category. Other recipients include:

2017

- In April, the organization in partnership with Chicago DCASE hosts Behind the Mic with Phonte.

- The organization co-produces TIP Fest again at Petrillo Music Shell. Performers include Taylor Bennett, Chynna Rogers, Femdot, Ric Wilson, Melo Makes music and Bianca Shaw.

- December 1st - The organization moves its headquarters to Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts.

- The organization begins hosting a monthly Cypher to highlight Chicago’s local emcees.

- Donda’s House receives it’s second Safe & Peaceful Grant in order to host programming to prevent and address Chicago violence.

- Donda’s House partners with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) in order to host the first Bridges to the Blues Program. An intergenerational program for musicians and vocalists that culminates in a performance at the Historic Chicago Blues Festival.

- The Honorable Hakim Dough  joins Donda’s House as Social Media Manager and is promoted to Communications Director.

2018

- Donda’s House receives the Safe and Peaceful Grant for the 3rd Year in a row. The funding is used to support the Creative Academy.

- In May of 2018, the organization changes its name from Donda’s House Inc. to Art of Culture, Inc.

- In July, Art of Culture partners with DCASE to host a workshop featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff and his rap group Trinity (including Dayne Jordan, Uhmeer and our own Rhymefest).

- Donda’s House partners with DCASE for the 2nd Cohort of the Bridges to the Blues Program. The organization partners with Kenny Beedy Eyes Smith & DCASE to host workshops and classes culminating in a performance at the Chicago Blues Festival.

- In August, Art of Culture Alumni sing the National Anthem at the 60th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show, followed by Creative Director doing a tandem jump with the Golden Knights.

- In September, Art of Culture co-produced Teens in the Park (TIP) Fest in partnership with Chicago Park District and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in Millennium Park. The festival was hosted by WGCI’s Kyle Santillian and headlined by P.I.V.O.T. Gang’s: Joseph Chilliams, MFn Melo, SqueakPIVOT and Frsh Waters.

2019

- Art of Culture announces it’s first Artist Exchange Program to Colombia at the City Gala Fundraiser in Los Angeles, California at a Post-Oscar Gala.

- Art of Culture Inc. co-produces the 5th Annual Teens in the Park (TIP) Fest at Millennium Park with Night Out in the Parks, the Chicago Park District and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in September of 2019.

- In September, the organization announces that Charleston “Hakim Dough” Parham has been named the new Executive Director. Co-Founder Donnie Belcher will continue to support Hakim Dough in his new leadership role and the organization behind the scenes, but she will no longer have a formal role in the organization as she has relocated to another state.