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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

NEA Awards Old Dominion Its First Arts Grant

Old Dominion has received its first grant from the National Endowment for the Arts - $20,000 to help produce the multi-media project "Birth of an Answer" that is being developed by Avi Santo, director of the University's Institute of Humanities.

"We thought we had a really innovative project that was worthy of consideration, and we're glad the NEA panelists thought so as well," Santo said.

"The prestige the NEA carries is really paramount here," he continued. "This award recognizes Old Dominion University, the Humanities Institute and 'Birth of an Answer' in ways they haven't been recognized before."

"Birth of an Answer" is an evening of music, discussion and film planned for Sept. 18 at the Attucks Theatre in downtown Norfolk to mark the 100th anniversary of the landmark film "Birth of a Nation." Rather than celebrate the racist vision put forth in that film, "Birth of an Answer" focuses on 100 years of African American creative resistance to stereotypes and misrepresentation in popular media.

Santo has commissioned original music from University professor Adolphus Hailstork to accompany a screening of pioneer African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux's "Within Our Gates" (1920), enlisted a blue-chip panel of film experts that includes actor Tim Reid, director Melvin Van Peebles and producer Stephanie Allain Bray, and oversaw an original short film, "Our Nation," that will debut on Sept. 18.

"Our Nation" was written by David Mallin, head of Old Dominion's film program, and directed by University alumnus Derrick Borte. Students in Mallin's "Advanced Filmmaking" class assisted in the production of the movie.

"Securing such a significant grant is a testament to the dedication and perseverance that Dr. Santo has exhibited since assuming the helm of the Humanities Institute," said Charles Wilson, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. "We are fortunate to have such a determined colleague."

Santo said the grant will pay for a variety of production costs. Applications are still out for other grants, but the NEA endorsement is invaluable to his plans for the Humanities Institute, he said.

"Being able to position ourselves as a program that has been recognized by the NEA signals to other grantors and donors that we've reached a certain level of accomplishment," he said. "Hopefully that will lead to greater contributions to our cause."

Santo's project is also supported by Old Dominion's Office of the President, the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, the F. Ludwig Diehn Concert Series, as well as the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. Other collaborators include the Crispus Attucks Cultural Center, the Norfolk Chamber Consort, the Virginia Arts Festival and WHRO.

More information about "Birth of an Answer" and the movie "Our Nation" is available at the film's Facebook page as well as at ODU.edu.

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