In 1997, The Kirkpatrick Foundation convened a meeting of faculty from the various arts departments of public and private universities and colleges in Oklahoma. The purpose was to identify resources and possible collaborative opportunities that would ultimately heighten Oklahoma’s cultural education climate. The partnerships that were developed among the campus faculty of singular institutions as well as among faculty across institutional lines have been remarkable.
A strategic planning process led to the formalization of this group of outstanding and dedicated leaders in higher education. The DaVinci Institute, established in 1998 as a 501© (3) not-for-profit, functions as an Oklahoma-think tank whose mission is to promote a statewide creative renaissance through lectures, workshops, professional development, research and advocacy.
During the first few years of operation the DaVinci Institute focused on three primary goals: 1) improving K-12 education 2) sharing arts resources, and 3) raising public awareness of arts and cultural offerings at higher education institutions.
To begin their collaborative work in K-12 education, the DaVinci Institute and the Kirkpatrick Foundation conducted a joint research project that resulted in the initiation of Oklahoma A+ Schools, a whole school reform model which maintains that two-way integration of the arts in curriculum plays a central role in how children learn. Beginning with 14 elementary schools in 2002-2003, Oklahoma A+ Schools has grown to more than 50 schools throughout Oklahoma (www.aplusok.org). This nationally recognized program is housed in the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
The DaVinci Scholars program was established in 2003 to recognize outstanding teacher education graduates from Oklahoma colleges and universities who are exemplified by their creative teaching methods and potential to influence their students. In 2008, through the generosity of the Martin Family Foundation, the program was expanded to recognize at least ten graduates who teach in Oklahoma schools (see Scholars) with a monetary award.
2006 saw the establishment of the DaVinci Fellows awards. Acting on the premise that creative thought and insight are fundamental components of extraordinary scholarship across academic disciplines, this award recognizes higher education faculty whose accomplishments reflect a creative approach and a high degree of innovation to complex issues and have made a significant contribution to their academic discipline. Each recipient receives a monetary prize as well as a medallion which depicts Leonardo DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. (see Fellows)
In partnership with Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, the Kirkpatrick Foundation, and A+ Schools, in 2004, DaVinci Institute members began discussing the potential impact which would derive from transforming Oklahoma into a state that was noted for its creativity. Shortly thereafter, the Oklahoma Creativity Project was launched (www.stateofcreativity.com).
The annual awards banquet, held in the spring, has featured some of America’s brightest creative minds. From Sir Ken Robinson to Richard Florida to Dr. Elizabeth Catlos, et al., speakers have challenged and enthralled the audiences with unique ideas that expand human knowledge and understanding.
As the DaVinci Institute continues to evolve, it is important to note that it will maintain its mission to promote a statewide cultural renaissance by building academic and community partnerships, programming and awareness of the importance of the transformation of education in the twenty-first century.