Underwater Dreams, written and directed by Mary Mazzio, and narrated by Michael Peña, is an epic story of how the sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants learned how to build an underwater robot from Home Depot parts. And defeat engineering powerhouse MIT in the process.
The Illumination Fund was one of the major supporters of Underwater Dreams, and Executive Producers included Laurie Tisch, Jackie and Mike Bezos, Jeb Bush, Jr. and Michael Peña.
The film is getting rave reviews, and now you have opportunities to see it. Upcoming screenings include Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Denver. Learn more about the film here, and for the full schedule of screenings as well as online opportunities visit the Underwater Dreams website here.
“inspiring and insightful”
– Los Angeles Times
“modest yet meaningful”
– New York Times
“The awards-worthy ‘Underwater Dreams’ is by turns rousing and heartbreaking, and organically touches on important social issues.”
- San Francisco Chronicle
“The year is just half over, but already a contender for best documentary of 2014 is looming with Mary Mazzio's Underwater Dreams. What starts out as a high-school competition study—compelling enough on its own, as so many of these like-themed films are—pulls a breathtaking fast one in its second half, expanding its basic inspirational theme to embrace an even larger message, with an organic efficacy that is nothing short of astonishing.”
– Film Journal International
“a seemingly modest human interest film that may be the most politically significant documentary since Waiting for Superman.”
– Jonathan Alter, The Daily Beast
“Underwater Dreams” is that rare film that keeps your total attention for its entire duration and also encourages you and inspires you to want to do better with your life. What I loved about this movie, was that it didn’t just concentrate on the competition win but also the young men’s backgrounds and the impossible obstacles they and their families had to overcome just to survive. As you become more aware of the good people they are and their future goals and achievements, it makes you care about their plight even more. “Underwater Dreams” introduced me to a group of people who achieved the impossible by beating any and all odds to come out on top. Now THAT is the American dream.”
– Red Carpet Crash
A major study of the New York City Green Cart Initiative undertaken by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) concluded that the Green Carts initiative has been reaching key goals in improving access to healthy foods in targeted neighborhoods. The Illumination Fund commissioned SIPA as an independent evaluator to assess the economic viability of Greens Carts as small businesses and consider the role of philanthropy in promoting and supporting innovative public policy. The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Ester P. Fuchs, a professor of international and public affairs and political science at Columbia SIPA and Sarah Holloway, a lecturer in international and public affairs at Columbia SIPA.
To discuss the report’s findings, a panel was convened on June 11 at the New York Public Radio’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space which included Cathy Nonas, Senior Advisor for the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control at the New York City Department of Health, Sean Basinski, Founder and Director of the Street Vendor Project, Nancy Biberman, Founder and President of Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCo), Rick Luftglass, Executive Director for the Illumination Fund, and Ester Fuchs who moderated the event. The panelists discussed study findings, background of public-private partnerships, and opportunities for growth and scale. Read about the findings here and obtain a pdf of the study here.
Recipients of the fourth annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize were formally recognized at a ceremony on May 29th hosted by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab at Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. This year’s recipients are Sandra Hagan, former executive director and current senior advisor at The Child Center of NY in Queens; and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Chelsea. Sandra Hagen was executive director for nearly 28 years, expanding the organization’s scope from strictly outpatient children’s mental health to a continuum of services, increasing the number of families served each year from 850 to 18,000, and increasing the budget from $3 million to $36 million. Callen-Lorde Community Health Center has been providing quality, sensitive medical and related services to LGBT New Yorkers, regardless of ability to pay; 41% have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, 36% are uninsured and 8% are homeless or unstably housed. The prize recipients were selected from dozens of nominations submitted by leaders in the public health field.
The awards were presented by President Raab, Laurie Tisch, Roosevelt House Interim Director Jonathan Fanton, and Tom Farley, former NYC Commissioner of Health and current Joan H. Tisch Fellow at Hunter College. Attendees included several previous Health Prize Winners such as Robert Cordero of BOOM!Health, Robina Niaz of Turning Point for Women and Families, David Nocenti of Union Settlement Association, and Randye Retkin of LegalHealth.
On April 23rd, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund office was buzzing with anticipation and excitement for the launch of No Longer Empty’s mini-retrospective of This Side of Paradise. The original exhibit was first introduced in 2012 at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx. Situated on the Grand Concourse, the Home was once a symbol of paradise for the formerly wealthy that lived there from the 1920s to the early 1980s. Built to mirror a grand palazzo, the Home provided the accoutrements of a rich and civilized lifestyle for the elderly who had lost their fortunes—white glove dinner service, a grand ballroom, and a social committee who organized concerts and opera performances. Fast forward to present-day Bronx, the Home was mostly shuttered due to a depleted endowment. Referencing this quixotic history, No Longer Empty’s mini-retrospective of This Side of Paradise exhibition launched at the Illumination offices on April 23rd.
No Longer Empty, a non-profit organization that presents professionally curated, site-specific art exhibitions to promote socially conscious artists and to build resilience in communities through art, engaged more than thirty artists and Bronx-based organizations to “reactivate” the building. Now the Andrew Freedman Home houses artists’ studios, a Head Start program, job training, and even a bed and breakfast.
Complex, diverse, captivating. These are words that come to mind when viewing the photographic collection that has resulted from This Place, a project exploring Israel through the eyes of twelve internationally acclaimed photographers. Convened by photographer Frederic Brenner, each artist was awarded a residence in Israel and, while there, created a major new body of work. Initially called Israel: A Work in Progress, the project sparks a new conversation about Israel and the West Bank as place and metaphor. The photographers’ highly individualized works combine to create not a single, monolithic vision, but rather a diverse and fragmented portrait, alive to all the rifts and paradoxes of this important and much contested space. Brenner’s project includes a traveling exhibition, digital initiatives, publications, and educational partnerships. The Illumination Fund was one of the project’s first supporters for the residency phase and is currently funding plans for the educational partnerships and New York exhibition. The Illumination Fund is proud to announce the launch of the project’s website: www.this-place.org. We hope that this digital initiative pushes new conversation and narrative about Israel, art, and ourselves—as individuals, communities, and global citizens.
With two Super Bowl wins to his credit, New York Football Giants head coach Tom Coughlin knows a thing or two about leadership. On March 18, 2014, Coughlin joined Bruce Beck, the sports anchor for NBC 4 New York, for the Aspen Institute’s Leadership series in memory of Preston Robert Tisch. Tom and Bruce discussed a play-by-play account of the milestones leading up to the Giants’ victories in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI, emphasizing the importance of teamwork, sacrifice, and balancing family and work life. In addition, Coughlin discussed the value of philanthropy, highlighting the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, which helps families tackle childhood cancer by providing comprehensive financial, emotional, and practical support. The event took place at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House, and is part of the Leadership Series sponsored by Steve Tisch, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.
Denise Scott of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Rick Luftglass of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund co-authored “Improving Neighborhood Nutrition Requires More Than Food,” an op-ed piece for City Limits. The article announces the implementation of LISC NYC’s Communities for Healthy Food NYC program. This new initiative will integrate access to healthy and affordable food into LISC NYC’s comprehensive community development efforts, which include affordable housing, economic development, education, health, community safety and jobs. LISC NYC’s partners will include New Settlement Apartments in Mt. Eden, Bronx; Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn; and West Harlem Group Assistance in Harlem. To read the full article, click here.
CMOM and the NFL’s You Make the Call: Learn to be an NFL Official Exhibit
Laurie Tisch kicked off Super Bowl festivities on January 9 doing the “Zebra Dance” at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM). The “Zebra Dance” is one of many activities enjoyed by children at CMOM’s You Make the Call: Learn to be an NFL Official exhibit. This is a multimedia and interactive exhibit that lets children and their families experience the world of NFL officials. View NY1’s coverage of the exhibit.
Boys & Girls Clubs Healthy Teaching Kitchens
On January 29, Laurie Tisch was joined by the New York Giants’ Zak DeOssie for the Wallbreaking Ceremony at the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Astoria, Queens. Zak DeOssie is a two-time Super Bowl winner with the NY Giants. His father Steve DeOssie also won a Super Bowl with the NY Giants, making them the only father-son duo to win a Super Bowl with the same team. Watch Fox5’s “Good Day New York” interview with Zak DeOssie and his father in which Zak mentions the event.
The wallbreaking is the start of construction on a healthy teaching kitchen. This is one of three kitchens at Boys & Girls Clubs in Queens and the Bronx being renovated as part of a $250,000 contribution made by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund through the Snowflake Youth Foundation. The NY/NJ Snowflake Youth Foundation was created by the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee as a philanthropic initiative to leave a significant and lasting legacy for the residents of the NY/NJ Region, host of Super Bowl XLVIII. Read the Wall Street Journal’s coverage on philanthropy and the Super Bowl featuring Laurie Tisch.
Erasmus Hall Educational Campus Gym Renovations to Honor Preston Robert Tisch
Laurie Tisch along with Steve, Jon, Lizzie and Joan Tisch made a $1 million commitment to the Snowflake Youth Foundation. A portion of that gift will be used to finance the renovation of four gyms at Erasmus Hall Educational Campus in Brooklyn. This donation is in honor of her late father, Preston Robert Tisch, who is an alumnus of Erasmus Hall Educational Campus.
On January 21, Hunter College announced the appointment of Thomas A. Farley, MD, MPH, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as the 2014 Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Hunter College of the City University of New York. Dr. Farley led the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since 2009, and was an influential figure behind many of Mayor Michael Bloomberg administration’s health initiatives. During his year-long fellowship at Hunter, Dr. Farley will lead a faculty seminar, work with both undergraduates and graduate students and continue his work in public health policy. He also plans to work with Hunter’s College’s Food Policy Center.
The Fellowship, funded by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, is part of the Joan H. Tisch Legacy Project at Hunter College. Past Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellows in Public Health were Richard Jackson, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health at UCLA, author of Making Healthy Places and host of the public television series Designing Healthy Communities; Sue Atkinson, the first Director of Public Health for London and Health Advisor to the Mayor; American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin; and John McDonough, Chief Advisor on health care reform to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
For further information, read Hunter College’s announcement and Crain’s coverage.
LMTIF’s programs and strategies recently received coverage in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Crain’s and other media.
• According to the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) latest report, obesity rates for low-income preschoolers dropped in 19 of the 43 states examined, including New York. But as Laurie M. Tisch outlined in her latest editorial for the Huffington Post, “Affording a Healthier Future,” now that we are making gains, we have to hone in on what works and redouble our efforts—especially via successful, public-private partnerships.
• Working closely with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM), LMTIF joined an impressive roster of partners for CMOM’s national launch of the EatPlayGrow™ Early Childhood Health Curriculum in New York City on November 8, including Let’s Move! Executive Director Sam Kass, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and New York City Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea. The full curriculum (which can be downloaded here) represents the first of its kind to be approved by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Center for Disease Control (CDC), combining the latest science and research from the NIH with CMOM’s holistic arts and literacy-based pedagogy to engage young children with creative programs and consistent health messages. More information can be found in The New York Times’ coverage, here.
• The following morning on November 9, LMTIF’s Rick Luftglass helped officially mark another milestone at the grand opening of City Harvest’s second Mobile Market in the South Bronx (as seen in NY1, NY1 Noticias and the Bronx Free Press). In collaboration with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Mobile Market aims to increase access to affordable, healthy food in this high-need community by putting fresh produce directly into the hands of hungry New Yorkers who need it most.
• Teachers College at Columbia University honored Laurie M. Tisch as a philanthropic leader and visionary at its 125th Anniversary Celebration Gala at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem on November 12. Recognized for her philanthropy and leadership in education, health, the arts and nutrition, Laurie joined four other honorees to celebrate the occasion, including Susan Benedetto '98 and Tony Bennett, for their contributions to arts education through their nonprofit, Exploring the Arts; James P. Comer, M.D., for his work in psychosocial development as a key factor in children’s educational success; and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, for support for and investment in education in Harlem.
Teachers College (TC) also announced a $300 million fundraising campaign to invest in the future of the school. In Crain’s New York Business, Suzanne Murphy, TC’s vice president of development and external affairs for the college, explained “We want to continue to support our faculty, our students and work in our neighborhoods.” Putting the campaign in the context of TC’s 125-year “Legacy of Firsts” – the nation’s first programs in nursing education, nutrition education, special education, educational psychology, and comparative and international education – Ms. Murphy said “We want to build on our rich history.” Coverage of the event and campaign included the Illumination Fund’s $10 million campaign gift and the newly-established Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy.