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Tang Teaching Museum Receives Grant from Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund hosted a reception at its office for Skidmore College’s Frances Young Tang Museum and Art Gallery’s mini-retrospective of I was a double. The original show closed in January at the Tang and was curated by the museum’s Dayton Director Ian Berry and composer David Lang. In conjunction with the showcase, the Illumination Fund announced a $1 million one-to-one matching grant to endow the position of Assistant Director for Engagement and to support the creation of engagement programs at the museum. Read more about the grant and showcase here.


An Evening Celebrating Cardozo Public Interest Alumni

Current recipients of the Laurie M. Tisch Loan Repayment Assistance Program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law were invited for a reception at the Illumination Fund’s office on February 3, 2015. The program benefits Cardozo graduates who have chosen to pursue careers in public service by providing “forgivable loans” to assist them in overcoming their education debt. Several recipients in attendance conveyed to the room that the program helped mitigate the stress of loans and instead redirected their focus on defending New Yorkers with limited resources. One particular Cardozo graduate, Amy Cross, wrote a thank you letter to Laurie describing the program’s impact on her work at the Legal Aid Society:

“It's thanks to your generosity that I have been able to defend over 600 New Yorkers in their criminal cases, who otherwise would not have been able to afford counsel. Many of my clients have mental disabilities, many are still in high school, many have suffered severe beating by the police, many cannot afford bail, none of them are there by choice and all of them are deserving of top quality legal representation.  It's thanks to loan repayment assistance that I am able to do this work that I love and provide a much-needed service. In 2014 I was able to help a gentleman wrongly-accused of driving while intoxicated achieve a full acquittal by a jury; last month I resolved a case for a man who had been coming back and forth to court for five years to fight the charges against him. Several times a month I help people get out of jail at arraignments and avoid bail amounts that are almost always beyond my clients' means. I work in a system where the odds are almost insurmountable for poor people of color, and where public defenders are notoriously overworked and underpaid. But thanks to your financial support I am able to work towards challenging it, to learn invaluable trial and negotiation skills, and to do service on a daily basis.”


Hunter College Seeks Nominations for 5th Annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize:1/23 Deadline

Do you know an individual or organization doing outstanding public health work in the NYC region? Please nominate them!

Hunter College is seeking nominations for the 5th annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. This $10,000 award for distinguished accomplishment in urban public health will be presented to one individual and one nonprofit organization in spring 2015.  Submission of candidates will be accepted until January 23, 2015.

The selection committee includes prominent health policy experts drawn from Hunter faculty and the broader public health community. Nomination guidelines and forms as well as additional information can be found on Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute website.

Successful candidates will have pioneered creative approaches to tackle significant public health challenges and made valuable contributions to the health of New Yorkers. They will join a respected group of former recipients selected based on achievement, innovation and impact.  Past Joan H. Tisch Prize winners have included Sandra Hagan of The Child Center of NY, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Turning Point for Women and Families, Independence Care System’s Breast Cancer Screening Project for Women with Physical Disabilities, LegalHealth, Union Settlement Association, Robert Cordero of CitiWide Harm Reduction, Mark Hannay of Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, and Dr. Melony Samuels of Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. 

The Prize is a component of the Joan H. Tisch Legacy Project, a major, multidisciplinary initiative at Hunter College that addresses urban public health issues – from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, obesity, and diabetes to health disparities due to economic and environmental factors. The Project is funded by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund in honor of Laurie's mother, Joan.


Nationwide Screenings of Underwater Dreams

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


SIPA study says NYC Green Carts Expand Access to Fresh Produce in Low-Income Neighborhoods

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.


Joan Tisch Community Prize Ceremony

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.


A Glimpse into “This Side of Paradise”

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.


Frederic Brenner’s “This Place” Launches Digital Initiative

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.


Aspen Institute Leadership Series: Tom Coughlin and Bruce Beck

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.


LMTIF Launches LISC NYC’s Communities for Healthy Food NYC

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.