Grace Institute – A Brief History
In 1995 The Rev. Stephen V. Schneider, who had recently been appointed as Rector of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, came to the Vestry of the parish with the vision for Grace Institute as a way to increase the responsiveness of the congregation to the needs of the urban community. The Vestry embraced this vision and a program soon developed and flourished. Along the way generous support was received from the Watt Edwards Family Fund of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church. In 2005 Grace Institute was separately incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation while continuing a relationship to Grace Parish. The offices and program spaces of Grace Institute are located on the Grace Memorial Campus.
Today the core purpose of Grace Institute is to lift up the human spirit through programs that engage in creativity, invite discovery, and build community. Since it’s founding, Grace Institute has served as an innovator in creative education.
A small group of artists from Grace Parish in 1997 created Grace Art Camp, the first signature program of Grace Institute. This summer camp has grown from a one-week day camp in its first year to seven weeks of camp serving over 1,100 campers today. Sandra Bright served as the organizing creative director of Grace Art Camp and later as Director of Grace Institute. Sharon Loomis-Malin also served for a number of years as a director of Grace Art Camp, overseeing a period of growth. Esme Culver, is currently the director of Grace Art Camp as well as director of Grace Institute.
In response to September 11th, an Arts for Peace Camp was created and was then re-imagined in 2011 as Building Bridges to Peace and Understanding—An Arts for Peace Camp.
In 2002, with major funding from Legacy Health System’s Community Health Fund, Grace Academy was launched. Until 2006 this highly lauded demonstration project provided in-depth arts education to underserved, culturally diverse middle school youth. Under the leadership of Grace Academy Director Käthe Swaback, Academy youth published several journals and created a public mural as part of the Confluence Project.
Across the years Grace Institute has offered a variety of other camps, conferences, consultations and classes that explore not only the creative arts but other concerns of urban residents. Under the leadership of the current Grace Institute Director, Esme Culver, Grace Institute has expanded it’s reach to increase an awareness of global concerns and connections.