Arts, Culture, and Humanities

GILLOURY INSTITUTE

Unleash Curiosity

aka Silk Road Rising   |   Chicago, IL   |  http://www.silkroadrising.org

Mission

Silk Road Rising was formed to counter the anti-Muslim rhetoric, biases, and fear that arose after 9/11. As 21st century storytellers, we work to deepen understanding of AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian) cultures within the broader community. Our theatrical productions, video plays, in-school arts education, and community engagement programs all share one goal: using multi-dimensional narratives to refocus on our common humanity instead of the stereotypes and misperceptions that pull us apart.

Notes from the nonprofit

For the past decade and a half, we have dedicated ourselves to this mission by telling stories that reflect our communities' experiences from both the stage and the screen, from within communities and within the classroom. Our efforts have won us a total of twenty-eight awards, and public recognition has established Silk Road Rising as a leading authority in our field.

The world, however, continues to change; we must follow suit. The climate in which Silk Road Rising was founded is no longer that which rings in the year 2017. Despite the growing remoteness of the events of 9/11, the resultant outpouring of racism and Islamophobia has shown no signs of slowing. Rather, it has grown more insidious and more deeply entrenched as the years go by. A watershed moment came during the election cycle of 2015-16: it was then that racist rhetoric and worldviews made the shocking leap from outlying enclaves to mainstream America. “Attacks against American Muslims surged last year," the FBI reports, with that trend spiking in the immediate aftermath of the election results (The New York Times). Indeed, each day's news seemed (and still seems) to bring new reports of violence, unrest, and the ongoing demonization of our communities.

“Islam hates us"—these are words uttered to Anderson Cooper by our soon-to-be president in March 2016. “We have to be very vigilant," he went on, “We have to be very careful. And we can't allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States." Silk Road Rising, in solidarity with marginalized communities, watched in horror as this man, with his platform of vicious and irresponsible lies, half-truths, and the de facto endorsement of a racially pure United States, ascended in the polls, the careless hate-speech of his rallies leaving a wake of laughter, jeers, and complicit agreement in audiences all across the nation. By November 9, 2016, our nightmare had become our reality. Donald Trump was named the next President of the United States.

If 9/11 provided the inciting incident for the first decade and a half of Silk Road Rising's efforts, then 11/9—the official date of Trump's victory—will no doubt come to symbolize a new playing-field with ever more urgent battles to be fought. In this next phase of our history, 11/9 represents a nation more divided than ever, one in which Islamophobia, white supremacy, and alt-right ideologies have received widespread acceptance, and those who would happily see each Muslim American locked up or deported, their citizenship revoked, are met often with encouragement rather than shame. 11/9 means that our work is more crucial than ever, and we will continue to fight hatred and Islamophobia at every turn in this new era in American history.

Ruling year info

2002

Executive Director

Mr. Malik Gillani

Artistic Director

Mr. Jamil Khoury

Main address

150 N Michigan Ave, Ste 1970 # 801

Chicago, IL 60601 USA

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Formerly known as

Silk Road Theatre Project

EIN

01-0693025

Cause area (NTEE code) info

Theater (A65)

Cultural, Ethnic Awareness (A23)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Community engagement

We’re a leader in digital storytelling, reaching beyond our stage to help communities explore and understand their own stories. In 2017, more than 1300 people attended community screenings of our video plays and participated in conversations about social topics explored within the digital content. These courageous conversations inevitably lead to self-reflection and discussions about one's role in society. We also publish video plays and films on YouTube and other online channels, engaging with more than 100,000 viewers from across the globe. Half of our online viewers reside in the US but outside of Chicago.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Budget
$100,000

EPIC engages students’ imaginations. Short for Empathic Playwriting Intensive Course, EPIC brings artists into Chicago middle and high schools to help each student find their voice and address complex social issues. For many students, EPIC is their first experience with creative writing. Students learn to build a compelling story with strong, interesting characters. They learn to craft a dialogue that communicates complex ideas and emotions. But EPIC teaches so much more than writing skills. Students practice collaborating and problem-solving. They learn to appreciate other people’s perspectives. They develop tolerance and empathy. EPIC helps teachers connect with their students and builds a sense of community in classrooms. Through EPIC, Chicago teens learn that they have an impact. They learn that they can decide what their impact will be.

Population(s) Served
Adolescents (13-19 years)
Budget
$100,000

Silk Road Rising is dedicated to developing plays by Muslim, Middle Eastern, and Asian Americans. Since 2002 we have worked with 94 playwrights and produced 27 plays, including 17 world premieres and five commissioned works. We’ve presented staged readings of an additional 69 plays, including two commissioned works that we are continuing to develop for future production.

Population(s) Served
Adults
People of Middle Eastern descent
Budget
$400,000

Where we work

Awards

National Theatre Company Grant Award 2010

American Theatre Wing

Jeff Award for Equity Production: "Scorched" 2011

Joseph Jefferson Awards

Emerging Theater Award 2008

Broadway in Chicago

Human Relations Award 2008

City of Chicago

The "Hopie" Award 2007

Lester and Hope Abelson Fund for the Performing Arts

Creative Movement Award 2011

Insight Arts

Chairperson's Award for Inclusion and Diversity 2013

Chicago Sinfonietta

Actors Equity EEO Committee Award 2013

Actors Equity Association

ChangeMaker Award 2013

SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together)

Jeff Award for Best New Work: "The Lake Effect" 2013

Joseph Jefferson Awards

Community Leader Award 2015

Association for Asian American Studies

Affiliations & memberships

Actor's Equity Association 2005

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of free registrants to classes

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

K-12 (5-19 years)

Related Program

EPIC (Empathic Playwriting Intensive Course; middle and high school in-classroom program).

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

We've brought playwriting to 83 classrooms and nearly 2100 teens since EPIC began in 2013. Each participant writes an original play, building confidence and empathy.

Total number of works developed

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

General/Unspecified

Related Program

Theatre-based work (commission, develop, and produce new plays

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Since 2002 we've worked with 90 playwrights and produced 17 world premieres. We've directly commissioned 7 plays and supported the development of dozens more through workshops and staged readings.

Total number of screenings held

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

General/Unspecified

Related Program

Community engagement

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

We produce digital plays and documentaries and screen them in libraries, civic centers, houses of worship, and college classrooms throughout the Midwest, plus New Mexico, Canada, the UK, Germany.

Total number of performances

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

General/Unspecified

Related Program

Theatre-based work (commission, develop, and produce new plays

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

In addition to ticketed performances, we presented pop-up performances free of charge at venues around Chicago.

Charting impact

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

Guided by our core values of discovery, pluralism, and empathy, Silk Road Rising strives to accomplish the following three artistic goals:<br/><br/>1. Advance the creation of and expand access to works of Asian American and Middle Eastern American artists.<br/><br/>2. Deepen understanding of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures within the broader community.<br/><br/>3. Increase access to resources and provide learning opportunities that allow individuals to explore, express and embrace a broader world view.<br/><br/>With these artistic goals guiding us, ours is a world in which the various intersections of different cultures can be illuminated without denying their specificity; a world that values art over ideology and inquiry over dogma; and a world in which people can come together and diverse voices express their own distinct stories and, through this shared experience, facilitate much-needed cross-cultural dialogue and awareness.

Silk Road Rising's strategies for advancing our artistic goals are as follows. We:<br/><br/>1) Produce fully-staged productions at our 85-seat downtown Chicago theatre venue.<br/> <br/>2) Commission new plays that reflect the Asian American and Middle Eastern American experiences; conduct workshops to enhance the revision process for new plays.<br/><br/>3) Produce staged readings.<br/><br/>4) Present video screenings at various universities, libraries, churches, and other community centers throughout the region as a means of engaging new audiences with our mission.<br/><br/>5) Hold talkbacks to encourage audience interaction, new learnings, and individual reflections.<br/><br/>6) Foster empathy, civic engagement, storytelling and playwriting while generating global and local empathy in underserved Chicago Public School students by implementing EPIC (Empathic Playwriting Intensive Course), providing them with skills to express their voices and stories by guiding them as they each write an original, ten-minute play.<br/><br/>7) Encourage the national production of plays by South Asian American Playwrights by maintaining an easily-accessible database of their works (southasianplaywrights.org).

Silk Road Rising has the capacity and resources needed to advance the above strategies. These include:<br/><br/>1) Company co-founders Malik Gillani and Jamil Khoury (a Pakistani Muslim and a Syrian Orthodox Christian, respectively) who possess a combined total of 30+ years of experience in nonprofit management. Their background, education, knowledge, and passion are crucial to running a successful nonprofit theatre company—particularly one predicated upon telling non-mainstream stories.<br/><br/>2) A brand and mission that is recognized nationally for representing a commitment to commissioning, developing, and producing plays that reflect the Silk Road experience.<br/><br/>3) Three full-time, one part-time, and various contractual employees with skill sets that span from marketing to grant-writing, from production management to community outreach, from classroom education to data evaluation, and more.<br/><br/>4) A diverse Board of Directors reflective of the communities we represent.<br/><br/>5) The employment of over 100 professional artists each year.<br/><br/>6) A committed base of individual, foundation, and corporate donors.<br/><br/>7) Partnerships with a number of arts and social service organizations which allow us to broaden our reach and more fully serve our community.

Progress indicators can be divided into three categories: Live Theatre, Civic Engagement, and In-School Arts Education.<br/><br/>LIVE THEATRE<br/># of tickets sold<br/># of patrons attending<br/># of press reviews (+content of reviews)<br/># of patron responses<br/><br/>We also send patrons Intrinsic Impact surveys via email; this allows our audience to anonymously respond to both our live theatre and community presentations. In doing so, we learn our programming's efficacy and what appeals appeals most to the audience; audience, on the other hand, are given additional opportunities to reflect and respond to questions our work raises.<br/><br/>CIVIC ENGAGEMENT<br/># of viewers / attendees at screenings<br/># of comments and quality of comments<br/># of live screenings and public reaction to screenings<br/># of likes and shared videos receive online<br/><br/>Our IN-SCHOOL ARTS EDUCATION program, EPIC, pursues three goals: 1) To Cultivate Tolerance and Empathy in Students, 2) To Improve Students' Playwriting Knowledge and Skills, and 3) To Improve Student Attitudes and Understanding of Civic Engagement. <br/><br/>EPIC relies on both play rubrics and a teaching artist observation report. The observation report is used by the Education Coordinator to evaluate the effectiveness of each teaching artist. It relies on qualitatively assessing each teaching artist based on standards of artistry, content, program logistics, program delivery, student learning styles, presentation skills, management of learning settings, and course assessment expectations. <br/><br/>This rubric uses a 3-point scale to describe and assess the development and creation of a student's 10-Minute Play in line with Silk Road Rising's standards for EPIC. The scale is: (1) Element Not Present (2) Element Present But Could Be Better Developed (3) Element Present And Well-Developed.

Silk Road Rising, for the past fifteen years, has come to be recognized as a leader in representing Asian American and Middle Eastern American stories on stage. We have worked with more than 60 playwrights to produce a total of 29 plays at our downtown Chicago theatre (77 W Washington St), released 43 videos and video plays, held more than fifty screenings, and delivered our in-school arts education program, EPIC, to 32 classrooms.<br/><br/>We have received many awards for this work. In 2013 we received the 2013 SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) ChangeMaker Award for "humanizing Muslim American communities," and in 2014 we were inducted into the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame in honor of our "12 years of showcasing works that address themes relevant to Silk Road peoples and their diaspora, including polycultural LGBT stories." In 2015, Artistic Director Jamil Khoury received the Community Leader Award from the Association for Asian American Studies. Recently, on January 9, 2017, Jamil Khoury received the Diversity Leadership Alumni Award from the University of Chicago for his “use of the arts to counter dominant narratives, to educate the community, and to promote inclusion and social justice for underrepresented group."<br/><br/>In January, 2017, Chicago's Newcity Magazine designated Silk Road Rising and it's co-founders as “Players of the Moment." Featuring the theatre on its cover, the editors wrote, “Founded in the wake of 9/11, the work of Silk Road Rising has arguably never been more vital. The company, whose mission is to 'advance a polycultural worldview' by telling the stories of underrepresented Asian American and Middle Eastern American voices, is poised to lead a counter-narrative against the Islamophobia and xenophobia of the President-elect and many of his most vocal supporters. With fifteen years of experience in community engagement through productions, readings, an online video library and in-school arts education programs, Silk Road Rising has laid the groundwork for the long fight ahead."<br/><br/>But society's ills cannot be cured completely overnight. In this new political age, our work has been cut out for us. But we continue to resist, not just from the stage, but from within communities and within classrooms. We are excited for what the future will bring. As such, we have reaffirmed Silk Road Rising's six core commitments to continue promoting work that is Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Muslim, Pro-Feminist, Pro-LGBT, Anti-Racist, and Anti-Colonial.<br/><br/>The path ahead will be difficult, but we are making progress by creating meaningful, story-driven work that excites us. As one patron wrote: “I always leave Silk Road Rising with something, a philosophical or emotional souvenir, if you will, that keeps me thinking about what I saw for days, and sometimes longer. I'm affected, which is what great theater is about."

Financials

GILLOURY INSTITUTE
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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GILLOURY INSTITUTE

Board of directors
as of 6/19/2019
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Ryan LaHurd

Arts Advocate

Term: 2016 - 2018

Ryan LaHurd

Arts Advocate

Rummana Hussain

Chicago Sun-Times

Jon Harmon

Heidrick & Struggles

Lillie Sellers

Cristo Rey High Schools

Jeff Conlin

Arts Advocate

Malik Gillani

Silk Road Rising

Jamil Khoury

Silk Road Rising

Priya Khatkhate

Arts Advocate

Nirav Shah

Hyatt

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Keywords

Silk Road, theatre, multicultural, ethnic, film, online, arts engagement, arts education, civic engagement