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Gift to help the Isabel foster a more inclusive community

$3.5-million gift in honour of the late Jennifer Velva Bernstein, Artsci’89will help the Isabel host more artists from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Photo of a performance
The Isabel will use the gift to support artistic programming and educational training at the centre, including covering the costs to bring more top performers and emerging artists to Kingston.

Tricia Baldwin, the director of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, takes pride in offering audiences a diverse mix of world-class artists and socially engaged performances. Performing arts events such as those about the Indigenous residential school experience and musical acts from around the globe expose audiences to different cultures and perspectives, which Ms. Baldwin says helps contribute to a more inclusive society. 

“With socially engaged art, you are actually bringing in a point of view of an under-represented group to the majority,” Baldwin says. “The Isabel is a very beautiful place to share music and ideas. It can help create a more knowledgeable and better society.” 

A recent $3.5-million donation will allow the Isabel to offer more programming that fosters that inclusive environment. Marjorie Ernestine Bernstein made the gift to Queen’s in honour of her late daughter, Jennifer Velva Bernstein, Artsci’89. 

Jennifer Velva Bernstein loved the arts and was passionate about social causes. She earned film degrees from both Queen’s and Webster University in St. Louis, as well as a Master of Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. She died in a bus crash in 1995 while on a humanitarian mission to Haiti organized by the People to People Project, a private charitable group. 

“We are so grateful for the Bernstein’s family’s belief in the Isabel and belief in the role of arts in society,” says Baldwin. “Our philosophy of programming and inclusion matches Jennifer’s efforts to try to make this a better world.” 

In recognition of the gift, the Isabel’s main 566-seat performance hall has been renamedthe Jennifer Velva Bernstein Performance Hall. 

The Isabel will use the gift to support artistic programming and educational training at the centre, including covering the costs to bring more top performers and emerging artists to Kingston. It will also help subsidize tickets and events, allowing people to enjoy more festivals such as Ka'tarohkwi Festival of Indigenous Arts and the Isabel Human Rights Festival and student initiatives through the MyIsabel Alma Mater Society  program such as TEDxQueensU and the Project Afro-Odyssey.   

Baldwin feels it is important for students to carry that value of diverse programming into their future careers. 

“I believe that a university has the ability to communicate to its students that the performing arts have worth beyond entertainment,” says Ms. Baldwin. “By producing, presenting, or attending socially engaged arts on social justice topics, students learn that artists can be creative initiators and champions for social change. This enables them to see the possibilities for their own participation and roles in creating a fairer world when they graduate.” 

Queen’s Announces Investments in the Arts  

The gift to the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts is among a number of philanthropic investments Queen’s is announcing in support of the arts this month, including gifts to the Department of Art History and Art Conservation from The Jarislowsky Foundation and Dr. Isabel Bader, LLD'07Follow Queen’s Alumni on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for the latest news.