Mrs. Donnie Nicole Smith started her professional career over 10 years ago as a teacher in the Chicago Public School System. Donnie earned her Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education with a concentration in English from DePaul University in 2006. Donnie’s personal mission is to help others “close the gap between their reality and their dreams” and she works tirelessly as a philanthropic leader to advance that mission.
Currently, Donnie is the Executive Director of Art of Culture Inc. (Formerly Donda’s House), a nonprofit organization she co-founded with her husband, Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Art of Culture provides free access to the arts for youth. The innovative promise is its delivery of elite career-training and industry insights to Chicago’s extraordinarily talented but often marginalized young people. Art of Culture has transformed the lives of over 500 of Chicago’s most talented youth, inspiring many to finish their educations, tirelessly work for a career in the creative industries, and embrace a network of ambitious & like-minded artists who provide peer-support. Art of Culture was featured in a Facebook Documentary with over 1.2 million views, shared personally by Mark Zuckerberg.
In 2014, Donnie was awarded the 2014 Open Society Foundation Black Male Achievement Echoing Green Fellowship. In 2015, Donnie was selected as a National Alliance for Media, Arts & Culture Creative Leader (NAMAC), funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Adobe Foundation. That same year, Donnie was awarded the “Courage Award” from New York University’s Hip Hop Education Center. In 2016, Donnie was also selected as one of Ebony Magazine’s Ebony Power 100 Honorees in the “Women Up” Category for her work with Art of Culture. Other honorees included Issa Rae, Melissa Harris-Perry and Serena Williams. Most recently, Donnie was the recipient of the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership, selected by the award’s namesake, who is also Michael Jordan’s mother. Donnie is a Committee Member of Know Your Chicago, housed at the University of Chicago, and she recently launched Spell Well, a company that supports spiritual and personal development through tools, resources and education. She has been featured in numerous publications such as CNN, Jet Magazine and People Magazine and is committed to using her success and access to empower underrepresented and underserved communities.
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