On Aug. 18 the Birmingham Consortium for Higher Education (BACHE) launched a "Cultural Passport" program designed to introduce local college freshmen to 12 of the region's great cultural resources. Starting this fall, students in the entering classes of Samford, Miles College, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham-Southern College and University of Montevallo will receive a blue-and-gold, passport-size booklet that describes those resources and offers free admission.
BACHE, a partnership among the four-year colleges and universities in the greater Birmingham area, has been led this year by David Chapman, Dean of Samford's Howard College of Arts and Sciences. Chapman, who proposed and led the passport project, explained that "BACHE is seeking to enhance educational opportunities for students by encouraging an appreciation for the arts while connecting them to the Birmingham community and surrounding areas". "Our common goal is that these students will become life-long patrons of the arts," Chapman added.
Samford instructor Victoria Knierim oversaw creation of the passports themselves and planned the launch event at Vulcan Park and Museum, which brought together faculty, students, public officials and representatives from the participating cultural venues. Speaking at the event, Birmingham Mayor William Bell noted that cultural organizations are not the financial drain that some suppose them to be, but actually help sustain local economies. Bell also celebrated the uniqueness of human creativity. "We want our children and generations to come to understand that culture is innate in us and we have to find ways to exhibit it wherever possible and to keep it alive," he said. "The human being is always striving to create beauty".
Gail C. Andrews, The R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, echoed Bell's comments and expressed cultural organizations' solidarity with colleges and universities. "One of the most important things for us to remember as we go forward is that we are also educational institutions," Andrews said, "and the more we can be part of the curriculum, the more we can extend learning outside the classroom, the more we can extend lifelong learning".
The 2011-2012 BACHE Cultural Passport project's cultural partners this year include Alabama Ballet, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and Museum, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, American Village, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham Museum of Art, Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington, Opera Birmingham, Sloss Furnaces, Tuscaloosa Museum of Art, Home of the Westervelt Collection, and Vulcan Park and Museum.