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Ms. Donnie Nicole Belcher (Formerly Donnie Nicole Smith) started her professional career 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. As a teacher Donnie worked with students from diverse backgrounds teaching Literature and Writing to 9th - 12th graders. Donnie taught at Whitney Young Magnet High School, the alma mater of Former First Lady Michelle Obama, and Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy. Her favorite texts to teach were Homer’s The Odyssey, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. She impacted thousands of students in her 12 years with the Chicago Public School System and many of her former students pursued careers in Education.

Donnie is the Former Executive Director of Art of Culture Inc. (Formerly Donda’s House), a nonprofit organization she co-founded. 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. Although Donnie no longer has a formal role in the organization, she continues to advocate for the organization and provide support as needed behind the scenes.

Donnie sits down with Halfstack Magazine to discuss starting and running a nonprofit organization. She also discusses her "why" for doing impact work.

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 Former Committee Member of Know Your Chicago, housed at the University of Chicago. She launched Spell Well in 2018, a jewelry design company that supports spiritual and personal development through tools, resources and education.

After 17 years in Chicago, Donnie returned home to Minneapolis in April of 2019. After informally coaching non-profit leaders over the years and learning through experience, Donnie launched Work With Donnie, her consulting firm in May of 2019. Work with Donnie provides Project Management, Communications and Capacity Building services to nonprofits and entrepreneurs. Her past and current clients include the University of Minnesota Medical Schools Pipeline Programs, McFarlane Media Group (a.k.a. Insight News), The Tech Unicorn and more.

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, increase equity and encourage agency. Donnie’s personal mission is to help others “close the gap between their reality and their dreams” and she works tirelessly as an entrepreneur, consultant and philanthropic leader to advance that mission.

Click here to view Donnie’s Portfolio.


In The News:

Red Bull - The next gen of artists in the Second City have no equal as they fight for justice, mentor younger talent and tour with a purpose. Read here.

Chicago Business - Donnie Smith, Executive Director of Art of Culture Goes to Africa. Read here.

Unbothered Black Girl Collective Interview about Black Women + Creativity. Read here.