Ballet Memphis receives two national grants in support of community programs

January 12th, 2015

Ballet Memphis has received two national grants worth a combined $60,000.

The organization’s artistic director Dorothy Gunther Pugh announced that the Hearst Foundation has awarded Ballet Memphis a $50,000 culture grant, while the Dizzy Feet Foundation has also come through with a $10,000 grant. Both will go to aid the ballet’s community and youth education programs.

In recent years, Ballet Memphis has created and maintained after school programs in partnership with Knowledge Quest in South Memphis and the Leadership Empowerment Center in Frayser.

“Since our inception we’ve been involved in teaching out in the community and going into the community in different formats,” said Gunther Pugh. “The partnerships we’ve done with Knowledge Quest and Leadership Empowerment have been particularly deep, and give such a wonderful daily experience to the children,”Those efforts are being guided by Nikki Lewis, who serves as a curriculum developer and teaching artist with the ballet.

Some 500 children and teens from the Memphis area take part in the programs annually.“It’s wonderful that it’s Nikki leading the program, because she came to us as a scholarship student,” said Gunther Pugh. “She came to us a child and grew up through or program, and went onto become a dance major and taught in performing arts programs before we were able to hire her. She’s a remarkably dedicated, capable and loving person who goes the extra mile for these kids. There is a lot that’s incredibly gratifying about it.”

The money from the grants will also be used to fund need-based scholarships at the Ballet Memphis School. “To have scholarships for the students who are super interested and inspired to come to our school, that’s the third leg of this,” added Pugh.

“After a lot of different iterations over our 28 year history, we’ve found an [educational model] that has a lot of sticking power, in ways that are really important. And both the grants from Hearst and Dizzy Feet are going to make sure that those programs have some sustainably.”