NYC Arts Organizations Receive Excellence Awards

April 07, 2006


Contact: Mary Trudel
Senior Communications Officer
The Wallace Foundation


Executive Directors to share participation building strategies at
NYC’s Spring Marketing Seminar for the non-profit cultural community

New York, April 8, 2006 – In recognition of their commitment to community and audience-building activities, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Brooklyn Museum and Jazz at Lincoln Center have received Excellence Award challenge grants from The Wallace Foundation. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater received $1.5 million; Brooklyn Museum and Jazz at Lincoln Center received $2 million each. El Museo del Barrio and Ballet Hispanico received Excellence Award program grants of $200,000 each. The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards were created to recognize leading arts organizations that are effectively building participation in the arts with imaginative efforts to broaden, deepen or diversify their audiences.

The Awards are an important part of the Foundation’s efforts to develop and share effective ideas and practices for enhancing arts participation and bringing the powerful benefits of the arts to all. The Executive Directors of the five Excellence Award grantees will be sharing their successful audience development strategies at the “Who’s Here: Cultural Marketing and Audience Development in New York City” seminar sponsored by the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission and the City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs on April 8, 2006 at the Time Warner Center. The seminar will address concerns about falling membership and subscription sales and examine strategies for attracting and sustaining new audiences and reaching out to underserved populations.

“The goal of The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards is to encourage organizations to sustain and expand the impact of their work with local constituencies and to draw national attention to the importance of participation building to the health and growth of the arts field,” said Christine DeVita, President of The Wallace Foundation. “The Excellence Awards honor organizations that have made a commitment to engage more people deeply in the arts part of their organization’s DNA.”

“This unique seminar gives the City an excellent opportunity to work with the cultural field on strategizing new ways to think about marketing to changing audiences, and to showcase the innovative work being done by individual organizations,” said DCA Commissioner Kate Levin. “The Wallace Foundation grantees, along with the other participants, represent the vitality and diversity of New York’s non-profit cultural community, and will all contribute to a lively and productive conversation about promoting and sustaining our City’s signature industry.”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was honored for its longstanding and continued dedication to building participation in the arts through the activities of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, The Ailey School, Ailey Arts In Education and Community Programs, and The Ailey Extension. Alvin Ailey believed that “dance came from the people and it should always be delivered back to the people,” and was deeply committed to using dance to bridge cultural, ethnic, and economic divides. The grant will support the organization’s performances, training, educational programs, and community initiatives.

Ballet Hispanico was recognized for its dedication to reaching young people through its educational programs in New York City’s public schools and its Ballet Hispanico School which encourages young people, particularly those of Latino heritage, to develop their full potential through rigorous training. Its Primeros Pasos (“First Steps”) program uses young dancers in residency activities that bring dance into K-8 classrooms throughout the city to help children experience the sheer joy of dance in performance and personal accomplishment in the art form. Ballet Hispanico will use the grant funds to train new teaching artists, add additional classroom residencies and offer more scholarships for talented, underserved young people to receive professional training.

The Brooklyn Museum was honored for its commitment to innovative programming which attracts visitors of all ages, races and economic means and its community-based orientation. The award recognizes the Museum’s success in doubling the number of visitors overall with an average age of 40 (from an average age of 57) 40% of whom are now people of color. The Museum will use the funds to support the extremely popular First Saturdays programming, a monthly free evening of art, education and entertainment, which now attracts 75,000 visitors per year and to develop other community focused events.

El Museo del Barrio was recognized as a preeminent presenter of Latin American and Latino visual and performing arts which presents and preserves the art and culture of Puerto Ricans and all Latin American and Latino communities throughout the United States. Its free community-based festivals and school programs utilize the permanent collection and exhibitions as a foundation for learning, reaching an expanding diverse audience. In response to the growth in the city’s Latino population and the increasing demand for its programs among students, teachers and families, El Museo will use the Excellence Award grant funds to increase the reach of its arts education and community programs for Latinos and non-Latinos.

Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) was honored as one of the nation’s most influential providers of comprehensive education programs and publications dedicated to building participation in jazz music—as listeners, as educators, and as performers. JALC will use the Award to create an endowment fund to enhance existing education programs such as the Jazz for Young People concerts and the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival; to broaden its efforts to include new users, including the expansion of popular WeBop! classes into Head Start communities; and to better connect its programs so that people of all ages can have greater sustained involvement in jazz education.

Fifteen other innovative institutions across the United States have also received Excellence Award Grants from The Wallace Foundation, among them The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Des Moines Art Center. Submissions for the 2005 grants, which range from $200,000 to $2 million, were solicited by invitation only. The Awards program requires challenge grant recipients to match the grant on at least a one-to-one basis and create permanent endowments or revolving cash reserves that will be committed to continuing participation building work.

Through The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards, arts organizations and community-based cultural centers are encouraged to develop new practices that expand participation in the arts to make them an essential resource of individual learning, personal enrichment, civil engagement and community health.


The Wallace Foundation
The Wallace Foundation is an independent, national foundation dedicated to supporting and sharing effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. Its three current objectives are: strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement; enhancing out-of-school learning opportunities; and expanding participation in arts and culture. More information and research on these and other related topics can be found at The Wallace Foundation Knowledge Center at or by calling 212-251-9810.


The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards

The Wallace Foundation Excellence Awards were created in 2004 with several goals: to recognize leading arts organizations that are effectively reaching out to engage more people with the arts; to provide funds to deploy and refine innovative practices; and to understand and share those practices broadly. Successful strategies for expanding audiences are shared with arts managers, policymakers, researchers, consultants and others through conferences, publications, and on the Foundation’s online Knowledge Center at
The Excellence Awards build on the Foundation’s longstanding effort to expand participation in the arts, and to share effective practices and ideas that can be carried out by arts organizations, state arts agencies, and other non-profits. Concerns about the aging of the audience for the arts, reductions in arts education, and increased competition for leisure time, underscore the value of improving understanding about how to build participation in the arts.
The Awards program is by invitation only. Selected arts organizations are invited to submit proposals that detail their success in developing and using strategies to reach more people in their communities. Award grants range from $200,000 to $2 million and are of two types: Challenge grants that require recipients to match the grant on at least a one-to-one basis, and create permanent endowments or revolving cash reserves earmarked for participation-building; Program grants that require recipients to detail specific audience engagement goals aligned to the organization’s mission.
To date, Excellence Awards have been announced to 14 exemplary institutions, with six other award announcements pending. Organizations receiving awards include:
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,  NY, NY
  • Ballet Hispanico, NY, NY
  • Brooklyn Museum, NY, NY
  • El Museo del Barrio, NY, NY
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center, NY, NY
  • Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA
  • San Francisco Symphony, CA
  • San Francisco Performances, CA
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra, IL
  • Chicago Children’s Choir, IL
  • Des Moines Art Center, IA
  • New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ
  • University Musical Society, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT