NYC Dance Mainstays Receive Millions From MacKenzie Scott

Two legendary New York City dance companies have announced they received millions in donations from billionaire co-founder of Amazon, MacKenzie Scott, in her latest round of philanthropy.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem received $10 million, while the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater received $20 million. Ballet Hispánico also received a donation of an undisclosed amount from Scott, who helped found Amazon with her ex-husband Jeff Bezos and has pledged to give away her fortune.

In a June 15th post on Medium, Scott announced she gave away $2.74 billion to 286 organizations in the U.S. with at least 60 performing arts and cultural organizations receiving donations.

“Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health, so we evaluated smaller arts organizations creating these benefits with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions and identity groups that donors often overlook,” Scott wrote in her post.

In an interview with NPR, Dance Theatre of Harlem’s artistic director Virginia Johnson said the $10 million donation will allow the company “some breathing room to find a stability that has been elusive…” Johnson added, “And it comes at a moment in which we have had to already be really rethinking about how we are doing the important work that we do. But we also now have the room to imagine things that were not possible before. And that is fantastic.”

In New York City, Scott also donated to the Apollo Theater, the Studio Museum in Harlem, El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of Chinese in America, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and CUNY’s Hostos Community College in the Bronx.

During the pandemic, Scott’s personal wealth has continued to increase to an estimated $60 billion because of Amazon’s rising stock prices despite her giving away nearly $6 billion last year, the New York Times reported.

Alvin Ailey’s normal operating budget is $40 million, said Tracy Severe, the company’s public relations manager, who called the donation “extremely generous” especially in light of being unsolicited. The company announced Scott’s gift ahead of its virtual Spring Gala Thursday.

The $20 million unrestricted gift will be used for the company’s “Dancing Forward” initiatives to commission new work, bring signature works to more audiences in new productions, provide training for Ailey Arts In Education teaching artists, and for scholarships to the Ailey School in midtown, Severe said.

“Like all performing arts institutions, Ailey was hit hard during the pandemic but in many ways we are fortunate. It’s a brilliant stroke for MacKenzie Scott to make capacity-building gifts that will help so many of us rebuild, especially at a moment when Ailey is continuing to move forward with its activities on all fronts,” Severe said in a statement.

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