Bloomberg Philanthropies rewards 26 Austin cultural groups with grants

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Bloomberg Philanthropies has named 26 Austin cultural groups that will receive significant grants as well as management training as part of a $43 million second-wave campaign to strengthen small-to-medium-sized American arts nonprofits.

The charitable foundation — established by businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — chose the groups by invitation only in selective cities.

“It was a complete shock,” said Ron Berry, artistic director of Austin recipient Fusebox Festival. “I was in the office reading an article about how Bloomberg was expanding into our region and remarked to the team about how exciting that was, and then we got an email from them about five minutes later.”

Sylvia Orozco, executive director of the Mexic-Arte Museum, is as thrilled with the grant now as she was with her group’s first in 1984. Daulton Venglar/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The arts inspire people, provide jobs and strengthen communities,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “This program is aimed at helping some of the country’s most exciting cultural organizations reach new audiences and expand their impact.”

In May, Austin was named alongside Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. to receive a second round of Bloomsberg grants valued at $43 million. Rare for this type of giving, the money is intended to cover operational expenses rather than specific programs.

RELATED: We salute $43 million in Bloomberg arts gifts.

“We wanted to reach cities that we thought had a really strong mix in the way they were serving up arts and culture,” Kate Levin, who oversees arts programs for Bloomberg, told the New York Times in May.

Previously, the program had given $65 million to smaller groups in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In response to the news, Austin arts leaders talked about immediate needs, such as rent or replacement facilities and equipment, but also longer term strategies like marketing and development.

Pianist Michelle Schumann said: ‘The grant comes with a wealth of consulting services and access to experts in the fields of marketing and development.’ Contributed

“Because our building has been sold, we must move in two years,” said Chris Cowden, longtime leader of Women & Their Work Gallery.”We have decided that, to avoid ever higher rents and the instability that brings, we must buy a building. Since the Bloomberg grant is earmarked for operating expenses, money that we would normally have to use for rent and salaries can now be set aside in a fund that will be used to buy that building.”

Finding new audiences is a high priority for long-established groups that have not reached their potential in the community.

“We are investing most of the funds into marketing because that is what we believe will make the strongest impact,” said Ann Ciccolella, artistic director of Austin Shakespeare. “I am personally thrilled! It’s taken a long time to get to a $500,000 budget and now it’s time for growth. With so many arts groups in the city learning new tactics together, I am hoping for powerful results.”

For some groups, the grant money takes a back seat to training. Bloomberg’s arts innovation and management program was devised by DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland.

“The grant comes with a wealth of consulting services and access to experts in the fields of marketing and development,” said Michelle Schumann, artistic director of the Austin Chamber Music Center. “I’m really thrilled to have the opportunity to ‘up our game.’”

The Bloomberg group instructs recipients to keep mum about the gift amounts, but an informal poll suggests that the grants equal 10 percent of their existing operating budgets.

“I am pumped,” said Jenny Larson, one of Salvage Vanguard Theater‘s artistic directors. “This funding could not have come at a better time for us. Being in a place of transition with the venue and staff has made us feel off balance. This support gives me hope and confidence that over the next two years we can create a solid foundation for SVT to continue to grow from.”

What do local arts leaders want to do with the windfall?

“Everything!” said  Lara Toner Haddock, artistic director of Austin Playhouse. “Seriously there’s always a huge wish list of what we could do with extra funds. An unrestricted grant is so welcome.”

“I am as thrilled and excited as I remember being when we received our first grant ever in 1984,” said Sylvia Orozco, head of the Mexic-Arte Museum. “I am glowing! When you are young and daring, you believe you can do anything and accomplish everything you dream of. That’s how I felt then and that is how I again feel now.”

26 Austin cultural groups will receive Bloomberg Philanthropies grants

Allison Orr Dance (Forklift Danceworks)

Anthropos Arts

Austin Chamber Music Center

Austin Classical Guitar Society

Austin Creative Alliance

Austin Film Festival

Austin Film Society

Austin Music Foundation

Austin Opera

Austin Playhouse

Austin Shakespeare

Big Medium

Center For Women & Their Work

Chorus Austin

Conspirare

Creative Action

Esquina Tango Cultural Society

Fusebox Festival

Mexic-Arte Museum

Penfold Theatre Company

Puerto Rican Folkloric Dance

Roy Lozano Ballet Folklorico De Texas

Rude Mechs

Salvage Vanguard Theater

Telling Project

Vortex Repertory Company

UPDATE:  Lara Toner Haddock’s name was missing from this story in an earlier post.

Austin theater alum Tyler Mount wins Tony Award

Tyler Mount, who studied at St. Edward’s University and developed a popular vlog for Playbill.com, took home a Tony Award on Sunday. Mount recently returned to town to emcee the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards.

RELATED: Tyler Mount returns to Austin for musical theater awards.

Although it was hard to pick him out in the acceptance crowd onstage, Mount’s honor came as a named producer for “Once on This Island,” which won Best Revival of a Musical. Austinites Marc and Carolyn Seriff also invested as producers in two winning shows this Broadway season, but their names did not appear above the title, so they were ineligible. They actually were named producers last season for “Anastasia,” which comes through town via the Broadway in Austin series at Bass Concert Hall next season.

RELATED: Broadway smash “Hamilton” in Austin 2018-2019 season.

Mount made a fantastic emcee for Austin’s closest entertainment equivalent to the Tony Awards. He even joked about his possible Tony status during the ceremony. And while we are on the subject, this year’s Tonys were, with one jarring exception, tone perfect. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who sang “Seasons of Love” from “Rent,” had me weeping from the first first piano chords.

RELATED: Winning the Austin High School Musical Awards.

Making ‘A Chorus Line’ come alive at Texas State

The Broadway mega-hit “A Chorus Line” opens at the Texas State University Performing Arts Center in San Marcos on Sept. 26.

SEE FULL STORY HERE.

Liliana Rose, Jacob Burns, Emma Hearn and Ben Toomer play characters auditioning for a Broadway show in “A Chorus Line.” Contributed

We visited a run-through rehearsal and interview director/choreographer Cassie Abate to prep you for the show. Here’s a peek:

“What would you encounter if you dropped by a run-through rehearsal of “A Chorus Line” 2 1/2 weeks before it opened at Texas State University?

Actually, something very close to a fully consummated version of the hit 1975 show about performers auditioning to appear on a Broadway chorus line, meanwhile revealing their personal histories.

White light illuminates a few pieces of scenery. Young performers line up in studio togs. The late Marvin Hamlisch’s genius score, though rehearsed this night without orchestra or microphones, shines through.

Because these performers are part of the San Marcos school’s nationally ranked musical theater program, not only is the singing and dancing already top-notch, the original anecdotes that grew out of a singular play development process — it somewhat resembled group therapy for working chorus members — are deeply felt and communicated.”

Austin dancer Kele Roberson heads to the Royal Ballet

Kele Roberson, who studied at Austin’s Dance Institute and the  Austin School for the Performing and Visual Arts, deferred a $25,000 scholarship to the Juilliard School in order to join the Royal Ballet School in London. This program funnels some dancers into one of the top ballet companies in the world and is quite an opportunity for Roberson, who gave an interview on the subject to Jennifer Stahl for Dance Magazine.

Austin’s Kele Roberson. Contributed by Dance Magazine

“I only had to watch a deep plié before writing down a 10 out of 10 on his score sheet and scribbling a giant star next to his name,” Stahl says of Roberson’s audition for the New York City Dance Alliance‘s college scholarship program. “Before he even had a chance to show off his incredible lines, I was mesmerized by his nuanced grace in even the simplest of movements.”

Roberson, who started studying ballet at age 11 and completed a summer program with the Royal Ballet, still might attend Juilliard later.

“As of right now, that’s the plan. Juilliard’s always been a dream,” he told Stahl “I graduated a year ahead (I’m still 17) so I decided to take this year at The Royal to perfect what I can in terms of technique, and hope to audition for Juilliard next year…”

News of his coup spread quickly on social media.

“What a phenomenal artist already!” says dancer Andrea Williams. “I’m going to miss seeing him dance everyday but I’m so glad he’s going to the Royal Ballet!”

Get ready for the roar of the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards

Last year, we attended the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards — gotta find a new name — ceremony for the first time. There are no words to describe them adequately.

The unavoidable excitement. The phenomenal talent. The unexpected good sportsmanship. I can still hear the roar of crowd.

The Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards 2014 - At the Long Center photogrpahed by James Goulden

Come 7 a.m. March 7 — you read that right, in the morning — students from 31 area high schools will gather in the Long Center’s Rollins Studio Theatre to hear for the first time the 2017 nominations.

J. Quinton Johnson, current cast member in Broadway smash “Hamilton,” will do the honors. A University of Texas theater alum, Johnson cut his theatrical teeth in Austin theater and film communities.

The awards ceremony returns to the Long Center’s Dell Hall on April 13 and, while I might not make the dawn announcement, you can pretty much guarantee I won’t be found anywhere else for the full ceremony. Ditto anybody who cares about the future of musical theater.

 

Kaitlin Hopkins takes Texas State to the top in musical theater

In 2009, John Fleming had reached the end of his rope.

As head of the theater and dance department at Texas States University, he needed just the right talent to lead a new musical theater training program.

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Kaitlin Hopkins, a former Broadway, film and television actress, has led Texas State’s musical theater program since 2009 and helped catapult the university’s performing arts program to No. 1 in Texas and No. 9 in the country. Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman

 

Fleming cold-called Broadway veteran Kaitlin Hopkins, who had recently gone on tour with “Dirty Dancing” and had signed up to return to Broadway in “Bye Bye Birdie.”

“You don’t know me,” Fleming said. “I’m the chairman of the theater program in San Marcos, and I’m calling because your name keeps coming up. We are looking for someone who has been in the industry for at least 20 years and has producing, performing, directing and fundraising experience. All three of the people we contacted mentioned you. Will you fly out here next week for an interview?”

Hopkins did not know Fleming. She hadn’t heard of Texas State University or San Marcos.

“I have to go do a matinee,” she replied. “I’ll call you later.”

She told her husband — actor and playwright Jim Price — to Google the place and figure out what Fleming was talking about. She concluded there was no way a university would hire her without the requisite advanced degrees, despite all her teaching and private coaching experience.

Hopkins’ response: “Look, no. I don’t think you really want me to get on a plane.”

Fleming: “Please just get on the plane. I have a feeling you are the right person for this job.”

It was a job that the daughter of lifelong theater pros didn’t know she wanted.

“There was the challenge and promise of creating the training program I wished I’d had,” Hopkins says. “I liked the idea, too, of condensing my 40 years of life experience. It wasn’t just my career, it was the life I had led — that my family created for me — that made me uniquely qualified. This would be really exciting: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something from scratch and build a program. I’ll hear them out.”

She swiftly wrote up a 32-page prospectus with one-year, five-year and 10-year plans to present in San Marcos.

“On the plane ride back to Boston, we were both speechless,” Hopkins recalls. “Jim turned to me: ‘Are we moving to Texas?’ Me: ‘I don’t know, I think we might be.’”

We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.

This is a portion of a big story on how a Broadway veteran is integrating musical theater training to make the San Marcos school among the best in the country.