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Arts & Life

Kansas City Friends Of Alvin Ailey Seeks National Stage In 30th Year

Laura Spencer

It was 30 years ago this year that Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey was created as a second home for the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a modern dance company founded in 1958.

To mark this milestone, the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation on Friday issued a challenge grant. At $375,000, it’s the largest grant in the history of the Friends of Alvin Ailey.

"That’s to support the new and exciting arts programming. It is a challenge," says David Lady, president and COO of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation. "I’m very confident the organization will be able to meet it."

A five-year plan is in the works to turn Friends of Alvin Ailey into a national model "for bridging racial and cultural differences." Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has consulted with more than 600 arts institutions. He's been brought in to help design the strategy.

"Over the past 20 years, I have worked with literally hundreds of arts organizations of color throughout the country. And I've seen what works and what doesn't work. And the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey works," says Kaiser. "This organization is committed to a simple but far-reaching mission: it presents dance, it educates children, and it brings people together.

"But...I've discovered in my work here over the last several months, however, that too few people know about this dynamic organization and how it enhances the Kansas City community."

Kaiser says the strategic plan is designed to create more awareness and a "culture of excitement on stage and off."

On tap for the anniversary year: a series of symposia and discussions, a summer arts festival, an online contest allowing students to "express their own personal revelations," and a community outreach initiative called "Ailey In Your Neighborhood." More details are expected to be announced in the spring.

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