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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (June 22, 2021) – Marcellus Harper, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Collage Dance, along with the company’s Artistic Director and Co-Founder Kevin Thomas, announced that the organization has been gifted a $3 million contribution from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and educator and philanthropist Dan Jewett.  This transformative contribution follows the successful completion of Collage Dance’s $11 million capital campaign, launched in the summer of 2019 and the successful completion of the organization’s $9 million center for dance, opened in December 2020.

“As one of only two Memphis organizations and the youngest dance organization to be awarded, we are deeply honored and humbled to have our work recognized in this way,” said Harper.  We are indebted to our community for investing in us and preparing us for this moment and grateful to Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett for trusting organizations of color to be leaders in the equity and inclusion work we know and understand on a cellular level.”

Ms. Scott stated in her recent blog announcement, “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.” You can read Ms. Scott’s full announcement, here.

“Not uncommon to organizations led by People of Color, much of our work these last eleven years has been bootstrapped and built from the ground up with rarely enough financial resources,” said Thomas. “This generous gift from Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett helps us to focus more on the work and a little less on how we are going to pay the bills.  It allows us to grow in our creativity, further refine our artistic product and take some artistic risk, which Black arts organizations rarely have the luxury to do because of funding inequities.”

Since its inception in 2009, Collage Dance has been an advocate and an exemplary case study for the transformative abilities and transferrable life skills garnered through formal arts training. The organization, which just opened a 22,500 square foot state-of-the-art facility in December 2020, has trained more than 3,000 students in the organization’s 12-year history. Collage’s internationally touring professional company launches its 12th performance season in September and was recently invited to perform on the prestigious Kennedy Center stage in Washington DC in June 2022.

Collage Dance joins a list of 286 high-impact and equity-oriented organizations nationwide that have benefited from $2,739,000,000 in gifts from Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett announced just last week. It is one of just two organizations from Memphis, Tennessee on the highly curated list and is the only Black-led performing arts organization from the region.


About Collage Dance Collective

Positioning itself as the largest Black-owned ballet company in the South, Collage Dance Collective has worked to inspire the growth and diversity of ballet by showcasing a repertoire of relevant choreography and world-class dancers representative of our community. The professional company has presented eleven full-length seasons in Memphis, plus national and international touring presenting a diverse range of classical and contemporary choreography. Its institutional arm, the Collage Dance Conservatory, trains more kids of color in a classical art form than any other non-profit in Memphis or the Mid-South. In December 2020, Collage opened a 22,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility to expand its programming, training and impact. The work of Collage Dance Collective has been featured in media outlets including Huffington Post, Allure, Yahoo!, The Commercial Appeal, Vibe, Afropunk and Pointe Magazine.



Shalishah Franklin
Cell (213) 949-3204