What's Behind Doris Duke's New $5.2 Million Gift?

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation just handed out a whopping $5.2 million to the New England Foundation for the Arts in support of their National Dance Project, a program that is meant to encourage the creation and touring of new dance work and choreography to share with audiences and expand engagement in communities throughout the U.S. So what's behind this massive gift?

The National Dance Project, begun in 1996, is the NEFA's marquee program and since its inception the program has distributed over $25 million in grant funding and is by far one of the top supporters for dance in the country. To date the National Dance Project has engaged over 3.2 million audience members and supports touring companies that travel to around 37 states each year.

The program tries to reach beyond just core grantmaking for creation and touring, and works through various initiatives "to nurture a vibrant ecology for dance." These initiatives are meant to emphasize production residencies, international exchange, regional development of dance artists, and the work of contemporary art centers. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has been on ongoing supporter of this program, so this gift makes perfect sense, even though the amount is larger than you typically see in support of a dance program. The fact is that Doris Duke is one of the very few organizations that support dance to this degree and their $5.2 million donation only proves their commitment to this art form.

Doris Duke's Director for the Arts, Ben Cameron, explained, "For 18 years, the National Dance Project has fueled the creation and touring of new dance works in the United States. We are thrilled to renew our support to this thriving program, which not only has an outstanding history of success but continues to play a powerful role in bringing artists and audiences together."

The NEFA board chair Larry Simpson chimed in, saying, "As we approach NDP’s 20th anniversary, we begin to reflect on the impact the program has had on the dance field. It is because of leaders and partners like the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that NEFA is able to continue this flagship program."

The National Dance Project also receives substantial support from the Mellon Foundation, the MetLife Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Their partnership with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, for its part, shows no sign of waning, so that's good news indeed for the world of dance.