A Quick Look at Actress Diane Lane's New Grant for Influential Female Arts Educators

Last year we asked if, at long last, music education was back on the upswing. And while it's difficult to make sweeping generalizations about something so fluid and localized, at least anecdotally speaking, we've seen a noticeable uptick in the amount of grantmakers stepping in to plug and public funding gaps.

But arts education, of course, comprises a vast terrain far beyond funding for children and high schoolers. While it seems like most of the arts education funding comes from large foundations giving to kids affected by budget cuts, there's a lot of interesting stuff happening elsewhere. Take recent news out of New York, for example, which finds actress Diane Lane funding a grant for arts educators to honor the composer, writer, and director Elizabeth Swados, who passed away earlier this year. The grant is being created in tandem with the Ziegfeld Club and will award $5,000 to an "influential female educator in New York."

Let's step back and take a quick look the involved parties. Swados' breakout hit was 1978's Runaways, a musical which told the story of children who left home, trying to survive on on the gritty and unforgiving streets. Ms. Lane collaborated with Ms. Swados on this production. 

Ruminating on her legacy, a New Yorker obituary said that stars like Ms. Lane found their respective voices in her shows because "Liz was there to write down what she and other tremendously talented girls were feeling." Needless to say Ms. Lane concurs, noting, "Somehow a person’s greatness is called forth from someone else inspiring them to dig deeply into themselves. That was, to me, what Liz did for everyone...I wanted to honor that and nurture that in individuals or groups that would never otherwise be acknowledged."

The Ziegfeld Club, meanwhile, was founded in 1936 and has been dubbed by the New York Times as one of New York’s "pioneering feminist institutions." In addition to the new Swados-inspired grant, the club is establishing the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award which will be given to an emerging, female composer-lyricist who compellingly demonstrates "financial need, professional initiative, and outstanding artistic promise in musical theatre composition."

The Swados grant, which will not be restricted by genre, is scheduled to begin this year and continue for at least four years.

In related news, check out our take on the Restless Award, which at $45,000 is the largest annual cash prize in American theater awarded to a playwright in recognition of a new play, created in honor of the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.