When we talk about foundations investing in anchor institutions, more often than not, it's through the lens of urban renewal. Players like the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation rightfully envision theaters, museums, and performance spaces as a kind of urban nucleus, enabling further development to expand across the city.
But sometimes cities either don't necessarily need to be revitalized in the traditional sense, or undergo such rapid growth and sprawl that it's more practical for institutions to drop anchor away from the city center. Such is the case in Tulsa, where the Hardesty Family Foundation recently donated 13.72 acres of land to support the development of a Tulsa Ballet satellite school in Broken Arrow, a city with approximately 100,000 residents that also doubles as the largest suburb of Tulsa.
The gift, valued at $4.185 million, is one of the largest gifts ever awarded by the Foundation and its founders, Roger and Donna Hardesty.
The Tulsa Ballet Center for Dance Education has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years. With an annual enrollment approaching 400 students and serving over 5,000 students through its educational outreach programs for school children every year, Artistic Director Marcello Angelini identified the need to open a satellite school to better serve the community. The expansion was inevitable.
And so the question wasn't if the center needed to expand, but how and where the expansion would take place. To identify the ideal site for Tulsa Ballet’s satellite school, the organization conducted extensive research, which revealed Broken Arrow to be the ideal location. "Broken Arrow is one of the fastest growing communities in the country; it has an ambitious vision for its future, a vibrant chamber of commerce, and a progressive city government,” said Angelini. “It’s a community growing by leaps and bounds."
In addition—and I admit, it's only conjecture at this point given my general ignorance of the metropolitan Tulsa real estate market—it was probably more cost-effective to decamp to sprawling Broken Arrow, rather than in downtown Tulsa.
As for the Hardesty Foundation, Roger and Donna made their money in the field of construction and real estate. Their foundation supports a variety of nonprofit organizations, including medical research, education, and arts.
And speaking of Tulsa, check out my colleague Alyssa Ochs' take on the the grantmaking priorities of another of the city's big philanthropic players, the Schusterman family.