Dance/USA Philadelphia, an artist support and advocacy organization, will fold at the end of the year after losing its biggest benefactor.
The organization launched in 2007 with money from the William Penn Foundation, which continued supporting it every year. A few weeks ago the foundation announced it would refocus its philanthropic giving and no longer support Dance/UP, effectively ending its existence.
Although Dance/UP received grants from other sources for specific programs, all of its core operating money – almost $1 million over a three-year period – came from the William Penn Foundation.
“Dance/USA Philadelphia’s closing is an unfortunate illustration of the challenges the sector continues to face and highlights the need to find solutions for a more sustainable arts community,” said William Penn executive director Laura Sparks in a written statement, adding that Dance/UP “played a significant role in advancing the dance sector in Philadelphia.”
Dance/UP created programs that offered dancers consultation and resources, coordinated and funded international collaborations, maintained a portable sprung floor which could transform almost any venue into a performance space, and subsidized theater rentals enabling small companies to stage their own shows.
“It really changed the culture, because artists could self-produce, having that kind of support,” said Terry Fox, director of the presenting organization Philadelphia Dance Projects. “They were not dependent on being selected to be in any one presenter’s program.”
Dance/UP hosted a national dance conference in Philadelphia last summer. As recently as this fall its parent organization, Dance/USA, was deep into a proposal process with the William Penn Foundation for another round of funding. It anticipated a funding reduction, but not a total loss.
“We were working hard to find an independent model for Dance/UP,” said Dance/USA director Amy Fitterer, who successfully spun its two other branches in New York City and Washington, D.C., into independent companies. They ran out of time finding fiscal model to allow Dance/UP here to become less dependent on the William Penn Foundation.
“I do not want to leave the dance community in Philadelphia without some support,” said Fitterer. She and Lois Welk, the Dance/UP director, are hosting a series of meeting with people involved in the regional dance community to find out how individuals and dance companies can, themselves, coordinate and maintain programs created by Welk.
“Which programs and services they value the most, and how would they prioritize the various programs and services that Dance/UP has been offering?” said Welk.
Those meetings are scheduled for:Tuesday, Dec 9, 4:30 at the Painted Bride Arts Center (230 Vine Street)Wednesday December 10, 9AM, at Philadanco (9 N. Preston Street)Monday, December 15, 6PM, City Hall, Room 201
This disclosure, the William Penn Foundation supports WHYY.