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Prince is moving into arts philanthropy in a big way, with a particular focus on arts programs for the younger generation. Before he performed at New York's Madison Square Garden on Monday, the rock musician was in the arena for the announcement of three major donations, including a $250,000 gift to American Ballet Theatre for its educational programs.
"My understanding is that at the start of the current tour, he mentioned that he wanted to make some gifts in New York City," said Rachel Moore, ABT's executive director, who was present to receive an oversized check for the funds donated in the name of Prince and his backup group, the New Power Generation. Moore said that her contact with Prince's organization made clear that "their interests are in educational programs, and that's what the press conference was about. It was about the power of the arts, and helping children as being critical."
Prince has a particular awareness of ABT through Misty Copeland, an ABT soloist he sought out to perform in his 2009 "Crimson and Clover" music video (watch it above). Copeland has made her first live appearances with the musician during the current tour, performing a number in pointe shoes as her ABT schedule allows. Copeland, who joined ABT in 2000, is the company's only African American soloist.
"Misty knew that we are very focused on doing work to diversify professional ballet, and I think that's something that very much interested Prince in the conversations she had with him," Moore said. Referring to the musician’s organization, she noted that "they want to work with us on exactly where the gift is going to go. It will be used for education, and serving children who are from under-resourced communities, without question."
Moore said she expects the donation to make possible increased scholarships for the company's 6-year-old Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. "Our desire is to have it go directly into the JKO School to help with scholarships for children of color."
Several students were present at Monday's announcement, where Prince also announced substantial donations to the Harlem Children's Zone and the Uptown Dance Academy, both New York-based educational enterprises.
Until recently, Prince’s main connection with ballet was providing the score for the Joffrey Ballet's "Billboards" in 1993. But he has been attending ABT performances, Moore confirmed, and came to see the company's new "Nutcracker" in December at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.