Alys Stephens Center receives NEA Challenge America Fast-Track Grant for Ailey II show

A $10,000 grant will support a public performance and two outreach programs conducted by Ailey II through ArtPlay.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center is one of 150 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Fast-Track grant.

asc ailey residency sThe grant will support a public performance and two outreach programs conducted by Ailey II through ArtPlay, the education and outreach initiative of the ASC. The Challenge America Fast-Track category offers $10,000 matching grants to support projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics or disability. Challenge America Fast-Track grants support two major outcomes: public engagement with diverse and excellent art and livability, and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

In October, the ASC and Artplay conducted a five-day residency with the Ailey organization’s Arts In Education program, Revelations: An Interdisciplinary Approach, for Birmingham-area middle school students.

The program will continue through the winter with study assignments from the company. The culmination of the program in March will be marked by a visit from Ailey II, the youthful and gifted second company of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, with a Meet the Artist school show, free for area students, on March 17, 2014. ArtPlay residency students will hold their final presentation later that day for their teachers and peers. As part of the ASC’s 2014 winter/spring season, all 12 Ailey II company members will return to perform for the general public on March 28. Tickets are on sale now; call 205-975-2787 or visit for more information.

“The Alys Stephens Center and ArtPlay are so very grateful to receive this NEA grant, which will allow us to further our mission of making the arts available to everyone,” said Theresa Harper Bruno, chair of the ASC Corporate Board. “We are constantly looking for new opportunities to share the transformational power of the arts. I am thrilled that this grant will help fund the Ailey II education program. To have one of the nation’s premiere dance companies in Birmingham, teaching our local schoolchildren and performing for the public, is a rare and exciting opportunity.”

In the fiscal year 2014 funding round, the NEA received 294 eligible Challenge America Fast-Track applications, requesting $2.94 million in funding. The NEA will award 150 Challenge America Fast-Track grants, totaling $1.5 million, to organizations in 46 states. This includes 33 first-time NEA grantees, which accounts for 22 percent of all Challenge America Fast-Track grantees in this round.

“The NEA was founded on the principle that the arts belong to all the people of the United States,” said NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Joan Shigekawa. “We’re proud that Challenge America Fast-Track grants bring more opportunities for arts engagement to underserved communities.”

See the complete listing of projects recommended for Challenge America Fast-Track grant support at