As it waits to see if it's included in the city's $10 million grant plans, an Auburn dance company has found financial support from a couple of outside sources recently.
Sean McLeod's Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre has been named one of 25 nationwide recipients of a $10,000 grant from the International Association of Blacks in Dance, according to a Feb. 18 news release from the association. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the grants can be used for general operating expenses.
Additionally, as of Jan. 1, Kaleidoscope is under contract with New York state to receive $10,000 a year in Council on the Arts funding, according to correspondence McLeod provided. That money, he added, will support the company's New York Dance Festival, a two-week series of concerts and classes that takes place in July. The contract expires at the end of 2020.
McLeod, the Auburn native, producer and choreographer who serves as president of Kaleidoscope and partnering organization the New York Institute of Dance & Education, said there was no application process for the association's grant. That makes being selected "so humbling," he said. He now hopes to leverage the grant into funding from local foundations and other sources.
"We hope it shows them yet again the way we're looked at by the world of dance, and on the world stage," he said. "If we could get that kind of support in our home state, that'd really be fantastic."
On Jan. 8, the committee planning how Auburn spends its $10 million state grant will hold a …
That support could propel the New York Institute of Dance & Education toward realizing the project it submitted for a piece of Auburn's $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant: The Harriet Tubman Center for the Arts. The $1.2 million project would provide a home for both the institute and Kaleidoscope, as well as performance and residential spaces, classrooms, an incubator for minority- and women-owned business owners, and a teen inspiration program. The center has not been identified as a priority project by the Local Planning Committee assembling Auburn's plan to spend the grant, but nothing's final until the committee submits its plan to the state for its approval next month.
McLeod said that even if the committee leaves the Harriet Tubman Center for the Arts off its plan, the process has been educational. He also expressed gratitude that the committee has been open to criticism about the lack of representation for marginalized communities on the list of projects, and that the committee made efforts to be more inclusive to those communities as a result.
"It's a crash course we've been experiencing, trying to do this in two months," McLeod said. "The process has excited me to make certain the center does happen."
McLeod said he's currently eyeing the Masonic temple building on South Street as the future home of the center. Kaleidoscope would purchase the building, McLeod added, but would not look to displace any of the commercial tenants on its ground floor: Fast Trak Wireless, Vape Kult and Nick's Ride 4 Friends. Its upper floors are currently empty.
The site would be poetic for McLeod: He had a dance studio there in the '90s, until a fire ravaged the building at the end of the decade. The fire also destroyed many of the producer's notes for a musical he was writing about Harriet Tubman, "A Woman Called Harriet." Several songs from that musical would later form a cornerstone of the annual Harriet Tubman Freedom Music Festival, which McLeod launched as part of the New York Dance Festival in 2016. The institute, meanwhile, marks its 29th anniversary this year.