Ragamala Dance Company selected for National Arts Initiative funded by Wallace Foundation

Ragamala Dance Company has been selected to participate in the first phase of the Wallace Foundation’s new five-year arts initiative focused on arts organizations of color, created as part of the foundation’s efforts to foster equitable improvements in the arts. Following an open call in 2021 that attracted over 250 applicants, Ragamala Dance Company was selected as one of 18 non-profit organizations representing a wide range of artistic disciplines, geographic locations and communities served. . Alongside the other selected organizations, Ragamala Dance Company will receive five years of funding to develop and pursue a project responding to a strategic challenge. Researchers will document the work of each organization with the aim of developing useful insights into the relationship between community orientation, resilience and relevance.

“It is an honor to be selected for this inspiring new initiative and to be part of so many other organizations doing vital work in the arts community,” said Aparna Ramaswamy, Ragamala Dance Company. “We look forward to building a strong partnership with the Wallace Foundation and embarking on these next five years of innovation and development. During this time, we will continue our commitment to cultivating the next generation of artistic thinkers and leaders. South Asia, evolving systems to include them at every stage of the artistic process: from curators and funders to choreographers and designers.Through this process, we will thoroughly document our artistic, organizational and research-based advocacy work to serve as a case study for future generations.

Originally announced in July 2021 as a $53 million endeavor involving a dozen organizations, Wallace has expanded the initiative to include additional grantees and planned funding of up to $100 million over five years. While Wallace’s support does not eliminate the need for other funding that supports the Ragamala Dance Company and other grantee organizations, it helps provide the time and resources needed to explore new approaches to pressing challenges, including: succession planning; developing equity-focused practices; develop values-aligned business models; increase visibility; and create cultural spaces that nurture the creativity and well-being of artists and the communities served.

First, Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy of the Ragamala Dance Company will embark alongside the other grantees on a year of planning their individual projects in partnership with Wallace, researchers, consultants and financial management advisors. While the specifics of each organization’s projects are unique, there are commonalities and opportunities for shared learning and support. Grantees will work with Wallace to name the initiative and identify any technical supports they may need before beginning four years of project implementation.

The Community Orientation Action Research Team (COART), made up of researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Virginia, was funded to co-develop the initiative’s research design with beneficiaries. The research should explore the initiative’s guiding question through the lens of the projects that grantees will implement over four years. Additionally, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) oversees a fellowship program for 18 qualitative early-career researchers, one of whom will be paired with Ragamala Dance Company to develop ethnography that documents the history, practices, and culture organisation.

Full list of participating organizations:

  • 1Hood Media (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

  • National Arab American Museum (Dearborn, Michigan)

  • BlackStar (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

  • Chicago Sinfonietta (Chicago, Illinois)

  • EastSide Arts Alliance, Black Cultural Zone and Artist As First Responder (Oakland, CA)

  • Esperanza Center for Peace and Justice (San Antonio, Texas)

  • Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture (Charlotte, North Carolina)

  • Contemporary Art Museum of Puerto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

  • PHILADANCO! The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

  • Pillsbury House + Theater (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

  • Pregones / Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (Manhattan and Bronx, NY)

  • Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (San Francisco, CA)

  • Ragamala Dance Company (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

  • Rebuild Foundation (Chicago, Ill.)

  • Self Help Graphics & Art (Los Angeles, CA)

  • Mu Theater (St. Paul, Minnesota)

  • The Laundromat Project (Brooklyn, NY)

  • The Union for Contemporary Art (Omaha, Neb.)

The initiative is based on research dating back to the 1970s suggesting that community orientation, along with high-quality arts programming, can be fundamental to organizational health. Community orientation has been described, in the literature, as the preservation or presentation of the art forms of a particular racial, ethnic or tribal group, support for artists from the target community, development of the workforce cultural work of this community and the defense of the community within a wider social society. -political contexts, among other activities. In addition to gaining a better understanding of what community orientation looks like in different organizations, Wallace hopes to learn with organizations how they define relevance and resilience. For more information, please visit https://www.wallacefoundation.org/news-and-media/press-releases/pages/eighteen-arts-organizations-communities-of-color-selected-for-national-arts-initiative-the-wallace-foundation. aspx.

About the beneficiary selection process

To select the first group of grantees, Wallace reviewed applications submitted by organizations in the visual and performing arts, media arts, and community organizations focused on artistic practice with budgets between $500,000 and $5 million. dollars. The foundation sought to create a group of funded organizations serving diverse communities, focusing on projects that leverage community orientation and address different types of strategic challenges.


Ragamala Dance Company is the vision of award-winning mother/daughter artists Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy. Over the past four decades, Ranee and Aparna’s practice in the South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam has altered the trajectory of culturally rooted performing arts in the United States to create an exemplary company in the American dance landscape. . Through intimate solos and large-scale theatrical works for the stage, Ranee and Aparna enhance the South Asian American experience. By engaging the dynamic tension between ancestral wisdom and creative freedom, they reveal the kindred relationship between ancient and contemporary that today’s world urgently needs.

With Aparna Ramaswamy as the principal dancer, Ragamala has been commissioned and performed across the United States, India and abroad, highlighted by the Kennedy Center (Washington, DC), Joyce Theater (New York) , Lincoln Center (New York), Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (MA), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), American Dance Festival (Durham, North Carolina), The Soraya (Southern California), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, International Festival of Arts & Ideas (New Haven, CT), Cal Performances (Berkeley), Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), Just Festival (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), Bali Arts Festival (Indonesia), Sri Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai, India) and National Center for Performing Arts (Mumbai, India), among others. ragamaladance.org.


The mission of the Wallace Foundation is to foster equity and improved learning and enrichment for young people, and the arts for all. Wallace works nationally, with a focus on the arts, K-12 educational leadership, and youth development. In all of his work, Wallace seeks to benefit both his direct beneficiaries as well as the areas in which he works by developing and widely sharing relevant and useful knowledge that can improve practice and policy. For more information, please visit the Foundation’s Knowledge Center at wallacefoundation.org.

Comments are closed.