Capping an effort that persevered during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami City Ballet announced this month that it has raised $65 million over the course of a four-year capital campaign, $10 million over its ambitious target.
The Miami Beach-based company also added 2,000 new donors during its now-completed Transforming Lives Campaign, which began in 2018 with an “unpreceded goal” of raising $55 million.
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“MCB is stronger and our future brighter than ever,” Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez said in a prepared statement.
The ballet troupe, which regularly performs its seasonal offerings at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, brought in $57 million over the length of the campaign, and secured an additional $8 million in pledges for future fiscal periods, MCB officials said.
The fund-raising effort was led by Kristi Jernigan, former chair of MCB’s board of trustees and onetime head of the Argonaut Capital hedge fund. She and her husband, Dean, CEO of commercial real estate finance company Jernigan Capital, were major figures in a revitalization of downtown Memphis, Tennessee, from 1997 to 2002.
“When the campaign was initiated in 2018, $55 million was an unprecedented goal. Add to it the unforeseeable impact of the pandemic. The thought of reaching our goal, at times, felt like a distant dream,” Kristi Jernigan said in a prepared statement. “But through hard work and perseverance, we not only achieved our goal, we exceeded it.”
The funds were raised in line with four basic mission targets: artistic expansion, community-building, dance education and organizational capacity. The effort expanded MCB’s repertoire, with choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s much-lauded revamp of “Swan Lake” and George Balanchine’s “The Firebird” taking South Florida stages as major productions.
The period also saw six company premieres and four world premieres by emerging choreographers, as well as an increased touring schedule that took the troupe to New York; Chicago; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; and Paris, and will see it in residence in August at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow dance festival in Massachusetts.
During the campaign, nearly $2 million in aid was given to students at the Miami City Ballet School, several of whom performed in major MCB productions. Eight of the school’s students have joined MCB, and six others have joined leading international companies.
Community engagement initiatives expanded, including Ballet Bus, which for seven years has been providing equity in dance education to students in Miami-Dade County Title I schools. Also, Palm Beach Summer Dance Camp, a three-week intensive in forms of dance from classical to flamenco, is now in its third year.
Miami City Ballet now has an annual operating budget of $20 million to $25 million. As part of the Transforming Lives Campaign, it created a $4 million Dancer Support Fund to help dancers and artistic staff during the pandemic, and invested $2 million in facilities improvements.
“By successfully raising this amount of money, we have been able to provide a true difference in the lives of our students, artists and communities,” said Jeffrey Davis, board chair, in a prepared statement.
Lopez thanked the “entire MCB family” for their efforts in exceeding the capital campaign’s goals.
“We could not have done this without the support of so many, including Kristi, Jeff and the countless others who gave so generously and advocated for this art form that I know firsthand has the power to transform lives,” she said.