Jane Alexander has used her clout as chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts to intercede on behalf of the Lula Washington Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Theater after it appeared the company would not receive federal money to help it rebuild following the January earthquake.
The result was that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has changed its mind, awarding the company a grant this week that will pay 90% of its rebuilding costs.
The money will come under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, which is allotted for non-profit organizations that provide essential services of a governmental nature — a program that, until now, excluded the arts.
Alexander was one of a handful of influential people, also including Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who contacted FEMA last week after the Washington company had been informally advised it would not be eligible for a loan.
“I am deeply concerned about this because the theater does indeed provide such services, and provides them to at-risk children in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in this country,” Alexander wrote in a letter to FEMA Director James Lee Witt. “There is no question in my mind that the work they do constitutes an ‘essential service of a governmental nature.’ ”
Among the programs the Washington company provides are an after-school Latchkey Dance Program for children called “I Do Dance, Not Drugs,” along with free dance instruction for local kids.