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Originally published November 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 19, 2008 at 10:15 AM

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Wallace Foundation awards $7.7M to local arts groups

The New York-based Wallace Foundation arts and cultural philanthropy will award $7.7 million to nine Seattle arts groups and the Washington State Arts Commission, with groups receiving $500,000 to $750,000 grants aimed at audience development.

Seattle Times theater critic

A hefty new grant from the Wallace Foundation will expose many Seattle public schoolchildren to the wonders of Bach and Mozart, courtesy of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra. Another grant will let fans of international dance and theater watch innovative performers from around the world, through the Web site of Seattle's On the Boards.

The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and On the Boards are two of nine local cultural groups getting a major boost in their audience-development and outreach efforts, thanks to a $7.7 million grant program announced today by the Wallace Foundation, a New York-based arts and culture philanthropy. The local groups' grant amounts range from $500,000 to $750,000.

The effort is part of the nationwide Wallace Excellence Awards, which uses a "city-based" approach to broaden the audiences and visibility of visual- and performing-arts groups. Past city recipients include Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, with arts institutions in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., also receiving Wallace funds this year.

Many of the Seattle grantees will use the audience-development money, allotted over a four-year period, to devise interactive technology and media schemes targeted at children and young adults.

In addition, the Washington State Arts Commission will be awarded $1.6 million by Wallace to "coordinate a skill-development series of workshops and forums for leaders of arts organizations," said Kris Tucker, the commission's executive director. The state agency will redistribute some of its grant to smaller Puget Sound-area arts organizations.

On the Boards artistic director Lane Czaplinski said his organization's grant of $750,000 will support OtBTV, a pilot program offering full-length, high-definition experimental performances online, with the aim of increasing OTB's live audience.

"This is an opportunity to learn and explore the viability and ramifications of watching performance online," said Czaplinski. "We think it's going to be a powerful tool to communicate with young people who are used to processing their world this way."

At the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, a $500,000 grant will go toward fostering a more traditional, one-on-one approach to bringing music to culturally underserved Seattle children, said Dan Petersen, the orchestra's executive director.

"We're expanding our partnership with the Seattle Public Schools," Petersen said. The goal is to work with 6,000 to 10,000 new students, through performances and participatory programs, over the next four years.

"In elementary schools," he continued, "we can reach out to African-American and Latino populations, who are underrepresented in the orchestra world."

Other Seattle recipients of the Wallace Excellence Award grants:

Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame: $585,000 to expand youth-driven programming.

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One Reel: $560,000 to bring young adults into contact with theater, music and circus arts.

Pacific Northwest Ballet: $750,000 for Web-site redesign and expansion.

Seattle Art Museum: $750,000 for social networking and "gateway" activities, among other things.

SIFF (formerly Cinema Seattle): $750,000 for an interactive community-outreach project.

Seattle Opera: $750,000 to use new technology to make opera more accessible for young patrons.

Seattle Repertory Theatre: $750,000 for new three-play packages aimed at under-40 professionals and schoolteachers.

Misha Berson: mberson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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