Tulsa Ballet closes one of its most successful seasons with the announcement that it has achieved its $25 million Defining the Future Campaign – the largest fundraising initiative in the history of the company.

The integrated campaign exceeded its goal by raising a total of $25.2 million, thanks to a $450,000 major gift from the Lou and Connie Miller Charitable Foundation and trustees Kirk Clausing and Max Vowel.

Funds raised from the campaign are being used to:

  • Broaden the reach of the Tulsa Ballet Center for Dance Education.
  • Build and create new productions.
  • Increase the Tulsa Ballet endowment to provide for the long‐term sustainability of the organization.

The campaign, first chaired by Kayla Vaughn, began in 2015. Billie Barnett assumed the chair role in 2017. Hannah Robson served as Honorary Chair.

“We are especially grateful for the Lou and Connie Miller Charitable Foundation’s gift, which has helped us reach the finish line for this campaign,” says Scott Black, Tulsa Ballet’s Managing Director. “As a World War II veteran, Lou Miller became an entrepreneur establishing L&M Office Furniture as a successful Tulsa-owned business and finding continued success through real estate investments. I am sure that Mr. Miller would be pleased that his legacy of philanthropy is being carried out by the trustees of his foundation.”

Marcello Angelini, Tulsa Ballet’s Artistic Director, says, “The Defining the Future Campaign was developed to substantiate the relevance of dance in our community for decades to come, through audience growth and education, and the long-term artistic and financial health of Tulsa Ballet. We are thankful to every individual who contributed to this campaign, and for their investment in the future of the arts, culture and quality of life of our community.”

About Defining the Future – An Integrated Campaign for Tulsa Ballet

Completion of Center for Dance Education in Broken Arrow
The Tulsa Ballet Defining the Future Campaign consists of multiple funding areas, the first being capital funds to build The Hardesty Center for Dance Education in Broken Arrow, the result of a generous gift of 13.72 acres from the Hardesty Family Foundation and its founders, Roger and Donna Hardesty.

This facility, designed by Bob Schaefer of Selser Schaefer Architects, opened in 2016 as part of Tulsa Ballet’s 60th anniversary season to support the growing needs for ballet training, education and outreach programs.

The school houses the Ann and Jack Graves Studios and the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation Performance Studio, a state-of-the-art, in-house theater with a seating capacity of 160. Additional funding came from the JE and LE Mabee Foundation in the form of a challenge grant, and the Lou and Connie Miller Charitable Foundation, along with multiple individuals, corporations and foundations.

Creation of New Productions
Mollie Williford provided the lead gift to support capital funds for new productions, including this past April’s world premiere of Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music by resident choreographer Ma Cong and the world premiere of Dorothy and the Prince of Oz by Edwaard Liang in collaboration with BalletMet of Columbus, Ohio, that debuted in 2016.

Additional capital funds from the HA and Mary K Chapman Charitable Foundations and the Suzanne and Jim Kneale Family Foundation have been raised to support an all-new production of The Nutcracker to premiere in a future season.

Endowment Growth

Gifts to the Tulsa Ballet endowment have been established to support essential programs in perpetuity.

Lead gifts have been committed by:

  • Bonnie Klein, who has established the Audience Favorite Endowment Fund, providing support for productions with mass audience appeal.
  • Kathy and Bob West World Premiere Endowment Fund, providing support for productions that foster the creation of new works.
  • Margery Mayo Bird Classical Masterpiece Endowment Fund, providing support for productions that preserve the tradition of classical ballet.
  • Judith and Jean Pape Adams Artistic Excellence Endowment Fund, providing support for Tulsa Ballet’s commitment to uncompromising artistic quality.
  • Sanford and Irene Burnstein Arts Access Endowment Fund, providing access to ballet performances for at-risk youth
  • Hannah and Joe Robson Endowment Fund for general support.

Sustaining the level of excellence for annual operations during the campaign has been critical to Tulsa Ballet’s success. Major campaign gifts from George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, and The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation are just a few who have made increased gifts to support Tulsa Ballet’s annual performances and educational outreach programs.

Major gifts and donors
Providing a combined $21 million in major gift commitments for Defining the Future are: The Hardesty Family Foundation; E. Ann Graves; Margery Mayo Bird Foundation; Rita Willis Trust; George Kaiser Family Foundation; Bonnie Klein; The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation; H.A. & Mary K. Chapman Charitable Foundations; Mollie Williford; The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation; Judith and Jean Pape Adams Charitable Foundation; Kathy and Bob West; Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Lou and Connie Miller Charitable Foundation; Suzanne and Jim Kneale Family Foundation; Janet Selser and Bob Schaefer/Selser Schaefer Architects; Bobbye Ruth and Dewitt L. Potter; and Hannah and Joe Robson.

Major gift donors pledging a combined $2.4 million in contributions include: Billie and Howard Barnett and the Barnett Family Foundation; The Albert and Hete Barthelmes Foundation; SemGroup; Monica Williford and Steve Bayles; Kayla and Scott Vaughn; Katrine and Ramez Hakim; The Maurice DeVinna Charitable Trust; The Mervin Bovaird Foundation; Meinig Family Foundation; Oxley Foundation; Sanford and Irene Burnstein Foundation; Wendy and Gentner Drummond/Blue Sky Bank; Jill and Robert Thomas; Susan and Bill Thomas; Jo and Jack Babbitt; KKT Architects; GlobalHealth; David O. Hogan; IBC Bank; Jackie Kouri and Gary Paxton; Betty and Steve Pirnat; Susan Parrott; Patsy Savage; Will Smith; Charles and Marion Weber Foundation; and Karen Young.

About Tulsa Ballet
Since 1956, Tulsa Ballet has evolved from a small regional ballet company to a nationally and internationally recognized arts organization. For 24 years, the organization has thrived under the leadership of Artistic Director Marcello Angelini.

Today, Tulsa Ballet consistently attracts the finest choreographers in the world, employs around 30 professional dancers from around the world, 25 full‐time artistic and administrative staff members and a pre‐professional ensemble composed of 12 American and international young dancers, all graduates from the top ballet academies of the world.

This year, Tulsa Ballet fulfilled its role as an Oklahoma cultural ambassador by representing the city and state in Italy, Switzerland and Spain on the company’s first three-country tour.

Performing to sold out crowds in six of the top venues, Tulsa Ballet received standing ovations and was called by the European press, “without a doubt, within the Top Ten American ballet companies,” and “one that, for decades continues to enrich the international landscape of our field” and “a company made up of 30 dancers from 14 countries, dancers who are absolutely extraordinary for their technique and versatility … Tulsa Ballet’s work was truly exceptional.”

The recently completed season also saw some of the company’s greatest successes to date, including the highest subscription sales ever, the highest selling run of The Nutcracker in the history of Tulsa Ballet, the largest enrollment in the Tulsa Ballet Center for Dance Education, and the highest grossing special event, Icons & Idols 2019, in the history of Tulsa Ballet.

View the Campaign Celebration book here.