Joan Myers Brown.
Image: Joan Myers Brown. Credit: Julieanne Harris.

PHILADANCO Founder and Dance Educator Joan Myers Brown Named 2022 Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Honoree

Joan Myers Brown, the powerhouse dance educator and founder of PHILADANCO, has been named the 2022 Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts (ACLA) honoree. Named after Mid Atlantic Art’s Executive Director from 1994 through April 2017, the Award honors an arts leader who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the arts sector within the mid-Atlantic region.

Joan Myers Brown is the founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) / The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts. Ms. Brown is the honorary chairperson for the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), an organization she established in 1991. She is also the founder of the International Conference of Black Dance Companies and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts and Howard University in Washington, DC. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Ursinus College, an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, and an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts. Listed in Who’s Who in America and described as an “innovator and communicator,” Ms. Brown’s efforts for dance excellence are only part of her contribution to the field. She was co-chair of Dance/USA in Philadelphia and her story has been documented in “Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina,” by Brenda Dixon Gottschild. Ms. Brown has received awards from the City of Philadelphia, the State of Pennsylvania, and the Embassy of the United States of America. She was honored as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, Outstanding Alumni of West Philadelphia High School, and received the American Dance Guild Honoree Award in addition to many other awards. In 2012, she received the prestigious National Medal of Arts Award from President Barack Obama. Ms. Brown is a recipient of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2017 Industry Icon Award and received the Philadelphia Cultural Funds’ David Cohen Award in 2019. Most recently, Ms. Brown received the distinguished 2019 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance for her choreographic influence on black dance in America.

Ms. Brown was chosen by a panel of arts professionals from the mid-Atlantic region. The final selection was based on the published Award criteria. Ms. Brown will be recognized at Mid Atlantic Art’s February board meeting during an Award ceremony and dinner.

Romona Riscoe Benson, Chair of Mid Atlantic Arts said “Joan Myers Brown’s impact on the field of dance is absolutely unquestioned. Her work with PHILADANCO, IABD, and a myriad of other organizations have changed the landscape of choreography, education, and dance as a whole. Her impact on generations of black dancers and dance makers cannot be underestimated. I am proud to be a fellow Philadelphian and congratulate Joan on being our 2022 Honoree.”

Theresa Colvin, Mid Atlantic Art’s Executive Director continued, “Every year, the ACLA nomination pool brings the very best in creative and inspiring work to our attention. How lucky we are to live in a region where people have put their hearts and souls into making the arts sector the best it can be. I salute all of the nominees.”

Ms. Brown joins four previous honorees: Stanford Thompson (2021), Rebecca Medrano (2020), Julia Olin (2019), and Michael L. Royce (2018).

Information about the 2023 round of the Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award will be available this winter. Nominees will have demonstrated impactful leadership in the arts in one or more of Mid Atlantic’s nine partner jurisdictions of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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