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PHOTOS: Materials for the Arts hosts kickoff to Great Dance Shoe Giveaway

From L to R – Shirley Levy of DCLA, Tara Sansone of MFTA, Sheelah Feinberg of DCLA, Karen Brooks Hopkins, NYC Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Spring, and Dave Sarlitto of Ocean State Job Lot. Credit – Corazon Aguirre
From left: Shirley Levy of DCLA, Tara Sansone of MFTA, Sheelah Feinberg of DCLA, Karen Brooks Hopkins, NYC Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Spring and Dave Sarlitto of Ocean State Job Lot. (Photo by Corazon Aguirre)

These shoes were made for dancing!

As the arts continue to be a vital part of Queens’ cultural landscape during its recovery from COVID-19, Materials for the Arts created ‘The Great Dance Shoe Giveaway” initiative to support dancers, dance organizations and aspiring young dancers throughout the city’s public schools.

The Great Dance Shoe Giveaway event kickoff took place on Tuesday, Feb. 22, featuring city and community leaders and performances from local dance groups.

Over 11,000 pairs of donated dance shoes are currently available, free of charge, at the MFTA warehouse in Long Island City. MFTA member organizations can pick up adult and children’s tap shoes, ballet slippers and jazz boots — donated by Ocean State Job Lot, the largest closeout retailer in the northeast — through March 3.

“Queens has no shortage of notable dance groups that represent countless cultures from across the world. We’re so excited to have this Queens-based program support our dance organizations, students and more, with indispensable free dance shoes, as they enrich our neighbors and beyond with their art,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.

The Great Dance Shoe Giveaway was made possible by a donation from Rhode Island-based Ocean State and a collaboration between MFTA — New York City’s premier creative reuse center, dedicated to supporting arts organizations, public schools and city agencies with free supplies — and The Joyce Theater, based in Chelsea, as well as Karen Brooks Hopkins, author and president emerita of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

“It’s thrilling to see a public-private partnership have such a powerful impact on our city’s cultural affairs. The Great Dance Shoe Giveaway will provide hundreds of organizations and individuals with the important, but sometimes expensive, materials necessary to carry out their craft — both to their benefit and to the benefit of all New Yorkers who get to enjoy and appreciate the art made possible by this event,” said Council member Chi Ossé, chair of the committee of cultural affairs and libraries.

The event was coordinated by Brooks Hopkins, in partnership with her brother, Ron Brooks, a supervisor and buyer for Ocean State Job Lot.

“I am thrilled that my brother’s company has made this remarkable ‘giveaway’ possible. Thousands of dance shoes are exactly what New York needs to ‘bounce back’ or should I say, ‘leap up’ and out of this pandemic,” Brooks Hopkins said. “I am also excited that the event is fortuitously occurring in conjunction with the publication of my memoir, ‘BAM…And Then It Hit Me,’ which celebrates the creative life of our city.”

With more than 140 stores, Ocean State has expanded its reach, operating in all of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while making significant contributions to a variety of important causes, such as children’s literacy, health care, veteran support and fighting hunger.

Working with the Joyce Theater’s executive director, Linda Shelton, Brooks Hopkins connected with dancers and dance groups across the city, as well as MFTA, to distribute the shoes.

The Joyce Theater Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has served the dance community for almost four decades. The theater is one of the only ones built by dancers and has provided an intimate and elegant home for more than 400 U.S.-based and international companies. It has also expanded its reach beyond its Chelsea home through off-site presentations at venues like Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater and outdoor programming.

“Nothing brings people together like live performances and joyful, collective movement. As our city’s dancers and performing arts organizations continue to return to stages large and small, we’re overjoyed to distribute this spectacular donation of dance shoes in support of their work,” Materials for the Arts Executive Director Tara Sansone said. “I thank all of our partners for making this donation possible and supporting the arts in New York City.”

Dance organizations and public schools with performance arts programming interested in receiving dance shoes via The Great Dance Shoe Giveaway are required to make an appointment online at the Materials for the Arts website.

In addition to dance shoes, dance costumes donated by From Our Hearts to Our Toes, a nonprofit that collects lightly worn dance costumes, will be available at the distribution. All year long, MFTA provides an array of supplies, including donated fabric, paper supply, buttons, beads, trim, small props, furniture, paint, electronics and office supplies. Organizations interested in becoming members of Materials for the Arts may complete an application.

See photos from the kickoff event below.

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