Anne d’Harnoncourt Award for Artistic Excellence 2018 Winner Joan Myers Brown


Ms. Brown is an artist, a visionary, and an entrepreneur. Founder of the Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) in 1970, and The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts in 1960, In addition to her own companies, she serves as honorary chairperson for the International Association of Blacks in Dance, an organization she established in 1991. She is also founder of the International Conference of Black Dance Companies. She is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts, which bestowed upon her an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Ursinus College, and is a member of the dance faculty at Howard University. Most recently, she received an honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. She has made significant contributions to the national and international arts communities.

Joan Myers Brown has served a broad range of regional and national organizations, including NEFA’s National Dance Project, the United States Information Agency, Arts America, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arts Councils of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Nevada, and Ohio and the National Forum for Female Executives. Locally, she has been a part of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Minority Arts Resource Council, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, the Philadelphia Dance Alliance, The Woman’s Heritage Society, the Coalition of African American Cultural Organizations, Dance USA/Philadelphia and many other organizations.

Ms. Brown’s expertise and counsel have been sought by numerous organizations, including the Rockefeller Foundation’s Arts & Humanities Program. She served as a trustee of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation and the Media Performing Arts Center. Ms. Brown was a member of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Arts & Business Council, World Dance Alliance Americas, University City Board of Directors, Dance/USA and other non-profit organizations.

In 1988, she founded the International Conferences of Black Dance Companies and subsequently convened four other gatherings. She facilitated the Smithsonian Institution’s Conference of Black Dance Companies and served as a consultant to the East Coast Committee of Festival 2000, the San Francisco Bay Area Cultural Initiative, the NEA “Dance on Tour” ad hoc committee and the Kennedy Center Adult Education Task Force.

Among Ms. Brown’s many honors was the “Dance Women; Living Legends Award”, during a four-day series sponsored by New York area presenters, in tribute to five African-American pioneer women who founded distinguished modern dance companies with deep roots in black communities around the country. She was also honored by the Kennedy Center for African American Choreographers, received the prestigious Philadelphia Award, Dance/USA’s Honor Award. In 2010, The City of Harrisburg declared November 7th as “Joan Myers Brown Living Legacy Day”. Her undisputed status as a leader in the national and international arts communities was acknowledged when she was selected to receive the 2012 National Medal of the Arts, the nation’s highest civic honor for excellence in the arts. President Barack Obama presented the prestigious honor at a ceremony that took place in July 2013 at the White House. President Obama cited Ms. Brown for carving out “an artistic haven for African American dancers and choreographers to innovate, create, and share their unique visions with the national and global dance communities.”The success of her seemingly unending energy has been appreciated and recognized by the numerous requests for her keen input from such notable organizations as Pennsylvania State Council of the Arts, Ohio State Arts Council, New Jersey State Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, National Association for Female Executives, Port of History Museum (Ad Hoc Committee), Media Associates (Washington, DC), Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Wade Communications, Spruce Family Planning, Minority Arts Resource Council, West Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council, Advisory Panel for NEA, Expansion Arts Program, Executive Council of the Philadelphia Dance Alliance, Arts Administration for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Women’s Heritage Society, Painted Bride, Dance/USA, and the Philadelphia Arts Alliance. Her legacy has been documented in the 2011 publication of Joan Myers Brown & the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Bio-history of American Performance (Palgrave).

Often called an innovator and communicator, Joan Myers Brown is listed in Who’s Who in America as a powerhouse “Philadelphia Leader”. Joan Myers Brown’s extraordinary legacy continues through her daughters Dannielle, Marlisa, and Ashley, teachers at The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts. She is also the proud grandmother of six.

Her efforts for dance excellence are only part of her contribution to society and Philadelphia in particular. Ms. Brown’s efforts on behalf of dance excellence belie a much larger contribution to the arts and the community. She remains a tireless advocate and spokesperson and is a model of tenacity, hope, and discipline.

May 23, 2018 marks the 33rd annual Arts + Business Council Awards Celebration, a major moment for milestones. Together with you, our “Partners in Imagination,” we’ll be honoring the exceptional leaders, innovators, partnerships and volunteers below, who work to make our region culturally vibrant and economically strong. To purchase ticket packages and individual tickets, please click here.

The 2018 Anne D’Harnoncourt Award for Artistic Excellence is generously supported by:

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Joan Myers Brown, Founder & Artistic Director, Philadanco!

Click here to learn more about our Awards Celebration 2018 Winners.

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