Princess Grace Awards seek out young talent

Talented young filmmakers, playwrights, and dancers have opportunities to vie for hundreds of nonprofit foundation grants and fellowships every year. But few have the cachet of the 18-year-old Princess Grace Awards.

They are named for the late American film star Grace Kelly, who became Princess Grace of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier III.

Ethan Stiefel, now a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, and regarded as one of the finest classical dancers in the United States, was awarded a Princess Grace Award in 1991. It was "vital in making others aware of my possibilities, and has given me confidence to pursue what I wanted to in ballet," says Mr. Stiefel, who starred in the recent movie "Center Stage."

Film director Greg Mottola, who won a Princess Grace Award in 1998 before he directed the acclaimed film 'The Daytrippers,' says he was honored to receive the award. "I take personal joy in being recognized by this organization," Mr. Mottola says, "because I associate Princess Grace with motion pictures at their most beguiling: a world of elegance, mystery, beauty, and compassion."

These artists' sentiments are echoed by many of the 280 recipients of grants, totaling more than $2 million since their inception in 1982, the year Princess Grace died in an auto accident in Monaco.

While the amount of money the Princess Grace Foundation-USA has given away grows each year, its purpose remains unchanged: to assist gifted young dancers, filmmakers, and playwrights.

With its staff of three and an endowment of $12 million, the foundation, which administers the awards, is tiny compared with its giant counterparts, such as the Ford or Rockefeller Foundations. But it expects to expand in coming years.

"We are a public charity that relies solely on private donations, not government grants....," says Toby Boshak, the Princess Grace executive director. Reduced government funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and state arts groups has "made our mission much more important," chairman John Lehman told Manhattan Magazine. "But I think it is much better for arts support to come from nongovernmental sources - because no state or federal agency can be above politics."

Last year, the foundation awarded about $230,000 in grants. "The board is very committed to making a strong impact financially, and we anticipate increasing the size of our endowment to $100 million in the coming years," Ms. Boshak says. The foundation, whose trustees and advisory board includes Placido Domingo, designer Karl Lagerfeld, and actor Tony Randall, has wooed superstar Aretha Franklin to sing at this year's annual awards dinner Oct. 23 in the grand ballroom of New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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