Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library has acquired the archive of pioneering ballet dancer, artistic director and choreographer Arthur Mitchell.
“I believe that dance, and the arts more broadly, can be used as a catalyst for social change—this is why I started the Dance Theatre of Harlem,” said Mitchell. “With these materials now at Columbia, artifacts of American dance history and African-American history will be accessible to young scholars, academics and the general public, furthering this push for change.”
The collection contains photographs, posters, programs, clippings, correspondence, early film footage and video content that tell the story of Mitchell’s acclaimed career, which helped change the landscape of ballet in America. He was the first African-American principal dancer of a major ballet company, the New York City Ballet, where co-founder and choreographer George Balanchine created iconic roles for him. Although Mitchell continued to dance on occasion with the New York City Ballet, he left full-time performing to co-found with Karel Shook the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the first African-American classical ballet company to achieve international acclaim.
With support from the Ford Foundation, the Mitchell archive will reside at Columbia alongside an extraordinary collection of materials that document the cultural, social and political history of Harlem, as well as other major performing arts collections, including the recently acquired papers of composer Sergei Prokofiev.
“We are honored that Mr. Mitchell has decided to place his legacy with Columbia University and look forward to partnering with him and members of our community to ensure that his work isn’t only accessible, but actively engages people in his ideas and creativity,” said Sean Quimby, Director of Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
The Mitchell archive will open to the public in 2017, when processing and cataloging has been completed. Columbia will be hosting an array of public programs and events—some featuring Mitchell—in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Learn More About the Acquisition and Review a Brief Bio of Mr. Mitchell.
Video Provided by Columbia University