Billionaire philanthropist donates to Memphis arts nonprofits

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two staples in the Memphis fine-arts scene have received a generous donation from billionaire novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The Memphis Music Initiative and the Collage Dance Collective focus on uplifting young artists and creating more opportunities for people of color.

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Collage Dance Collective was gifted $3 million from Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

”I was in total disbelief. It’s not everyday you get this type of call,” the executive director of the studio, Marcellus Harper, said. “To think our work is being talked about and those conversations have reached MacKenzie Scott, it’s unbelievable.”

Memphis Music Initiative is the second non-profit to receive a check.

Executive director Amber Hamilton said the organization is keeping the exact amount confidential but did say it’s a ‘significant seven-digit investment.’

”I almost fell out of my chair,” she said. “I was just flabbergasted by the scale of the gift, but it was such a blessing.”

She said they’re in the process of determining how to spend the money.

Both Hamilton and Harper said the unexpected gift will help them carry out their missions — especially in a time where having access to the arts is so important.

”This has been an extremely challenging time for adults and young people,” Harper said. “They need outlets to talk about how they are feeling and to be able to create.”

MacKenzie Scott announced on June 15 that she had donated $2.7 billion to 286 nonprofit organizations.

It’s her third round of spontaneous gifts to nonprofits.