Ayomi Wolff contributed to this report.
After narrowly avoiding eviction due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Madison Urban Arts Initiative — home of the Dynamic Badgerettes dance team — is fundraising to buy its own space for the first time later this year.
Founder and executive director Clyde Mayberry says the group is looking to raise $50,000 to pay rent, provide support for students and put a downpayment on the mortgage of a new space to accommodate a growing program and avoid dealing with landlords who don’t always prioritize Black youth.
Mayberry said the organization, which serves dancers from age 5 to 18, was on a growth trajectory until last spring.
“We started out of our trunk in 2003. From there, we hopped around different locations in Madison for rehearsal space. We’ve always provided dance as an expression. And so we would just borrow space throughout the community in order to do those things,” he recalled. “In 2018, me and some of my friends decided to open up an actual space, so we had to no longer run around town and borrow time from people. So we did a fundraiser and we opened up our first location, which was 700 square feet on Park Street. And our biggest goal with opening up a new space was to be able to provide youth programming, and so we did that right away. And in the midst of one year we doubled in capacity. And so we were running out of space. And so we ended up moving into a 2000 square feet facility, so that we can hold the capacity of students that we were teaching.”
In the meantime, the dance company — rebranded in 2018 from Crushin All Force Dance Team to Dynamic Badgerettes — has won 10 of the 13 national competitions it’s entered, Mayberry said.
The company moved into its new space in February 2020. A month later, everything was shut down.
“In this past year, we’ve only been able to operate two months out of a 12 month calendar year. We’re not funded by the city or the state. All of our funds come from community members and families. And so it just really put us in a really hard bind,” he said.
Despite a payment arrangement, Mayberry found himself in an eviction hearing earlier this month. Over just the course of a weekend, advocates raised enough money to stave off eviction, and convinced the landlord to allow the group to stay through the end of its lease in July.
Then it’ll be time to move on, Mayberry said, at least in part because the current space has a concrete floor — not ideal for dancers.
The board of directors is currently looking at several properties available for purchase.
In any case, the new space will be part dance studio, part arts center and part community center.
“Because of the community that we deal with, our students depend on us a little bit more than just for dance,” he said. “So to be able to give them hot meals during the rehearsal days, to be able to catch any of our students that are failing at home and don’t know where to go or don’t know who to ask for help, we’re going to be putting a portion of the funding towards an emergency fund for those things.”
Mayberry said an investment in his dancers is an investment in quality young women.
“So these girls, when I tell you they’re amazing beautiful black girls, and self motivated at that. We don’t even keep attendance. That’s how committed they are. They’re there before we even get there,” he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a GoFundMe fundraiser had raised nearly $18,000 of a $50,000 goal.