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Peggy Cooper Cafritz

Peggy Cooper Cafritz

Opened Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Peggy Cooper Cafritz (1947-2018) wasn't just an arts patron; she was a visionary force who opened doors for countless young artists through the creation of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Born in Alabama, her experiences with segregation fueled a lifelong passion for social justice and a belief in the transformative power of the arts.

Cafritz began her career in law, her sharp legal mind coupled with a strong sense of fairness. Soon, however, her passion for the arts took center stage. Witnessing the limited opportunities for minority artists in Washington D.C., she co-founded the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in 1974. This groundbreaking institution, modeled after New York's High School of Performing Arts, opened its doors in a former high school, offering rigorous training in dance, music, theater, and visual arts to talented students regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Under Cafritz's leadership, the Ellington School blossomed. She tirelessly fundraised, championed inclusivity, and fostered a nurturing learning environment where students could thrive. The school, named after the legendary jazz musician, became a beacon of artistic excellence and social change, producing countless successful artists and fostering a diverse cultural landscape in the city.

Peggy Cooper Cafritz's remarkable legacy is illuminated as we celebrate her significant contributions to the arts and education. One of her most notable achievements was the opening of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where she provided underserved youth with access to rigorous arts education, nurturing generations of talented artists and cultural leaders. Cafritz was a staunch advocate for equity and inclusion in the arts, tirelessly breaking down barriers for minority artists and ensuring that artistic opportunities were accessible to individuals from all backgrounds. Her legacy of philanthropy extended beyond the realm of education, as she dedicated her time, resources, and advocacy to supporting various arts initiatives and promoting social justice causes, leaving an enduring impact on communities far and wide.

Peggy Cooper Cafritz's story is a testament to the power of vision, dedication, and a strong belief in the transformative power of the arts. Her legacy lives on not just in the vibrant halls of the Ellington School, but in the countless lives she touched and the generations of artists she empowered to pursue their dreams and enrich the world with their talents.

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