Arts-Based Community Development Convening
Transforming Post-Industrial Cities through Art and Innovation
April 12 through 14, 2012 - St. Louis

Sara Burke

St. Louis, Missouri

Sara Burke Photo 1.12

Sara Burke is the owner and director of The City Studio Dance Center in St. Louis, Missouri which she founded in 1986.  Sara is a choreographer, dancer, dance instructor, photographer, and author and arts diversity consultant.  Sara consults for local dance companies and works with young dancers helping them start Company’s.  Sara relishes her role as “mentor”.   She has danced around the world. One of her biggest goals and accomplishments was to learn Dunham Technique from the legendary Katherine Dunham.  She studied with Miss Dunham in East St. Louis in the 1970’s and danced with the Dunham Company.  Sara’s experiences studying and dancing Dunham Technique changed her life and she has been committed to promoting diversity through the Arts ever since.


Sara is a Commissioner on the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) appointed by Mayor Francis Slay. She serves on the Executive Committee as Secretary of The Regional Arts Commission.  Sara also serves on the boards of:  Dance St. Louis, Diversity Awareness Partnership (DAP) Executive Committee:  Development Director, DanceBrazil in New York City and she is also on the National Board of Directors for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company in Denver.  Sara is also a member of the Americans for the Arts and a member of the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD). Sara is a member of the Editorial Board for ALIVE Magazine and on the Advisory Board of Pulaski Bank.

Sara holds a masters degree in Urban Affairs and an undergraduate degree in English, Theatre and Dance from Saint Louis University.

Combining the Arts with Business has been a challenging but rewarding experience.  Sara received both a Mayoral Proclamation and an Aldermanic Proclamation for her contributions to the life of the Arts in the City of St. Louis. In October, 2009 Sara additionally received the prestigious Links Award for her: “Outstanding Leadership in Culture and Arts for the betterment of St. Louis. Sara is receiving the 2012 Grand Center Visionary Award for outstanding Arts Professional. Sara’s passion for the Arts is never ending and her enthusiasm is infectious.Sara is a co-founder of “Calling All Dancers” a regional consortium of dancers and dance organizations designed to foster cooperation and support to enhance the visibility and viability of the local dance community. As an advisor to the “One River Mississippi Project”, Sara was instrumental in including dancers from the East St. Louis Dance Community, including Master Teachers and dancers from the SIUE Katherine Dunham Performing Arts Training Center.

Her enthusiasm and passion extends to her commitment to diversity in the Arts. Sara is Chairwoman of the SIU East St. Louis Center for the Performing Arts Advisory Council which is committed to preserving the legacy of Katherine Dunham.  Sara is Chair of the Diversity Initiative Committee for the Regional Arts Commission and was instrumental in the development of RAC’s Diversity and Access Policy. Sara and her husband Jack Burke founded and endowed a paid internship at The Regional Arts Commission for an African American studying for a degree in Arts Administration.  Sara named this internship after Katherine Dunham and in January 2011 the first internship was awarded.

Sara’s experiences as a dancer in East St. Louis with Miss Dunham and as a working artist in the St. Louis Community have contributed to her focus on fostering inclusiveness in the arts.  She is committed to seeking out all voices in the development, nourishment, and presentation of the Arts in the St. Louis Community.

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Changing the Complexion: Diversity and Inclusion in Arts Administration

Day 2 / Apr, 13 @ 10:30 am
Lower Level : Room B

In Donna Walker-Kuhne’s book titled, “Invitation to the party,” she explains how people of color experience institutional exclusion in the Arts, which has created a highly polarized community.   In our session, we plan to highlight this theme by engaging participants in a dialogue about the impact of exclusion and how to affect change.  Key concepts covered will focus on how diversity yields innovation and creativity, builds stronger communities, and reaches a larger audience pool.  We will go in depth about the importance of mentoring in the arts with a particular emphasis on questions such as: How do people get in the interview “pipeline” who are not being interviewed?  How do we provide access…how does access happen? How does someone break into the field? Are we willing to power share?  The session will be split between didactic training of these concepts and interactive activities and questions.  Our goal for the session is to insight more awareness about diversity and inclusion along with a tactical solution of how to implement change.