You can dance if you want to  

June 18, 2024

Folks were dancing for joy as the Cleo Parker Robinson Center for the Healing Arts broke ground on their new facility.  

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) was founded in 1970, “to educate, celebrate, and honor the African Diaspora and African American experience. CPRD emerged from the Black Arts and Civil Rights movements and is now one of the largest arts organizations of color in the Rocky Mountain Region and the western United States.” For five decades, they have developed into an internationally esteemed organization that operates beyond the traditional performing arts model. 

2Joined by many community members including former Denver Mayor Micheal Hancock and Colorado Lt. Governor Diane Primavera, CPRD hosted a groundbreaking and ground blessing on May 15 to celebrate the beginning of their next venture.  

For decades CPRD dreamed of expanding and they are now able to extend their original facilities and connect it with the new location, ensuring their presence in the Five Points neighborhood for decades to come. The new facility, which is set for a March 2025 opening, will be called The Cleo Parker Robinson Center for the Healing Arts. It is a $20 million endeavor, of which they have already raised about 75% of the funding needed.   

Part of that money already raised was through a $250,000 impact investment made by The Denver Foundation’s Impact Investing Pool. The Black Resilience in Colorado (BRIC) Fund, a fiscally sponsored project of ours, also gave a $100,000 grant.  

Impact investments are a powerful way to support and improve communities—a way to generate financial returns while providing a social or environmental benefit. In this case, our impact investment to CPRD was structured as a long-term loan to the nonprofit. This low-interest loan can supplement higher-cost financing from other lenders, lowering the cost of capital to the borrower. Ultimately, this helps the overall deal come together to achieve impact. We are constantly pursuing new and innovative approaches to align donor priorities with community needs. 

This investment was of interest to our team because it aligned with several of our priority areas. It supports workforce development and economic opportunities for many young people in Denver, as they can learn the skills needed to work in a variety of jobs in the arts. It’s an educational investment, too — CPRD has supported more than 1 million students (about the population of Delaware) through cultural education and movement programs over the past 50 years. Finally, CPRD has been committed to addressing issues of racial equity for the better part of five decades, and we are proud to support its mission and vision.   

Our investment committee, which reviews and analyzes all our investment opportunities, found many strengths in this opportunity. They shared that there were few opportunities to support expanded, community-based performing arts centers in Colorado. There are even fewer opportunities to support the Denver-based African-American dance troupe, one of only five remaining troupes in the U.S. that is more than 50 years old.  

“Impact investing really multiplies the effects for everyone involved. Investors get the financial returns that they need, and the community feels a substantial benefit from that support. It’s a powerful tool for change and a newer way of thinking about how we support the financial, social, and racial equity goals of The Denver Foundation,” said Ben Perry, senior director of philanthropic investments at The Denver Foundation.

According to investment committee member and Head of Philanthropy and Impact at BMO Family Office, Brook Kramer, “What I noticed most at the groundbreaking ceremony was the strength of community and the power of family to bring people together. The Denver Foundation is able to leverage its impact investing resources to strengthen the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance community’s vision and reach in a collaborative manner among many stakeholders.” 

We joined many community-based organizations, foundations, philanthropists, and governments in financially supporting this organization that brings so much joy to the community. In the long view, this was a chance to center Denver as a key player in African-American dance, including performance and practice space, learning facilities, and integration into an accredited bachelor’s program. 

After careful review and discussion, we made a $250,000 impact investment in the project. While this support is important, it is only the beginning of our commitment to making these types of investments moving forward.   

According to our President and CEO, Javier Alberto Soto, “We are committed to the continued growth of our impact investment portfolio. Last year, our board increased our allocation to this impact pool from $1 million to $5 million. My goal is to have them double that in the next two years. We currently have the largest impact investment portfolio of any community foundation in Colorado, and we hope to make it one of the biggest in the country.”   

Please join us in reaching that goal. To learn more about impact investing opportunities contact your relationship manager or email