PBT Education Director Receives Emerging Leader Award for Commitment to Arts Accessibility

This weekend, Alyssa Herzog Melby, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Director of Education and Community Engagement, received the 2013 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Award for Emerging Leaders for her dedication to advancing accessibility among ballet patrons with special needs. 

Herzog, one of two 2013 award recipients, accepted her award Friday, August 23, at the 2013 LEAD conference in Washington, D.C.

During PBT’s 2012-2013 Season, Melby spearheaded a series of new PBT accessibility initiatives, including braille and large-print programs, audio description services and pre-performance sensory seminars to help patrons with vision impairments to visualize the choreography, set design and costumes. Also under Melby’s leadership, PBT will premiere the country’s first-ever, autism-friendly performance of “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 27, 2013.

“We are extremely proud of Alyssa Herzog Melby and this well-deserved recognition for her efforts,” said Harris Ferris, executive director for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. “Under her leadership, PBT has moved to the forefront of accessibility developments designed specifically for dance. It is our hope that these pilot programs will help to expand accessibility initiatives within the Pittsburgh dance community.”

In addition to accessibility programs for patrons, Melby also has been instrumental in bringing a program to Pittsburgh to provide specialized classes for people with Parkinson’s to actively participate in dance. In partnership with the National Parkinson Foundation Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh’s first “Dance for Parkinson’s” class series will run Sept. 14, through Nov. 23, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at PBT Studios, 2900 Liberty Avenue.

Since 2008, the  Kennedy Center LEAD Awards have recognized outstanding arts administrators and institutions whose leadership and work furthers the field of accessibility. The Awards for Excellence in Accessibility Leadership recognize an organization’s or individual’s long-standing commitment to accessibility in the cultural arts for people with disabilities and older adults. Award recipients are required to have attended a recent LEAD conference and implemented a new accessibility project as a result of the conference. 

Melby’s award marks the second consecutive year that arts administrators in Pittsburgh have been recognized for their dedication to the arts and to individuals with disabilities. In 2012, Al Rodibaugh, Vanessa Braun and Eric Thomas received the LEAD Award for Emerging Leaders for their work with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

For more information about the 2013 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Award for Emerging Leaders, please visit http://www.kennedy-center.org/accessibility/education/lead/awards.html.

For additional information about accessibility initiatives at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, please visit https://pbt.org/plan-your-visit/accessibility.