Orlando Ballet Breaks Ground for Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre


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After an unprecedented total donation of $7.5 million by Orlando philanthropist Harriett Lake, the Orlando Ballet Company was able to relaunch its plans for a state-of-the-art facility and broke ground for the Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre in Loch Haven Cultural Park last month.

All in pink hardhats, donors, Orlando Ballet officials, ballerinas, friends of Lake, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and Lake’s daughter Shelly came together to share how Lake’s generosity toward the ballet influenced the arts culture in Orlando for years to come.

Speakers at the event included Orlando Ballet Artistic Director Robert Hill, Board Chair and Chair of the Building Committee Sybil Pritchard, Jacobs and Dyer.

The 38,000-square-feet facility, which will be comprised of rehearsal spaces, studios for the ballet school, administrative offices and a multipurpose auditorium that will be used for both the company and the community in the form of a venue, is a part of the Orlando Ballet’s long-range plan for expanding artistic endeavors throughout Orlando and fulfilling their goal of bringing their many programs under one roof.

“Every family needs a home, and not only will this be the home of the Orlando Ballet family, but it will be a home to the community as well,” said executive director Shane Jewell. “And it makes a strong statement: that Orlando Ballet is a vital cultural asset to this community, and will be here for generations to come.”

Lake, a Longwood resident, was long known as an Orlando icon and a patron for the arts. Her continuous donations to the Orlando Ballet showed the love she exuded towards the arts—and although she donated to over 150 charities and organizations, the Ballet Company was one of her favorites. Lake died this year at age 96, and the Ballet Centre will be named after her.

Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre will join the family of buildings, rooms and halls named after her in the wake of Lake’s donations and outpouring toward the arts community, ranging from a cultural auditorium at the Jewish Community Center in Maitland to a bar at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.

“There could have been no other name on that building,” said artistic director Robert Hill. “It would not have been possible for anyone else’s name to be on that building. And she resisted for the longest time, and finally came around. And I’m so glad she did—it’s so appropriate for her to have her name on there.”

Jacobs spoke about the effect Lake’s donation and the city’s passion for the arts would have on the community.

“You walk in and you’re going to feel the presence of Harriett, as well it should be,” she said. “We are blessed to be in a community that is so gracious and so generous.”

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