One Richmond woman is on a mission to bring affordable, low-pressure, high-quality dance instruction for kids right into the city—and to kids who really, really need it.
What were you doing at 19?
I was listening to a lot of Dashboard Confessional, spending way too much time crafting clever Away Messages,1 and probably subsisting solely on grilled cheeses and French fries at my college’s dining hall.2
I’m guessing I represent(ed) the norm. But fellow Richmonder Faith Price? She…does not.
Price grew up in Chesterfield, the eldest of four daughters, and began taking gymnastics in middle school. After a few injuries, she ended up switching to dance during her sophomore year at Manchester High School’s Mass Communications Specialty Center.
“Luckily my athleticism and flexibility from gymnastics translated well into dance,” Price says.
Within a year she’d not only made it on to her school’s dance team; she also earned a spot in her dance studio’s company program, which gave her the chance to dance at festivals and community events. As if those activities didn’t keep her busy enough, she also worked at the Child Watch center at her local YMCA.
After graduating from high school, Price attended William & Mary for one semester, spending a good chunk of time dancing with the school’s Tribal Dancers Dance Team and with Pointe Blank Dance Company. But the place she carved out for herself in Williamsburg’s dance community wasn’t a great fit for Price.
“There was one thing that was missing for me,” she explains. “Children!”
So, Price headed back to Richmond. She enrolled at VCU for the second semester of her freshman year, started teaching dance at the YMCA, and found work as a nanny and at Cartwheels & Coffee in Carytown. Her time at the latter helped inspire her next undertaking.
“I had several parents from my church and Cartwheels & Coffee who knew that I was a dancer asking for recommendations of studios nearby, says Price. “And I, unfortunately, couldn’t recommend anything to them that wasn’t a pre-professional program, like the Richmond Ballet.”
But Price knew that location wasn’t the only limitation many Richmond parents were facing in trying to expose their children to the world of dance. Most dance programs are, as she puts it, “pretty pricey.” So in May 2014 she founded Grace Arts.3
“I made a Facebook page and a website, simply throwing my mission out in the open,” Price explains. Which is:
“The mission of Grace Arts is to provide all children with access to safe, fun dance programs to build strength and self-esteem while introducing them into a community that will support them through their creative development.”
It didn’t take long for the community to find out about what Price was up to. Within a few months of founding Grace Arts, Price got the chance to put her mission into action.
“After putting that idea out there, I soon received a call from [Oliver Crossing in Mosby Court] looking to have after-school programs for the kids of their community,” says Price. “So in August 2014 I started my first dance class teaching an hour class weekly in their neighborhood. Because many of the families there don’t have transportation or money for classes, this class has reached a lot of children that normally wouldn’t be able to take classes as they can walk to class and the neighborhood pays me to teach it rather than the individual families.”
St. Andrew’s School, an organization with a mission similar to that of Grace Arts, soon came calling, inviting Price to start an afternoon “Dance Club” for boys. Around the same time, she also located space to hold classes for the community–space Grace Arts quickly outgrew.
“I just happened to be looking on Craigslist and noticed a karate studio two blocks from my house that was renting out space hourly, and with wooden floors and mirrored walls, I instantly knew that it was meant to be,” says Price.
Price worked with 50 students during her first season. The following spring, enrollment doubled, prompting Price to seek out a larger venue.
“Once we got so big, we decided that it would be a worthwhile investment to get a building of our own so that we would have the capacity to hold more kids and have a place for families to stay within our building where they could relax and the siblings of our dancers would be entertained,” Price explains. “Turns out that decision was worth it, as we had 200 kids this summer!”
Grace Arts now holds classes at 1015 W. Graham Road, not too far from Virginia Union University. Price expects about 300 students to enroll this fall.
The fall season begins the week of September 7th and goes through mid-December, with classes for kids as young as 2 and up to teens and adults. Fall course offerings include ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, drama, and tumbling, each instructed by teachers thoroughly vetted by Price.
In speaking of her hiring process Price says, “The first thing I make sure of is that all of my instructors genuinely love working with children, and are willing to follow the mission that we have of building their self-confidence rather than trying to get them to attain perfection. Next, I look at their experience and have them teach a ‘trial class’ so I can see what their style is, how they work with the students, etc. If it is a good fit, then I will add them to my team in whatever area their specialty may be in. The awesome thing about my team of instructors is how much they truly care about each student individually. As we find that our studio is really just one big family of 250 kids and teachers, the relationships we form are the most important things at the end of the day.”
Price also has plans (of course she does) to add painting, sculpting, and music classes to Grace Arts’s course offering someday.
“We weren’t named ‘Grace Dance’; we were named ‘Grace Arts’,” she quips. “I feel that the arts are a great way for children to express themselves in a healthy way.”
Pricing for classes at Grace Arts are as follows–and these are per family, not per child:
- 30-45 minutes a week: $25 per month
- 1 hour a week: $30 per month
- 1.5 hours a week: $35 per month
- 2 hours a week: $40 per month
- 3 hours a week: $50 per month
- 4 hours a week: $55 per month
- 5+ hours a week: $55 for 4 hours +$5 for each additional hour
But those prices aren’t set in stone. As Price explains, “We offer financial assistance to any family that may need it. We of course hold our classes at reasonable rates as it is, but sometimes due to individual circumstances, those rates are even too much for some families […] We try to respect all of our families and what their needs may be.”
Families in need of help covering the cost of enrollment at Grace Arts can fill out a financial assistance application online specifying how much they are able to pay. From there, Price will work with them to figure out what sort of payment structure will get their kids in the door and on the dance floor. Because, as she sees it, that’s what Grace Arts does.
“We are incredibly passionate about making sure that all kids are able to come dance with us, regardless of their financial situations. Bringing the joy of dance to every child in Richmond, or at least allowing them to have that type of experience, is really what lies at the core of what we do.”
For more information on Grace Arts, check out the website and Facebook page. And keep an eye on Faith Price. If she’s this pro-active at 19, can you imagine what she’ll accomplish when she’s old enough to rent a car? Or run for president? The sky’s her limit, people!