Katherine Dunham Museum Faces Closure Over Unpaid Bills

The museum is staffed by volunteers but must come up with $500 by Thursday.

By Jamilah King Oct 30, 2013

There’s a museum in East St. Louis, Ill., that’s dedicated to pioneering African-American dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham. Known largely for developing a dance pedagogy that later became known as "the Dunham Technique" that’s now become a staple of modern dance classes, Dunham was also a committed social activist.

But the museum that captures that legacy is in danger of closing due to the mounting cost of its utility bills. "Ms. Dunham could’ve left her legacy anywhere. The artifacts, memorabilia it’s all here for the world to see. The risk is [real]. If I don’t have $486 by Thursday the lights will be turned off," says Curator Laverve Backstrom, who spoke with Fox 2 Now St. Louis

Backstrom notes that the museum is staffed by volunteers and money provided by the state of Illinois can only be used to fix the building’s infrastructure and cannot be spent on its operations.

"The Dunham museum is a well- kept secret. It needs to be out there, people need to know the building is here. I started this job and intend to see it through," Backstrom said.