She was the ultimate fairytale heroine, a radiantly beautiful commoner who’d caught the eye of and later married a prince. So when Princess Grace met an early death in a car crash in 1982, at the age of 52, it was fitting that her bereaved husband, Prince Rainier III, would create a foundation in her own country to foster and celebrate the arts.
The Princess Grace Foundation-USA focuses on the Princess’s primary philanthropic interests—discovering and assisting emerging artists in theatre, dance, and film. The foundation, a publicly supported not-for-profit headquartered in New York City, provides contributions to artists who are beginning their careers, primarily in the form of scholarships, fellowships and apprenticeships. To fund the foundation, the Prince mobilized Grace’s supporters, which included the likes of Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. (The foundation is distinct from the Princess Grace of Monaco Foundation, which the princess created shortly after her marriage to encourage local artists and crafts people.)
Through its flagship program, the Princess Grace Awards, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA provides the financial assistance and moral encouragement needed by emerging artists so that they can focus on the creative process. Applicants must be nominated by nonprofit arts organizations, and a panel composed of distinguished professionals in theatre, dance, and film annually selects the winners on a competitive basis. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than 750 Princess Grace Awards totaling nearly $10 million have been given to performing artists. Many winners have subsequently achieved public recognition and critical acclaim, including Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, and other awards.
Among the notable winners are Robert Battle, the dancer and choreographer who now serves as Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Yareli Arizmendi, the Mexican actress who played Rosaura in Like Water for Chocolate; Bridget Carpenter, playwright and screenwriter nominated three times for Best Dramatic Series by the Writers Guild of America for her work on Friday Night Lights; and Stephen McDannell Hillenburg, the animator, writer, producer, actor and director best known for creating the SpongeBob SquarePants TV series.
Those Princess Grace Award-winners who subsequently distinguish themselves in theater, dance, or film receive an additional form of recognition—the Princess Grace Statue Award. To date, 54 artists have received this award. A third type of recognition, the Prince Rainier III Award, established in 2005 after the Prince’s death, is presented to eminent artists who have also made significant humanitarian contributions. This award, which includes a grant to the philanthropic organization of the honoree’s choice, has been given to such stars as Julie Andrews, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, George Lucas, and Glenn Close.
Her family is carrying on her philanthropic legacy. Prince Albert II is the vice chairman of the foundation, and Princess Caroline is president of AMADE Mondiale, the Monaco-based NGO that Grace founded during her lifetime to help children in the developing world. Recently, for example, AMADE has provided support to Syrian children in refugee camps and to families devastated by the typhoon in the Philippines.
In fairytales, the royal couple lives happily ever after. But even when death intervenes, it seems, they can make others’ dreams come true.