Flint, MI–El Ballet Folklórico Estudiantil, a Flint-based organization that promotes and preserves Mexican culture through music education, was one of 28 organizations in Michigan to be included in the first round of funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The $15,000 grant from the NEA comes at an opportune time for EBFE as in the next few months the organization will be involved in several productions and performances. These include opening for El Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández, one of Mexico’s best known dance companies.

For several decades now, the EBFE has remained one of Flint’s most successful but least known music programs. Managing to gather enough funding to keep instructors and performers paid and employed, EBFE has quietly been amassing honors and a nationwide appeal.

In November of 2021, members of EBFE traveled to New Mexico where they met with Mariachi Cobre, a prestigious mariachi band best known for playing on the steps of the Mexican pavilion in Disney’s Epcot Center for nearly 40 years.

While other big things are coming for EBFE, like a locally-produced Cinderella-turned-quinceañera musical, EBFE founder and director Susana Quintanilla, said the NEA funding will be used to help maintain the organizations status quo as it looks for new avenues of growth.

“The funding from the National Endowment for the Arts just allows us to keep moving. All of our musicians are paid. We don’t have volunteers. I think it’s very important to keep the artists employed,” Quintanilla said.

Congressman Dan Kildee, who went to bat for EBFE and the FIM when it came to funding, said keeping institutions like EBFE funded I’m the city help to “connect cultures” in the city.

“Arts organizations like El Ballet Folklorico Estudiantil enrich our community, connect cultures and inspire our youth. I was proud to help secure this federal grant through the National Endowment for the Arts for El Ballet Folklorico Estudiantil and another Flint arts institution,” Kildee said.

More specifically, Quintanilla said the $15,000 will go toward supporting the EBFE’s music school as well as its upcoming performances.

“This money means we can continue to fund our classes in mariachi music, vocal arts, dance and bilingual theatre as well as community performances. Right now since the pandemic has changed everybody’s lives, we want to continue to keep the connection to the community so we have also been doing virtual performances.” Quintanilla said.

To strengthen this connection, Quintanilla said EBFE is currently working on a bilingual play set to be performed on Apr. 30 of this year. In Mexico, Apr. 30 is ‘Dia del Niño’ and ‘Dia del Libro’ or the day of the child and the day of the book. The play will focus on promoting literacy among Flint’s youth.

Having been one of two Flint-based organizations to receive funding (the Flint Institute of Music being the other), Quintanilla said she is thankful for the national recognition as well as for the additional funding her organization has received.

EBFE’s next performance will be on Sunday, Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. inside the historic Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor where they will open for the aforementioned Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández. Tickets can be purchased here.

Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...