Debra Giunta is a social entrepreneur focusing on youth development through the arts.
She began dancing at the age of three and spent 7 years as a competitive dance performer. Having experienced clinical depression from the time she was 14, Debra credits her creative upbringing in the arts as a healing and empowering force in her life. She began teaching dance in high school and grew a following of students with her unique approach to student-led dance creation that empowered even her most beginner students with a creative voice of their own.
After changing her college major 5 times, Debra left school in 2008 to start Design Dance, a dance education company focusing on social-emotional wellness through partnerships with schools, community centers and institutions throughout Chicago.
Through her work in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools and The Chicago Park District, as well as prominent arts institutions such as The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Children’s Museum and Chicago Opera Theater, 2000+ students annually use movement to practice courage, connection, and self-awareness through sliding scale, subsidized or publicly funded programs.
Currently, Design Dance employs 40+ dance teaching artists and, through a partnership with Columbia College Chicago, provides education and mentorship to aspiring teachers and future arts business professionals.
Design Dance is a 4 time annual recipient of the Creative Schools Fund award and has been featured on NBC's Making a Difference series.
In 2017, Debra and her team expanded the Design Dance approach to movement education through the development of The Groove - a monthly subscription box service empowering parents of children ages 3-6 with the tools to use movement at home to foster creativity, boost cognitive growth, and increase mindfulness.
After 10 years working in Chicago schools, Debra began to see that many students with aspirations in the arts were receiving little or no career development that focused on the unique needs and strengths of young artists. In 2016, Debra founded Prismatic, a 501(c)(3) non-profit teaching Entrepreneurship in the Arts to 6th-12th grade Chicago teenagers. After piloting her first program in partnership with WeWork, Debra now partners with 15+ local and national businesses to provide students with mentorship and classroom lessons that help them identify their strengths and mission as well as illustrate a roadmap to creative entrepreneurship.
Debra is a TEDx speaker, recipient of the 2016 Goodcity Women's Innovation Fund Award and a founding board member of the Illinois Dance Education Organization.