When Harlem School of the Arts founder Dorothy Maynor was raising money to build the facility, New York City was a much different place.
“They really wanted to create this safe haven with this oasis on the inside,” said Eric Pryor, president of Harlem School of the Arts.
The funding from the Herb Alpert Foundation will fix some issues, such as air conditioning, but it’s the 18,000 square foot glass curtain wall set to be installed in the front of the building that will transform HSA.
“It’s going to allow people to see straight into our gathering space and see who we are as an institution,” Pryor said. “Also, the coloring is going to change. It’s going to look like an art center from the outside as opposed to people thinking that it looks more like a public or charter school which we are not. We are an arts center.”
The school focuses on all forms of art with programs like The Great Days of Jazz, exploring the music of artists in a famous jazz portrait taken by Art Kane.
“From Thelonious Monk, to Coltrane, to Horace Silver, to Mary Lou Williams. Each day they get to learn about a composer,” said Yolanda Wyns, music program director at Harlem School of the Arts. “It’s not going to be your average camp. It’s excellence in training. That’s our mantra. We give you excellence in training whether or not you decide you want to be a musician or have a career as a musician. The point is you got the excellence in training. Particularly in this intensive, you’re getting one on one lessons with people in the business that are doing it.”
Some former HSA students return as instructors.
“If it hadn’t been for a school like this, who knows what I would have been doing?,” said Steven Fowler, a trumpet instructor and alum of the institution. “I was fortunate to be a student here. I’m very thankful for that. I’m at an age now, not that old, I see myself in other students, in younger students.”
Franklin Rankin teaches guitar and is the music director of the HSA All Stars, a group of alumni that gather as a band. He explains the awarding experience of passing on his knowledge to the next generation of artists.
“Kids between the ages of 8 and 13 come in 9am on a Saturday with a smile on their face and are excited about their day,” Rankin said. “They’re going to start with me then go onto art, then maybe dance. They have a full day ahead of them but they’re happy to be here. I know at 9am on a Saturday you couldn’t get me out of bed.”
Renovations at Harlem School of the Arts are set to begin later this year. For more info on HSA programming visit hsanyc.org