Harlem School of the Arts Receives $1 Million in Gifts, Will Reopen

Closed since April 1, the Harlem Schools of the Arts has received donations totaling $1 million from the Herb Alpert and Starr foundations and two anonymous donors that will enable the school to reopen on April 24, the New York Times reports.

The donors, city officials including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and a group of celebrities led by singer Mary J. Blige stepped up to save the school, which closed its doors after its board announced the school needed at least $500,000 to stay open until the summer. As part of the plan to revive the school, five of the six board members have been replaced by newly elected members. They are Ephraim Emmanuel, president of the school's parents association; Charles Hamilton of La Cité Development; Milton Irvin of UBS; Mary Schmidt Campbell of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts; and Janice Savin Williams of the Williams Capital Group.

An examination of the school's finances by the Times revealed a sharp decline in fundraising, an increase in expenses, and questionable financial management by the board. The new board has pledged to examine the school's finances to determine how much is needed to put the school on a sound financial footing. Kate Levin, commissioner of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, told the Times that the city will continue to make grants to the school and invest capital funds in its building.

Founded in 1964 by operatic soprano Dorothy Maynor, the school instructs three thousand children and young adults a year in four core artistic disciplines: dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. Alumni have gone on to some of the best performing arts high schools in the city, top-tier colleges and conservatories, and even Broadway and feature films.

"Arts are an important part of every good education, and so it was critical that we did everything we could to keep this organization's doors open," said Bloomberg. "Without a doubt, these are challenging times for the city's nonprofits, but it's vital that through strong public-private partnerships we support the programs that make a huge difference in the lives of New Yorkers. And the Harlem School of the Arts is certainly one of those institutions."

Trymaine Lee. "$1 Million in Gifts Saves Harlem Arts School, for Now." New York Times 04/21/2010.