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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution II
(1968)

Notes and discussions: Harlem School of Arts,   pp. [520]-521 PDF (2.6 MB)


Page 521

HARLEM SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
The Harlem School of the Arts is a
non-sectarian, integrated center for the
training of children, teenagers, and adults,
designed primarily for the enrichment of the
lives of the underprivileged. The school
was established in 1963 by Dorothy
Maynor following an extensive survey of
highly congested Central Harlem. With the
cooperation of the Board of Education she
found that there was a "vacuum" in
Harlem as far as musical and other artistic
training went. Harlem stands in this respect
in stark contrast to other underprivileged
sections of New York City, where schools
offering instruction in the performing arts
are fairly numerous. The Elders of St.
James Presbyterian Church, made available
the facilities of their Community House for
the project of cultural education in a
blighted neighborhood. The officers of
the Church agreed to put the premises at
the disposal of the school, consenting in
addition, during the organizational
period, to absorb the cost of utilities
and custodial services, as well as helping
with other budgetary difficulties. The
school is not a part of the church but
exists because of the church and its
community center. The management of
the school rests with its own Board
of Directors, reporting to, but, in matters of
policy, independent of the Elders of the
church, who are nevertheless well
represented on the board, retaining the right
of a landlord in relation to a tenant.
competent men and women of varied
background and experience. Owing to the
home surroundings of most of the
participating boys and girls, affording
neither musical instruments nor privacy,
the school must provide practice periods
under supervision, a circumstance which
increases enormously the need for staff
assistance. Miss Maynor states that
"Experience with the school would thus far
suggest that youthful talent may be
unearthed in all fields of the performing
arts - music, painting, dance and drama-
and that a neighborhood center could
conceivably be developed which could in
time become, with reference to the
occasional child at least, a feeder for the
ranks of the professional. But everything
depends upon finding the gifted child at the
earliest possible moment, and then
supplying the requisite motivation and
guidance."
Although the stress has been and will
continue to be primarily on working with
the young, adults, too, are encouraged to
participate both in instruction, and
attendance at concerts, exhibitions and
dramatic performances offered by the
school. Attendance on a family basis is
suggested and urged.
With support and encouragement from
such persons as Mrs. Serge Koussevitzky
and Mrs. Arthur Rodzinski, Miss Maynor
opened the school, teaching twenty
children. Today there are approximately
300 youngsters and adults registered to
study piano, stringed instruments, art, and
modern dance at the school. Classes are
given after school during the week and
all day on Saturdays. Students pay fifty
cents a lesson. Individual instruction is
available at a slightly higher fee. There are
also twenty-three part-time teachers,
thirteen pianos - some very old, some very
new when donated by enthusiastic
supporters - fourteen clarinets and
forty string instruments. Many more
children would like to participate but cannot
for lack of teachers. It should be noted
that the staff is made up of professionally
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