The Harlem School of the Arts, a community arts school that has faced major financial hurdles in the last few years, has received a grant of more than $5 million from the Herb Alpert Foundation that will allow the school to retire its debt, restore its endowment and create a scholarship program for needy students.The gift, to be officially announced by school officials on Monday, is the largest in the history of the school, which was founded in 1964 by the concert soprano Dorothy Maynor. The $5,050,000 grant from Mr. Alpert, the renowned musician, composer and recording industry executive, brings to $6 million the total amount he has given the school since a fiscal crisis forced its doors to close for three weeks in 2010.
The school, at 645 St. Nicholas Avenue (at 141st Street), provides training in dance, music, theater and the visual arts. In recognition of Mr. Alpert’s gift, the facility’s name will become the Herb Alpert Center. Mr. Alpert will also be honored at the school’s fall benefit on Oct. 10 at Lincoln Center’s Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. Ticket information is available at www.hsanyc.org.
“They kind of needed a little more assistance,” Mr. Alpert said Thursday in a telephone interview about his gift. He became aware of the school and its problems from reading a newspaper article in 2010 about its closing, he said.
“When my wife and I visited the school a year, a year and a half ago, the kids looked happy; it just felt like a great place,” he said. “I believe that the best chance we have of creating happier and more responsible kids is through the arts. They get in touch with their humanity.”
The Herb Alpert Foundation was founded in 1988 by Mr. Alpert and his wife, Lani Hall, and is based in Santa Monica, Calif. It supports the arts and arts education, among other initiatives. The foundation has distributed $120 million in grants since 1990.
Yvette L. Campbell, who became president and chief executive of the school in January 2011, called the gift “transformative” during an interview on Thursday. She noted that the school’s entire operating budget is $3.4 million.
“It’ll restore our spent endowment and establishes a scholarship fund for families that need tuition aid,” Ms. Campbell said. She said about $100,000 in need-based scholarships would be awarded annually.
The Harlem School of the Arts started at a time when black children lacked easy access to arts training. It provides community and summer programs, programs in public schools, and tuition-based group and private lessons for children ages 2 to 18. The school also offers a selective pre-professional scholarship course of study for students age 12 to 18. Students from that program (including the actor Giancarlo Esposito) have gone on to conservatories like Juilliard, as well as to Broadway and feature films.
article by Felicia R. Lee via nytimes.com