The 52nd Street Project
The 52nd Street Project (The Project) is a non-profit arts education and mentoring organization serving youth (9-18 years old) living in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. By partnering with professional theater artists who volunteer their time and talents, the project is able to offer year-round programming at no cost to participants.
Young people start with Playmaking, which teaches them the basics of creating original pieces for theatre. At the end of the course, their new play will be open to the general public for free.
After playmaking, all other project programming becomes available, including artistic extensions, theater performances, and academic mentoring programs. The project provides employment opportunities for teens and provides affordable scholarships to all project members who continue their education beyond high school.
Because all programs and productions are free, the project relies on donations from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies.
The project was founded in 1981 by actor and playwright Willie Reale in response to a growing need to improve the quality of life for Hell's Kitchen children. He utilized his privilege as a company member of the Ensemble Studio Theater (EST) to specifically reach neighborhood children through theatrical activities. This was accomplished with the cooperation and support of EST and the Police Athletic League's Duncan Center across the street. In 1994, Mr. Reale received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (informally known as a “genius grant”) for the creation of the 52nd Street Project.
For the first 15 years, the project relied on rented space to implement its programs. In 1996, the project established the Clubhouse, a center where children could come after school. This led to the creation of Smart Partners, an academic mentoring program, in 1997. In 1998, the project received its first Coming Up Taller Award (named after a quote from founder Willie Reale) from the NEA and the Arts Council. In 2010, the project opened its current facility, which for the first time in its history includes its own theater (Five Angels Theatre) for works by neighborhood children.
* Reference: 52project.org/about/
Myungja Anna Koh