The City of Newburgh’s Boys and Girls Club recently held their Project Kickoff Ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction on the Center for Arts & Education. This will be the new home for the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy and the Early Elementary Education Center.
The ceremony was held at the site of the new building, 74 Grand Street. Before its purchase in 2017, the building was originally held by an LLC called 72 Broadway Corporation, said Kevin White, the director of the Boys and Girls Club.
According to White, the former building at 74 Grand Street used to be three buildings attached to each other. “Structurally now, it’s one building,” he explained. “The way we are configuring the design is that the first floor will be home to the Early Elementary Education Center.”
The Early Elementary Education Center is designed for children in kindergarten to third grade and is a “literacy skills development program to ensure that children are reading by the time they enter fourth grade,” said White.
He indicated that there is research that shows if children are reading by the time they complete third grade, they are more likely to have successful educational outcomes. The Early Elementary Education Center was established almost a decade ago to “ensure that children from the City of Newburgh and surrounding areas meet that threshold, that they’re reading by the time they complete third grade.”
In response to this research, the Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh created a literacy based program. “This new center will allow us to expand the capacity of programs from 60 children to over 100 children,” said White.
The Early Elementary Education Center has been held at the main location of the Boys and Girls Club in Newburgh until White realized that it also exceeded the facility’s capacity. “To keep kids enrolled, we were holding classes in the cafeteria [and] in the gymnasium. [I]t’s just not the best space for our children, so we wanted to give them more suitable spaces for learning, and that was the impetus for locating this program in a new facility,” he said.
The Center for Arts and Education will also house the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy, which has currently run for 16 years in the old American Legion building at 62 Grand Street. White estimates that although the program serves around 500 children each year, it outgrew the facility around eight years ago. White hopes that the new building will serve “beyond that.”
The Newburgh Performing Arts Academy will be housed on the second, third, and fourth floor of the building. The second floor houses various dance programs, and will be home to three new dance studios. The third floor is dedicated to music and visual arts. There [will be] individual studios for the study of music, there’s group music studios for our bands and orchestras. And then, there [will be] art rooms, where we’ll do painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, ceramics, mixed media. The fourth floor will be used for the academy’s theatre program, but it will have an exhibition and gallery space, open to local artists and for internal projects.
The Boys and Girls club was able to fund the construction for this new building through a combination of grants, foundation funding, and tax credits. But, they are still in the midst of a capital campaign to secure additional funding to complete the building and “to outfit the building for the furniture,” said White.
He estimated that the project acquisition and renovation was about six million dollars. “We’re actually looking to secure another five hundred thousand dollars to complete our plans,” White said.
While some of the money raised will go toward completing the construction, the remaining money would go toward outfitting the renovated facility. White said that the Early Elementary Education Center needs furniture like desks and chairs. The Performing Arts Academy would need mirrors for the dance studio, ballet bars, musical instruments (particularly pianos), and then art supplies and equipment, like a kiln. The academy has a recording studio, but White hopes to upgrade the recording studio engineering equipment.
White believes that the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy will most likely increase enrollment by 25-35 percent, around another 100-150 new students. He is anticipating doubling the size of the early education program from 60 students to somewhere between 100-120 students.
As of right now, the Early Elementary Education Center is an after-school program, but White is looking to expand into a program that works with children at preschool age, from birth to age five. It would involve “working with families, with the parents and the child, to teach them literacy skills, to make sure their children get off to a good start before even entering school.”
White added that he plans to add programs for adults during the day, while school is in session. The new building will hold “Mommy and Me” classes for parents at home. The Boys and Girls club is additionally looking to re-establish programs for parents who homeschool their children, and is looking into developing a program that works with special needs children during the day.