Last month the National YoungArts Foundation celebrated the inauguration of their new national headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard at the Bacardi Tower, now known as the YoungArts Campus. The architectural landmark represents the first time YoungArts has had its own permanent home in its almost 32-year history. The iconic space will soon see an expansion under the direction of world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.
Founded in 1981 by the late Ted Arison and his wife Lin, YoungArts was born from Arison’s belief that this country needed a national organization to support, promote, encourage, and foster young artists. Miami seemed the most unlikely of places when long-standing institutions for the arts could already be found in many other cities. The year 1981 was still eons away from the cultural and artistic revitalization of Miami and Miami Beach. There was yet no Arts Festival on Ocean Drive; no Miami City Ballet or New World; no Art Basel or Wynwood Arts District; and no renovations for the Colony, Lincoln, or Olympic theaters. But Miami is where the root took hold and three decades later, the fruit of the Arisons’ endeavor was made obvious.
YoungArts has granted 16,000 young artists with over $6 million in monetary awards and over $100 million in college scholarships. The program has provided master classes to young artists in nine disciplines and exposed them to the artistry of prestigious masters such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jacques d’Amboise, Plácido Domingo, Bill T. Jones, Quincy Jones, and Martin Scorsese. In addition, YoungArts serves as the exclusive nominating agency for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
The national headquarters is just the latest of high profile changes for the organization that has also recently changed its name from the former National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts. Four years ago YoungArts Week’s showcases moved from the Ransom Everglades Middle School auditorium to the historic and restored Olympic Theater at the Gusman Center in downtown. The center also became the venue for the yearly gala alumni performance that evolved into a fully staged professional production.
In January 2012, YoungArts Week moved its temporary home base of operations from Miami to Miami Beach, a tradition it will continue next month during Arts Week 2013 on Jan. 7. In partnership with such esteemed venues as The Colony Theater, The New World Center, Miami City Ballet, and the Miami Art Museum, the week-long event continues to grow and evolve. For a glimpse of what these changes mean for the organization and what is next on the horizon, Artburst reached out to Executive Director Paul T. Lehr.
Artburst: What were the reasons for, or expectations in moving the organization to higher caliber venues?
PL: As YoungArts continued to grow and expand, it was the logical next step to move our signature YoungArts Week events and performances into venues that would support our increased following and the high level of artistry and talent presented by participating students.
What have been the recognizable benefits of the move and how have they led to support or enhance the organization’s mission?
By moving our events and performances to higher profile, professional venues, the bar was raised for our students. YoungArts Week participants have the honor to perform and display their work at venues where the greatest talents in their fields do the same. This honor is a life-changing experience for these emerging artists and one of the mechanisms we use to encourage them to continue to pursue careers in the arts.
What opportunities are now available in having your own permanent center and home? Will there be events taking place here now outside the January week-long program?
In addition to supporting existing YoungArts activities such as master classes and forums with renowned arts leaders, multi-disciplinary performances and exhibitions with emerging and established artists associated with YoungArts, and screenings of the Emmy-nominated HBO program YoungArts Master Class, the new YoungArts campus in Miami will provide space for year-round public programs. As part of the expanded scope of opportunities to invite the community to participate in our work, YoungArts will maintain a free, entry-level art gallery in the Tower. In addition to the YoungArts Week events, we are looking forward to welcoming the community to our home on a regular basis for master classes, workshops, performances, and other activities throughout the year. We recently hosted a film screening, panel discussion and art installation viewing with alumnus, actor, and director Adrian Grenier, and a flash concert with alumnus, actor, and musician Max Schneider.
We will be having our Plácido Domingo master class on our campus on Jan. 6 to kick-off YoungArts Week this year, with the nightly free-to-the-public performances taking place at the New World Center beginning Jan. 7.
What’s the next big change on the horizon for YoungArts?
We are very excited not only about strengthening our ties to Miami but also expanding our efforts around the country. We look forward to announcing further details about regional programming in Los Angeles (February 2013), Miami (April 2013), New York (May 2013), as well as this year’s signature YoungArts events in Washington, D.C. (June 2013). In addition, we’re excited about our second season of YoungArts Master Class on HBO, which kicked off with our Renée Fleming episode recently, and next up will be the Bobby McFerrin episode. Particularly gratifying about this series is the impact we are able to have in getting the important lessons in these YoungArts Master Classes into the schools — presently all middle and high schools in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles — through our Study Guide, distributed for free, based on the series that we developed in conjunction with Columbia University’s Teachers College.
YoungArts Week 2013 will take place from Jan. 7 through 11, with the final gala and performance, “An Affair of the Arts,” on Sat., Jan. 12 at the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami. A full listing of the performances and showcases, venues, how to reserve seats or purchase tickets for the gala, please visit their website at http://www.youngarts.org/youngarts-week-2013.