At the recent launch of American Girl’s new historical character Claudie Wells, Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) was a welcomed special guest.
The 58-year-old organization founded by the internationally acclaimed concert soprano Dorothy Maynor, was the recipient of a significant combination of funds and products from American Girl, who recognized the organization’s value to the arts community, its service in delivering excellence in training and an interdisciplinary curriculum, while making the arts accessible to all young people.
The launch event took place at the American Girl flagship location at 75 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. Among the guests were New York Times best-selling author Brit Bennett whose tweet to the company gave life to Claudie.
Ms. Bennett authored Claudie’s backstory which begins in 1920s Harlem, during the historic period which has come to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. The significance of the connection with the historic Harlem School of the Arts is in Claudie’s story.
She is growing up in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, surrounded by talented, gifted individuals – writers, poets, painters and sculptors, actors and dancers, singers, and musicians – what Claudie wants more than anything, is to find her own special talent.
At the Harlem School of the Arts young people are welcomed into an environment where they can explore their individual talents, find their artistic passion, and develop their skills under the supervision and guidance of respected professionals and teaching artists.
“Claudie reflects exactly who our students are,” says Chief Education Officer Lee Hogans. “She could very well be one of our students, curious and interested in the historic value of the Harlem community and in having access to the arts and excellence in training.”
During the extremely well attended, by invitation only event, the highlight moment came when 10-year-old Sadie Vaughan, a student at HSA, took the stage to belt out the Academy Award nominated original song “Almost There,” from the film The Princess and the Frog. Looking like an American Girl doll herself, dressed in a beautiful 1920s inspired red lace dress, Sadie wowed the crowd with her big voice and her dance moves, and was greeted with a resounding ovation after her solo performance.
“Sadie is characteristic of the level of students we are developing at HSA. We have been around for almost 60-years and the list of impressive alumni that the school has produced just keeps growing – everyone from Lenny Kravitz to Zazie Beetz, they’ve all passed through our doors.” Yolanda Wyns, HSA Music Chair.
The connection between these two signature brands, was by no means a coincidence. American Girl has become one of the most recognized brands from the Mattel portfolio and Harlem School of the Arts has become synonymous with excellence in artistic training, this made for a perfect partnership, which HSA hopes will continue to blossom.
Photo credit: 1) HSA student Sadie Vaughan and best-selling author Brit Bennett. 2) HSA Sadie with best-selling author Brit Bennett and HSA Music Chair Yolanda Wyns. 3) Best-selling author Brit Bennett and American Girl President, Jamie Cygielman. 4) Sadie with her proud parents, actress Kissy Simmons-Vaughan who played Nala on Broadway in the Lion King, and dad, Anthony Vaughan.