Harlem’s National Black Theatre Receives Capital Grant Award Of $10 Million

June 8, 2023

Yesterday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced National Black Theatre as a recipient of the New York State Council of the Arts (NYSCA) Large Capital Improvement Grants for Arts and Culture.

Which represented a record $90.5 million in funding for large-scale capital projects. Among the 19 arts and cultural organizations across New York State receiving awards through the NYSCA Capital Projects Fund, NBT received the largest allocation, $10 Million. This major funding announcement took place at the groundbreaking for the campus-wide improvement project of fellow recipient, Storm King Art Center in Orange County, New York. 

“From New York City to the North Country, we are investing in our state’s robust arts and culture sector to ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of their background, have access to the transformative power of art,” Governor Hochul said. “We also are supporting the National Black Theatre in Harlem, and I want to thank Sade Lythcott, the keeper of this magnificent resource for us. We’re so grateful and I look forward to coming and visiting time and time again.“

NYSCA funds will support the construction of NBT’s new home, a unique multipurpose arts and job-training center that will provide a world-class arts facility, cultural and educational programming, job training services, and an incubator for creative sector entrepreneurs. NBT’s project is transforming the current property into a 21st-century destination for Black culture that will anchor and recapitalize the institution for an even brighter future with a 250-seat flexible temple space and a 99-seat studio theater. The design team is led by women and people-of-color-owned firms, including Frida Escobedo, Marvel Architects, Studio & Projects, Sanford Biggers, Isometric, Envoie Projects, and CharcoalBlue. 

In addition to NYSCA’s support, Empire State Development (ESD) has awarded $3 million in funding to NBT – a $2.5 million capital grant and $500,000 from Market New York – as part of being named a priority project by the Regional Economic Development Council – bringing New York State’s total support for the facility to nearly $13.5 million.

NYSCA’s Executive Director Mara Manus said, “These exciting arts and culture capital projects will ensure the longevity and sustainability of our sector for decades to come. Additionally, these projects will provide exponential returns to every community, main street business, and worker. We are immensely grateful to the Governor and our State leaders for this historic $90 million in landmark funding and their recognition of the measurable benefits provided by our New York arts and cultural spaces. This critical investment in capital projects for arts and culture will support visionary expansions, essential facility improvements, and community-building strategies that will promote health, safety, and accessibility for all New Yorkers and our visitors.”

“Forty years ago, my mother – NBT’s founder Dr. Barbara Ann Teer – purchased the city block stretching from 125th to 126th Street at 5th Avenue – with an audacious vision for community revitalization that centered Black Artists and provided the opportunity to build and strengthen community through economic development by providing employment, cultural programming and world-class productions that would not only support local artists but bolster local businesses and attract visitors from around the world. I can not begin to thank Governor Hochul enough for this unprecedented investment in Dr. Teer’s vision and in National Black Theatre’s current capital project. I would also like to thank NYSCA’s Mara Manus and Katherine Nicholls, who continue to be New York State’s greatest champions of arts and culture, especially within these last three years, navigating our sector-wide needs though our critical recovery. And lastly, my gratitude goes to Hope Knight, who has long been a champion of New York and, more specifically, Harlem. ESD’s generous support of NBT’s project demonstrates New York State’s commitment to investing in communities of color, to reignite and revitalize the soul of our great State. It is not lost on me – the power of women’s leadership to seed sustainable change and envision a future that is inclusive of all.” – Sade Lythcott, CEO, National Black Theatre.

The NYSCA grant awarded to National Black Theatre comes at a historic time for the nation’s first revenue-generating Black Arts complex who is nominated for 34 awards this theatrical season, including 5 TONY nominations for the Pulitzer Prize-winning FAT HAM on Broadway playing now through July 2, 2023.  

For more info on National Black Theatre’s 2022-2023 programmatic season and upcoming productions, please visit https://www.nationalblacktheatre.org/2022-2023-season

National Black Theatre

National Black Theatre (NBT) is a Tony Award-nominated institution founded in 1968 by the late visionary artist Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. The nation’s first revenue-generating Black arts complex, NBT is the longest-running Black theatre in New York City, one of the oldest theatres founded and consistently operated by a woman of color in the nation, and has been included in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

NBT’s core mission is to produce transformational theatre that helps to shift the inaccuracies around African Americans’ cultural identity by telling authentic stories of Black lives. As an alternative learning environment, NBT uses theatre arts as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower and inform the national conscience around current social issues impacting our communities.

Under the leadership of Sade Lythcott, CEO, and Jonathan McCrory, Executive Artistic Director, NBT helps reshape a more inclusive American theatre field by providing an artistically rigorous and culturally sensitive space for artists of color to experiment, develop and present new work. Working with trailblazing artists from Nona Hendrix to Jeremy O. Harris; helping to launch the careers, most recently, of artists such as Dominique Morisseau, Radha Blank, Mfoniso Udofia, Saheem Ali, Lee Edward Colston II, and Ebony Noelle Golden; and incubating Obie Award-winning companies like The Movement Theatre Company and Harlem9’s 48Hours in Harlem, NBT’s cultural production remains unparalleled.

Located in the heart of Harlem, NBT is embarking on a historic major capital redevelopment project that will transform the current property into a 21st-century destination for Black culture through theatre. NBT welcomes more than 90,000 visitors annually; has produced 300+ original works; won 2 Obie awards and 58 AUDELCO Awards; received a CEBA Award of Merit; and has been nominated for multiple Drama Desk awards.

Left to Right: National Black Theatre Chief Operating Officer Barrie Koegel, Empire State Development President, Chief Operating Officer and Commissioner Hope Knight, New York State Council on the Arts Chair Katherine Nicholls, Governor of New York Kathy Hochul, National Black Theatre Chief Executive Officer Sade Lythcott, New York State Council on the Arts Executive Director Mara Manus.

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