Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New $22M Museum Aims To Jazz Up Harlem

The National Jazz Museum is moving forward with its plan to build a state-of-the-art facility on West 125th Street, across the street from the Apollo Theater, that will turn it into the first institution of international stature devoted to the art form. The new building, more than six times the museum's current space, will get a street-front presence, and a glassed-in performance space above the marquee, so passersby will be able to see musicians playing every evening.

The 10-year-old museum, which exhibits jazz memorabilia and runs educational programs and shows throughout the city, now operates out of the second and fourth floors of a small building on East 126th Street.

Two years ago, the city tapped it to become part of a 67,000-square-foot commercial and cultural development that will be built across the street from the Apollo Theater.

The Mart 125 Redevelopment Project, would transform an abandoned eyesore on Harlem’s main commercial thoroughfare into a mixed-use space.

The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone is expected to choose a developer for the site by the end of the month, and aim to break ground in early 2013. Meanwhile, the museum is going public with a $22 million capital campaign that will raise the funds needed to build the facility and create a $2.5 million endowment. The museum has raised half the money since it started a year and a half ago.

To get ready for the expansion, the museum is building its staff. In January, it hired a new executive director, Christopher Perry, an attorney who previously ran Boys Hope Girls Hope of New York, an inner-city boarding-school program for disadvantaged youth. That hire allowed Loren Schoenberg, a jazz musician who was the museum's longtime executive director, to become its artistic director and have more time to focus on programming.

Earlier this month, Daniel Beaudoin, a former Columbia University executive who worked as a program officer in the university's Center for Jazz Studies and as the foundation relations officer with Columbia's development department, joined the museum as director of development.

In the new building, the museum will have 16,000 square feet, more than six times its current 2,500 square feet. It will also get a street-front presence, with a ground floor and second level. Officials hope to build a glassed-in restaurant/performance space above the marquee so passersby will be able to see musicians playing every evening.