By Danielle Beurteaux
When Josh Ufberg sits in the audience at Urban Arts
Partnership’s annual Urban Arts Festival and
watches kids perform, he sees the value of arts education come
|Josh Ufberg: I was lucky enough to have access to
arts programs like this growing up
"You really see how these young people are affected by what
the organization has been able to do," he says.
Ufberg, 37, principal at the New York firm Atalaya Capital
Management, a $500 million credit fund, joined the board of
Urban Arts in 2006 and is on the organization’s
Finance Committee and Development Committee. While he says he
plays the guitar "very poorly," he did experience the benefit
of arts education when he was in school. "I was lucky enough to
have access to arts programs like this growing up."
Urban Arts Partnership offers a full range of arts programs
to New York middle and high school students, including theater,
filmmaking, dance and photography, which are integrated into
the teaching curriculum. The organization has partnered with 60
schools this year. One program, Fresh Prep, uses music to help
students prepare for the New York State Regents Exams, and pass
rates for students in the program have increased considerably.
"If you can show that Urban Arts is improving educational
results for the city, there is real quantifiable value and an
undeniable continued need for its existence," says Ufberg.
As arts education budgets shrink and many schools are left
without arts programs, Urban Arts fills the gap. "Interweaving
arts education into the curriculum helps students perform
better in school, but it also provides them with an outlet
before or after school to focus on something that is
substantive, that is creative and that is useful for life,"
says Ufberg. Urban Arts Partnership began as Working
Playground, a youth theater company founded in 1991 in response
to the Crown Heights riots. The name was changed in 2008, and
the group has experienced astronomical growth, from a $300,000
budget in 2003 to $4.3 million for the current year.
In July, the organization is opening a new space in New
York’s Chinatown with better facilities, says
Ufberg. "Another great aspect of Urban Arts is that it provides
at-risk kids with a place to spend time," he says.
Urban Arts’ best-known event is the 24 Hour
Plays on Broadway, an annual theater program and fundraiser
cochaired by artistic board chair Rosie Perez. The writers,
directors and actors have 24 hours in which to create, write,
rehearse and perform a 10-minute play, and some of the biggest
names in theater and Hollywood have participated.
"It’s taken on a life of its own," says
Executive director Philip Courtney says Ufberg has been a
major force behind the group’s fundraising and
annual plans and helping to organize the group’s
investments. "Josh has definitely been one of the key board
members pushing the organization forward in the past few
years," says Courtney. "He’s an absolutely lovely
person, incredibly easygoing and just a joy to work with."
Ufberg says that the value of Urban Arts stays with kids for
life. "You see kids come back year after year, and you see what
a big part of their life the organization has become," he