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 to life.
|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 Ufberg.
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