Founded by Margaret Cunningham, an artist inspired by the Black pride and The Black Arts movements, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center’s mission is to promote the knowledge, preservation and continued development of African and African Diasporic art and culture.
For 50 years, the Hamilton Hill Arts Center has provided exceptional Cultural Arts programming for people of all ages. We are a minority operated and managed 501(c)3 cultural arts center with programming that serves over 10,000 people a year on and off site. We are Schenectady’s only African/African-American Arts Center and the only remaining community center in Hamilton Hill. HHAC was founded to address the needs of unsupervised youth in Schenectady’s inner city and the need still exists today.
Valerie Lewis, has been with the Arts Center for 45 years. She has extensive skills in the arts and crafts of the African diaspora. She has received city, state and national recognition for her dedicated community service, including Valerie Lewis day which was named in her honor.
Born in Brazil, Mestre Turbarao has been practicing Capoeira for 35 years and teaching for 25. He has taught students of all ages through out Brazil and the United States. Mestre Turbarao is deeply dedicated to the cultural traditions embodied in his craft and is excited to share it with his students.
Jessica Hunter is a Board member, and a child of the Arts Center. She is currently involved with Artreach as a volunteer and with Umoja African Dance and Drumming as an assistant instructor. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from RPI and MIT, and has coding experience in Fortran, Matlab, C, C++, and Python. She has been involved with Umoja for 15 years.
Lumumba Ansah is a Folklorist, Drummer,Master Dancer, Dance Educator,
Historian and Scholar who is a native from the Jamaica. He has extensive global
teaching and performance experience in the presentation of authentic cultural
arts of Jamaica, Senegal, Congo, Mali, and Mauritania Etc.
Sue Wilson-Dean helped to found the original Umoja African Dancers and has been the choreographer and instructor for many years. As one of the Burundi Dancers, she was trained by Omoye Cooper. She later studied under Dr. Pearl Primus, and Master Drummer Babatunde. Mrs. Wilson-Dean, holds a Master’s in Education.
Ahmel Williams spent 10 years studying steel pan at the Hamilton hill arts center. He has performed professionally throughout the capital region and almost won Amateur night at the Apollo with his steel pan band. His profound devotion for the steel drums and love for music has driven his to become a professional musician, and instructor for the steel drum program at the Arts Center.
Fabayo Egunbunmi is the founder and director of the Anansi’s Children theater . A classically trained pianist, and Catherine Dunham style dancer, she is a co-author of a one act play and performed as a founding member of the Root Wymn theater company. Locally, she played Sojourner Truth, in a one act solo performance called Ain't I A Woman.
Aston “Robot” Ellis inherited his love of music from a family that has been a part of the Jamaican music industry for over 60 years. A bandleader, bass player vocal and music arranger and steel pan player, Aston has taught and performed internationally for over 25 years
Jermaine Wells is an award-winning writer, musician, lecturer and entertainer. He has appeared in films, commercials and has collaborated with such greats as Quincy Jones. An in-demand Masters of Ceremonies and lecturer, he has spoken at many universities and events.
Miki Conn, former Director of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center is an artist, storyteller, lecturer, poet and former civil rights activist, has exhibited in Africa, Upstate New York, Long Island and Boston. A published author, she lectures on the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements, teaches writing, art and offers workshops in crafts from Africa, where she lived for several years.
Zorkie Nelson comes from a long line of Ghanaian master drummers. A founding member of the Pan-African Orchestra (PAO) with whom he toured internationally, Zorkie was a member of the group Odadaa!, which toured with Wynton Marsalis. He is a drummer, vocalist, and flute player in the eclectic jazz fusion group HEARD and leads his own group, Gballoi.
Bianca DiLella, is a working Artist in the Capital District. her subject matter mainly focuses on history and mythology. She particularly enjoys portraiture and landscape featuring elements of nature. her
work tells a story and invokes a mood and emotion that the audience can identify with.
Maya Lewis is a full time artist based in the Capital Region. She specializes in painting, pottery, jewelry making, and mural work. She particularly enjoys working in portraiture within the black community, as she believes representation plays a major role in her art. She received her BFA in Painting and Art Therapy.
Your support and contributions will help us to serve Schenectady and the Capital Region with positive creative and educational opportunities for children and adults.