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.
Mark Sincere Barmore has worked with Schenectady youth, for 9 years. A graduate of Boricua College's, Human Service Program, and a Certified Counseling Aide, Sincere has worked the Youth Voices Center, Inc., Carver Community Center, and the Youth Advocate Program. He volunteers with Divine's Interventions youth suicide prevention program and supports youth with character development programs at the Hamilton Hill Arts Center.
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.
After returning from his apprenticeships in West Africa, Jordan continued to learn from dancers and drummers which include Moustapha Bangoura, Idy Faye, Lamine Thiam, and Samba Ndiaye from Senegal and Guinea. Always a student, Jordan continues to sharpen his repertoire, while bringing his experiences back to the community he serves.
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.
Janiya Minor spent 10 years studying steel pan at the Hamilton hill arts center, becoming the master of the Double Second steel drum. Co-founder and manager of the HHAC band Silk&Steel she has performed professionally throughout the capital region. Her profound devotion for the steel drums and love for music has driven her to become a professional musician, booking manager 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.
Your support and contributions will help us to serve Schenectady and the Capital Region with positive creative and educational opportunities for children and adults.