The Hamilton Hill Arts Center is surrounded by boarded up and abandoned buildings, a high crime rate and heavy drug use and trafficking.
With a poverty rate of 64% for families with children between the ages of 6 thru17, most of our children come from low income working families and are receiving some form of public assistance.
The dropout rate triples that of the rest of the City. Teen pregnancy and STD rates are the highest in Upstate NY. Area teens are at high risk for gang activity.
Our area experiences one of the highest rates of social and economic distress in the city of Schenectady.
View related article here.
Our programs keep children safe, off the streets, provide them positive role models, a healthy snack, self-esteem and character building, the positive influences and life skills needed to thrive.
Our unique combination of culturally sensitive arts programming, and our 49 years of history with the community perfectly positions us to make an impact in the lives of our customers.
Our most important accomplishments lie in the children and families whose lives we have touched. Many of our attendees are children and grandchildren of adults who attended HHAC when they were young. Often those who have been positively impacted by our programs return to show their appreciation by volunteering or joining the board.
Participation in the arts has been shown to combat depression, improve academic performance, improve cognitive flexibility, and we believe that the creative skills learned through the arts can develop into the ability to apply creative solutions to life’s challenges.
I joined Umoja when I was 13… it … felt like a second home. ... Every dance class, our instructor would ask “What is Umoja?” We would all call out “Unity!” Then she would ask “…and what does Unity mean?” And we would all yell “Family!” And that’s just what we became. We worked hard together, sweat together, … performed together. [and still] remain friends. … I’ve been a part of Umoja for half my life. I am hoping to pass on the same values that made me the person I am today: discipline, family, and pride in our ancestry. - Jessica Hunter
As most of you know, Rachel is the director of the Arts Center now, but what you do not know is that, I used to live down the street… I used to come here every day… I was at the age of 13 and Rachel was the teen specialist and you know 13 year old boy, my head was big, figuratively and literally, you know couldn’t nobody tell me nuthing, crazy attitude, and hormones was crazy, chasing around after these girls, not listening to nobody except for my grandmother. Rachel sat me down and she gave me a pencil and a paper and she taught me how to put my heart into my words. I would not be doing what I do today if it had not been for her. So I just want to say thank you. She’s changing lives every day because where would I be without this gift that she gave me, so thank you again. - DeAunte Bethune
" I started coming to the arts center when I was three years old with my family and had the opportunity to learn from a lot of awesome drummers. I’m taking what they have shown me, and I am passing it on to the youth and to anyone who will listen. It's been 18 years and, counting and I am now able to use the skills I gained to support myself by teaching and performing for the center and at local schools and businesses. "-Jayvon Wilson
Not only do we produce artists, but with academic support and expanded horizons provided by the arts center many became the first in their families to go to college.
" Tiffiany Wilson began teaching African Dance at the Arts Center while studying dance therapy at the College of Saint Rose. The first in her family to go to college, Tiffiany was a product of the Arts Center, learning African Dance as a child and was inspired to go for higher education. As a young instructor, she brings enthusiasm, energy and creativity to her roles as teacher, mentor and big sister to her students, always interested in expanding her repertoire and finding opportunities to perform. " - Miki Conn
A 2014 article in the Daily Gazette reported that only 4% of the teaching staff in Schenectady city schools are minorities. Exposure to culturally congruent role models is vital to the development of a healthy self-concept. As many of the teachers, staff and volunteers at HHAC are African Americans, we provide a culturally relevant environment that fills this void.
" I walked in and she was listening to this really misogynistic song on her head phones, I asked her what she liked about the song, if she wanted to be treated like that, She said that’s what she expects, that’s how black girls are treated. White girls aren’t treated that way. It was heart breaking but I was able to use myself as an example of what a black woman should expect." - Jessica Hunter
"When I heard about what happened I contacted a woman I know who runs a black woman’s empowerment program and asked her to work with our girls. As black women we can be sensitive to the particular needs of black children." - Rachel Conn