Hi-ARTS today announced the appointment of Aaron L. McKinney as Executive Director. McKinney is the organization’s third executive director and brings more than two decades of experience in the arts sector, including positions at world-renowned institutions such as 651 ARTS, the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and Sankofa.org . Hi-ARTS is an urban arts incubator that has helped develop acclaimed works of art from designers such as Dominique Morisseau, Radha Blank, Alex Alpharaoh, and Ebony Noelle Golden.
McKinney has served as Interim Executive Director since April, when former Executive Director Dr Raymond Codrington assumed the role of President and CEO of Weeksville Heritage Center. McKinney, received his BA in Theater Performance from Florida A&M University and an MA in Theater Management from the California Institute of the Arts. He has held various executive positions throughout his career, ranging from small community theaters, including the Tallahassee Little Theater in Florida, to large regional theaters like the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles. McKinney’s professional leadership in the performing arts and production aimed to center the dialogue that has always existed between the arts and activism for social justice, highlighting how the intersection of these worlds serves as a vessel to resolve certain of our most pressing social problems.
“I am grateful to the Board of Directors for this opportunity, and look forward to building on the solid foundation laid by Kamilah Forbes, Danny Hoch, Clyde Valentín and Raymond Codrington,” McKinney said. “In collaboration with our artists and our community, I will work to strengthen the Hi-ARTS brand and secure its legacy for the next 20 years and beyond. “
Among the projects he has produced are Theater Evolution’s Off-Broadway debut The contract, a drama addressing the intersection of spirituality and sexuality, and the developmental phase of the musical Lunatic sun on the effects of consumerism and gentrification. He was the first producer-in-residence of #LoveHustle, an artist-led performance and dialogue series that captures the tensions associated with pursuing his dreams as an artist. Under his leadership as Managing Director since October 2016, Hi-ARTS has increased its annual operating budget by over $ 200,000, co-produced Liza Jessie Peterson’s film The particular patriot and that of Alex Alpharaoh WET: a DACAmenté journey and cultivated more than 250 artists.
This meeting comes at an exciting time for Hi-ARTS, which was founded in 2000 under the name Hip-Hop Theater Festival by Kamilah Forbes, Danny Hoch and Clyde Valentín. As the nonprofit celebrates its 20th anniversary, it has remained resilient and even grew during a world-changing pandemic that has had a disproportionate impact on its community of black artists and artists of color and neighbors in East Harlem, where Hi-ARTS is based. To accommodate its growing staff and to pave the way for new opportunities for artists to create and present work, Hi-ARTS is moving to a larger space in its long-standing home, El Artspace PS109. Barrio, later this year.
Hi-ARTS also received up-front funding of $ 60,000 from the Howard Gilman Foundation to establish Hi-ARTS’s very first operating reserve to protect the organization against unplanned funding losses or one-time unforeseen expenses, which most arts organizations have known in 2020. This investment in long-term sustainability is an important step, especially for an institution that has historically had black leadership, as most private funding supports arts institutions run by artists. white people with multi-million dollar budgets.
Hi-ARTS offers a secure space for artists to develop their work. It is the only institution in New York, and one of the few in the country, exclusively dedicated to the support and development of Hip-Hop and the urban aesthetic.
As theater and live performances return to New York City, Hi-ARTS will cautiously bring audiences back in person in 2021 with artists including LINDALA, Alexander Lambie, Tanika I. Williams, Sydnie L. Mosley, Sissi Liu and Kirya Traber. .