For more than fifty years, the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) has been a crucial community hub of arts education and activity within the historic neighborhood. In 2020, the school received a generous donation from the Herb Alpert foundation and undertook an ambitious renovation dubbed "The Renaissance Project" as a way to revitalize the facility’s main performance spaces, and key infrastructure. To ensure that the space would continue to inspire and serve Harlem's next generation of artists and performers, the HSA design team retained the services of AV design and integration firm AVN|SYS to implement the crucial sound reinforcement and lighting upgrades using JBL Professional solutions.
A rich history poised to enter the future
Key to the redesign of HSA was the transformation of its signature lobby into a multi-faceted performance space in order to accommodate the wide range of musical, dance, and performing arts disciplines that the school champions. Doing so would increase the school’s capacity of supporting these programs as well as ensure its long-term usefulness as a community gathering place within the community. “Having a space that can speak to multiple implementations is what will allow us to continue to evolve alongside the needs of our community and be at the forefront of arts and music education in the city,” said an HSA spokesperson. “We needed maximum flexibility in how we could use the performance space and how we could ‘dial’ the sound in.”
Acoustic architectural consulting and design firm Walters-Storyk Design Group (WSDG) led the acoustic overhaul of the space with a bold vision that emphasized versatility and ease of use. In order bring this vision to life, WSDG turned to regular partners AVN|SYS for the design and install of the spaces’ AV and lighting technology. “We put a lot of thought into different use scenarios when designing the space to provide HSA with the flexibility to present an extremely wide range of performances without requiring a large production support team," said WSDG partner/COO Joshua Morris. “AVN | SYS has been a frequent collaborator of ours in systems design and we were thrilled to bring their expertise to this project.”
“HSA has a rich history of supporting up-and-coming performers in the Harlem community and tristate area for half a century, and with this upgrade they can continue to serve that community indefinitely,” said AVN | SYS founder PK Pandey. “We were very proud to be included in this project and bring our integration expertise to the elegant system designs that WSDG created.”
Inspiring tools for the next generation of talent
HSA’s main lobby and performance space features an integrated system of sound reinforcement operated from a centrally located Crestron Control System. The integration team at AVN | SYS utilized JBL ATX A8 Line Arrays custom mounted into the ceiling for excellent coverage and B18 Subwoofers for low-end, giving HSA complete control over a powerful system capable of handling the largest, or smallest, of ensemble performances. “We devised a custom-engineered solution for HSA when it came to mounting the line arrays, ensuring that they will work perfectly with the new acoustics of the space for any performance event,” said AVN | SYS project manager Steven Horwitz. “The whole system is designed to be easily operated by HSA’s staff for seamless, breathtaking sound every time.”
In addition to installing the AV equipment of the space, AVN | SYS also collaborated with lighting company Elation for custom, controllable lighting of the space, allowing HSA’s event managers to create an endless variation of moods and lighting schemes to suit its myriad of performing arts programs. “Versatile lighting scheme designs can truly elevate a space and open up the possibilities for what manner of events and performances that can be held there,” explained Pandey. “We worked closely with Elation to design a custom solution for HSA that not only performed to specs but would also inspire them to reimagine what they can do in space.”
The new performance spaces enable the organization to showcase performances of many sizes and styles without any compromises in what they want to achieve. HSA Board Chair Charles Hamilton expressed his appreciation at what has been accomplished and believes these upgrades will have a significantly positive effect on the next generation of artists and performers.
“The impact that HSA has had on the Harlem arts community is beyond calculation, so being involved in this upgrade of their facilities was an honor for us,” concluded Pandey.