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New Victory in the City: Washington Heights, Manhattan

This summer, we showed you the world with five travel guides dedicated to the artistic homes of a few shows from the New Victory 2019-20 season. Now, it’s time to go local! 

The New Victory joins Americans for the Arts in celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month, highlighting the many ways in which the arts impact communities. Throughout the month of October, we highlighted a few neighborhoods where you can see New Victory in the community. The final stop is Washington Heights, Manhattan. 

New Victory Snapshot

Our work goes beyond the stage and into vibrant neighborhoods across New York City! 

In Washington Heights, we partner with three schools to bring their students to the theater to see live performing arts. We also go into their classrooms to lead free show-related workshops!

Washington Heights is also home to two of our New Victory Ushers, just one of five paid employment opportunities of the New 42 Youth Corps, our program to annually employ, mentor and inspire NYC youth with jobs in the performing arts.

The Neighborhood’s History

During the 18th century, European colonizers predominately settled in lower Manhattan, leaving Washington Heights and its surrounding neighborhoods of Harlem and Inwood largely untouched. 

This neighborhood is named after Fort Washington, a fortification constructed by the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. From this vantage, located at the highest point in Manhattan, they defended the area from British forces. Today, that point is called Bennett Park. If you visit, you can see a plaque that reads, “Fort Washington Built And Defended By The American Army 1776.” 

At the turn of the 20th century, the woods started being chopped down to make way for homes for the incoming rush of Irish immigrants moving to the area. Later, during the 1930s and 40s European Jews migrated to Washington Heights to escape Nazism. The 1950s and 1960s saw so many Greeks moving in, that the community was referred to as the “Astoria of Manhattan.” By the 1980s–90s, the neighborhood became mostly Dominican. Today, the vast majority (approximately 70%) of the residents are Hispanic or Latino; the greatest majority are specifically of Dominican birth or descent. Spanish is frequently heard spoken on the streets!

The Neighborhood Today

While Washington Heights, like the rest of Manhattan, was struck by the 1980s crack epidemic, It is now ranked as the fourth-safest neighborhood in Manhattan. Thanks to a tight-knit and diverse population, a wide variety of community events have begun over the past thirty years. 

Over the past decade, the arts, in particular, have played a huge role in the community. 

In 2007, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA), led by Executive Director Sandra A. García Betancourt, was founded with a mission to support artists and arts organizations in Washington Heights and its northern neighbor, Inwood.

Soon after, the musical In the Heights, penned by Washington Heights-native Lin Manuel-Miranda, premiered on Broadway in 2008 to critical and commercial acclaim. A film adaptation is due out in June 2020. 

Every summer, impromptu galleries and performances spring up over several weeks as a part of The Art Stroll. This festival highlights local Washington Heights artists and their contribution to the neighborhood.

Happy exploring!

Hispanic Society of America
Morris–Jumel Mansion
Jeffrey’s Hook Light
(Little Red Lighthouse)
The Cloisters

Categories

Schools, Youth Corps

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