Immigrant cultural center planned for People’s Theatre Project

The nonprofit is building the first-of-its-kind research and performing arts venue with a $15 million from New York City

Emmanuel Abreu

Upper Manhattan’s People’s Theatre Project is moving forward with a first-of-its-kind Immigrant Research and Performing Arts Center in New York City. Mayor Eric Adams announced the city will be investing $15 million into the future 17,000-square-foot cultural center in Inwood to house the immigrant-and-women-led nonprofit while utilizing the space to promote New York’s immigrant experience.

The idea for the arts center, which is expected to be finished in 2027, first came about in 2018 after the City Council approved of the rezoning of the neighborhood. The theatre project responded to a call for expressions of interest from the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Cultural Affairs in September 2019 with 21 letters of support from the community. After the project was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic; the theatre project was officially selected this year and an announcement about the project moving forward was made last month. 

“We were confident that we were the right choice,” says Mino Lora, founding executive director of the theatre project. “We were confident that we were the right organization to run this because the community trusts us and this is not going to just be an immigrant cultural center for People’s Theatre Project, but for the community and for New York City. And I know that we will treat it with the respect and responsibility that it deserves.”

The theatre project was founded in 2008 in Washington Heights with a focus on the immigrant community in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. The effort meets at the intersection of arts and culture and highlights social justice centered around the immigrant experience, Lora explained.

Programs include the PTP company, a professional theatre ensemble; the PTP Academy, a theatre and social justice leadership program for local youths divided into two age groups, K - 5th grade and 6th - 12th grade; and the PTP Partnerships in which the nonprofit works with 17 local public schools and their students to create theatrical collages. 

The theatre project will now be working with consultants on fundraising and a business plan for the operations and capital needs of the cultural center, said Lora. The cultural center will have two performance studios, five rehearsal spaces, a cafe and library for researching immigrant history. It also will include art exhibitions, film screenings, festivals, and community events. 

“New Yorkers deserve a city that is more inclusive and more prosperous after the pandemic than it was before, and we are building that city every day,” Adams said in a press release about the new center. “Part of that is creating opportunities for all our young people to see themselves in our arts and culture, and this project will provide a new generation of young, immigrant New Yorkers with that invaluable experience. I know this partnership with the People’s Theatre Project and the $15 million investment we are providing will bring joy to so many in Upper Manhattan and across the city.”