Founded in 1997, New Urban Arts is a nationally-recognized community arts studio for high school students and emerging artists in Providence, Rhode Island. Our mission is to build a vital community that empowers young people as artists and leaders to develop a creative practice they can sustain throughout their lives. 

Our free, year-round out-of-school programs promote sustained mentoring relationships between urban high school students and trained artist mentors—who, together, engage in youth leadership, risk taking, collaboration, and self-directed learning. We are grounded in the belief that in order to fulfill the promise of our democracy, all young people, no matter their place in society, should have the opportunity to become more creative and independent thinkers. 

Our Core Values

Connectionauthentic experiences and bonds fuel us. We believe that everyone needs a mentor—someone to trust, to share honestly with, and to enables us to be accountable to ourselves. We need spaces where we can be ourselves, to have our own ideas and vision. Art making connects us and builds community.

Voice: young people prevail. The diverse voices of young people drive the direction of our programs and our organization.

Inclusion: everyone is on equal footing. We believe everyone is ready to inspire or be inspired, that all of us have something to teach or to learn.

Leadership: the baton is yours for the taking. We believe everyone can lead a project and that with direction and support passionate people can achieve their goals. The same person can be a supportive follower and a visionary. The ink on our job descriptions is always wet; roles and responsibilities evolve here.

Risk: a push into new and positive directions. We find beauty in mistakes or failure. It is hard to dare when fear of screwing up, letting down, or reprisal looms. You can’t grow if you don’t dare.

Our Story

New Urban Arts was founded in 1997 by four college students and ten high school students and has since grown into an arts organization that has received city, state, and national recognition for its innovative approaches to artmaking, education, youth empowerment and community development. “Project” New Urban Arts began as a small arts mentoring program, in a loft apartment at Grace Church in downtown Providence, with support from the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. From there, our story can be traced through the following milestones.
1998 Tyler Denmead, one of New Urban Arts’ founders, is awarded an Echoing Green Fellowship to become New Urban Arts’ first executive director. New Urban Arts moves to 743 Westminster Street, a small storefront that serves as its first permanent studio and gallery.
1999 New Urban Arts begins a professional development program for its artist mentors, preparing them to work effectively in community settings with young people.

2001 New Urban Arts expands into an adjacent storefront tripling its studio size to over 2,000 square feet. This expansion leads to the introduction of several new media including a black and white darkroom, a digital media center, silkscreening and other printmaking facilities.

2004 New Urban Arts, with several peer youth arts programs, launches the Providence Youth Arts Collaborative (PYAC). See sidebar at right.

2004 New Urban Arts begins a partnership with College Visions, a college access and success organization founded by alumni artist mentor and Providence native, Simon Moore.

2007 Tyler Denmead resigns and moves with his family to Cambridge (UK) to pursue his Ph.D in art education. Tamara Kaplan, former program director, assumes interim executive director duties.

2008 New Urban Arts is named a 21st Century Community Learning Center by the RI Department of Education. After an extensive search, alumni artist mentor Jason Yoon is selected to be its second permanent executive director.

2008 New Urban Arts launches the Arts Mentoring Fellowship program, a community arts residency.

2009 In partnership with the Providence School Department, New Urban Arts launches a professional development program for Providence’s art teachers based on its program resource guides.

2010 New Urban Arts hosts the first of two annual alumni artist mentor leadership institutes, the Institute of Other Significant Pursuits.

2011 New Urban Arts cements its role in the revitalization of Westminster street by purchasing, renovating, and moving into a new home at 705 Westminster Street, one block from our previous location. New Urban Arts publicly launches a million-dollar capital campaign to help fund that transition.

2014 New Urban Arts brings on a Life After School mentor to help students navigate the opportunities available to them after graduation. New Urban Arts also pilots a new mentor role—Studio Advocate—which brings a Master of Social Work candidate from Rhode Island College into the studio as an additional resource for students.

2015 New Urban Arts partners with Providence Student Union, Young Voices, and three other youth organizations to launch the Providence Youth Caucus. Daniel Schleifer assumes the role of executive director.

2016 With support from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, New Urban Arts embarks on a major renovation of 705 Westminster Street.

Creative Practice

What if creativity were a social enterprise rather than an individual one? What if our creativity was measured not by a finished artwork—the innate talent it may suggest or the prescribed expectations it may meet—but by the extent to which that work was fueled by our own process, our own questions, and by our relationships with one another?

New Urban Arts is a community that empowers young people, as artists and leaders, to develop a creative practice they can sustain throughout their lives. By its nature, individual definitions of creative practice are as varied as those who are practicing. But common to them all is the ability to ask one’s own questions, to follow one’s own developing curiosities, and to help build learning communities in which one’s practice can flourish.

A creative practice helps us to create new sites of creative experimentation and transformation; spaces in which we can create, collaborate, document, reflect, and most importantly, engage. It is meant to be accessible, loose, and most importantly, relational. Which is why it is also central to our practice as an organization.

To learn more about creative practice and how it informs our pedagogy, visit the Exchange


2015 New Urban Arts received the Iona Dobbins award from the Art Connection, a non-profit that places artwork in non-profits.

2013 The Initiative for Non-Profit Excellence, sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield, selected us for a Best Practices Award in Board Governance.

2012  New Urban Arts is one of only 19 arts and cultural organizations in the state to receive general operating support from the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts. ”General Operating Support grants provide support to Rhode Island’s most established arts organizations, those which employ artists, serve a local or statewide audience, and contribute to the culture and economy of our state.” (RISCA).



2009  First Lady Michelle Obama presents New Urban Arts with a Coming Up Taller Award (now called the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards). The award is the nation’s highest honor for of out-of-school time arts & humanities programs, particularly those that reach underserved children and youth. New Urban Arts has been named among the top fifty such organizations in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008.

2009  The U.S. Department of Education selects New Urban Arts as one of 20 high school out-of-school programs included in a national study on best practices leading to academic improvement.

2009  New Urban Arts is selected one of nine arts organizations across the country to participate in ARTOGRAPHY: Arts in a Changing America, a grant and documentation program of Leveraging Investments in Creativity, funded by the Ford Foundation. The program shares best practices with the broader field to highlight the value of diverse artistic practices throughout the United States.

2006  New Urban Arts is awarded the Jabez Gorham Award by the Arts and Business Council of Rhode Island, which recognizes outstanding arts/cultural/educational organizations for unwavering commitment to excellence, significant impact on the community, and success in organizational development.

2005  New Urban Arts is named a Champion in Action by Citizens Bank and NBC10.

2001 New Urban Arts is awarded the Daedalus Award by Providence Waterfire.

1998 New Urban Arts is launched with seed support from the Echoing Green Foundation.

1997 New Urban Arts’ founder Tyler Denmead launches Project New Urban Arts as a pilot program with a Royce Fellowship from Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service.


 The Rhode Island Foundation



Our work is made possible by the direct financial support of a wide variety of funders—individuals, foundations, corporate contributors, and government agencies—all of whom are committed to supporting youth creativity.
In addition, New Urban Arts receives $200,000 annually in donated time and services. New Urban Arts’ team of artist mentors alone donate $100,000 worth of time each year to mentor youth. The most important volunteer contribution you can make is to consider becoming an artist mentor.


March 2017
Providence Journal Article on Arts Funding, Our friends at the Providence Journal wrote an editorial on how the arts greatly enrich our society, and they mentioned New Urban Arts.

September 2016
Take Magazine Article on New Urban Arts’ Expansion,
coverage on our newly renovated studio space. The basement expansion at New Urban Arts brings new opportunities to students and emerging artists at a time when the organization is focusing on innovative ways to serve the ever-diversifying Providence community.

Article on Equity Action GrantThe Rhode Island Foundation has awarded more than $50,000 in grants to seven nonprofit organizations that assist and support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities of Rhode Island.

PBN Article on Equity Action Grant, The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded more than $50,000 in grants to seven nonprofit organizations that assist and support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities of Rhode Island.

April 2016
Students at the Center Article on #RealTalk Forum, a discussion between students and educators on how to make education more meaningful, from changing the curriculum to expanding the arts. 

Providence Journal Article on #RealTalk Forum, a discussion between studetns and educators on how to make education more meaningful, from changing the curriculum to expanding the arts. 

“The Future of Homegrown Teaching Artists? Negotiating Contradictions of Professionalization in the Youth Arts and Humanities Fields” This article, by founding executive director Tyler Denmead and alumni Hannah Winkler, appeared in the International Journal of Education & the Arts.

January 2016
Spark Mag Article on LOVESICK Spark Mag, co-founded by former New Urban Arts mentor Victoria Ruiz, wrote a profile of LOVESICK, a band including two New Urban Arts alumni. They credit New Urban Arts for its impact in making Providence’s music scene more inclusive.

Providence Monthly Article on Downtown Boys The Providence Monthly wrote a profile of punk band Downtown Boys, many of whose members have served as mentors at New Urban Arts. The article discusses New Urban Arts in some depth as well.

New Urban Arts In Mayor Jorge Elorza’s Newsletter This month New Urban Arts was featured in Mayor Elorza’s December Newsletter. He credits New Urban Arts with being one of many organizations which offer residents opportunities to express their creativity and refine their talents.

December 2015
Rolling Stone Article on Downtown Boys Rolling Stone Magazine wrote a profile of punk band Downtown Boys, many of whose members have served as mentors at New Urban Arts. The article discusses New Urban Arts in some depth as well.

October 2015
Summer art show on The Providence Journal website Our Summer Art Show, Creative Compassion and the Art of Kindness, was recently listed on the Providence Journal Website as top art listing for the week of our opening! Check out the article here.

October 2015
Saulo Castillo on The National Endowment For the Arts Website Our Programming and Development VISTA, Saulo Castillo, shares his story with the National Endowment for The Arts website, and was selected to be on the NEA website for their 50th Year Anniversary. Check out his Story here.

April 2015
New Urban Arts on The Rhode Show 
Executive Director Dan Schleifer, artist-mentor Mimi Chrzanowski, and student Brianna Brooks talk about New Urban Arts and a recent window installation at the Dirt Palace in Olneyville.

March 2015
RI Data Hub: RI’s Out-of-School Time Programs 
This data story describes the importance of out-of-school time programs like New Urban Arts’ “Youth Mentorship in the Arts” in promoting youth success. 

Young Providence fashion designer learned a lot from his mother’s work The Providence Journal interviewed recent alum Josh Rodriguez about his work in fashion, Couture13, and his sources of inspiration.

February 2015
Five Questions with Daniel Schleifer The Providence Business News asks Interim Executive Director Daniel Schleifer five questions about his work at New Urban Arts.

January 2015
Providence groups launch “Youth Caucus” to work with mayor on education priorities 
New Urban Arts joins with the Providence Student Union, Young Voices, and four other youth organizations to launch the Providence Youth Caucus. The Providence Youth Caucus was also featured in this article in EastSide Monthly.

Elorza gala enlivens Cranston St. Armory New Urban Arts joins with other local youth arts organizations to celebrate Mayor Elorza’s inauguration with a parade.  

September 2014
Experi/mentors: Transmitting Agency at AS220, The Steel Yard, and New Urban Arts
 The Outpost Journal showcases New Urban Arts’ Youth Mentorship in the Arts program.  

November 2013
Immersing ourselves in the poetry of real type
 New Urban Arts Mentor Fellow and RI State Poet Laureate Rick Benjamin reflects on high school vacation week in our studio.

January 2014
Executive Director Elia Gurna on the importance of art After School Today interviews New Urban Arts.

November 2013
We draw from ourselves, and in this season of giving, give
New Urban Arts Mentor Fellow and RI State Poet Laureate Rick Benjamin reflects on Artsgiving in the Projo.

January 2013
12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012 GoLocalProv names outgoing Executive Director Jason Yoon one of the top change makers in Providence.

November 2012
Pockets of Hope
 The Providence Journal considers New Urban Arts an incubator for minority-owned businesses, profiling alumni Abel Hernandez. ”There are organizations and places in Rhode Island where people of diverse ethnicities, ages, cultures and backgrounds coexist and collaborate. New Urban Arts is one.”

Spotlight On: New Urban Arts Rhode Island Monthly article on the “creative refuge” that New Urban Arts offers to students, as their schools cut arts funding.

September 2012
Grant Recipients for the 13th Annual Sappi Ideas that Matter Program Esther Chak and Mary-Jo Valentino of Imaginary Office were awarded a Sappi Ideas that Matter grant benefiting New Urban Arts.

August 2012
Traveling darkroom pulls into Providence for a spin through the history of photography The Providence Journal showcases the Photo Palace’s visit to New Urban Arts. Read more about the visit on The Photo Palace’s blog.

Development Without Limits Please Speak Freely Podcast interviews Jason Yoon and Sarah Meyer of New Urban Arts Eric Gurna, Director of Development Without Limits, describes New Urban Arts as one of his “favorite youth programs in the country… one of those rare places where the practice matches the rhetoric.”

July 2012
PowerPlayer: New Urban Arts Executive Director Jason Yoon 
GoLocalProv names Executive Director Jason Yoon a PowerPlayer and chats with him about running “one of the most successful youth organizations in the city.”

June 2012
Pulse: Scene in Providence Providence Monthly spotlights New Urban Arts’ 15th birthday celebration at our Annual Fundraiser Benefit.

April 2012
Playing by New Rules: Smaller programs brace for loss of federal dollars The Providence Journal highlights New Urban Arts as an important community organization that will lose out on funding under the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new funding guidelines. “‘We understand that there are excellent organizations doing excellent work that will not get funding,’ said Garry Bliss, the Planning Department Employee primarily responsible for administering the grants once they are approved.”

Ten People You Don’t Know But Soon Will
Providence Monthly

In the Neighborhood: Arts & Community
NEA Arts Magazine

Interview with Peter Hocking
Design Sponge 

Arts studio for Providence high school students receives national award
The Providence Journal

Profile: New Urban Arts 
Providence the Creative Capital

The 6 Questions
Rhode Island Monthly

Media Inquiries:
Daniel Schleifer, Development Director
New Urban Arts
705 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903