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 (Jullia Kim, Malaika Thorne, Marcus Civin, and Tyler Denmead) 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 is awarded an Echoing Green Fellowship to launch New Urban Arts as a nonprofit and becomes its 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 as second executive director. 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.

2013 Elia Gurna begins as New Urban Arts’ third executive director. The Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence, sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield, awards New Urban Arts a Best Practices Award in Board Governance.

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 major renovates 705 Westminster Street; the building now has 6,000 square feet of studio space for young people.

2017 New Urban Arts receives its third five-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, supporting the Youth Mentorship in the Arts Program and Summer Art Internships at New Urban Arts as well as the creation of a new program: NUA Knights, an afterschool program at Central High School designed collaboratively by New Urban Arts and Central’s administration. Director of Programs Emily Ustach is selected for the National Afterschool Matters Fellowship, a competitive, national two-year fellowship for 25 out-of-school-time professionals. The fellowship is sponsored by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and the National Writing Project.

2018 The Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence, sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield, awards New Urban Arts a Best Practices Award in Volunteer Engagement.

2019 The Rhode Island Afterschool Network names Ashley Paniagua Cavallaro Afterschool Program Director of the Year.

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.


2017 Director of Programs Emily Ustach is selected to be part of the second cohort of National Afterschool Matters Fellows. Through a partnership between the National Writing Project (NWP) and the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at Wellesley College, this competitive two-year fellowship brings together 25 out-of-school time professionals from across the country who engage in reflection, inquiry, and writing activities that position them to inform and contribute to the quality of programs, practice, and the broader field.

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 Tyler Denmead receives a Royce Fellowship from Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service to support the launch of New Urban Arts.


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.




Our Audits


Our 990’s (Numbered by our fiscal years)

Our Building

New Urban Arts’ programs take place inside of a 7,200 square foot art studio located at 705 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903. Both floors of the building, the front door, and all bathrooms are wheelchair-accessible.

705 Westminster is also known as the S. Chiappinelli building and was built between 1930 and 1933. Salvatore Chiappinelli was a partner in the Imperial-Armour-Rex Company (incorporated in 1920 with Harry M. Burt and Dominick Fazzano), which was the realty holding company for Imperial Knife, Rex Manufacturing, and Chiappinelli’s own company, Armour Manufacturing Company.

Armour Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1907 by Chiappinelli, Frank Stead, and Etta Daughaday. It was re-incorporated in 1913 by Chiappinelli, John L. Kehoe, and Arabella M. Kelly “for the purposes of engaging in the business of manufacturing, buying, selling and otherwise disposing of jewelry, novelties and other kinds of merchandise….”

The building is in the Westminster Street National Historic District.

Salvatore Chiappinelli was born in Italy on November 1, 1872, emigrated to the US in 1895, and became a naturalized citizen in 1904. He died October 5, 1948. He is buried in St. Ann Cemetery in Cranston.