By Sherry Mazzocchi
Special to DNAinfo
WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Washington Heights' biggest cultural event of the season takes place at the jaw-droppingly gorgeous United Palace Theater Thursday evening.
The launch party for The United Palace of Cultural Arts showcases the abundant artistic talent of Upper Manhattan. The theater will host performances by The People’s Theatre Project, Organic Magnetics, poet Hattie Gossett, The Machine, Tango in the Heights and several other artists.
Billed as an “arts interaction,” performers will take over the entire theater. Attendees can wander about, meet the artists and admire the stunning theater up close.
“It will be a playground for local artists to showcase their work,” said Mike Fitelson, UPCA’s director of programming. The evening is co-hosted by Word Up, a bookshop that until recently was located across the street from the Palace. The store’s lease was terminated this summer and the founders are still searching for a new space.
The event celebrates the launch of the newly created arts organization. UPCA is the newest arm of the United Palace. The lavish 3,200-seat theater is a venue for concerts as well as home to the United Palace Cathedral, the church founded by Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Rev. Ike.
Their goal is becoming a cultural hub for arts and culture. “We want to be the Lincoln Center of uptown,” said Fitelson.
This fall, UPCA is launching two community arts programs. The Harmony Project is an after school music program for elementary school children. The Washington Heights and Inwood Music Project is for children who already know music and have their own instruments.
Both are based on the Venezuelan “El Sistema” model where children study music as a means to develop values and undergo personal transformation. ”Those are things that are very representative and symbolic of the things we want to have here,” he said.
The UPCA is also slowly incorporating more programs for both children and adults. People’s Theatre Project will commence workshops in the spring. There are plans to add spoken work, West African drumming, dance, as well as multimedia programs.
“Our mission is all about using arts to transform lives in the community,” said Fitelson.