The Harlem School of the Arts has named Eric G. Pryor its new president, replacing Yvette Campbell, who left the position in June.

Pryor comes from the Center for Arts Education, where he served as executive director since 2012. His 20-year career includes serving as executive director of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Center for Art and Culture and the New Jersey State Museum.

“We are incredibly excited to have such an accomplished leader assume the leadership of the Harlem School of the Arts, especially as we enter into our 50th year of serving the New York community,” said Charles J. Hamilton, Jr. Esq., chairman of the HSA board of directors.

Officially taking on the position Aug. 1, Pryor comes into HSA at a time when the school is experiencing a restoration of its financial endowment and an increase in enrollment. In an exclusive interview with the AmNews, Pryor outlined his vision of continuing HSA’s tradition of giving youth in the city an outlet to express their artistic talents and doing more outreach in the community.

Eric Pryor – President, Harlem School of the Arts

Eric Pryor outlines his vision for the Harlem School of the Arts

“What I find so rewarding is seeing young people have access to the arts,” said Pryor, whose background is in painting. “That’s been my passion, and we have to focus on how we can prepare our youth. I want to make this space a robust destination for all ages.”

HSA offers classes for adults in theater and music and opens its facilities for community events. The facility’s centerpiece is known as the “Gathering Space,” which seats 160 people along with a 120-seat theater.

Millennials who might have pondered about their own artistic interest or ability are who Pryor wants to target. He’s eager to know what interests people in the community.

“We have to be more than just people taking classes,” Pryor said. “We have a beautiful space where we can offer public programing, art exhibitions, book signings and small performances. There are lots of possibilities, and I really want to see this place bustling with energy. We have to ask, ‘How can we reach out to everybody?’”

Pryor added that HSA currently does not have a person in charge of public programs, though that will change once he takes over.

Along with expanding outreach, Pryor wants to “spruce up” the facility, transforming it into a more robust destination. The sprucing includes painting and resurfacing walls to accommodate displaying art, improved lighting and studio spaces.

“If people come in here and we look top-notch, people are going to want to come here,” he said. “You can come here and get a world-class education and get taught by the best instructors who function at the top of their game.”

While Pryor is looking to expand HSA’s community outreach and adult offerings, he’s not neglecting the needs of the 4,000 youth who are the school’s core—both at the Herb Alpert Center in Harlem and schools across the city.

During HSA’s last fiscal year, over $400,000 in scholarships were awarded, which Pryor wants to expand. In keeping with technology changing how art is created, Pryor said he wants to prepare and train students on how to use tools to create visual art, film, photography and music with technology.

“If we are going to speak to a generation of kids on iPads and smartphones, we have to offer them training and experience,” he said.

HSA also has programs in public and charter schools across the city, as well as in community organizations. Serving in areas of the city known as “art deserts,” the school fills the void for many schools that lack arts programs.

As for the future, Pryor is preparing for the building of Harlem Academy, which will be next door to HSA once it is completed in 2017. Students at the school will also use HSA’s facilities for their arts programs.

“I hope HSA becomes a place where people really see it as a major asset here in Harlem,” he said. “I want this to be a place where you can do everything, from learning how to make something and how to experience someone doing it at to the highest level. The possibilities in the future are endless.”