A group of young students sit on a colorful carpet in their music classroom as their teacher leans in towards her class with a smile on her face.

Our Mission

We expand access to the performing arts by providing creative space, learning opportunities, and hubs for artistic connection.

Our Vision

People connecting and growing through the transformative power of the performing arts.

What We Do

We present vibrant arts initiatives to communities and neighborhoods in New York and other U.S. cities, making it possible for people and places to achieve their greatest potential.  Our two signature projects – Theatre Row and Music and the Brain – nurture artists, audiences, and youth with a focus on accessibility and inclusion. Theatre Row is an Off-Broadway multi-theater complex in the heart of the Theater District that serves as an affordable home for performing artist organizations and a lively, accessible venue for diverse audiences.  Theatre Row encourages its varied mix of nonprofit theater companies to share ideas and resources as they work in its intimate spaces.  Over 160,000 patrons come to Theatre Row each year.   Music and the Brain brings music literacy curriculum and classroom keyboard instruction to schools with underserved students, helping them build cognitive and fine motor skills to succeed academically and in life.  Over the last 20+ years, Music and the Brain has served more than 400,000 children in schools throughout the U.S., including New York City, Philadelphia, Newark, New Orleans, and Miami.


Our Roots

Since its founding in 1976, Building for the Arts has been at the forefront of creative placemaking. Our founder, Fred Papert, a former ad man turned historical preservationist established 42nd Street Development Corporation (now Building for the Arts) with a vision to transform the once-derelict west end of 42nd Street – filled with peep shows and other pornographic venues – into a vibrant community and home for nonprofits. We anchored the transformation of this neighborhood by developing the theaters, restaurants, and apartments known as Theatre Row.  In partnership with others, we aided in the renovation of Bryant Park, built the Police Stables for the NYPD at the west end of 42nd Street, and advocated for Manhattan Plaza to be used as affordable housing for professional artists. We were also involved in the successful fight to preserve Grand Central Station.  Over the years, many New York City luminaries have served on our Board of Directors, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Gerald Schoenfeld, and Marian Heiskell.

Theatre Row

In 1999, Building for the Arts – in partnership with the Port Authority, Playwrights Horizons, and the Schubert and Brodsky organizations – commenced a complete redevelopment of the block between 9th and Dyer avenues that was completed in 2002.  Theatre Row was developed to anchor the neighborhood revival of the western end of 42nd Street. Theatre Row is a complex of five Off-Broadway theaters, rehearsal studios, and office space that nurtures a broad range of artistic voices.  Theatre Row offers support and resources to actors, producers, dancers, musicians, and others.  Services include rehearsal and office space, box office, and more.  Theatre Row encourages its varied mix of nonprofit theater companies to share ideas and resources as they work toward presenting shows in its intimate spaces.  More than 160,000 patrons come to Theatre Row each year.  Notable productions such as The New Groups’ Hurlyburly and Keen Company’s Tick Tick Boom have taken the stage at Theatre Row throughout its 40-year history.

Music and the Brain

As part of our ongoing commitment to bringing arts to communities, Building for the Arts founded Music and the Brain, a nationwide music education initiative which provides piano keyboarding instruction to young children in underserved neighborhoods. Since 1997, Music and the Brain has reached more than 400,000 students. Music and the Brain programming is inspired by scientific research which has shown that developing keyboarding music skills in early education can improve proficiencies in language, reading, math and cognition. The program serves Pre-K through eighth grade students by encouraging student-driven learning that focuses on the development of cognitive and critical thinking skills through music, fundamentally empowering children to succeed academically and in life.

Artistic close up photograph of vintage microphone