Mind-Builders Academy celebrates 40th anniversary

A youth dance class at Mindbuilders, just one of the activities that the non-profit organization offers.
Photo courtesy of Mindbuilders

A local organization bringing the wonder of the arts into the lives of children reached an important milestone.

Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center is celebrating 40 years of artistic programing and instruction in music, dance, voice and martial arts to local children and adults, often at low or no cost, or through scholarships.

The organization is planning a number of events later this year to mark the anniversary that aims to entertain and inspire, as well as to raise awareness of the organization’s goal of empowering youth.

An ensemble of students and teachers will be performing together on Friday, April 27 to celebrate the anniversary at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

It will feature six-time Grammy Award winning pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs and includes a reception.

Additionally, three upcoming celebratory events in the borough include a VIP suite evening at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, August 30; the annual open house street festival in front of and inside Mind-Builders’ building at 3415 Olinville Avenue on Saturday, September 15; and a gala with performances at Lehman College on Saturday, November 3.

Much of what they do must have seemed inconceivable when Mind-Builders first opened its doors in 1978

Madaha Kinsey-Lamb, currently the organization’s executive director, founded Mind-Builders in part because she was looking for quality artistic programming for her four-year-old daughter, she said.

“I was taking my four-year-old to Manhattan for music and dance classes,” said Kinsey-Lamb. “I only had to do that for a couple of weeks on the (IRT) #2 train, when I said ‘why don’t we have some quality culture and arts instruction in our community?’”

Youth learn to play instruments at Mindbuilders.
Photo courtesy of Mindbuilders

At the time she was the education director of the North Bronx Family Service Center in University Heights, and had gotten a masters degree in education with an eye towards founding her own school.

She approached the pastor of a local church and leased some space to begin programing, holding dance classes the first Saturday in November 1978.

“After just a few months there was a waiting list of more than 100 students,” said Kinsey-Lamb. “The need was definitely there.”

This led Kinsey-Lamb to the fateful decision to leave her full-time job and focus on developing her non-profit. Her employer luckily keeping her on as a consultant, which enabled her enough financial security to successful pursue her dream.

For years Mind-Builders was located above a bank on White Plains Road, and gradually classes and instruction in all kinds of musical instruments and dance were added, along with theater and a program that documents community folk culture.

Today, Mind-Builders instructs 700 students per week, mostly in the after-school hours or from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays, said its founder.

The organization’s free performances in the community reach 9,000 people per year, she added.

Mind-Builders has programming for people aged from three-years-old to senior citizens, but about 85 percent of programming is for youth between the ages of 5 and 16, said Kinsey-Lamb.

Tickets to the event run $75 each and can be purchased online at: mindbuilders40.brownpapertickets.com. Information about Mind-Builders can be found at mind-builders.org.

Mindbuilders founder Madaha Kinsey-Lamb said that the most rewarding aspect of her work is having young people come back as adults and tell her that Mindbuilders programming changed or even saved their lives.
Photo courtesy of Mindbuilders

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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