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HARLEM, NY — Its classrooms may be empty, but the Harlem School of the Arts has spent the past few months wrapping up work on its major, $9.5 million renovation, which finally wrapped up earlier this month to the delight of school leaders.

The renovation, dubbed the Renaissance Project, aimed to transform HSA's main building by cutting away its harsh brick façade and replacing it with an angled glass wall, letting light into a central meeting place for students and teachers.

"We have been this walled in oasis for a very long time," HSA President Eric Pryor said in a statement. "Now, we can share the beauty that our young people create within the safety of this space, and under the guidance of our extraordinary staff and teaching artists."

The project was funded by Herb Alpert, the famed trumpeter and record executive, whose foundation has contributed more than $17 million to the school in past years. It broke ground about a year ago and was completed Nov. 8, on time and on budget.

The renovated room serves as a public space and a performance hall, known formally as Dorothy Maynor Hall and informally as the Gathering Place, according to a New York Times report. New changes include an audiovisual system with acoustic curtains, production lighting and new food flooring, overseen by the acoustician John Storyk, who helped design Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios. 

"As musicians, whether performing or recording, my wife Lani and I know the value of having a space that allows the audience a full appreciation of what we artists are delivering," Alpert said in a statement.

Visitors to HSA will now encounter a series of murals that visualize the school's mission and history, a sunny cafe and waiting area, and a back-garden courtyard that has also been improved as part of the renovation.

A ribbon-cutting celebration, originally scheduled for this fall, has been pushed to next spring. In-person classes at HSA have been suspended during the pandemic, meaning students have not yet seen the changes up close.