New Harlem Cultural Center Ready to Open
By FELICIA R. LEE
MIST Harlem, a long-planned cultural center at 40 West 116th St., will open to the public on Wednesday, according to its owners.
The space, with a restaurant and three theaters showcasing film, theater, live music and other black and Latino-flavored arts and culture, will present film screenings, host fundraisers for the Harlem Dowling child welfare agency (Dec. 3), the Museum for African Art (Dec. 5) and a “Def Poetry” reunion on Dec. 12. A Samuel L. Jackson film retrospective is planned for Dec. 14-24. “Django Unchained,” the new Quentin Tarantino film, will have at least a one-week run beginning Dec. 25.
The theaters will also host musical artists on weekends, beginning Dec. 7 with Jarrad Anthony and Krissy Krissy. Other artists are Kym Hampton and Onaje Allan Gumbs on Dec. 8 and LIVRE on Dec. 9. The opening date for the restaurant has not yet been determined. The 20,000 square-foot, for-profit center, located on the ground-floor retail space of the Kalahari condominium, will eventually offer live entertainment at least five nights a week, including dance parties and spoken-word performances, said Taneshia Nash Laird, the chief marketing officer. More information on the events can be found at www.MistHarlem.com.
‘It’s pretty incredible,” Ms. Laird said of the culmination of the two-decades-long effort to create the center. “The response we got from the creative community is overwhelming. People are interested in all the events. And we got over 1,000 job applications for 80 positions.”
Ms. Laird’s husband, Roland Laird, is the chief executive officer of MIST. Mr. Laird owned the independent comic book publishing company Posro Komics and has over 15 years of experience in software development and project management. Ms. Laird was a former media relations director of Afrika Bambaata’s record label. Their director of programming is Alexa Birdsong, a former executive producer of Central Park SummerStage and an associate director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Things were not always so rosy. When the Lairds and their partners sought investors for the $21 million project, it was not an easy sell. One bank suggested that they use the space for something a bit more sensible, like a drugstore.
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