Photo by Ruth Morgan
President, Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center (1971- )
The experience obtained in the Federal Theatre Project laid the groundwork for the black theaters in the 1940s and 1950s in Harlem and around the country.
When the late Fred Hudson and Budd Schulberg founded the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in 1971, its mission was “to help develop communications skills among people in the minority community with a focus on screenwriting, playwriting and scriptwriting.”
Now, some 34 years later, that mission not only includes all of the above but has been expanded to include teaching film making, acting, television writing, documentary film making and desktop publishing. These additions, according to the center’s current president, Ray Gaspard, enhance the vision of Fred Hudson (who died in 2000) and Budd Shulberg, who is most noted for writing the Academy Award-winning On the Waterfront. Budd, now 90 yearsold, is still active and remains a strong supporter of the center, whose adult programs consist of four annual eight-week cycles, with over a dozen writing workshops for beginning, intermediate and advanced students.
Some of the center’s alumni have had novels, short stories and poetry published and screenplays produced. They have also won fellowships and other awards. Five have received contracts to write for ABC daytime television. One of the center’s most important and popular programs is the reading series, held October through June, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. “In collaboration with the Schomburg,” says Ray, “we have eight reading of plays and screenplays which are attended by everyone from Harlem residents to potential producers. A play we read in June 2004 was picked up by a producer to be presented at the Tribeca Theatre. It is also scheduled to be presented at a black theater festival in Boston.”
Another popular program at the center is its after school program where youngsters can study film making. “The program,” says Ray, “is designed to enhance their interest in learning.”
“When Fred died,” notes Ray, “the center went through a rough period, but with the help of supporters such as Joan Ganz Cooney of Sesame Street, S. Epatha Merkerson, Kevin Arkadie, Budd and our students, we will continue to carry on the great legacy left by Fred.”