Community Scholar Adarsh Alphons: From Teaching Kids Art to Creating a National Nonprofit Arts Organization

In 2011, Adarsh Alphons, an immigrant here on a work visa with a mountain of student loans, decided to do everything he wasn't supposed to do: teach art classes to youth full-time for no pay. Starting with a borrowed office space in Harlem, he seized on his entrepreneurial spirit and capitalized on the moment's zeitgeist—the rise of the sharing economy—to create ProjectArt, a nonprofit art organization that has achieved national scale and acclaim by using underutilized spaces in public libraries for public school art education and artists’ studios. ProjectArt is now in 43 libraries in six cities.

Among his other accomplishments, Alphons is a Columbia University Community Scholar. On Tuesday, October 10, SPS Community Relations presented Adarsh Alphons discussing ProjectArt in the School’s third Community Scholars Lecture at Columbia University, Faculty House.

The Columbia Community Scholars Program, administered by the Columbia University Office of Government and Community Affairs and the School of Professional Studies, enables independent scholars to pursue their aspirations.

For information on Community Scholars news and events, please visit

Related Video: PBS: Metrofocus, The Importance of Art Education

When school budget cuts come up, arts and music programs can be some of the first on the chopping block. Yet research has shown the positive impact of arts education on children’s overall success in school. A nonprofit called ProjectArt provides art classes in public libraries around New York City, in neighborhoods where local schools have had to cut art classes. This story is part of the ongoing American Graduate coverage focused on keeping students on the path to graduation, made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.