Mosaic Youth Theatre gets $1M gift from 'Hamilton' producer

The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit is touting its largest gift ever: a $1 million grant from Oak Park native Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer of the Broadway hit musical "Hamilton."

Jeffrey Seller and Cher arrive at "The Cher Show" Broadway Opening Night at Neil Simon Theatre on December 03, 2018 in New York City.

The grant, announced last month, was given to Mosaic through the Seller-Lehrer Family Foundation, founded by Seller and his partner, photographer and documentarian Josh Lehrer. The funding will broaden access to the arts for Detroit youth through 200 scholarship every year over the next five years. 

Founded 27 years ago to fill gaps in arts education, Mosaic Youth Theatre is aimed at helping young artists on stage, and in life. It teaches young people to perform in theater and musical performances while simultaneously working to create positive changes in the lives of Detroit young people through summer camp, in-school mentoring and other artistic endeavors.

Over the years, its alumni having clinched Tony, Emmy and Grammy nominations, performed for two U.S. presidents, toured three continents and sent 95 percent of participants to college.

The $1 million grant will be used for two of Mosaic's most popular programs: its four-week summer camp and the Mosaic Experience Empowerment Program, an eight-week after school program in nine Detroit schools. Both programs teach kids theater and vocal training and culminate with a student showcase, said Stefanie Worth, who recently took over as Mosaic's executive director.

Producer Jeffrey Seller, center, accepts the Tony award for Best Musical for "Hamilton" onstage with his cast and creative team during the 70th Annual Tony Awards on June 12, 2016 in New York City.

Last year, Mosaic worked with nearly 500 students, she said. 

Seller, who grew up in an adopted  family and graduated from the University of Michigan, is also known for other Broadway shows including "Rent."

He attributed his love of theater and subsequent success to Tamarack Camps in Bloomfield Township, which he attended as a young person, said Worth. 

Seller recently saw the youth perform at New York Public Theater. 

"He had the reaction that a lot of people have when they see the performances," Worth said. "He was really, really impressed by the young artists. He has an affinity for what Mosaic does."

Rick Sperling, Mosaic founding artistic director, said "this incredibly generous grant comes at an important inflection point in Mosaic’s long history."

“We have demonstrated success in exposing the exciting world of theater and music to Detroit’s youth," Sperling said in a statement.  "As we move onto an exciting future with new leadership in 2019, this grant ensures a smooth transition and our continued ability to fully fund our summer camp and the Mosaic Experience Empowerment Program in Detroit’s middle schools."

Seller, in a statement, said he's admired Sperling since the 1980s, when he directed shows at Performance Network in Ann Arbor.

"He daily demonstrates that theater changes lives," Seller said. "His work with Mosaic has lifted and enriched the lives of thousands of young people and we are honored to help support a strong future for this extraordinary institution."

Hamilton, a critically-acclaimed musical about U.S. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, will be showing at Detroit's Fisher Theater from March 12- April 21.