The mission statement of the center was written by youth and continues to be the voice and heart which drives the center’s creative program and opportunities:
The Neutral Zone is a diverse, youth-driven teen center dedicated to promoting personal growth through artistic expression, community leadership and the exchange of ideas.
In 1998, a group of Ann Arbor teens gathered to discuss the need for a place where teens could congregate after school and on weekends. From the very beginning, they felt this place should be more than just a hangout; that is could be a safe place to make new friends, mix with youth from different backgrounds, explore new ideas, learn new skills and do it all in a setting that was teen friendly and teen driven. Teens wrote the mission statement and the first grant proposal to the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and, with seed money in hand, enlisted parents and friends to turn an old brick and timber warehouse into a teen center.
It’s been years since that original group of teens realized their dream and they have moved on with their lives. Their legacy lives on, however, in the Neutral Zone’s mission statement. From that first handful of teens, attendance has grown to more than 16,000 visits a year. Today, in addition to drop-in and free tutoring after school, the Neutral Zone offers more than 20 programs in the areas of Education, Literary Arts, Community Leadership, Music and the Visual Arts. However, the Neutral Zone is just not a place. It is the sum total of all of the teens who come through its doors. Their energy, creativity, passion and ideas, shape and direct our programs and activities.
The Neutral Zone moved into its current home in 2006, with a capital campaign that will be completed in 2014. The 30,000 square ft facility is home to over 20 programs including 4 youth owned enterprises, the Youth Owned Record, the Orpheum Recording Studio, Red Beard Press, and the B Side. With a 400 capacity venue and numerous program spaces, the Neutral Zone hosts over 18,000 teen visits each year to provide a safe and supportive space for teens in Washtenaw County. Our building is also ADA compliant and received accessibility audits from the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living that can be reviewed here.