Postcard Spotlight: Providing Equal Access to Cultural Offerings

Groundswell Audio Postcard

This week, we’re spotlighting three projects that are creating new channels of access to cultural programs for groups that have been traditionally excluded.  The highlighted projects are:

These projects target three very different audiences – youths in Hunts Point in the Bronx, diaspora communities in all 5 boroughs, and local Brooklyn artists and residents – but what they share is the use of innovative strategies for engaging with communities where they live and work.

Across the three projects, we see these commonalities:

  • Identifying and assessing community needs
  • Partnering artists with community members
  • Organizational collaboration
  • Providing cultural activities locally

Groundswell Mural Project

For Groundswell, their challenge was to catalyze local organizing, advocacy and change in Hunts Point in the South Bronx through arts participation.  Their strategy: partner with The Department of Transportation Safety Education Division and the Majora Carter Group to bring artists, youth, and community members together for a public mural project to identify and troubleshoot transportation safety issues on their local streets.

Amy Sananman, Founder and Executive Director, Groundswell Community Mural Project says:

“One great impact would be that the community sees how to access this agency [the Department of Transportation] and then says huh, you know, parks would be really great to access, and they would be empowered and have some of the skills to come together and make a decision to make change in their community.”

Watch the Audio Postcard:

CEC ArtsLink

For CEC ArtsLink, their challenge was to use their experience facilitating international artistic collaborations to highlight and engage diaspora communities in New York City’s five boroughs.  Their strategy: partner with venues in each of the boroughs to present new works created by collaborations between international and local artists.

Tamalyn Miller, Program Director, ArtsLink Awards at CEC ArtsLink says:

“I would see success as projects that would draw audiences that are outside of normal art audiences.”

Watch the Audio Postcard:

Brooklyn Academy of Music

For BAM, their challenge was to create opportunities for local artists, youth, and families to access the space and resources at BAM.  Their strategy: the new BAM Richard B. Fisher Building will feature an intimate 250 seat theater that is affordable for rental by local groups and ideal for experimentation, a partnership with the Kennedy Center’s DeVos Institute of Arts Management that supports rental groups, and a classroom space for educational programs for the local community.

Karen Brooks Hopkins, 

“A lot of the artistic community was upset that they didn’t have access to the BAM stages.  People wanted not only more access to the institution, they wanted more service from the institution.  We had a real problem with how the community perceived BAM. And we understood that.”

Watch the Audio Postcard:

What we find across these projects is a common desire to challenge assumptions about the role of arts in communities that are not considered to be traditional arts audiences.  Groundswell is challenging assumptions about the role of art in the everyday lives of Hunts Point residents by engaging them in a meaningful local project.  CEC ArtsLink is challenging the assumption that diaspora communities in New York City do not attend the arts by creating new opportunities for them to access artwork created in their own community.  BAM is challenging the assumption that the organization is inaccesible to local companies and community members by creating a new space tailored to their needs.

We look forward to seeing these project progress over the next two years!


Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.