Building community through the arts

23 Dec

Public Allies New York (PANY) has a monthly Everyone Leads Conversation Series (I would be curious to know if you do this at other sites, Allies). This month’s conversation was particularly interesting because the topic was Building Community through the Arts featuring the following panel:

Lately I have been really wondering about impact the arts may have on community and this panel came at a very welcome time. Check out the video below to find out more…

Ezra Ezzard, a PANY alumnus, mentions at the end of the video that art is always around us (he mentions Starbucks and the Barack Obama campaign), and that we take it for granted. This theme came up a lot in the discussion and was a possible reason why we consciously don’t think about the importance of art. Charles Alvarez, PANY ’12, said “Everything you do is art related…everyone has something to say.”

As far as art’s impact on the community, Risë Wilson asked herself how art can make a community space and she started the Laundromat Project. She wanted to find out how culture is a force in change, and how people disenfranchised with culture can have a revitalized spirit in their individual lives.


Allies discussing the panel’s comments.

Sheila McDaniel and Charles Rice Gonzalez touched on another point Ezra mentioned in saying that art has the power to affect the community economically especially in New York City. Both Harlem and Hunts Point (where the Studio Museum and BAAD are located, respectively) had seen an improvement once their institutions arrived in the community. Merchants followed the artists, and there was a gentrification in the neighborhoods.


Our Program Managers Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario, Sabine Blaizin and Max Chang.

Eddie Gonalez-Novoa, PANY Executive Director and panel moderator, says in the video that the dichotomy of social services and the arts is a false one, and Shelia agreed that you have to get away from either/or (i.e. fire departments, education, police), not to pit them against each other.

Education and the arts was another topic that Kate Shaffer, PANY ’12, explored by reminding us that schools improve when the students are engaged on something that isn’t on a test, and wondered how we could bring art to a math class.


The beautiful, festive art space at Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance

The most interesting topic of conversation to me was how we can use art as a tool to improve other organizations in our community, as second-year Ally Cea Weaver asks. She mentioned art in homeless shelters as a way of interacting with peers, and using art for things that might be more pressing. Joanne Sterling, PANY ’12, said, “Art is a form of revolution, making your experiences tangible…expressing what society tells us is real.”

Join the conversation: What do you think about what was expressed that day? What did we leave out? Why is art important to you?

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