The Art of Community
As this summer nears it end and I look back on the journey that my research has taken me on I can’t help but reflect with pride what has been accomplished thus far, but simultaneously sustain an insatiable hunger to go much much much further. My research is about art and community building for black and brown bodies. My intent was always to combine these two passions of mine and the focus of my research narrowed down to examine the impact of nonprofit organizations that us use art as a foundation for community outreach programming to black and brown communities in NYC. With all of this in mind my research took on a qualitative case study approach and led to me to conducting interviews with representatives from various NYC nonprofit organizations. I also kept in mind a qualitative historical undertone to my research by using the aid of scholarly articles on how the history of cultural and local government policy shapes the landscape of nonprofit work in NYC. Initially my research cited exploring “community outreach theatre programs” but as a means to broaden the perspective grasp of my research I decided to instead explore “community outreach arts programs.”
I strategized to choose a single nonprofit org. from each borough that met my criteria of creating community building programming with a focused audience of black and brown people. Unfortunately, the challenges that arose from these goals were that some boroughs had more nonprofit organization options than others that met my criteria. But furthermore it was also a challenge to schedule interviews with candidates that I was really interested in as scheduling obstacles arose due to irregular summer schedules and understaffed organizations became apparent.
Despite my challenges, what I have accomplished is three solid interviews thus far from organizations representing Manhattan, Harlem, and Brooklyn. Based on those interviews I have collected diverse data on the strategies of tailor making community outreach programs, how the current socio-political and cultural climate impacts the need for specific artistic community events, and more. And through my interviews with org. representatives, I have been led to a path of community participants testimonies on the effect and importance of the arts programs that have strengthen individuals and thus the community as a whole. My questions have centered around the sharing of financial literacy amongst orgs and internally amongst staff, the demographics of the community that is being served, the role that the organization plays in the upward mobility of communities they are reaching out to, the types of art utilized in programs and why, and more questions along those lines.
My vision for my research extends far beyond the given summer time frame. I intend to continue to conduct more interviews and obtain more knowledge to round out my research and overall perspective of this journey. My mentor Marvin has been a great help is assisting me shape the hopes and and possibilities of this research, while helping me remain goal oriented on tangible data. What I hope for my research is that it showcases the importance of community building and the beauty of the arts and how those two work in tandem.