End of Summer Report

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.

Blog Entry #2

Discuss the progress you have made so far. Describe the data and/or the results and findings of the research (where applicable), and provide insights and reflections on the data and/or results and findings.

In my research thus far I have been able to meet with 3 nonprofit organizations from 3 different NYC boroughs. I met with representatives from Lincoln Center Education (Manhattan), Los Pleneros de 21 (Harlem) and Bushwick Starr (Brooklyn) and held an hour long interview with each. I intend to meet with an additional 2-3 organizations from other boroughs such as the Bronx, Queens, and potentially Staten Island.

Thus far the data I’ve collected contains the strategies that these organizations use to reach out to the community members of the communities that they serve. Depending on the age demographic and the location, community outreach formed by these organizations are first and foremost at the grassroots level. From posters in frequented and culturally important community spots (such as schools, markets, etc.) to networking at community events and then of course social media as a later tool, that is how a bond is initially started. Additionally my data showcases the strategies in how events and programs are tailored to a community based on need or interest.

Based on this data I’ve been given insight on the transformative results of these artistic communitunity endeavours and have also been provided with personal testimonies to validify my reflections. Individuals within the community find a voice and confidence through the nature and nurture of events held for them and by them, with a strong intention of using art as a common ground and culture as a connecting thread.

Include any questions raised from the data you collected.

Based on the data I’ve collected thus far, questions that have arisen are based on local government policy of wealth distribution to nonprofits in New York City.

Explain any challenges and/or successes you have experienced with this project.

It certainly has been a challenge getting in contact with organizations that I think would be create candidates for my research. Being that it’s summertime I have been met with the fact that people are on vacation, an organization’s programming schedule is not as full, staff at these nonprofits may also be juggling other jobs, and more obstacles that limit the communication and participation for these orgs to be apart of my research.

It has also been a challenge obtaining scholarly data to aid in my research since my research is so specific and is about a very unpopular topic. Using the Ebsco Database has been helpful, but going to NYC libraries and looking for books to take out on my topic has been a bit of a dry area in this process.

On the upside, based on the interviews I’ve conducted thus far I have gained surmounting inspiration to continue this project beyond this summer session and I have gained a lot of info proven to be helpful.

Describe what you have learned from the project.

So far what this project has taught me is that gentrification and the current state of the cultural and sociopolitical climate in this nation has made the resources of space and wealth very hard to obtain in the aiding of producing programs dedicated to underserved communities.

Reflect on the impact this project has had on you and any future plan you may have related to this research.

This project has furthered my belief in creating community building spaces specifically for Black and Brown bodies. As well as, this project has also furthered my belief in the power of the arts, especially as a tool for bringing people together, educating, and healing.

Right now my research focuses on nonprofit organizations in NYC that use art as a tool for community building for Black and Brown bodies. In the future I’d like to extend my area of research to also include commercial spaces (Ex: Bam or Atrium Theatre) that have historically been used to support and uphold culture and arts, and their connection and comparison to the work performed by the nonprofit organizations I have already used for my research.

A Summer of Theatre & Community Building

Please describe the title and purpose of your project as well as the goals and objectives of your research.

Our research is titled The Art of a Community. The purpose of our research is to examine the relationship between non-for-profit  community outreach theatre programs and marginalized inner-city communities, particularly Black and Brown communities. We will explore the ways in which these theatre programs have affected these communities and the lives of their participants.

Highlight what you expect to achieve or learn from this project.

We expect to gain a more complex understanding of the significance of community outreach theatre programs in marginalized communities of the 21st century. Additionally, we intend to understand the role which changing demographics has played in the theatre programs in the NYC area with many longtime residents being pushed out due to gentrification. Additionally, this research will highlight the role of race and class on the creation and support of theatre in relation to community building, especially those which are non-for-profit.

Explain what methods you will use to answer your research questions.

In order to answer the questions we pose in this research (which will be mostly qualitative) we intend to interview staff from Community theatre programs in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Harlem, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. In these interviews we will uncover challenges that the programs face, the effects that the outreach programs have had on local communities, examples of successful alums, and projections as to where they see the program going in the near future.