The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) received a 2012 ArtPlace grant for a project entitled, Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties. The program fosters collaboration between arts organizations and small-businesses, in an effort to place arts programming at the heart of community building, while simultaneously stimulating the local economy. Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties are a part of MoCADA’s Soul of Brooklyn initiative, which promotes the work of 32 African Diasporan arts organizations in the borough of Brooklyn.

ArtPlace spoke with MoCADA’s Executive Director, James Bartlett, about the Soul of Brooklyn initiative and the program’s goals for the coming year.

ARTPLACE: Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?

MOCADA: We work with dozens of partners to execute the Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties.  Our primary partners are the local business associations and the arts organizations that are a part of the Soul of Brooklyn Consortium.  Relationships with business associations such as the Fulton Area Business Alliance, allows us to more effectively serve the needs of the small businesses by drawing from the in-depth knowledge of the  businesses and the people in their district. Because the block parties change locations every month, we have a short learning curve.  We don’t want to come into a neighborhood and assume we know everything, so it’s important to involve these organizations  in the planning and implementation of each event.

Soul of Brooklyn Consortium members are another group of key partners in our events.  The Soul of Brooklyn Consortium is a collective of 31 Black arts organizations in the borough of Brooklyn.   We draw on these arts organizations to curate a diverse lineup of arts programing  each month.  These collaborations have resulted in innovative dance performances, live music, theater, and photography, all taking place at Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties. Organizations like Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn, Urban Bush Women, and  Modern Day Griot Theatre Company are just some of the invaluable arts partners who help to make each block party unique and successful.

ARTPLACE: Are there secrets to good partnerships?

MOCADA: There are no “secrets” to a good partnership. The most important aspect of a good partnership is good old-fashioned communication.  Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties take place every month, so things move very fast.   It’s easy to keep moving quickly and forget to properly communicate with vital partners.

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