The Soul of BrooklynBrooklyn, NY
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 James Bartlett, Director of Community Programming at MoCADA, about the Soul of Brooklyn initiative and the program’s goals for the coming year:
ARTPLACE: What is your elevator pitch when you describe your project to people?
BARTLETT: Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties puts the arts at the heart of the community, by placing arts programming in and around locally owned small businesses. Once a month, on a different block in Central Brooklyn, Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties presents a curated combination of live music, film, theater, dance and visual art. By taking arts programming outside of the usual context of theaters, galleries, and music halls, the community is able to interact with the art as a part of their daily lives. This makes it more accessible to underserved communities, expands the participant base for arts organizations, and also benefits the local economy by increasing traffic to local businesses.
ARTPLACE: How do you expect to increase vibrancy in the place you are working?
BARTLETT: Brooklyn has always been a vibrant place, we are just focusing that artistic energy and making it more accessible to the entire community. One of the negative side effects of Brooklyn’s rapid development is that communities often become divided between the haves and have-nots. MoCADA’s Soul of Brooklyn initiative was developed specifically to address this issue, and the program works to break down this wall by making art and the community inseparable. Brooklyn is home to a contemporary arts renaissance. More and more filmmakers, visual artists, musicians, actors, and other artists are moving into Brooklyn every day. These are exciting times in Brooklyn, but often individuals get stuck in their own bubble of artistic interaction. Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties are meant to concentrate this artistic energy in a single place at a single time, in order to bring people together and foster interactions between artists and the community as a whole. We want to make this renaissance accessible to everyone. What better way to increase vibrancy in our community than to showcase this renaissance in the streets and the businesses that people frequent every day? Rather than expecting people to adapt their lives to the arts, we are bring the arts right to the people. And a great side-effect is that we also get to support locally owned businesses in the process. It’s a win win for everyone involved.