The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) received a 2012 ArtPlace
grant for a project called Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties. The program fosters collaboration
between arts organizations and small businesses, placing arts programming at the heart of
community building while simultaneously stimulating the local economy. The 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 Ryann Holmes, Director of Community Programming at MoCADA, about the Soul of Brooklyn initiative and the program’s goals for the coming year:

ARTPLACE: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your efforts? How did you get burned, or
how did you prevail?

HOLMES: I think one of the biggest risk that we’ve taken with the Soul of Brooklyn Block Party initiative is moving the monthly event to a different neighborhood in Brooklyn each time. In the beginning, this posed a lot of challenges. Each neighborhood embodies different cultural aspects, engages with different programming and marketing efforts, and has varying sets of values. Before we developed key relationships with local community members and groups we were at risk of poorly executing our vision of bringing dynamic and relevant programming to their communities. We learned some lessons the hard way i.e. using flawed marketing strategies in certain neighborhoods which resulted in less-than-anticipated attendance. But we quickly learned from those mistakes and were encouraged to make deeper connections in each community, gain knowledge, and more heavily incorporate community members into the planning process.

Organizing Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties in different neighborhoods on a monthly basis
exemplifies the practice of bringing the arts directly to the people. MoCADA, along with the Soul of Brooklyn Consortium members have benefited greatly from being able to successfully curate programming across Brooklyn. Our approach involves local arts organizations, community leaders, tenant associations, business owners, and more from different neighborhoods in the borough. This has provided arts organizations a chance to authentically build relationships with community members that may not have been aware these organizations are right in their own neighborhoods.

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