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New York City’s First-Ever Social Justice Artists’ Convening img-share-ph

September 12, 2011

New York, September 12, 2011—Undeterred by shifting economic conditions and motivated by passion for justice, a unique gathering of NYC-based arts organizations, artists, funders, and activists are convening to create a blueprint for sustaining New York City’s cultural grassroots. Through cutting-edge, star-studded performances and dynamic workshops designed to mobilize for impact, the goal of this unprecedented gathering by artists working with low-income communities is to ensure that those most affected by injustice have creative supports and networks for generating change. “This work matters right now because art is not a luxury. It is an essential element of creating and sustaining equitable conditions,” said Iris Morales, Executive Director of the Union Square Awards and a co-sponsor of the Social Justice Artists’ Convening. “We have come together with the intent of sharing best practices and developing a network that supports social justice work and the sustainability of our arts, culture, artists, and organizations.” Generously hosted by El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, the city’s leading Latino cultural institution, this event takes place on Wednesday, September 21. Gonzalo Casals, Director of Education & Public Programs for the museum commented, “It is with pleasure and honor that we are hosting this programming.”

At a time when arts groups in New York are struggling to keep their doors open, and increasingly artists and communities are being forced to compete for financial support, this convening is about fostering partnerships and much-needed capacity. “We are stronger when we work together,” explained Rise Wilson, founder of the Laundromat Project and spokesperson for the Social Justice Artists' Collaborative that initiated this call to action. “Through arts programs, young people not only discover new talents and voices, but truly rise as the next generation of creative leadership this city needs. We can only maintain those opportunities if we dream of new models and practices together, and stand shoulder to shoulder to fight for, create and imagine new resources. We have so much to offer and learn from each other -- this convening puts that power in our hands.”

Jessica Green, Cinema Director for the Maysles Institute in Harlem, noted that the gathering is unprecedented because “it is by and for us, in particular as artists and activists who are part of our communities, fighting for real immigrant and racial justice, and against homophobia. Artists who are pushing back hard on the gentrifying forces that reduce our neighborhoods to some sort of tabla rasa for commercial and cultural exploitation.” Charles Rice Gonzalez, Director of the Bronx Academy for Art and Dance (BAAD), reflected that, “this day marks the next level of community-building that we need to sustain ourselves and scale our impacts. Art has the power to spark dialogue and shape new understanding.  We know that without our work, our hands, our communities, our voices, our songs, our dances and our visions, the city will not remain a nexus of innovation.”

Underscoring the beauty and richness of the city’s arts programs, the day-long convening of artists and arts organizations begins with a walking tour by El Museo del Barrio of its East Harlem neighborhood, highlighting both history and present day struggles. With remarks by key figures in the field and an invocation by the incredible hip-hop artist and playwright Rha Goddess, the opening plenary is set to explore the relationship between art and social justice. Through workshops, discussion, and networking participants will share best practices for sustainability and building solidarity. Due to high demand, registration for the convening is already closed out with a full wait-list. “The response has been amazing, but not a surprise. It just underscores how much we need to do this,” reflected Ms. Wilson.

To keep the momentum going following a high-energy and sold-out day, the Social Justice Artists' Collaborative is hosting “Performance Artivism! A Cultural Evening of Visual Art & Performance with Heart, Soul and Guts!” FREE of boundaries, FREE of mind and FREE of charge, Performance Artivsm! is set of high-voltage cultural performances open to the public starting 7:30pm. Emceed by Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, the evening of live performances feature Bryonn Bain, Yalini Dream, Climbing Poetree and Angel Rodriguez with percussionists. All groups welcome.

Sponsored by the Lambent Foundation, Union Square Awards (a project of Tides), and NYFA Immigrant Artist Project.

The Social Justice Artists' Collaborative is a working group of progressive artists, practitioners, and funders. Initial conveners are the Union Square Awards, Maysles Institute, The Laundromat Project, Lambent Foundation, NYFA Immigrant Artist Project, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, Global Action Project (GAP), Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!), and Art for Change. For more information and updates, visit Facebook.