Con Edison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter, Issue No. 22
Featured Organization: Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA)
This month’s featured organization is the Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA), which is a non-profit arts organization founded in 1962. As the official cultural agency of Bronx County, the BCA provides residents from multicultural backgrounds with diverse cultural services and arts programs. Basically, the BCA not only provides financial support to individual artists and non-profit organizations through fellowships, awards, grants and employment, but also cutting edge programs in arts education and cultural strategies to revitalize local communities. The BCA also actively cooperates with other educational institutions and social service agencies as a way to build partnerships to promote their services. About 5,000 artists and more than 250 arts and community-based organizations have benefited from the BCA. Below, please find an interview with Leenda Bonilla, BCA’s Program Manager of Special Events, by IAP Program Officer Karen Demavivas.
IAP: Can you talk about the cultural diversity that thrives in your Bronx community and how the BCA reaches out to the people who live there?
LB: The Bronx is home to 1.4 million people from all parts of the world, rich in cultural heritage and history. For decades, the Bronx has been considered a stepping stone for immigrants and we try to capitalize on this valuable asset by expanding efforts to incorporate immigrants into community revitalization efforts. Half of Bronx residents identify themselves as Latino/Hispanic and one-third as African-American. The Bronx currently has the youngest population in New York State, with 30 percent of residents under the age of 18! We actively promote policies that support community development, and we intentionally use art to enliven neighborhoods and raise the profile of the Bronx as a good place to live and do business.
IAP: Can you briefly share some of the BCA’s major programs and significant milestones in serving the community?
LB: The mission of the Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) is to encourage and increase public awareness of and participation in the arts and to nurture the development of artists and cultural organizations. For the past 49 years, BCA has been and continues to be a catalyst for creativity, community, advocacy, cultural development, funding support, and presenting opportunities. We are very proud of all our programs and highlight a few of our most visible ones below:
Longwood Art Project is celebrating 30 years as the contemporary arts center of BCA and has supported works of emerging and under-recognized artists, especially women and artists of color, through the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, The Project Space @ Longwood, Longwood Cyber Residencies, Digital Matrix Commissions and free public programs.
BCA’s Bronx Recognizes Its Own (BRIO) program provides direct financial support to 25 Bronx-based artists in the areas of literary, performing, media and visual arts. BRIO is a competitive awards program and this year it celebrates twenty two years of creative excellence!
A new and noteworthy program is our Bronx Indie Artists Series (BxIndie), a platform for artists of all disciplines to showcase their work in alternative and community spaces throughout the Bronx. Started in 2009, BxIndie seeks to break new ground in various disciplines and to bring artists closer to their audience, thus increasing community participation and fostering an environment for the arts to thrive.
IAP: Can you tell us why and how the BCA developed the Artisans Collective? Since the BCA established this program in 2004, how has it impacted native, immigrant, and Diaspora artisans in their professional and economic development?
LB: BCA’s Artisans Collective was founded in 2004 to recognize and promote craft-based works of artisans, designers and outsider artists currently living and creating in the Bronx, in an effort to illuminate craft – an integral part of the diverse cultural and artistic landscape of this borough. Dedicated to improving the quality of life of its participants who are mainly immigrants and refugees, the program focuses on cultivating a practical cultural and economic community within the Bronx by training these artists in marketing and other small business skills. The bronxArtworksSM product brand emerged from this group of local artisans and items have been available for sale at the Bronx Museum of the Arts gift shop. Through private commissions and during every First Wednesday Bronx Culture Trolley night at Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, BCA makes sales and professional development skills available to artisans by providing technical support, entrepreneurial activities and collective exhibition opportunities. Future plans include the creation of an online folio of the works and wares of artists, artisans, outsider artists and other artistic communities living and creating original works in the Bronx.
IAP: Can you share some exciting BCA events and initiatives coming up in your neighborhood?
• Every third Saturday through April 16th, BCA offers free Family-Friendly Craft Workshopsat the Huntington Free Library in the Westchester Square section of the Bronx.
• Every third Friday, through August 19th, BCA’s Bronx Writers Center offers free workshops for writers at Barnes & Noble at Bay Plaza in the Co-op City section of the Bronx.
• Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, on the campus of Hostos Community College, presents solo and group exhibitions of art produced in various media and through interdisciplinary practices that connect artists, communities, and ideas within and beyond the Bronx.
• The Bronx Culture Trolley on the first Wednesday of each month (except January & September) provides riders the opportunity to travel via a replica of an early 20th-century trolley car to several of the hottest cultural attractions, dining establishments and entertainment venues along the South Bronx Cultural Corridor in the Mott haven section of the Bronx.
• Culture Trolley Saturdays give riders and their families the opportunity to experience theSouth Bronx Cultural Corridor during daytime hours while providing them with additional activities geared to that day’s theme. Saturday, April 30th will feature the 5th Annual Mott Haven Artist Open Studio Tour – don’t miss it! This year we have invited artists of all disciplines to participate! Saturday, May 14th will be the 3rd annual Fair @ The Square in Westchester Square neighborhood at the 6 train and will feature the artisans, an ARTWALK and lots more!
Visit www.bronxarts.org for more information on these and other events and activities of the Bronx Council on the Arts.
IAP: How can immigrant artists get involved in your activities?
LB: They can call 718-931-9500 or visit the Bronx Council on the Arts’ website and click the link for the Artisans Collective. Our activities are open to everyone. Our website is constantly updated with the latest programs and opportunities. Check out www.bronxarts.org to learn more about the Bronx Writers Center, our home for writers, readers and the programs that support and encourage them, our Arts Information Services, Professional Development opportunities, Grants, Art Handler Training Program, Calendar of Events and more!