What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The greatest challenge to us is a very strong “equity gap” that exists in our community between the availability of arts instruction and the richness of course offerings for students in low-poverty schools compared to those in high-poverty schools, leading students who are economically disadvantaged to not get the enrichment experiences of affluent students. Our project set out to offer a rich cultural arts program that represents the second largest Latino group in RI (the Puerto Ricans), but that also provides an opportunity for students and teachers in a high-poverty school to experience the art and dance of Puerto Rico. We strongly believe that art that fosters cultural awareness stimulates dialogue and leads to a better understanding and acceptance of those who are different. Additionally, RILA believes that this type of activity could serve as a necessary component of recognition that encourages self-pride among all Latinos.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Our goals were met satisfactorily, but not without some institutional challenges. First, the original launch date of the Santos carving workshops were delayed due to Winter weather and school closings, which not only kept students out of school, but also school department personnel from meeting to review our request and approve our teaching artist to work with the students in class. Also, we discovered that the original site where we had planned the exhibition and musical performances was not fully ADA complient, so we had to seek another location. If not for the support and understanding of the artists involved, the teachers and our partner organizations, all activities and the final event would not have been such a great success.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
1. Key members of the Providence Public School Department – approved our project and provided full access to school personnel, students, supplies and classroom space as needed.
2. Teachers, administrators and students at the Providence Vocational & Technical Academy (PVTA) - a high school located in a highly underserved neighborhood of Providence.
3. The City of Providence Dept. of Art + Culture - who helped promote the event and also helped resolve some of the challenges we faced.
4. Lydia Perez, Yoruba2 and the Puerto Rican Institute for Arts and Advocay (PRIAA) - helped connect us and promote the project to the Puerto Rican community of RI and New England. They also performed in the final concert.
5. Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth – invited us to use their site for the final music workshops and concerts. Their own students and families participated in the music workshop, and some attended the final concert.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
This program was in line with RILA’s 5-year strategic plan, which includes organizing & implementing new programs and activities that will strengthen our mission and deepen community connections by building partnerships & developing educational programs. The Santos carving workshop at the PVTA brought a Latin American traditional art form to students in a local urban school, and thus exposed student peers and teachers to the amazing art of Santos carving. The music and dance workshop and performances helped us to further connect with a local arts youth organization, which we’ve partnered in the past. We were able to offer constituents of Providence ¡CityArts! who are located in the neighborhood in which we serve, an opportunity to learn about the PR culture. The overall project took shape from our board’s desire to build closer community partnerships, to offer community programming in line with our mission, and to engage more Latino artists within or organization.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Inspiration came from a close relationship our organization has made with PRIAA and Yoruba2, who are member artists of our organization. During the past two years they have collaborated with RILA to offer brief performances (during the celebration of our 25th Anniversary), advice and support in seeking Puerto Rican artist, and in promoting all our programs through their vast network. RILA and PRIAA are two of a very small number of non-profit organizations with a strong professional connection to Latin American arts and cultures in RI. With the growing Census figures, showing that Puerto Ricans make up the highest population of Latinos in RI, and sharing a deep commitment to enriching and reconnecting Latino young people to their cultural heritage, the two organizations have formed a strong partnership to meet the needs of this highly underserved community. Both share the strong belief that the arts instill pride in local Latino immigrants, help second-generation Latinos connect to their heritage, and engage non-Latinos in understanding the cultural contributions of Latin-American artists.