Dancers from Hmong United Association of Rhode Island and India Association of Rhode Island pose together after performing

Statewide, RI

Contact Name
Elena Calderon Patino
Project Dates
2018-2019 and 2019-2021 (Current Cohort)
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2019
Networking, Entrepreneurship, Cultural Heritage
The Expansion Arts Program (EAP) offers funding and organizational assistance to cultural organizations with programs and missions that center on the cultural practices and traditions of Rhode Island’s diverse peoples. In recent years, EAP has offered additional funding to the program’s current cohort and alumni to focus on intercultural collaboration.

Eligible organizations applied and received funding for unique projects rooted in applicants’ diverse cultural practices that could create fruitful relationships, partnerships, and future sustainability.

Join us for a conversation with both funders and awardees as they discuss the impact of structured intercultural collaboration.
Project Goals
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 intercultural collaboration seed grants were offered to encourage varied culturally-specific organizations to work together and establish fruitful partnerships. With over 40+ Rhode Island Expansion Arts alumni, many organizations have the opportunity to collaborate, but need avenues for support. Intercultural collaboration seed grants promoted partnerships and allowed organizations to define and align institutional values. Recipient organizations designed and implemented programs such as multicultural dancing at traditional new years festivals that exposed audiences to new and varied cultural practices. Grant recipients also attended events together, including programs featuring keynote speakers like Carlton Turner of Alternate Roots and guests from the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC).
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):
The Rhode Island Expansion Arts Program’s 2019-2021 cohort consisted of the RI Cape Verdean Heritage Committee, The Colombian American Cultural Society, the India Association of Rhode Island, and the Laotian Community Center of Rhode Island.

The Colombian American Cultural Society of Rhode Island used their intercultural collaboration seed grant to work with the Puerto Rican Institute for the Arts and Advocacy to introduce Afro-Caribbean and Colombian dance traditions to students and their families. The project was organized to strengthen and unify the Central Falls, RI community, where the majority of Latinx residents are of Colombian and Puerto Rican descent. Both organizations offered workshops to students and facilitated organized performances at events such as the Day of Race.

The India Association of Rhode Island used their intercultural collaboration seed grant to collaborate with the Hmong United Association of Rhode Island to celebrate important cultural events such as Diwali (Festival of Lights), India Day, and the Hmong New Year. Diwali honors the diverse social, cultural, and educational heritage of India while India Day celebrates India’s independence. The Hmong New Year is a colorful festival that honors the unique culture and history of the Hmong people. The New Year celebration is the biggest festival of the year for the Hmong community in Rhode Island. By organizing these events together, Hmong and Indian heritages were recognized and celebrated with large cross-cultural audiences from both communities.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
For the intercultural collaboration seed grant recipients, grants connected two culturally-specific organizations together, promoting rewarding partnerships and creating a healthier ecosystem among diverse communities across the state. Organizations such as the Laotian Community Center have established fruitful partnerships with nationally recognized organizations such as the Lao Heritage Foundation, based in Washington, DC. The Laotian Community Center also shares a master music teacher with five other Laotian communities located in various cities in the United States such as San Diego, CA and Philadelphia, PA.

Other recipients of the intercultural collaboration seed grants established partnerships and connections with local institutions with similar interests in youth development. The collective work of the intercultural collaboration seed grants and the youth development grants elevated the visibility of diverse communities in Rhode Island and built community cohesion while teaching civic skillsets and dispositions.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The intercultural collaboration seed grants were open to the cohort, alumni, and third party organizations. In the competitive grant application process, a panel decided which organizations were awarded a $5,000 grant. To strengthen the collaborations, Expansion Arts offered a strategic collaboration workshop, which increased organizational awareness of best practices in this work. The workshop also allowed organizations to identify others who shared similar vision, ideas, and core values.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
An obstacle the intercultural collaboration seed grant recipients faced was the division of tasks and labor. Each organization endeavored to make everyone’s duties fair and equal. However, there were times when roles and responsibilities weren’t properly balanced. Another challenge they faced was creating a program that thoroughly connected and interwove programmatic practices, staff, and intellectual frameworks. Some ideas did not seem blended enough or were not executed in a way that was proportionate to participating organizations’ original expectations. That said, for others, the projects were a stepping stone to greater collaboration. For instance, Hmong United and India Association teamed up together to celebrate Diwali and the Hmong New Year as platforms that introduced their distinct communities to the general public.

To combat these obstacles and enhance connectivity, organizations should have a year’s worth of time to write grants and organize in-person conversations to properly coordinate proposed projects. Expansion Arts believes in the power of evaluation and participating organizations are taking active steps to evaluate the impact of this year’s programs and funding structures to improve our collective work and next year’s offerings.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Adequate planning and financial management, as well as facilitation and support from Expansion Arts funders, was key to helping participating organizations overcome obstacles. Each organization awarded a youth development grant made sure the projects and programs were aligned with their logic flows and enticing enough for youth to get involved. The organizations also utilized networking tools, such as social media and email campaigns, to reach greater audiences. Some organizations also created a more visible online presence, such as building a website.

Support from participating organizations’ community was also pivotal to overcoming programmatic obstacles. A powerful example are the parents associated with the Laotian Community Center motivating their children to get involved in the RI Lao Arts and Culture Summer Camp. Fortunately, many children who attend past summer camps have been involved for several year. Youth have then invited friends to participate, i.e. peer networking.

Intercultural collaboration seed grant recipients such as the Colombian American Cultural Society overcame programmatic obstacles by having great communication channels with their partner. Their grant resulted in a wonderful collaboration where diverse Latinx students in Central Falls came together to practice and celebrate shared heritages.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Expansion Arts funders would recommend that there be more time for the grant proposals to be requested and developed—at least four to five months—so that organizations can discuss exactly what they want to do. A longer time frame allows applicants to plan further and for funders to facilitate connections.

Also, participants should create a template and establish set guidelines to properly document all aspects of their projects in final reports. From our experience, different organizations document their programs and activities differently, which makes our annual year-end report difficult to synthesize. Although shared best practices in documentation are important, funders should be sensitive to the diverse and cultural practices of constituents they serve.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
Many Rhode Island Expansion Arts alumni are housed at the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island, located in Providence. Southside’s mission is to connect, cultivate and engage the community through the arts. SCCRI helps nurture the voices and skillsets of artists of color. Currently, the Laotian Community Center is housed there, and they connect with other small organizations, promoting a healthy, creative ecosystem. As a result of Expansion Arts funding opportunities, The Laotian Community Center is continuing to develop projects such as “Teach the Teachers,” along with other youth programs.

Intercultural collaboration seed grant recipients also have successfully made a difference in their communities. The Colombian American Cultural Society and the Puerto Rican Institute for the Arts and Advocacy united the two most prominent communities in Central Falls, creating a cultural brotherhood by blending the rhythms of both cultures on one stage. Their program, The Puerto Rico and Colombia Hand-in-Hand Ensemble, taught students the history and culture of both peoples which resulted in greater understanding and appreciation of each others’ traditional practices. The program demonstrated that intercultural collaboration can strengthen and enhance the cultural landscape in diverse communities.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We consider the Rhode Island Expansion Arts Program successful because of the diverse organizations we support that have measurable, meaningful progress on their organizational and programmatic goals. Also, organizations that received youth development grants plan to continue their current programs and events, making a positive impact in their community.

Intercultural collaboration seed grant recipients such as The Puerto Rican Institute for the Arts and Advocacy and Colombian American Cultural Society have witnessed a successful turn out at their events and workshops. In fact, the Colombians are learning from the Puerto Ricans, who are more experienced in grantwriting and have a long, successful record in writing educational grants.

Through the Expansion Arts grant opportunity, staff and volunteers with each organization have gained a robust rapport, and the Puerto Ricans plan on continuing to mentor the Colombians on grant opportunities. Hmong United and India Association have built a similar symbiotic relationship where peer learning and support helps each organization build on each others’ successes.

These results proves the long-term benefits of two organizations collaborating together and how partnerships can continue and sustain momentum.
How did you measure this success or progress?
The success of the program is measured by the final report each organization submits at the end of the year that includes indicators around audience engagement, financial management, and collaboration skillsets. The report requires grantees detail exactly what they did with the grant, what they have learned from the workshops, and any important events or programs that occurred in the last year. We compile the individual final reports and include them into the end of the year report for the overall Rhode Island Expansion Arts Program.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The Colombian American Cultural Society are new to writing grants, but luckily, the Puerto Rican Institute for the Arts and Advocacy have sufficient experience in grantseeking. Their partnership—seeded by the intercultural collaboration grant—has allowed Puerto Rican Intitutute for Arts and Advocacy to assist the Colombian American Cultural Society in grant writing to engage with schools and educational funding.

The Hmong United and India Association’s intercultural grant has resulted in another joint project: developing an Asian art exhibit at the Atrium Gallery in Providence.

The intercultural collaboration seed grants demonstrated how organizations can peer mentor others in different capacities. This is a valuable, and slightly unexpected outcome of the work.