Thoughts and updates from Arts & Democracy staff, partners and allies.


Rural Art and Culture Yields Big Impact

Judi Jennings, Kentucky Foundation for Women and Savannah Barrett, Art of the Rural discuss Feminist Art: Advancing Social Change in Rural Kentucky, an innovative digital mapping project documenting the powerful and transformative work taking place across rural Kentucky.

Arts and Culture for a Just and Equitable City

Dear Mayor-Elect de Blasio, City Council Members (new and continuing), and Transition Team Members,

Congratulations! We, leaders from across sectors, write to share how arts and culture can and should play a vital role in achieving the inspirational One City Rising platform.

What Would it Look Like if NYC invested $50 Million in its Communities?

New York City’s recent capital investment of $50 million dollars in the Culture Shed mega project begs the question – how would a $50 million dollar capital investment in the culture and wellbeing of New York City’s diverse neighborhoods look?

How Arts and Culture Can Advance a Neighborhood-Centered Progressive Agenda

What's a progressive agenda for arts and culture in New York City? Caron Atlas offers her answer to this question in her contribution to Toward A 21st Century City for All, which offers an inclusive vision for city policy to help achieve a more just, equal and prosperous New York City.

Creative Engagement and a Moral Economy for All

This blog is the introduction to a longer essay inspired by the Network of Ensemble Theater's Appalachian MicroFest. I learned in Appalachia what it looks like when culture, place, identity, and community come together in the struggle for social justice. I witnessed how mountaintop removal causes great pain, and experienced music as an integral part of organizing. I became aware of the long record of misrepresentation of Appalachian people and their history by the media and how this misrepresentation has been used to justify the exploitation of the region’s resources. 

Making Change in Chinatown

Asian Americans United Executive Director, Ellen Somekawa, writes about cultural organizing in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. She effectively communicates the life of a Chinatown resident, stressing the importance of valuing local cultures with a unified message and a sense of humor via the arts.


Humanity After the Storm

Arts & Democray Project director Caron Atlas describes how people came together to create a Wellness Center at the Park Slope Armory evacuation center following Hurricane Sandy and experienced the power of arts and culture to restore respect and dignity in a disaster.

Ice sculpture by Ligorno/Reese melted at the two political conventions

What Democracy Looks Like

Caron Atlas reflects on democracy in the thick of the election season and the anniversaries of 9/11 and Occupy Wall Street.


Creative Placemaking and the Politics of Belonging and Dis-belongong

This essay by Roberto Bedoya raises thoughtful questions about the increasingly popular practice of Creative Placmaking and we have reposted it here with the hopes of stimulating dialogue. Writes Bedoya, "I embrace Creative Placemaking and its aspiration as is manifests in a variety of methods —from city planning to art practices with a goal of advancing humanity. But I am bothered by what I consider a significant blind spot – a blind love of sorts – in the Creative Placemaking discourse and practices. I am referring to a lack of awareness about the politics of belonging and dis-belonging that operate in civil society.The essay was originally posted on Arts in a Changing America

Shifting Culture Making Change

Center for Media Justice Executive Director Malkia Cyril recently wrote a piece for Organizing Upgrade on communications strategies for building a national narrative for progressive social change. She argues for a comprehensive strategy for progressive social change that impacts both heart and mind. We've reposted the Blog here.

Civil Rights, Human Rights, and A Moral Economy for All

Arts & Democracy co-hosted a book party to celebrate the publication of "Helen Matthews Lewis, Living Social Justice in Appalachia." The Brooklyn event featured Helen in a rare New York City appearence along with book co-editor Judi Jennings and special guest Marie Cirillo. The presentation shared Helen's lifelong commitment to activism and included her writings on environmental justice, moral economy, global solidarity, and powerful women taking a stand.

Urban Bush Women at SEIU Convention

Guest Blog by Maria Bauman, Urban Bush Women 

The convention felt like a family reunion, with members addressing one another as “Sister” or “Brother,” and receiving warm greetings and rousing affirmations from SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. The Colorado Convention Center had become the largest organizing hub I have ever seen; think of a kitchen or a black church and then magnify times 10,000! 

From the SEIU convention!

We are at the Service Employees International Union convention in Denver and are thrilled to see the results of the artists residencies that we cosponsored with the union. Here's a preview of the artwork and performances from locals in Florida; California; Minnesota; Ontario, Canada; and Puerto Rico.

Arts & Democracy Testifies at City Council Hearing

Arts & Democracy is a proud member of the NOCD-NY coalition whose members testified at a joint hearing of the NYC City Council's Arts and Small Business committees. As a result of NOCD-NY's organizing and presence at the May 11 hearing much of it focused on naturally occurring cultural districts. We presented a series of recommendations for how the city could support NOCDs and neighborhood based cultural economies and illustrated the recommendations though our member's testimony. 

Animating Democracy Has a New Web Site!

Animating Democracy's new web site is inspirational, informative, and promotes and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to community, civic, and social change. Animating Democracy co-director Pam Korza takes us on a tour of this great new resource.

Time to Vote!

What does your neighborhood need?  An improved park? Safer streets? A community cultural space? After six months of participatory budgeting in New York the polls are opening and its time to vote!

Image: jcbonbon

Welcome to Our New Web Site!

We’re so happy to have this attractive new online home. We think this site is better able to explain our work, share resources, and highlight some of the exciting work our partners and allies are doing in the field.

Read on for an introduction to some of the features you’ll find here...



We've Been Busy!

Arts & Democracy has jumped into the new year with a workshop in New Orleans, a new collaboration with Service Workers Union International, collaborations in New York City, and a national briefing call about environmental justice.

The Line: An Unemployment Demonstration March 6

On March 6, Super Tuesday at 8:14 am an unemployment line with thousands of people holding pink slips over their heads will stretch through Manhattan from the Wall Street bull to Union Square. Join this powerful collaboration between artists and labor.   

You Can’t Evict an Idea Whose Time Has Come

By Caron Atlas

At the recent Policy Link Conference in Detroit, at a session called “Holding Ground,” presenters spoke about maintaining equity in a time of cutbacks. At the end of the session, one of the younger audience members asked where in all this talk of holding ground were the progressive ideas, the vision for the future. His question significantly shifted the room.

Back to the Future (Part One)

By Erik Takeshita

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. We have a responsibility to those who will come after us. 

These simple yet powerful concepts have been echoing in my head the past few days in New Mexico where I participated in a roundtable discussion held at the Institute of American Indian Arts sponsored by the Open Society Foundations, First People’s Fund, and Arts & Democracy Project. The people I met and the stories I heard reinforced the power of the arts – and more importantly culture – in transforming our communities.


Walking the Talk and Talking the Walk

Arts & Democracy Project hosted a People's Potluck in Brooklyn. The potluck was part of a series of artist-led conversations and meals focused on interdependence taking place in the summer of 2011 created by MAPP International Productions in collaboration with Samita Sinha and Create Collective.

From the Highway to Nowhere to the Power of Place

By Caron Atlas

In June and July I was fortunate to attend ROOTS Fest National Learning Exchange in West Baltimore, the Rural Cultural Roundtable in St Paul, and the freeDimensional retreat on Wasan Island in Canada. While diverse in focus, the three events were all grounded in the power of place, culture and creative agency. Collectively they made me reflect on how we can take active roles in creating communities that reflect our values. 

Music, Memory and Imagination

By amalia deloney

Two separate, yet related–events made me think about music and memory, and the healing properties they offer together.

Fabulous February of Freedom

By Dalia Basiouny

February 2011 was the busiest month of my life. I participated in a revolution that toppled a corrupt regime after 30 years of dictatorship.

Update on Belarus Free Theater

The Belarus Free Theater is out of hiding in Belarus and in New York performing its acclaimed play, "Being Harold Pinter" at the Under the Radar Festival until January 16. Two New York Times stories feature the company and review the play:

Little Globe Crosstown #4, Santa Fe Bus Opera - photo Chris Jonas

Inspirations from 2010

By Caron Atlas

Looking back on 2010, I am inspired by the grace and power of the imagination in the midst of challenging times.

A New Movement for Humanization

By Caron Atlas

When I first met Grace Lee Boggs in 2003 she transformed me, along with everyone else. Boggs embodies the US Social Forum concept of "another world is possible, another U.S. is necessary," and she celebrated her 95 birthday at the Detroit Social Forum in 2010, looking to the future.

Reportback on the Creative Resistance Retreat

From July 10-15 the Creative Resistance retreat brought together leaders from human rights sector, arts networks, and organizations focused on the mobility of culture workers. Sponsored by freeDimensional and hosted at the Breuninger Foundation's Wasan Island center near Toronto, Canada, the retreat provided space for a critical dialogue on the role of arts networks in strengthening the social justice movement globally.

By Caron Atlas

Ricardo Levins Morales Reportback on the U.S. Social Forum

By Ricardo Levins Morales

Cross-posted from his e-newsletter, reflections from artist Ricardo Levins Morales on his time at the U.S. Social Forum.

Javiera Benavente's Reportback on U.S. Social Forum

By Javiera Benavente

On June 22-26, 2010 the 2nd US Social Forum took place in Detroit, MI, and brought together thousands of people from around the country (and beyond) to participate in a movement-building process that distinguishes itself by focusing on creating space "to come up with peoples' solutions to the economic and ecological crisis" we face in the world today.