Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education in the South Bronx has been awarded a Space for Change Planning and Pre-Development Grant to help translate its vision for an exemplary art space into a buildable plan.
The organization is among 12 grantees nationwide whose early stage facility projects were selected as exceptional examples of how art can reinvigorate a neighborhood by Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) in partnership with the Ford Foundation. The Space for Change Planning and Pre-Development grants provide organizations with the initial funds that are most critical to a facility’s success – and yet the most difficult to obtain.
The 12 winners were chosen from nearly 700 applicants from 49 states as well as the District of Columbia. They responded to a call last April from LINC, in partnership with Ford, for letters of interest from nonprofit arts organizations intending to buy, construct, renovate, help develop, or become anchor tenants in an art space or cultural facility. Full proposals were invited from organizations with strong track records of artistic excellence, diverse leadership and active community engagement. The projects that proved to be outstanding were rooted not only from the internal needs of the organization, but also took into account the role of the cultural facility as an essential community asset. A total of $1 million was distributed through this program. Grantees received planning and predevelopment support up to $100,000.
Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education will receive $50,000 over two years to commission a comprehensive study of its 400-seat performing arts venue. Founded in 1934, Casita Maria was the first charitable organization to serve New York City’s Hispanic population. The organization recognizes that its 90,000 sq. ft. south Bronx location can be a gateway to cultural opportunities and enrichment more frequently experienced in Manhattan than its own community, a neighborhood shedding its reputation as a synonym for urban blight.
In a unique arrangement, Casita Maria operates from a new facility owned and constructed in 2009 by the City of New York, built on land that the arts center owns, and shared with an arts-focused public middle school. This strategy has enabled Casita Maria to operate from a new facility without incurring significant construction costs. A community anchor, Casita Maria offers a wide range of cultural activities, with a strong emphasis on youth programming including in-school and after-school arts education, summer camp, and internships, as well as a public art gallery. Though flexible and already serving many functions, modifications to the building’s gymnasium/auditorium will allow Casita Maria to adapt the space into a well-equipped performance hall that can support a more frequent program of public performances across a broader range of artistic genre—from multimedia to modern dance.
“Predevelopment funds are critical to a successful planning process, but arts organizations are too often deemed ‘high risk’ by conventional lending institutions and are unable to access these much needed resources,” said Judilee Reed, executive director, LINC. “The Space for Change program is designed to help our grantees plan methodically, and create more than buildings or architectural objects, but genuinely dynamic engines of culture and change. These grants invest in the vision of compelling projects that will ultimately benefit not just artists, but a larger geographic community as well.”
“Space for Change is a unique program that provides support for arts organizations to translate ideas into action,” said Darren Walker, vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. “Each winning project expresses the rich diversity of the American cultural landscape, matching the development of creative spaces and artistic innovation.”
The other recipients of Space for Change Planning and Pre-Development Grants are:
651 Arts, Brooklyn, NY
City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Columbia Film Society, Columbia, SC
Dance Place, Washington, D.C.
The Heidelberg Center, Detroit, MI
The Heritage Center of Red Cloud Indian School, Pine Ridge, SD
Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA
Los Cenzontles Mexican Art Center, San Pablo, CA
Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA), San Jose, CA
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), Detroit, MI
Northwoods Niijii Enterprise Community, Inc., Lac du Flambeau, WI
For complete profiles of each grantee’s facility project please go here.
Space for Change – a multi-faceted program created to promote the development of affordable artist spaces through awards, research, and learning – was launched by LINC in 2009 in collaboration with the MetLife Foundation and the Ford Foundation. In addition to commissioning research and building a national learning community around the issues of artist space development, the program has included two funding opportunities: the MetLife Foundation Innovative Space Awards (ISAs) and the Ford Foundation Space for Change Planning and Pre-Development Grants. The second and final round of the ISAs was announced last fall. The Space for Change Planning and Pre-Development grants mark the culmination of LINC’s grantmaking in artist space development.
In addition to receiving direct financial support, each Space for Change grantee will have access to technical assistance, knowledge exchange, and the development of a national network of peer institutions. LINC grantees, across all of its program areas, will be invited to a series of meetings and workshops designed to advance the development of outstanding artist space nationwide.
Leveraging Investments in Creativity (LINC) is a ten-year national initiative to improve the conditions for artists working in all disciplines. LINC believes that providing artists with a relevant system of support and resources will enhance their creative output, enabling them to make greater and more meaningful contributions to our communities and society as a whole. Visit www.lincnet.net for more information.
About the Ford Foundation:
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has worked with courageous people on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.