Casita Maria Receives National Grant

What was once only a dream of improving their facility can now be brought into reality after a national grant was awarded to a Bronx art center.

The Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education on 928 Simpson Street was awarded a Space for Change Planning and Pre-Development Grant by Leveraging Investments in Creativity, a national initiative that improves working conditions for artists all over the country, and the Ford Partnership, a non-profit grant-making organization in advancing human achievement.

The Space for Change Program is used to help promote and improve the development of affordable artist spaces by hiring consultants to help modify available space for performing art programs.

Interested in the program, directors of Casita Maria contacted LINC in April 2010 about their ideas of improving their facility and was one of 700 applicants throughout 49 states seeking a grant that would provide them with the initial funds that would help bring their ideas into reality.

After narrowing down its applicants, LINC and Ford felt that Casita Maria was an exceptional example of how an educational art facility can help impact and improve its surrounding communities, making them one of 12 grantees that will receive a total of $100,000 over two years to help their cause.

According to Casita Maria executive director Sarah Calderon, the arts center will be using the money from the grant over the next six months to bring in special engineers that will conduct studies in determining options that will best improve their center, as well as investigate ways on better involving Bronx residents of diverse nationalities.

“We are extremely excited to be awarded this grant out of so many applicants,” Calderon said. “The hardest part in improving our art center is gathering funds to initiate the studies that will benefit us. With this money we will be able to make better use out of our space and learn more about what we can do for the Bronx.”

The Casita Maria Organization, founded in New York City in 1934, strongly stands by their mission to empower young children and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality cultural, social and educational opportunities.

In 2009, the New York City School Construction Authority and the Department of Education constructed a new facility for the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education to operate from and have been able to offer a wide range of cultural activities, art education, internships and a public art gallery.

Judilee Reed, executive director of LINC, was more than happy to include Casita Maria as one of it’s grantees and believes that the grant will not only help the art center itself, but ultimately benefit the entire Bronx.

“These grants invest in the vision of compelling projects that will ultimately benefit not just artists, but the community that it is a part of,” Reed said. “The Space for Change Program is designed to help our grantees plan methodically and create dynamic engines of culture and change.”

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