New NYCHA program Make Mott Haven to bring arts and culture to projects

Arts and cultural funding is coming to Mott Haven, bringing new programming in and around public housing projects.

The New York City Housing Authority is embarking on a new initiative, with a number of partners, called Make Mott Haven.

It comes as part of a National Endowment for the Arts ‘Our Town’ grant of $100,000.

The idea behind Make Mott Haven, according to NYCHA, is to use cultural programming to create community connectedness.

“This award will help move forward our NextGeneration NYCHA vision through beautifying our developments with culturally-relevant art, and connecting them visually to their larger neighborhoods,” said Shola Olatoye, NYCHA chair, adding that she was proud that NYCHA had been selected for the grant and that she was excited about the creation of art installations and performances that tell the story of diverse communities.

To that end, NYCHA will be partnering with Dancing in the Streets, Ghetto Film School, Casita Maria Center for the Arts and Education, and the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation.

The programing should include festivals, films, performances, and arts workshops.

It will also include, according to Casita Maria, an expansion of the South Bronx Cultural Trail, a series of markers indicating points of interest, with more locations and programing related to the markers.

The South Bronx Culture trail will be expanded as part of Make Mott Haven from where it is currently concentrated in the Longwood and Hunts Point, said Sarah Calderon of Casita Maria.

“In addition to having actual physical markers we will partner with both Dancing in the Streets and SOBRO to sort of ‘activate’ those sites through preforming arts,” said Calderon, adding that they plan on working with members of the community to determine which sites are important historical or present day locations as they expand.

Generally speaking, projects like the trail are popular because they convey a sense of nostalgia, and for younger people who may feel that their community is portrayed very negatively, it could create an understanding that Mott Haven is a place of creativity, she said.

“Being to be able to point to places or people who have had global impact is very powerful,” said Calderon, who added that the markers could celebrate the lives of well-known musicians and journalists, for example.

In addition to addressing the immediate needs of the communities in public housing, arts and culture is something people have asked for as well, she added.

In a statement, Councilman Ritchie Torres, the chairman of the New York City Council Committee on Public Housing, said that arts and culture have a transformative effect on communities, yet are rarely accessible to those who stand to benefit the most.

“The Our Town grant represents a holistic approach to quality of life improvements in public housing and will bring creative programming to NYCHA residents in the south Bronx,” stated the councilman.

He added: “I congratulate NYCHA on receiving the Our Town grant and for using it in the south Bronx where arts programming and institutions are desperately needed. ”

Edwin Torres, the Department of Cultural Affairs deputy commissioner, stated that he was thrilled by the news of the selection.

“Cultural activity enriches so many communities across New York City, bringing people together and invigorating our public spaces,” he stated, adding “As a proud Mott Haven native, I can’t wait to see the extraordinary programming that NYCHA and its cultural partners will create with Bronx residents.”

Programming under the grant should begin in the fall of 2015, and continue until 2017.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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