Five arts and cultural organizations of color receive a total of $150,000 to invest in their programs and leadership Published on Thursday, June 22, 2023 Goal of the Expansion Arts Program is to nourish the artistic and cultural traditions of diverse communities Read the Press Release En Español PROVIDENCE, RI – Five local arts and culturally specific organizations of color will share $150,000 to increase their capacity to bring their cultural traditions to the public. The funding is through the Rhode Island Expansion Arts Program. A partnership between the Rhode Island Foundation, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (RI Humanities), the program targets organizations whose programs and missions center on the cultural practices and traditions of Rhode Island’s diverse communities. “We believe in the value of encouraging diverse voices. By recognizing and addressing the unique needs of organizations that celebrate a wide range of cultural traditions, we nourish the multiple customs and experiences that define and enrich our state’s cultural offerings,” said David N. Cicilline, president and CEO of the Foundation. This year’s recipients are the Andean Cultural Center of Rhode Island, the Cultural Society of East Bay, the PVD World Music Institute, the RAÍCES Rhode Island Folk and Cultural Association and the Rhode Island Black Film Festival. In addition to the funding, the program provides opportunities for group learning, direct technical assistance and intercultural collaboration and tools and resources that can enhance the work of each organization. “We have a stronger society because of the organizations that place cultural heritage at the center of communities. With our partners at the Rhode Island Foundation and the Arts Council, RI Humanities looks forward to working with and learning from these new participants in Expansion Arts,” said Elizabeth Francis, executive director of RI Humanities. In addition to the funding, consultants will work with the groups to help them build knowledge and expertise in the areas of financial management, marketing and audience development, leadership development and strategic collaborations. “On behalf of RISCA, we congratulate the five organizations that make up the 2023-2025 cohort. The Rhode Island Expansion Arts Program is the longest running program of its kind in the United States,” said RISCA’s Executive Director Lynne McCormack. “Together, with our partners, we have the privilege of investing in organizations and culture-bearers who share their histories and traditions, as they create an inclusive future and sense of belonging for all Rhode Islanders.” “The Rhode Island Expansion Arts Program provides multi-year, unrestricted funds to culturally specific organizations led by people of color, which results in financial sustainability and strong structural strategic growth,” said RISCA’s Arts and Cultural Sustainability Program Director Elena Calderón Patiño. Andean Cultural Center of Rhode Island in Providence preserves and promotes the culture of Andean countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The nonprofit educates the public about Andean culture, preserves Indigenous heritage and hosts events to promote the civic and educational engagement of Rhode Islanders of Andean descent. “Our audience is primarily the Andean American community. From older Andean Americans to the youngest generation, we strive to reconnect residents with their ancestral roots through music, dance, art, civics, philanthropy and culture,” said André Herrera, president. “While many organizations tend to focus on one specific country, we understand that heritage extends beyond borders and especially for the Indigenous groups that are spread out across the Andes. We make sure that they are well represented within our organization.” The organization plans to expand its outreach using the English version of its name – Andean Cultural Center (ACCRI), and grow its website, social media platforms and newsletter to become an educational hub for all Andean related content. By offering introductory cooking and Indigenous Quechuan language classes, promoting Andean artists, hosting festivals and partnering with local organizations, ACCRI strives to make a positive impact throughout the state. “This is a critical moment for us. At a time when interest in Andean culture, cuisine, art, music and dance is at an all-time high, this will help foster new connections, camaraderie and a sense of pride among Rhode Island residents that is beneficial for everyone,” said Herrera. Cultural Society of East Bay in East Providence focuses on helping young Asian Americans find their ethnic identities through talks, discussion, retreats and conferences. “We give them tools for finding and knowing themselves, and the relaxation techniques to use when they are stressed. The tools consist of multiple tests on their character, values and leadership styles and let these youths know who they are and learn how to combat prejudice and discrimination they encounter in their lives and daily walks. We are strengthening our next generation to lead in our community and to equip them with the tools necessary to succeed in an uncertain, politically charged era,” said Jeannie Salomon, the organization’s founder and director. The organization plans to use the funding to expand its capacity in fundraising, marketing and technical knowledge, as well as to prepare its board to take on new projects such as opening a museum of Asian American history. “The funding will help us to take steps to get there, although it will not be an overnight reach because this is a grand project. But the training and exchange among other peers within Expansion Arts will help us develop not only the resources, but the mental fortitude, to achieve our long-term vision. We have the passion, perseverance, patience and will to do the hard work to get there,” said Salomon. PVD World Music Institute in Providence celebrates, educates about and enriches the musical and arts traditions of diverse cultures in Rhode Island, with a special focus on African refugee and immigrant communities. The organization’s mission is symbolized by the Inanga, an ancient musical instrument shared by East Africans, including the Burundian refugee community of Rhode Island that its founder Chance Boas belongs to. “I founded the organization in 2019 in response to a growing universal trend. Musical traditions around the world, ancient heritages of numerous cultures, are being threatened by super-fast, accelerated rates of massive change created by globalization, fascism and profit-driven economics and development agendas,” said Boas. “This impacts many people in our communities, especially youth born in refugee camps, who have been denied the opportunity to listen to, learn from and share their precolonial music traditions, owing to ongoing conflicts and colonial harm. Through our work, we preserve and enrich these rapidly disappearing, rich musical traditions by joyfully sharing them with our communities and the broader public through free concerts, educational workshops and research publications.” The organization will use the funding to support new and emerging artists, as well as master musicians from Africa and the diaspora, and other diverse communities. Through its World Music Showcase concerts around Providence and its Annual African Film and Arts Festival, artists will have the opportunity to share cultural knowledge and resources, to facilitate public learning about African and Indigenous arts and to develop cross-cultural learning and dialogue. RAÍCES Rhode Island Folk and Cultural Association in Pawtucket promotes and preserves Colombian and South American arts and culture. The organization primarily serves residents of Central Falls, Pawtucket, Lincoln, Providence and North Providence. “We have become a hub for the community to attend cultural events, meetings, practices and performances. Our goal is to teach and to have performances so that the community and new generations can identify with the traditions and folkloric legacy of our ancestors,” said Nader Molina Figueroa, executive and artistic director. The majority of participants identify as Colombians, Venezuelans, Guatemalans, Dominicans, Bolivians, Peruvians, Argentines and Ecuadorians. They range in age from five years old to 20 years old. “Our organization has made great progress so far, but now is the right time to learn, build and grow as an organization. With training and technical assistance from Expansion Arts, we will strengthen our organization, while growing for the good of our communities. With this grant, we can achieve our goals of supporting our communities in the acquisition of greater cultural knowledge, and showcasing the talent of Latin American artists, musicians and performers,” said Molina Figueroa. Rhode Island Black Film Festival in Providence screens feature films by a diverse group of first-time and established filmmakers and serves as a platform for increasing the pool of students of color applying to film schools while nurturing film students’ interest in a career behind the lens. “We share crucial, engaging stories that have the power to educate, inform and ignite change; environmental stories, invaluable discussions about racial and social justice issues and panel discussions that engage audiences,” said Ann Clanton, founder and managing director. The organization will use its grant to increase attendance at its events, particularly its April film festival; to focus on recruiting “A List” actors and directors for the film festival and to introduce youth in communities of color to careers in film. “This comes at the right time in our organization's existence. As we expand our program content and our footprint in the community, we recognize the need for guidance and technical resources for our organization. We need to grow our audience to include younger persons of color,” said Clanton. “As part of our mission to expand access to careers in the film industry, we recognize the need to learn new ways to reach this audience. As the film festival expands our presence in the community and brings on staff, consultants and paid interns, we need to increase our operations budget.” The Expansion Arts Program is offered every three years. Previous recipients include the Korean American Association of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Cape Verdean Heritage, the Columbian American Cultural Society, the India Association of Rhode Island, Sankofa Community Connection and the Laotian Community Center of Rhode Island. The Foundation expects to begin taking applications for the next round of funding in 2025.