City Council doubles funding for the Cultural Immigrant Initiative

By Bill Parry

Immigrant cultural organizations will be able to broaden their programming, thanks to an expansion in City Council funding. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joined Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and leaders of several borough arts groups at the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside last week to announce a $3.2 million Cultural Immigrant Initiative.

“Immigrant experiences are central to the fabric and history of New York City and today, over three million foreign-born New Yorkers from all over the world call this city home,” Mark-Viverito said. “Cultural expression through art, music, dance and more celebrates this vibrant diversity of experiences and stories and allows us to share and appreciate that diversity together.”

The Initiative was created last year and was so successful the Council doubled the investment, which makes funds available to 77 groups that are focused on the cultural history and traditions of immigrant communities in the five boroughs.

“This year we have literally doubled down on the success of the Cultural Immigrant Initiative,” Van Bramer said. “By increasing funding streams to immigrant organizations and cultural groups that are often overlooked in the cultural funding process we are empowering more New Yorkers and increasing access to the arts in every neighborhood. Everyone in every corner of our city, regardless of their economic or ethnic background, is entitled to the world-class culture that makes our city great.”

The event at the Thalia Spanish Theatre was punctuated by the performance of a Caribbean folks song by a quartet of singers from Jamaica’s BRAATA Productions as well as a an Argentinian tango performance.

“Since the economic crisis, small organizations like ours have been struggling with funding cuts from private corporations and foundations,” Thalia Spanish Theatre Executive Director Angel Gil Orrios said. “That’s why for us the creation of the Cultural Immigrant Initiative by the City Council has been so important in order to be able to continue serving our community, especially the Hispanics in Queens, after 37 years. It has allowed us to program free performances in our local park and bilingual theater/dance workshops for children, youth and seniors.”

Thalia Spanish Theatre is one of three groups in Van Bramer’s district, that will receive $15,625 each. The Ayazamana Cultural Center in Long Island City, an Ecuadorian arts group is one, and Topaz Arts in Woodside, a 15-year-old Filipino arts center, is the other.

“The value of this fund goes beyond just the monetary; it shows that this city, this Council, our local representatives care about the arts, our cultures and immigrants,” Ayazamana Founder Esau Chauca said. “They have gone beyond mere promises and delivered something that allows immigrants to preserve and celebrate their heritage.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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