Grantee Spotlight: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Follow our Grantee Spotlight series as we catch up with previous BAC grantees to learn more about the kind of work this funding can help support, and what these artists and organizations are up to now.

Cover photo of book

The cover of MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, edited by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn and Adama Delphine Fawundu.

Artist: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Laylah Amatullah Barrayn is a documentary photographer whose work has been published by the New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC, Vogue, and more. She is the curator of an upcoming exhibition of photographs from the McKinley Collection that focuses on constructions of African womanhood. 

What sector of the arts do you dedicate yourself to and why?

I am mainly a documentary photographer, I am learning video and hope to be more skilled in that medium.

What has your BAC grant helped you accomplish?

The last BAC grant that I received allowed me to publish MFON, which is an anthology featuring the works of women photographers of African descent. It is the first book of its kind since 1986. Continue reading →

Grantee Spotlight: Brooklyn Raga Massive

BAC has been providing community arts grants to Brooklyn’s artists, cultural ambassadors, arts organizations, and communities for almost 40 years, putting city and state cultural dollars directly into the hands of the artists and organizations. In our Grantee Spotlight series, we’re highlighting some of those artists and organizations who contribute so much to the cultural vitality of Brooklyn. 

Pradhanica

Photos courtesy of Brooklyn Raga Massive

Organization: Brooklyn Raga Massive (BRM)

Brooklyn Raga Massive is a collective of musicians and ensembles interested in exploring Indian and South Asian music while cultivating communities and sounds specific to Brooklyn. BRM puts on weekly jam sessions, concerts, and this week, a 24-hour festival featuring over 60 musicians. Catch the Ragas Live Festival this weekend at Pioneer Works! 

What sector of the arts do you dedicate yourself to and why?

We are mainly a musician’s collective focusing on Raga-based traditional and contemporary music. However, we do have multidisciplinary projects now, such as creating more music videos and video documentation, and projects that mix dance (Ragas in Motion) and video (BRM performs a live score to the movie Fantastic Planet).

We are specifically drawn to creating a supportive platform for Raga-based musicians because there is a hub of musicians in Brooklyn and the New York area who are interested in Indian music and who are serious practitioners. The audience is also growing for the particular flavor of music BRM is creating as a melting pot indigenous to Brooklyn.

Continue reading →

Grantee Spotlight: Haiti Cultural Exchange

Applications are closed for our Community Arts Grants cycle, but we’re still highlighting past grantees who have given us updates on where their BAC grants have taken them! Read on to find out more about Haiti Cultural Exchange, whose grant helped them grow as an organization that serves a creative community vital to Brooklyn.

Performance at Selebrasyon 2018

Artist performace at HCX’s Selebrasyon! 2018

Organization: Haiti Cultural Exchange (HCX)

Haiti Cultural Exchange was founded in 2009 by seven Haitian-American women who wanted to foster Haitian cultural expression in New York City. HCX programming ranges from film festivals to arts education in schools, in addition to providing resources and networks for both established and emerging artists.  

What sector of the arts do you dedicate yourself to?

We’ve dedicated ourselves to our Haitian artists and their communities. We want to build an inclusive future and celebrate our identities, and we believe that it is through the arts that we both build this future and activate individuals to understand the value of their creative selves, their ideas, and community.

Continue reading →

Grantee Spotlight: The Arab-American Family Support Center

The deadline for our current cycle of Community Arts Grants is TOMORROW! Read on as we continue to catch up with previous BAC grantees to learn more about the wide range of projects this funding can support, and what these artists and organizations are up to now.

Mother and baby

All ages are welcome at the AAFSC offices

Organization: The Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC)

The Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) provides immigrant communities with health services, language and literacy education, legal assistance, youth leadership programming, and more to help them acclimate to life in the United States. 

What has your BAC grant helped you accomplish?

We are incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Brooklyn Arts Council. With BAC funding, we were able to engage our young people in the arts, as a means of self-expression, personal growth, and cultural exploration – all particularly important in this current climate of xenophobia. Our young people had a chance to explore a variety of art forms including drawing, traditional dance, and drumming, and were truly engaged and excited by all these forms.

How have you grown since your BAC grant? In what ways is AAFSC a different organization now?

Since receiving our BAC grant, we have grown tremendously. We see our students’ leadership skills and self-expression blossom as they have been exposed to various forms of art. We are all so grateful for an opportunity to prioritize such a key aspect of youth development, an aspect which is often forgotten–art!

Continue reading →

Grantee Spotlight: Toni Blackman (The Cypher Workshop)

The September 20th deadline for our current cycle of Community Arts Grants is only one week away! Keep following our Grantee Spotlight series as we catch up with previous BAC grantees to learn more about the kind of work this funding can help support, and what these artists and organizations are up to now.

Photo of Toni against yellow wall

Credit: Jamel Love

Artist: Toni Blackman

Toni Blackman is a multidisciplinary artist and hip hop activist who uses workshops, collectives, podcasts, and performances to encourage others to share their own work. Her Cypher Workshop, a bi-weekly freestyle rap, encourages participants to open up and gain confidence in their creativity. Rhyme Like a Girl, a collective for established and aspiring female MCs, promotes positive images of women in hip hop. 

Why do you make art?

I’m most dedicated to music, but also dabble in theater, writing, dance, and poetry. I’ve always been an artist. I’m one of those creatives that would suffocate without art. It is not a choice for me. I must create art, so I have multi-disciplinary projects, collaborations, and endeavors that help me to breathe freely: inhale creativity, exhale creativity.

What has your BAC grant helped you accomplish?

I partnered with a hot new venue for my granted public event, and the success of our event led to a long term relationship that has brought so much life to all of my work as an artist!

Continue reading →

Grantee Spotlight: Sarah Nicholls

We’re two weeks away from the application deadline for our current cycle of Community Arts Grants, due September 20th! Follow our Grantee Spotlight series as we catch up with previous BAC grantees to learn more about the kind of work this funding can help support, and what these artists and organizations are up to now.

Artist's book Lavender and evil things

Pages from the pamphlet Lavender and Evil Things, 2016

Artist: Sarah Nicholls

Sarah Nicholls makes artist books, illustrations, and prints, often with letterpress and linoleum block printing. The scope of her work also includes guided walks at Dead Horse Bay, research for informational pamphlets, and more. Her limited edition artist books are in the collections of institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, Stanford, UCLA, and the University of Pennsylvania.

What sector of the arts do you dedicate yourself to and why?

I make artist books. I enjoy bookmaking because it is both visual and verbal. I enjoy that books are sculptural objects that ask you to touch and manipulate them; that they combine time, narrative, and formal qualities, all in a portable format.

What has your BAC grant helped you accomplish?

Funding allowed me to publish three pamphlets about Jamaica Bay, hold an artist talk, lead a walk in Dead Horse Bay, and an exhibition in Jamaica Bay of the entire cycle of work. Continue reading →

Grantee Spotlight: NY Writers Coalition

We’re less than three weeks away from the application deadline for our current cycle of Community Arts Grants, due September 20th! Follow our Grantee Spotlight series as we catch up with previous BAC grantees to learn more about the kind of work this funding can help support, and what these artists and organizations are up to now.

Lit Fest performer
Morgan Weidinger performing at NYWC’s Lit Fest in Fort Greene. Credit: Roger Nembhard

Organization: NY Writers Coalition (NYWC)

Launched in 2002, NY Writers Coalition partners with community organizations to provide free and low-cost writing workshops across New York City. Workshops are targeted to youth, seniors, women, LGBT communities, people living with disabilities, people who are incarcerated or have been incarcerated, and others from traditionally silenced groups in order to encourage writing as a means of empowerment and social change. 

How have you grown since your first BAC grant? In what ways is NYWC a different organization now?

We received our first BAC grant in 2005. Since then, we have grown from a mostly volunteer, grassroots organization into one of the largest community-based creative writing programs in the world.

Continue reading →