Grantee Spotlight: Apogee Journal

Brooklyn Arts Council 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 groups who contribute so much to the cultural vitality of Brooklyn. 

Apogee Issue 10 Cover Art

Credit: Victoria Sin, Film still from Part Four/Cthulhu Through the Looking Glass, 2017.

Organization: Apogee Journal

Apogee is an art and literary journal whose mission is to provide a platform for underrepresented voices, engaging identity politics and activism in works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. This spring, Apogee’s Writing Resistance workshop series offered affordable and inclusive classes taught by Apogee editors and contributors, and just last week the journal published its eleventh issue. Read on for more about how Apogee used their BAC grant, challenges they currently face, and where they turn for inspiration. 

What has your BAC grant helped you accomplish?

Apogee Journal is committed to keeping writing relevant and accessible. Our BAC grant helped us to put our beliefs into practice, to grow our literary community, and to provide space, time, and some creative nourishment to NYC writers.

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

The Writing Resistance workshops have very much changed our organization. Many of the participants from the workshops have joined Apogee’s team, or sent us work during our reading periods. The workshops have expanded Apogee beyond the journal page and into the world of NYC writers. We love the workshops so much that they’ve become a part of our annual programming, which we hope to continue for many years to come.

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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. 


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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Our featured group this month is Xmental. Here we interview founder Ralph Perez, who talks about his life as a street artist, his passion for working with young people, and an exciting new project on the horizon – Xmental University.

Why and when was your arts group founded?
I founded a graffiti crew when I was 12…and I loved X-Men, so that was our name, and it’s one of the biggest graffiti crews now, it’s international. Once I started to get back into the scene about 5 or 6 years ago, I went to an art show [Urban Legends]. They were honoring me for some reason and I didn’t know why, and when I got there, there were tons of kids there who were into graffiti. They all had their blackbooks and they were all asking me for my tag in their books. And I saw a bunch of kids that were just like me when I was a kid. My life wasn’t too great as a kid and it all started with graffiti – that was my gateway crime so to speak. And I decided there and then – it kind just hit me like a lightning bolt – I’m supposed to be helping these kids so they don’t go through the madness that I went through, ‘cause it started with graffiti and it ended up with all kinds of craziness. So I knew I couldn’t use X-Men because Marvel would sue the pants off of me, so I put “t-a-l” at the end of it and called it Xmental. We say now that we used to be mental but now we’re Xmental…like we used to be crazy but now we’re not crazy. What we do is work with the kids using the elements of hip-hop, graffiti, break-dancing, MCing, DJing, and knowledge – and tough love – and we try to steer them in the right path. So that’s how it started, that’s the short version.
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Meet the Arts Org: Dancing Crane Georgian Cultural Center

Our arts group of the month from BAC’s Directory of Brooklyn Arts Orgs is Mapleton-based Dancing Crane Georgian Cultural Center whose mission is to preserve and present Georgian traditional performance arts.  Here we interview Executive Director Victor Sirelson, who gives us some insight on what its like to run this nonprofit arts organization.

dancing crane 2

Why and when was your arts group founded and by whom?

Victor Sirelson began our organization in 1996 when, embarking on a plan to learn Georgian dance, he partnered with a professional Georgian dancer Merab Tsereteli. Over the next 5 years our organization took on the name “Dancing Crane,” incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and attracted a serious group of immigrant Georgian top professional performing artists to form the Dancing Crane Georgian Performance Ensemble. After creating the Georgian Theater of New York in 2008 and establishing our children’s school for Georgian arts and culture during the years 2007-present we became a major focus of Georgian immigrant artists and families in New York City as the Dancing Crane Georgian Cultural Center.

Where in Brooklyn are you located?

Our school, studio and cultural center are at 6401 20th Avenue, Brooklyn at the corner of 64th Street and 20th Avenue.

Who is your primary audience?

Our focus is in two directions: on the opportunity for Georgian immigrant artists and families to honor their traditions and artistic interests and skills through our classes and professional performances; and on the exposure to the greater New York community of the beauty, energy and high culture of the Georgian traditional arts. Our primary audience therefore is the Georgian immigrant community in New York and our secondary audience is the general public.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of running an arts organization in Brooklyn?

Clearly the most challenging aspect is funding. There is a very limited pool of available money for arts organizations and the procedures for exploring such opportunities are very demanding in terms of time, energy, inspiration and searching out the requisite expertise. Our staff members are almost entirely volunteer by necessity and without professional paid development staff the obstacles are even higher. The support from the government offices and the City Council are at best marginal and there is no clear path towards receiving either recognition or support unless you have an established relationship already. So it is like entering a closed circle.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of running an arts organization in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is the major center of Georgian immigrant culture and we see the value of our programs in the lives of residents on a daily basis. There is also a developing sense of an arts community in Brooklyn, supported a great deal by the Brooklyn Arts Council.

Dancing Crane

What do you see as the biggest issues facing the arts community today?

Funding, audience development and becoming free from the pressure on all arts organizations to focus on themselves as a matter of survival rather than developing an arts community.

Do you have any major events, projects or expansions on the horizon?

We have two plays in the works from our Georgian Theater of New York, our Brooklyn Schools residency program will be active in the spring, we have scheduled and planned performances of our dance, music and children’s programs. We also are participating in the New York City Cultural Affairs ”Community Arts Leadership” initiative to help improve the infrastructure of smaller arts organizations in New York City.

We are in the process of inviting the very well-known pair Lela and Eteri Tataraidze from Georgia to share their folklore from the high mountain region of Tusheti in Georgia. Two of our singers were part of Lela’s renowned vocal trio before they came to the United States. Eteri is a highly regarded folklorist.