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!

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Stop-motion animation and murals bring students together

We’re celebrating National Arts in Education Week by sharing stories of how #ArtsEdChangesLives. Step into two residencies with us to see how students across Brooklyn learn and grow through BAC’s arts education initiatives: 

FY18_PS95_VISUAL_SydneyToon (20) - CopyBAC teaching artists provide hands-on learning experiences for K-12 students in a variety of arts disciplines including dance, digital media, theater, music, visual arts, literary arts, and more. Our residencies foster creativity and imagination as well as community-building and problem-solving by bringing customized programs to schools and students across Brooklyn.

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Brooklyn seniors learn flamenco, improv, and more through SU-CASA residencies

We’re celebrating National Arts in Education Week by sharing stories of how #ArtsEdChangesLives. Today, we’re looking at the impact that arts education can have for Brooklyn’s older adults through two of BAC’s SU-CASA artist residencies.

FY18_Sephardic_Flamenco_SurinaGangwani (2)

As part of BAC’s commitment to providing creative aging programs for older adults, SU-CASA residencies connect teaching artists with senior centers to bring new and deepening artistic exploration in any discipline. Resident artists come from a wide range of art forms, bringing everything from painting, ceramics, and cyanotype to music composition, photography, and Spanish literature to centers across Brooklyn. 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.

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Mind Your Body

Dance education offers many opportunities for students to explore movement and rhythm physically, while also gaining valuable cardio-vascular exercise.  But learning through dance provides benefits that surpass strengthening muscles and improving one’s heart beat.  As BAC’s Dance Teaching Artists know, the art form can build a range of cognitive abilities and socio-emotional skills.

For example, pre-K students at PS 29 in Brooklyn, who studied dance foundations with Teaching Artist Asma Feyijinmi, practiced moving from high to low and in different directions.  These exercises helped them develop their spatial awareness while also increasing their sense of self-control, which is important for any four-year-old.

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Exploring NYC Through the Arts

FY16 217K Visual Culminating Event (14)

This past summer, second and fourth grade students at PS 217 in Brooklyn participated in BAC theater and visual arts residencies investigating the theme “Exploring New York City”. These residencies, supported through a long-established partnership with Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC), allowed students to bring their home town to life in fresh and personally-relevant ways.

Over the course 8 sessions, teaching artist Valerie Hager led students in creating an original performance piece which depicted life and landmarks in the students’ native city. “What is it you want other people to know about New York?” This question guided and grounded the fourth graders’ show plotline, which ultimately highlighted the various occupations and daily routines of New Yorkers.

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