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bca History

BCA’s Early Years
It began as a seed planted by Jerry Klot, Reverend William Kaladjian, and a handful of cultural visionaries. Their goal was to provide summer arts & culture activities in the Bronx in the early 60s. They focused most of their energies on facilitating programs in the area of the upper Grand Concourse. Mostly a volunteer organization at the time, the Bronx Council on the Arts (BCA) was born. It was incorporated on December 3, 1962.

In 1969, cultural advocate Irma Fleck became BCA’s first Executive Director. Merging the Bronx Council with the Bronx Committee on the Arts, Fleck stayed at the helm until 1974. Under her guidance, the Council flourished with many firsts: the introduction of a Bronx regrants program in 1971, an exhibition from the Metropolitan Museum Collection in the Bronx County Building, and the creation of the Bronx Museum of the Arts – first as a BCA Board Committee and later when it moved to the Bronx County Building as the borough’s first museum.

Fred Croton assumed the position of BCA’s Executive Director in 1975 and continued the visionary tradition of Ms. Fleck. Croton nurtured existing relationships with Bronx organizations and expanded on BCA’s existing programs. The New York State Council on the Arts awarded BCA $51,000 to initiate a regrants program.

In 1978, Croton appointed a young Bill Aguado to a “one-year” position as BCA’s Grants Administrator. Two years later, Aguado stepped into the executive director’s shoes when Croton relinquished the position after being appointed general manager of the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles.

 



Bill Aguado: At BCA’s Helm Since 1980

The Bronx Council on the Arts has launched many successful programs since Bill Aguado became Executive Director in 1980. Together, with his long-time associate, Deputy Director Ed Friedman, BCA has emerged as a local, regional and national voice for artists and the community. Because of the Council's ongoing success, arts organizations in many cities in the US and abroad have sought the Council’s advice in launching new programs using BCA as a model for their own.

When the Bronx Council on the Arts began in 1962, the founders had no idea that 45 years later the organization would be able to look back and see that it had created a landscape for the arts in the Bronx. It has since produced a gallery that spawned two MacArthur grant recipients (both in 1999); leveraged millions of dollars to be granted to individual Bronx artists and arts organizations; been the recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Arts Award (2000) and the Mayor’s Award for Arts & Culture (2006), and has grown from an organization that provided services to a handful of artists to serving over 10,000 working artists and nearly 300 arts organizations in the Bronx. Aguado, himself, received the distinguished honor of being named to NYS Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer’s Arts, Culture and Revitalization Policy Transition Team in 2006.

BCA Executive Director
Bill Aguado
BCA Deputy Director
Ed Friedman

 

“This isn’t supposed to be happening in the Bronx,” shared Aguado, “or anywhere else for that matter. Poverty, crime, drugs – those are expected, but to pick up a paint brush, raise a voice in song, fill a page with words or lift a foot to dance and say, ‘I am a Bronx artist,’ seemed absurd. There was a time when even the name Bronx Council on the Arts could have been a punch line to a joke. Things have changed, a lot. And the Bronx Council on the Arts is proud to have a whole host of world class artists living and working in the Bronx and to have been a part of supporting artists to achieve the impossible – making the Bronx a viable home for artists and achieving great success in the process.”

 


 

BCA’s First Major Initiative: The Longwood Arts Project
One of BCA’s major initiatives was establishing the Longwood Arts Project in 1981. It has grown in popularity and reputation over the years, established itself as an arts community venue, and has received many positive reviews in the New York Times, Art Forum, Time Out New York, New York Sun, Bronx Times Reporter, Journal News, and Houston Press, as well as international publications in Belgium and Japan.

It is now the contemporary art center of the Bronx Council on the Arts, supporting artists and their work, especially emerging and under-recognized artists, through the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, Digital Matrix Commissions Program, and public programs that provide platforms for free and open dialogue. Not bad for a small gallery initially set up in a South Bronx school building on Longwood Avenue that had been closed by the Board of Education.

Artists like Ernesto Pujol, Tim Rollins and Kids of Survival (K.O.S.), John Ahearn, Rigoberto Torres, Michael Kelly Williams have presented work at Longwood, some having their first exhibitions there. In 1999, the project received its highest honors when Longwood artist Pepón Osorio and Longwood curator Fred Wilson received MacArthur "Genius" Awards. Wilson was instrumental in developing the Longwood Arts Gallery with Bill Aguado in 1986. The gallery had to move when the city took back the school building and relocated in January 2003 to Hostos Community College where it is now in curatorial residence at the campus’s Hostos Center of the Arts and Culture.

 

An opening reception at the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos

 

 

December 2006 celebrated Longwood’s 25th year with South Bronx Contemporary: Longwood Arts Project’s 25th Anniversary, a show organized by Longwood’s first four directors (Fred Wilson, Betti-Sue Hertz, Eddie Torres, and Edwin Ramoran) and included over 60 artists in various media. A catalogue was produced with essays by the four directors. A limited edition print “Something We May or May Have Not Known” by Wilson was also produced to commemorate the 25th anniversary and is available for purchase. Click here for a sampling of the gallery’s recent shows.

 

 

Longwood’s First Four Directors
Eddie Torres (1999-2002), Edwin Ramoran (2003-2007),
Betti-Sue Hertz (1992-1999),
and Fred Wilson (1981-1992).


 

BCA Grants
BCA’s grants, fellowships, residencies, and professional development information are geared to help our artists find the financial resources and support to realize their creative vision. Our Community Arts Grants foster the continuing development of local cultural resources responsive to community needs. CAG helps to ensure access to arts and culture in each Bronx neighborhood including areas that are geographically isolated, economically disadvantaged, and ethnically diverse. In 2006-2007, $80,600 in grants were awarded to 47 Bronx organizations.

Arts-in-Education Grants (sponsored by New York State Council on the Arts) provide funds for artists and organizations to work in Bronx schools through BCA NYSCA AIE Grants and
JPMorgan Chase Grant AIE Grants. In 2006-2007, BCA provided $20,525 to eight school/artist/arts organization partnerships through the BCA NYSCA AIE Grants and 17 partnerships were granted $60,000 for a variety of school-based projects through the JPMorgan Chase Grant AIE Grants.

Bronx Writers’ Center’s Chapter One is an annual competition and reading series that is open to residents of New York City. It provides opportunities for emerging novelists to share their work with an audience, while emphasizing the importance of a strong first chapter.

Bronx Writers' Center’s Fellowship and Residency Program (formerly the Van Lier Fellowship) awards two nine-month fellowships annually to fiction writers, poets, playwrights, and screenwriters who reside in the Bronx.

 


 

Our BRIO Award (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) serves as our flagship, honoring the very best of the many talented people of our community. Since 1989, BRIO has been providing financial support and recognition of Bronx artists putting forth their very best in the areas of literary, media, performing, and visual arts. On an annual basis, twenty-two Bronx artists receive awards of $2,500 for artistic excellence in one of the following categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Playwriting, Poetry, Screenwriting, Acting, Choreography, Dance, Storytelling/ Spoken Word, Performance Poetry, Instrumental/ Vocal Music Performance, Music Composition, Crafts, Painting, Printmaking, Drawing/ Illustration, Artist Book, Sculpture, Film, Computer Animation, Digital and Computer Arts, and Documentary or Narrative Film/Video. The award selection is made through a peer panel process utilizing professional artists in the respective disciplines. BRIO awardees must complete a one-time public service activity to receive their complete cash award. Known as the ACE (Artists for Community Enrichment), this activity is an essential component for all BRIO recipients and must be performed within the one-year period of their award. The ACE provides artists with additional visibility and demonstrates to the community the wealth of artistic talent available in our borough. Since its inception, more than $500,000 has been awarded to 185 artists. 2007 saw a record 255 submissions. Only Bronx residents are eligible to apply for the BRIO award.

 

Twenty-two Bronx artists (many pictured above) were the recipients of BCA's prestigious BRIO Award in 2007

 

Bronx Stars Shine: Through its various grant programs and services, BCA has directly given over $1 million dollars to individual artists and arts organizations in the Bronx. These monies have supported the work of countless artists like painter Daniel Hauben, musician Ray Vega, dancer/choreographers Arthur Aviles, Jawole Willa Jo Zole of Urban Bush Women and Merian Soto, Def Poetry Slam On Broadway poet Lemon, HBO Def Poetry Slam artists Flaco Navaja and Caridad De La Luz (La Bruja), performers Mildred Ruiz, Steven Sapp and Gamal Chasten from the off-Broadway performance group Universes, and singer songwriter Guy Davis, actress/comedians Alba Sanchez and Rhina Valentin.

The progress of BCA’s BRIO awardees is highlighted every month in the BRIO Sightings section of its website. Information on past and present BRIO winners can also be found in the website’s Bronx Artists Forum section.

 


 

In January 1990, the Bronx Cultural Card was born. Originally known as the Bronx Cultural Pass, BCA designed the card to connect cardholders to the wide variety of arts and cultural activities in the Bronx while developing new audiences for arts providers and new customers for Bronx business and dining establishments. The card is available free-of-charge by calling 718-931-9500 x14 or e-mailing ana@bronxarts.org. The Bronx Cultural Card provides two-for-one or discounted admissions, cash or percentage discounts on gift shop purchases, and premiums at local restaurants. In its inaugural year, the Bronx Cultural Card had 24 participating organizations. That number has more than doubled over the years. There are currently over 50 organizations, businesses and dining establishments that accept the card borough-wide. Click here to find out who they are and what the card has to offer. 100,000 cards are distributed annually.

 


Bronx WritersCorps
In 1994, BCA was selected as the implementing organization for the Bronx component of the WritersCorps, a literary project launched by AmeriCorps and the National Endowment for the Arts to establish community-based literary arts programs for underserved communities in the Bronx, Washington, DC, and San Francisco.

In 2007, the Bronx WritersCorps was part of a national program created to improve literacy levels and to provide avenues of expression for residents of our borough’s underserved and challenged neighborhoods.

Bronx WritersCorps introduces tomorrow's writers
to creative writing and performance poetry.

 

Professional writers are sent to instruct youth at Tier II transitional housing facilities where families find access to permanent residences and receive the becessary social services to make the adjustment. The youth served range in age 10 to 14. WritersCorps also services both Horizons and Bridges Juvenile Detention Facilities. Professional performance poets provide literary opportunities for youth up to age 18, introducing them to creative writing as well as performance poetry.

Lastly, literary artists at selected schools work with teens and pre-teens to introduce or develop their interest in the written and spoken word, largely through creative writing and performance poetry.

Participants at each site make up a team in the Youth Poetry Slam League. A culminating slam is held at the end of the school year. Each site produces a group anthology.

 


 

Bronx Writers’ Center
In April 1996, the Bronx Council on the Arts opened the doors of the Bronx Writers’ Center (BWC) for the first time. Housed in Westchester Square Library as a literary arts resource for up-and-coming Bronx writers and poets, the Writers’ Center features individual and semi-private work areas and a research center with the most recent editions of various writers’ guides, giving the writer the opportunity to work and research in the same place.

Still going strong after all these years, the Bronx Writers’ Center‘s literary artists can receive skill-building instruction and attend first-rate workshops that address various levels of writing abilities. Writers with a desire to improve their talents are welcome to take one of the Center’s free creative writing workshops, which cover the gamut of literary disciplines. BWC also offers professional-development seminars on the more practical aspects of the literary field, such as editing and marketing a self published book, and finding outlets for writing in literary journals and magazines.

The Bronx Writers’ Center additionally offers two awards programs: The Literary Arts Fellowship and Residency Program and The Chapter One Fiction Competition and Reading Series. See the BCA Grants section for details.

 

Students attend a free creative writing workshop facilitated by BWC Fellow Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa (2007)

 

BWC Success Stories: Some of the current urban brainchildren of contemporary literature have connected and contributed their success to the Bronx Writers’ Center. Angie Cruz (1998-99 BWC Van Lier Literary Fellowship for Fiction) has authored two novels, “Soledad” and “Let It Rain Coffee”. Sarah Jones (1998-99 Literary Artists Fellowship and Residency) is a Tony Award-winning playwright, actor, and poet. Her multi-character solo shows include the Tony Award-winning “Bridge & Tunnel,” which was originally produced Off-Broadway by Oscar-winner Meryl Streep. It went on to become a critically acclaimed, long running smash-hit on Broadway. Nelly Rosario (1999-2000 BWC Van Lier Literary Fellowship for Fiction) published her first novel “Songs of the Water Saints” in 2002 and has since received numerous awards.

The progress of past and present BWC Literary Arts winners and Chapter One winners can be found in the Bronx Artists Forum section of BCA’s website.

 


BCA Development Corporation’s Arthandler Training Program

Since its inception in 1997, the Arthandler Training Program has provided innovative training programs that directly benefit Bronx residents with jobs while providing service to New York’s fine arts industries.

An Arthandler is responsible for the maintenance of fine art works and artifacts: intake & preparation, packing and shipping, and exhibition installation and dismantling.

 

The goal of the Arthandler Training Program is to provide arts institutions with a short-term, effective career enhancement program for their artists, as well as new hires, mid-level technical staff and administrative staff with risk management responsibilities. The program is designed as a forum, and stresses the practical application of generally accepted principles of art handling. 15 to 20 working artists and museum personnel will be trained each session for employment in museums, galleries, corporations and auction houses throughout New York City and the metropolitan area.

Over the years, the program has trained more than 170 artists and arts institution personnel who are seeking to augment their income, or to take up a new trade in a downsized economy, or to simply to try something new to improve their lives. The program additionally provides job placement, career development, and entrepreneurial opportunities to our graduates.

HANDLE IT! In collaboration with the Riverdale Mental Health Association, the BCA Development Corporation/Bronx Council on the Arts Fine Arts and Technical Services Bureau (BCADC) certified 22 young adults between the ages of 17 and 21 years in arthandling and gallery assistance skills. The Handle It! Career Program is designed to address the underlying causes of structural unemployment experienced by New York’s high school dropouts and unemployed youth. To date, the majority of these young graduates are either working or in continuing education programs.

 


South Bronx Cultural Corridor  
In 2001, BCA designated a one mile-long strip of the lower Grand Concourse area as the South Bronx Cultural Corridor. The South Bronx Cultural Corridor is a catalyst for local cultural-driven economic development. Serving as a demonstration of arts-driven community development for the borough, this corridor is dubbed the “Gateway to the New Bronx,” a theme that repeats throughout new cultural and arts events occurring in the area. These new activities bolster local small business activity, engage residents in the cultural life of the neighborhood, and promote the area within the borough and to the general public in New York City and beyond. South Bronx Cultural Corridor Venues (pictured clockwise): Hostos Community College, Mud/Bone/ Studio 889, The Point, and Pregones Theater.

 

The South Bronx Cultural Corridor is a vibrant indicator of the area's creative economy. The Creative Economy is composed of arts-centric businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, design and advertising companies among many other creative designations. These arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy. They employ people, spend money locally, generate government revenue and are a cornerstone of tourism and economic development.

The South Bronx Cultural Corridor is an arts-driven economic development and cultural tourism initiative. The area supports a critical mass major cultural non-profit institutions including: Arthur Aviles Typical Theater, Artisans Boutique, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bruckner Bar and Grill, Friends of Brook Park, Haven Gallery, Hostos Center for Arts and Culture, Latino Sports Clubhouse & Internet Hub, Longwood Art Gallery@ Hostos, Mud/Bone/Studio 889, The Point, CDC, Pregones Theater, and The Yankee Tavern.

 


Bronx Culture Trolley  
The Bronx Culture Trolley, a project of the South Bronx Cultural Corridor, has become a “must do event” on the calendars of “First Wednesday” regulars from all five boroughs and beyond since its inception in December 2002. Making a cultural loop through the lower Grand Concourse, its riders are treated to some of the hottest cultural attractions, dining establishments and entertainment venues in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. With the help of the Bronx Tourism Council, the BCA operates The Bronx Culture Trolley on the first Wednesday of each month (except January & September) providing Bronxites and tourists alike a fun way to travel via a replica of an early 20th-Century trolley car.  

 

 

Trolley attractions include art exhibits, The Artisans Boutique, poetry readings, film screenings, and live theatrical, musical, comedy, and dance performances at such venues as the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos, Hostos Center for Arts & Culture, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Pregones Theater, Yankee Tavern, Hagan Saint Philip Gallery, Spanic Attack, and Maxson’s Bar & Grill. Trolley nights have also provided tours of local artists’ studios and have expanded to such cultural Hunts Point hot spots as the Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance, Mud/Bone / Studio 889 and The Point.

Trolley riders are occasionally treated to a Works-in-Motionperformance which features live entertainment on board the trolley. Such performances featured dancers, music, Shakespeare sonnets, a pirate high-jacking, puppets, and theatrical readings.

 

Members of the Borinquen Senior Center
on board the inaugural run of the Bronx Culture Daytime Trolley (2006)

 

May 2006 marked the first Bronx Culture Daytime Trolley for seniors. Seniors were picked up and brought back to their home centers and were treated to a morning of free cultural activities including a round-trip trolley ride, a tour and performance at Pregones Theater, and a gallery tour and talk at the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos. Trolley Day at Fordham University took place in April 2007 marked the first University Trolley Day providing students a similar afternoon of free cultural activities with the addition of a guided tour of the exhibitions of the Bronx Museum of Arts.

The Bronx Culture Trolley received major kudos in a August 2007 report by the Center for an Urban Future which stated that “The Bronx Culture Trolley is widely considered the most successful of the city’s trolley routes” They researched all of the cultural trolleys in the city’s boroughs and our First Wednesdays Bronx Culture Trolley received very impressive and favorable reviews. Click here to view the Bronx Culture Trolley excerpt from full report. Click here to view the full 22-page report. The report resulted in some nice trolley coverage in the Daily News, Bronx Times Reporter, Bronx Press Review, and CityLimits.org.

 


The Artisans Initiative
The Artisans Initiative, a 2004 project of the BCA Development Corporation, was designed to offer services, training, professional development workshops, vending, exhibition, and teaching opportunities as well as grant and loan opportunities to underrepresented artisans, living and working in the Bronx. It currently has a growing membership numbering over 80 artisans, with a diverse immigrant community including Mexican, South American, and Central American artisans as well as those from West Africa, Korea, Puerto Rico, Japan, and Poland. Media represented includes pottery, jewelry, wood, metals, glass, weaving, knot tying, quilting, doll making, religious crafts, etc.

 


Participating Artisans of the April 2007
"Many Hands, Many Places" exhibit

 

Artisans Initiative members participate in annual fairs and festivals including Culturefest and The Bronx Food and Art Festival. Artisan’s work has been sold at the Bronx Museum of the Arts under the bronxArtworks® label. The Artisans Boutique has become a permanent segment on Bronx Culture Trolley nights.

Artisans 2007 Immigrant Week Exhibition: “Many Hands, Many Places” was the Artisans Initiative’s first exhibition taking place at the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos (April 16th – May 5th). It showcased ceramics, woodcarving, metalworks and introduced cultural craft such as Maedup (Korean Knot Tying) and Mudcloth (West African textile printing technique) stemming from immigrant craftspeople. The innovations applied to traditional works, forming contemporary and original one of a kind works were embraced by the public.

 


 

Urban Digital
With the January 2006 launching of UrbanDigital.net, BCA continues to expand with its "new media" program geared to instruct young people on the many creative and vocational aspects of digital technology and the Internet. The program incorporates many of the websites that are important in the lives of young people (YouTube and MySpace among others) while giving them the tools: digital filmmaking, podcasting, and creative writing to create uniquely personal projects. Through hands-on one-on-one training, participants receive instruction on using digital video cameras, lighting equipment, editing software, as well as expository writing which is vital for pre- and post-production.

This innovative program introduces a broad range of Bronx-based at-risk youth and students to the visual arts, creative writing, digital technology, media literacy, and new-media artistic practice. These skills will be used to incorporate new media production into an interactive website, UrbanDigital.net. This project allows young people to share their artistic creativity with the broadest of possible audiences, the world. The program also seeks to introduce its participants to ways in which new media can be woven into career choices and professional development.

Approximately 50 young people have participated during the first year of the program. Participating with BCA in this program are Bronx WritersCorps, Tepeyac Association of New York, the High School of Contemporary Art, and the Department of Youth and Community Development.

 


 

First Wednesdays at the Library
The Bronx Library Center and the Bronx Council on the Arts, in their first collaborative effort, established First Wednesdays at the Bronx Library Center presenting a series of nine free performances, workshops, readings, and demonstrations. The artists selected for this initiative were all recipients of the 2006 BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) Award. The program took place on First Wednesdays (from October 4, 2006 through June 6, 2007) at 12:15pm at the Bronx Library Center at 310 East Kingsbridge Road at Briggs Avenue in the Bronx. It was open to the public and admission was free. Additional “First Wednesdays” sponsors included the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and JPMorgan Chase.

 


Pictured BRIO Artists who participated in the 2006-2007 Season of “First Wednesdays at the Bronx Library Center” (clockwise from top) are: Luisa Beltran (writing workshop), Desi Moreno-Penson (staged reading), Alison Koffler (poetry workshop), Luis Ojeda (staged reading), Noel MacDuffie (dance performance), Toni Roberts (writing workshop), Dana Frobig (classical concert), Anthony Purdy (musical performance), and (in the center) Elly Erickson (singing performance).

 

 

Bronx Artists Forum
The Bronx Council on the Arts has long demonstrated its dedication to the cultural development of the community and to our borough’s independent artists by offering diverse and exciting programs as well as mentoring, guidance, financial and promotional support.

In February 2007, with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, BCA was able to re-design its website to include the newly-established Bronx Artists Forum which now serves as an ongoing tribute to the award-winning Bronx artists who receive BCA’s support. This forum will serve as an online showcase and an archive of their work, making it accessible to art critics, consumers, presenters, and curators.

Located on the opening page of BCA’s website (www.bronxarts.org), the Bronx Artists Forum includes previous and current winners of BCA’s BRIO Award, the Longwood Arts Project’s Digital Matrix Commission, and the Bronx Writers’ Center’s Literary Arts Fellowship & Residency and Chapter One Fiction Competition & Reading Series.

 


 

Cultural Collaborations
The Bronx Council on the Arts collaborates with community organizations and elected officials to present cultural events throughout the borough. With the support of Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, BCA sponsored performances and workshops at a number of Bronx Senior Centers. With the help of Council Member James Vacca, BCA placed writers in after-school programs. In collaboration with State Senator Jeffrey Klein, BCA sponsored public performances in Loretta Park, Mosholu Parkway, Colucci Playground, Tracey Towers, Comras Mall, Reservoir Oval Park, and Harris Park. BCA was also a co-sponsor, along with the Bronx Tourism Council and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., of the Bronx Cultural Card and the Bronx Food and Art Festival, and of the Summer Concert Series with Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera and Senator Jeffrey Klein. The Council also provided fiscal sponsorship to many independent artists and arts organizations.

 


 

To sum up what BCA does for the borough’s artists and arts organizations, Bill Aguado said, “We’re trying to make it easier for people who have dreams to have them realized.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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