In line with our mission of using the arts as a tool for social change, we are leasing, renovating and have moved into vacant space at 63 Carleton Avenue in the heart of downtown Central Islip to create the area’s first Arts Center. This project is the realization of the organization’s hopes and dreams. We are confident that this will bring a positive social and economic impact to the community. Indeed, from a strategic viewpoint our organization believes that, in partnership with other community leaders, this project will kick start economic revitalization of this economically depressed community.
A look at downtown Central Islip discloses a mixed-use neighborhood with a few restaurants and some small businesses. Many buildings are residential apartments with a largely immigrant and minority population. Although the realities of the community include some gang violence and related crimes, these difficulties do not define a community but are a call to unite as neighbors and friends to bring about a social and economic renaissance. Our goal is to make the Arts Center an integral part of that renaissance by using art as a tool to revitalize downtown Central Islip.
This project would not be possible with out the support of the community. As artists, it is our duty to get engaged and promote the importance of community. We stride to create leaders that will continue the legacy of helping one another in this calling to work together to achieve greatness. Our community is our home. We are working in collaboration with the Central Islip Public Library; Central Islip Chamber of Commerce; Central Islip School District; domestic violence and immigrant organization SEPA MUJER; the organization Leadership Toward Empowerment Through Education and Participation; NAACP; Long Island Immigrant Alliance; and individual members of the community. These community members will help us attract program participants and promote our programs, and will be members of the Center’s Advisory Board.
It should be emphasized that we are not simply referring to an art gallery. To begin, our organization offered a series of workshops to area residents at the new Arts Center for three months beginning in September 2014. They were led by four professional artists and included creative writing, painting, theatre, and guitar. These workshops concluded with presentations of all of their accomplishments, at which many community members enjoyed the presentations and art expositions created by the participants. That project became the benchmark for the use of arts as a tool in the revitalization of Central Islip.
Since early 2015 we have held other arts workshops taught by, and for, culturally diverse arts professionals for diverse participants, for modest fees that will help to sustain … but not completely pay for … the Center’s operating costs. We also have been presenting the visual and performing arts works of local professional and amateur artists.
More details regarding our benchmark activities: We provided 15-section workshops (one two-hour section weekly) from September 6 through November 22, 2014. (Total program participants: 80.)The accomplishments presentation and celebration, open to the public, took place in early December. Those and current Workshops have been open to residents 15 years old and up.