QUEENS — A number of groups in Jamaica's burgeoning arts scene will start working as a coalition, hoping to foster their activities in the neighborhood as the area has been undergoing a rapid transformation, officials said.
The new coalition, called “Jamaica Is…", was created as part of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Building Community Capacity program, which seeks to work with "local cultural groups to strengthen their roles in underserved neighborhoods," the agency said in a statement.
“Art and cultural activities are vital to our neighborhood,” said artist and "Jamaica Is…" co-chair Rejin Leys, adding that the initiative will help build "stronger ties between our cultural organizations, artists, and community members.”
Among the Jamaica organizations that belong to the new coalition are:
• A Better Jamaica
• Afrikan Poetry Theater
• Black Spectrum Theater
• United African Dance Troupe
• Cultural Collaborative Jamaica
• Edge School of the Arts
• Tam Jams
• Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning
• King Manor Museum
One of the program goals is to integrate cultural activities into development plans as the neighborhood undergoes numerous changes to make sure that local groups are engaged in community planning processes, according to the agency.
Jamaica is poised for an upturn with proposed developments, including apartment buildings and hotels, local officials said.
To kick off the new initiative, The Afrikan Poetry Theatre has already started filming one minute clips, asking local residents, artists and business owners what they think “Jamaica Is..." The videos will be later shared in various venues and public areas around the neighborhood, officials said.
The new coalition is financed with nearly $700,000 in public and private funding, including a $150,000 grant from the New York Community Trust, $175,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, and $370,000 in City funds, which will be shared with three similar coalitions formed in the South Bronx, Northern Manhattan and East Brooklyn, officials said.
The coalitions will also receive training helping them obtain more resources in the future and build relationships with other community stakeholders, like city agencies, libraries, small businesses and residents.
The total share of the BCC program for Jamaica is over $210,000, which will cover the initiative through 2017, city officials said.