To the editor:
We at Bronx Arts Ensemble patiently and prudently anticipate our return to Bronx stages and classrooms. To date, more than 4,000 of our neighbors have succumbed to the virus. Our borough has rapidly morphed from being “underserved” to “devastated.”
The Bronx is made up of 90 percent people of color, and 40 percent foreign-born residents. So many of our constituents are born into poverty and endure bigotry on a regular basis. Recent cases of police brutality around the country have exacerbated the malaise.
Our people are suffocating, in so many ways.
During the lockdown, we at Bronx Arts Ensemble had an opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing our community and contemplate ways in which we might better fulfill our mission of building community through the arts. Art that we make and teach will be part of the recovery, invoking mourning, dialogue, and ultimately harmony.
We decided to expand our program framework to include more focus on the social-emotional needs of our constituents. Our artists serve as informal mentors and advisors to many of their students. They are admired by our concert audiences. Their goal is to empower Bronxites with self-awareness, pride and mutual respect.
The melodies that children sing in schools and the works we perform on stage reflect the global cultural heritage of our community. Each year we will continue to explore a different regional artistic tradition in our concerts, and we will also weave that theme into our annual school curriculum.
We have, in the recent past, explored the art of Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and we will embrace other international traditions that are part of Bronx culture.
While we eagerly anticipate our return to live and in-person concerts and classes, the current pandemic did offer us the opportunity to further digitize our programmatic and administrative activities.
Going forward, we will play our digital skills to complement our physical offerings to provide those constituents who remain physically isolated an alternative option for inclusion in our programs.
Altogether, Bronx Arts Ensemble employs more than 100 local artists, reflecting our Bronx demographic and sensibilities. We view them as employees and constituents. We encourage our artists to serve as educators and performers. We are dedicated not only to providing them work, but also supporting then in their professional and personal development.
They are providing lasting testimony to this chapter in history. More than ever, their exceptional work needs to be experienced by our community.
The author is executive director of Bronx Arts Ensemble.