Chez Bushwick was one of 16 recipients of $2.5 million in grant money from the Rockefeller Foundation, established in 2007 to promote cultural and arts development throughout the city.
Chez Bushwick won the award in part for its newly developed Capital B program, which will bring a diverse group of community organizations together to foster sustainable artistic growth.
They include Community Arts Partners such as Williamsburg’s El Puente, a community leadership organization, the Ridgewood-Bushwick Community Senior Citizens Council and the Brooklyn Public Library, among many others. The Capital B coalition also includes business organizations, The Bushwick Starr, a leading theater, a public school, and Boricua College.
“Capital B's programs focus on the interaction between core communities of youth, seniors, artists and business people to create cohesion within the larger community,” said the project’s Program Evaluator, Lina Srivastava, “and create economic stimulus in the cultural sector and related industries.”
Chez Bushwick’s Founding Director, Jonah Bokaer, said he created the organization in 2002 to do exactly the kind of work to be funded by the Rockefeller grant. His organization sponsors inexpensive arts performance, provides space for working artists and oversees the Center for Performance Research, an L.E.E.D.-certified green building in Brooklyn that Chez Bushwick helped found.
Bokaer, who did not say how much the Rockefeller grant was for, is a choreographer, community activist and former dancer with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.
“This grant expansion of existing programs and anchor [organizations like Chez Bushwick] is really very close to our mission,” said Bokaer. “We hope to inspire a deepened sense of community engagement. We’re trying to connect existing community resources together.”
Bokaer said Chez Bushwick’s Capital B program comes at a time when more people are turning to community service, something President Barack Obama has called for as people struggle through the recession.
“The economy is forcing people to partner through it,” said Bokaer, by engaging in coalitions like Chez Bushwick to strengthen individual businesses and organizations. “I think that’s very important at this time.”
Chez Bushwick’s Board Chair Erica Marks said the Rockefeller grant is testament to the organization’s commitment to the North Brooklyn community.
“Now, thanks to the Rockefeller Foundation,” said Marks, “CAPITAL B allows Chez Bushwick to expand upon this work, reaching into the Bushwick community at large and bringing artists, students, and activists together to better the neighborhood and help stabilize and inspire its residents.”