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Art Spaces Can Bridge Social Divides—But First You Need to Know Your Neighbor

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I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years thinking about how small art spaces can facilitate social bridging. In navigating my professional and social circles in New York City, one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the nation, it’s impossible to ignore the stratification of every kind—class, culture, language, race, and education level. I’ve thought about social bridging as I leave my mentees from my neighborhood to teach at an elite university.

It came to mind after the mosque next door, attended by West African newcomers, was shot at for the second Ramadan in a row. Social bridging also comes to mind when I listen to my mother, a local artist in Newark, New Jersey, describe the people who are moving into her community—MFA types from Brooklyn whose work uses a completely different language than the one to which she is accustomed.

Of course, art spaces are no substitute for safe streets and more evenly distributed public services. But I believe they can go a long way towards fostering wider social inclusion. After running an art space and observing how others operate within their communities around the world, I’ve had the fortune to collect some possible approaches to bringing people across social divisions together to have meaningful experiences with one another in the context of an art-oriented environment.

 

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Art is not an entitlement. It’s a necessity of life.

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