Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito gathered on Thursday at the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside to announce the allocation of $3.2 million to expand funding to art groups in immigrant communities across the five boroughs.
Van Bramer, who is also the chair of City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee, founded this initiative last year to provide funding to 77 cultural groups that provide programming specifically focused on the cultural history and traditions of immigrant communities in New York City.
Three organizations in the councilman’s district will receive $15,625 each to continue offering their unique programming to the community. These include the Ayazamana Cultural Center in Long Island City, which aims to educate others about Ecuadorian culture through the arts, the Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside, the only bilingual Hispanic theatre in Queens and Topaz Arts in Woodside, a creative development center that offers affordable space, visual arts exhibitions and residency opportunities for artists.
“This year we have literally doubled down on the success of the Cultural Immigrant Initiative,” Van Bramer said. “By increasing funding streams to immigrant organizations and cultural groups that are often overlooked in the cultural funding process we are empowering more New Yorkers and increasing access to the arts in every neighborhood.”
Known as the “World’s Borough,” Queens has the largest foreign born population of all five boroughs with 35.5 percent, according to a 2011 report. Approximately 138 languages are spoken in Queens, with specific neighborhoods acting as enclaves for certain ethnicities.
Angel Gil Orrios, the artistic and executive director of Thalia Spanish Theatre, said this money has allowed his organization to program free performances in local parks and bilingual theatre and dance workshops for people of all ages.
“Since the economic crisis, small organizations like ours have been struggling with funding cuts from private corporations and foundations,” Gil Orrios said in a statement. “That’s why for us the creation of the Cultural Immigrant Initiative by the City Council has been so important in order to be able to continue serving our community, specially the Hispanics in Queens, after 37 years.”