HYANNIS — A new collective of four fledging arts organizations launched its first “house party” last week, using part of a $90,000 grant received through MassDevelopment.
The event at the Guyer Barn on South Street in Hyannis featured music, art, storytelling and special food with a diverse group of participants.
“We’ll be doing events like this,” said Mary George, co-director of the Cordial Eye Gallery which submitted the grant for the Arts and Justice Collective.
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George and co-director, Anastaci Pacella, conducted a survey of a range of community members with its first grant of $15,000 in 2021 from MassDevelopment’s Collaborative Workspaces Program about a proposed new co-working space.
What grant will mean for Arts and Justice Collective
“What emerged from that was a lot were looking for work space. They were looking for more collaborative space,” George said.
She also expressed interest in dance, food, artists of color and social justice issues.
The latest grant awarded by the TDI Creative Catalyst Grant Program and administered by MassDevelopment will provide the opportunity for three projects in the coming year, including monthly house parties, continued development of a collaborative workspace and a community arts center and the Arts and Justice Festival next summer.
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The three other organizations that are /shared recipients of the grant are Belonging Books, Cape Cod Voices and Amplify POC Cape Cod. They will all be part of the events and projects and have an opportunity to be the focus of some with special themes.
“We’re trying not to have one group in control,” George said. “Working together gives opportunities to provide holistic services to the community.”
Initially in 2019, the Cordial Eye Gallery and Artists Space was in a town-owned building at 50 Pearl St., Hyannis, but it was closed in 2020 because of the pandemic. Since then, the organization has been working virtually under a pop-up model, providing programs out of different spaces.
One was a program for tweens, ages 9-11, at the Hyannis Library. Another was an early childhood arts playgroup in spaces in Dennis and Hyannis. Working in different sites was “a wonderful way to get to know others in the community,” George said.
Creating a hub for art and social justice in downtown Hyannis
The other organizations in the partnership have been working separately and this new grant will provide an opportunity to work together toward shared goals. Those goals are focused on art, culture and equity with the ultimate goal of creating an art and social justice hub in downtown Hyannis, according to the grant.
“We are proud that this award is supporting four organizations that are women-run, all have BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) leadership, and who have invested deeply in the slow, thoughtful, grassroots work that we believe will truly transform our community,” the announcement of the grant stated. “We have worked hard and, in some cases, sacrificed greatly to divest from harmful systems in our sectors, all out of love for you, our neighbors.”
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Pacella, a Cape Cod native, an artist and former art teacher in the Barnstable schools, said the new collective wants to send a message to young people and people of color on Cape Cod that “they do belong here and they can make this place home.”
George, who has lived on the Cape since 2016 and has a master’s in arts administration, said organizers want Cape Codders to feel that this is not just a place for tourists “and let people know they have a past, present and future on Cape Cod.”
Creating a place of belonging
Erica Tso Haidas started Belonging Books on her own after feeling a sense of isolation as a non-majority person after coming to the Cape with her husband eight years ago. She asked herself: “How can I make Cape Cod a place for me and my children?”
She came up with the concept of a gathering space and centering voices and stories and people of color and other underrepresented groups on the Cape. She is working on getting a program in the schools called writing circles, where BIPOC students can have a safe space of belonging with their peers.
Tso Haidas found that her goals overlapped with the others in the Arts and Justice Collective. Her group will be involved in all the house parties and other activities. She said the collective can only offer good things for the community.
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Tara Vargas Wallace’s organization, Amplify POC Cape Cod, has a focus of amplifying businesses of people of color and eradicating the wealth gap by fostering ownership by people of color. Amplify is sponsoring workshops on how to write a business plan, a grant proposal and business ideas, basically a Business 101 class on how to launch a business, she said. The organization also seeks to empower its community by aiming for places on nonprofit boards.
Vargas Wallace said her background is not in business but she spent 20 years working in social services with marginalized communities in New York City and herself living in public housing in the Bronx and being homeless on the Cape.
“My life has been impacted by all this,” she said.
She is also an artist. Her group also holds vendor events, like festivals, with artists.
Her idea for her organization was prompted by the murder of George Floyd. She describes herself as an activist: “I don’t just talk; I do.” She says the collective’s mission of social justice coincided with hers, so it made sense to collaborate.
Vargas Wallace said that the collective will showcase the talents of all the communities of color.
“I’m going to make sure we are visible,” she said.
The fourth member of the collective is Cape Cod Voices, but organizers there we not available for comment. Its mission stated in the Artists Collective grant was: “Cape Cod Voices is a nonprofit organization created by women of color who have grown up on Cape Cod. We strive to keep black and brown voices at the center of the conversation on race, combat issues of systemic and institutional racism on Cape Cod, and advocate for students of color in local schools. “
“We’re really excited about this work,” George said of the collective. “We look forward to connecting with our neighbors and developing a creative life.”
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