Neighborhood Cultural Districts Launch City-Wide Alliance

On August 18, 2011, the Naturally Occurring Cultural District Working Group (NOCD-NY) joined with cultural and community leaders and elected officials from across the city to launch a citywide alliance to revitalize New York from the neighborhood up. The Rockefeller Foundation recently announced that the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, on behalf of the Working Group, was chosen from nearly 400 applicants as one of the 16 winners of their annual NYC Cultural Innovation Fund competition.

NOCD-NY brings together a unique alliance of artists, activists, creative manufacturers and policymakers around the idea of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts, recognizing the vital cultural, social and economic contributions of these community-initiated cultural clusters. Working Group members include Arts + Community Change Initiative, Bronx Council on the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, El Puente, Fourth Arts Block, Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center, NY Chinatown History Project, The Point, and the Queens Museum of Art.

To address the lack of policy tools and support mechanisms for this powerful neighborhood-based work, NOCD-NY is strengthening practice through capacity building and collaborative programs, raising visibility and articulating the value of NOCDs, carrying out collaborative research, and developing policy recommendations.

Said Rockefeller Foundation Associate Director, Edwin Torres, “We are excited to support the Naturally-Occurring Cultural Districts in breaking down silos between cultural activity and other activities that engender community resilience. We’ve all seen the role that cultural activity can play in an area’s economic health. This project highlights the role of cultural expression that is indigenous to an area, highlights the voices of those that have on-the-ground expertise, ensuring that economic growth is culturally equitable. Naturally-Occurring Cultural Districts can be a model ripe for replication nationally.”

New York City Councilmembers added their congratulations:

Said Jimmy Van Bramer: “I am happy to congratulate my colleagues and fellow arts supporters in the Naturally Occurring Cultural District Working Group in kicking off the city-wide effort to support and encourage organically created cultural districts. This working group will help bring focus to an important aspect of cultural development in New York City. It will also help to provide an inclusive and holistic view of sustainable communities that include arts, small business and creative manufacturing.

As Chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee of the New York City Council, I believe that working with community and business leaders to strengthen the creation and continuation of artistic communities throughout New York is essential in maintaining the thriving artistic communities of the City.”

Said Brad Lander: “The unique cultural life of neighborhoods creates the diverse and dynamic mosaic that is New York City. I’m impressed with the work that the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts coalition has done so far, and I know they’ll do great things in the future to strengthen cultural vitality, diversity, and opportunity in our city.”

Initiated in 2007, the New York City Cultural Innovation Fund awards two-year grants, ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, for groundbreaking initiatives that enrich the City’s cultural life and help to ensure the continued economic strength and diversity of the City’s creative sector.

Check out more photos of the launch at

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