Artistic Representations of the Effects of Intersecting Cultures
Arts and culture are critical elements of an equity framework; they reflect the assets of communities and enable cohesion in a pluralistic nation. Without equity, community redevelopment can improve a physical place but leave the people behind, stifle broad creativity, bring economic benefit only to a few, lead to a homogeneous community, or displace many. The tools of arts and culture can accelerate equity, build communities of opportunity, and design for broadly shared prosperity.
These factors have made neighborhoods an increasingly important site when thinking about public safety. In fact, the concentrated effect of correctional control on relatively small geographic areas within urban centers led Laura Kurgan and Eric Cadora of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University to coin the term “million-dollar blocks,” which describes a block where over one-million dollars is spent on the correctional control of its residents. Research shows that involvement with the justice system is both a cause and a consequence of neighborhood-level disorder; the effects are mutually reinforcing (Liberman and Fontaine 2014). Where disorder and crime are commonplace, so too are poverty, disease, and social stigma. Further, these same neighborhoods have historically been subjected to place-based policies that perpetuated racial and economic inequality, creating crumbling infrastructure and expressways where houses once were.
Just as I witnessed at the Yixigong Mosque, different cultures exist alongside and within each other in ways that may be surprising. The link between China and Islam is not the only connection to be seen, and I encourage all patrons of the Met, or any museum, to look for these networks and discover that any two cultures are much more connected than previously imagined.
Lewis, F. (2013). Participatory Art-Making and Civic Engagement. Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts. http://animatingdemocracy.org/sites/default/files/ParticipatoryArt_TrendPaper.pdf.
Liberman, A. and Fontaine, J. (2015). Reducing Harm to Boys and Young Men Of Color From Criminal Justice System Involvement. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.
National Research Council (2014). The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2014.
Pottenger, M. (2014). “Art at Work.” Talk given at TedxDirigo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKO1qGyfWKs .