Photo by Lynda Shenkman
ArtsWestchester’s Voices for Change grant program allows artists across the region to tell their stories and spotlight social justice issues.
In the Mid-Hudson Valley region, art represents more than just the creative expression of the area’s embedded artists. It’s become a catalyst for cultural change, inclusiveness, and empowerment. ArtsWestchester is the organization behind this evolution. As New York State’s largest private nonprofit dedicated to cultural services, the White Plains-based group has functioned since 1965 as an amplifier for multiethnic voices and a funder of projects that increase social awareness.
Those voices are especially amplified under the AW’s “Voices for Change” grant program, which came about in 2022 as a means of funding artists whose artwork inspires systemic change and opens up avenues for discourse about social justice issues.
The grant funded two theater productions and several artists last year — Ex-Gay Bar, produced by David Simpatico, a comedy/drama that explores the multi-billion-dollar conversion industry, and El Sapo, a musical by Pablo Mayor, Anna Povich de Mayor, and Daniel Fetecua that explores climate change and immigration through the perspective of a toad.
“We believe the arts empower; the arts connect,” says ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam. “Art gives voice to people of all ages. We hope that the new artwork resulting from this grant program inspires and informs, encourages conversation, and serves as a catalyst for action.”
Langsam and her team plan to lift up the voices of even more artists in 2023 and will continue to have newer, more diverse conversations about older, more antiquated issues.
“This year, we are looking to fund up to 13 artists with $10,000 grants throughout seven counties in the Mid-Hudson Valley, including Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Orange, and Dutchess,” says Adam Chau, the exhibitions manager for the grant program. The program has asked applicants for this year’s grants to think broadly about current social issues, like food insecurity, and the Constitution.
“Our grant requires an artist to submit a proposal with a nonprofit that works within the theme of their project idea, which we think makes for a stronger, long-lasting, and impactful project that works with targeted communities,” Chau added.
Winners of this round of grants were announced the first week of February. The second round of applications for grants will open in the spring.