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Broadway Advocacy Coalition Sets Date for Inaugural Arts in Action Festival (Exclusive)


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Broadway Advocacy Coalition has announced its first-ever Arts in Action Festival will take place on July 24 in New York City.

Hosted at the Manhattan School of Music, the one-day event will serve as a collaborative space for organizations, individuals and leaders working at the intersections of the arts, theater, policy and advocacy. An opportunity to demonstrate the impact of inequitable social policies on marginalized communities, the festival from the Tony-winning nonprofit will also highlight the possibilities of abolition and a society that doesn’t rely on incarceration to address social issues.

Originally conceived by BAC board member Alejo Rodriguez, the festival’s first year is themed around “Reimagining Justice” and will feature workshops, performances, panels, discussion groups, galleries and video exhibits that offer a chance for participants to focus on and address the city’s “justice” system. That includes the ways real justice might not be created for many of New York’s inhabitants.

“Fundamentally artistry is an act of proclaiming one’s voice and therefore inherently an expression of advocacy,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “It’s not just simply about the entertainment. With the first ever Arts in Action Festival, I hope we can highlight all of the organizations elevating artistic voices that are advocating for justice across NYC.”

Divided up into multiple programming blocks, the majority of the festival will be for invite-only participants — a result of it being a first effort hosted during COVID — who will be able to engage with both panels and screenings as well as in workshops and discussions.

“[BAC meets] at the intersection of art and advocacy, so if you are somebody who wants to build your capacity to see yourself as a change agent, if you’re someone who hasn’t been bitten by the bug yet but wants to be around people who are pursuing those ideas, it’s for you. If you’re someone who’s been working at the intersection of arts and advocacy for years, it’s for you. If you’re a Broadway industry person who has never thought about how you can use your skill set to push policy forward to create more humane policies and systems through storytelling.

The event will, however, culminate in a performance that’s open to the public, featuring pieces by Lynn Nottage, Arianna Afsar, Kenyatta Hughes and more. The event is hosted by Liza Jessie Peterson and Khalil Cumberbatch and will showcase talent from BAC and other participating organizations.

“We’re casting a wider net out for anybody for that final performance, who wants to see how to use your skills, how to use your toolkit to push to change culture or culture change,” Brown adds. “It’s for anybody who has who is excited about using stories to push for justice.”

During the nine-hour day, attendees can showcase and celebrate their work related to the city’s justice-impacted community, while shining a light on how the arts — with an emphasis on the performing arts — can be a tool for creating more humane policies and systems and play a vital role in building spaces based in justice and liberation.

Participating organizations include ARTE (Art & Resistance Through Education), College and Community Fellowships, Dances for Solidarity, Drama Club, Parole Prep Project, PEN America, RAPP (Release Aging People in Prison), Recess Arts, Theater of the Oppressed, Theater for Social Change Ensemble, Urban Justice, Urban Word and the Vera Institute for Justice.

“We are lucky to be part of an incredible community of organizations that have been investing in arts advocacy across New York City for decades,” Robb Nanus, executive director of BAC, said in a statement. “With so much important work happening, we felt it vital to invest in finding ways to work more deeply together and finding moments to celebrate each other and build the coalition necessary to create a more equitable city.”

The event will push BAC, whose advocacy work is showcased in a new video from Derek Amengual, into familiar and new spaces with its work.

“We are founded by artists searching for a way to use their skills to advocate for a more just city and were meeting other artists and advocates excited about using stories to push for justice who wanted an opportunity to really gather and so we decided to take on the responsibility for making that happen,” Brown says. “It’s going to open up so many doors and avenues for us to build coalition. We’ll hear more stories and in centering stories, we can reimagine what justice looks like.”

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