Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Caron Atlas

This week's podcast introduces a little-known story about the arts and disaster recovery. Last autumn, Hurricane Sandy battered the Northeastern region of the United States, with New York City and surrounding areas hit particularly hard.  Thousands of people were evacuated as their homes were flooded and often destroyed. In the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, a shelter was opened in a space called the Armory. Evacuees slept in rows of army cots with whatever belongings they had in garbage bags stowed beneath. Dazed, wet, and hungry, the temporary residents were housed and fed, looked after by medical teams, and aided by scores of volunteers who helped out in any way they could.

This volunteer corps included artists, who created daily cultural programming for evacuees. Programming was organized by Caron Atlas, director of the not-for-profit Arts and Democracy Project, along with a team of dedicated volunteers. Arts and Democracy Project works to integrate the arts into local communities through civic engagement, and helps build links between artists and community activists on the grassroots level. At the Armory, Atlas worked with City Council member Brad Lander to create an autonomous space called the Wellness Center, which became the living room of the shelter. There, residents could refresh themselves through religious services, meditation, massages and, most particularly, cultural programming.

Excerpts from "Enchantedly" from the CD Songs Without Words, written and performed by Sean Grissom, used courtesy of Endpin Music Publishing.

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