Aviva Kapust, Executive Director at The Village of Arts and Humanities
What is your organization's mission statement?
The mission of The Village is to amplify the voices and aspirations of the community by providing arts-based opportunities for self-expression and personal success that engage our North Philadelphia community, revitalize physical space, and preserve black heritage.
What’s one thing you wish people knew about your organization?
The Village is a national leader in arts-driven community development. We believe that art is essential to our daily activities. It is creativity in thinking, in methodology, and in implementation. Our creative campus of 15 arts parks and 10 buildings is home to a suite of innovative programs that work at the intersection of art, education, social justice and community development in order to: amplify and leverage the creative power of our community residents; build bridges across race, class, age and expertise; question and replace unjust and ineffective systems; and stabilize our disinvested neighborhood. For 32 years, The Village has served as an incubator for social innovation, where concepts that emanate from the community are validated and implemented. It is where community-based conceptualization and goal setting establish people’s meaningful connections to place. And it is where we are able to rekindle the spirit of humanity, together.
How do you define impact in the work that your organization does? What community/s are you supporting?
Our historic African American community sits at the intersection of three police districts and two council districts, amounting to tremendous neglect and bureaucratic chaos. Every single high school in the neighborhood has closed. Eighty-six percent of our area’s households fall below the poverty line. Our neighborhood is considered one of the highest crime and highest need areas in the city, with one of the highest incarceration and recidivism rates.
Today, as reinvestment in our neighborhood ensues, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in time—the beginning of the next historical chapter for The Village ’s neighborhood and the people of this neighborhood. Who will write this chapter? Who will benefit from reinvestment? Who will survive, who will thrive? The Village and residents of our community seek just and equitable answers to these questions in the face of tremendous societal pressures, scarce resources, and our nation’s tumultuous political climate. The Village ’s proposed body of work serves as a platform to address these questions alongside community participants, neighborhood elder advisors, artists, and cross-sector partners. Our Creative Placemaking methodology, which underpins all of our work, begins with the understanding that change must be born from within the community itself, and before change can be imagined, certainly before it can be visible in a Place, it must first happen within people.
If you look at philanthropy as social currency - contributing not only dollars but time and talent, how does your organization spread the philanthropic love to other organizations?
Last year, our neighbor and Village elder Nandi Muhammed was invited as the final speaker at the Philanthropy Network conference. She and her husband Khalid run a penny candy store in their living room where they teach young people about black history, self-respect, and power. She is a philanthropist in the core sense of the word. At every turn, we seek to center the voices of the people most impacted by the issues The Village responds to, and honor them leaders and builders in equitable societal change.