Epicenter's Community Manager Daniel Laplaza distributing mental health resources in Jackson Height's Diversity Plaza. Photo by Epicenter-NYC

Epicenter-NYC, a community journalism multiplatform initiative that launched as a newsletter in 2020 to help neighbors navigate the Covid pandemic, has been awarded $250,000 from the Mellon Foundation to establish a multipurpose community hub. This Mellon Foundation award is critical to Epicenter-NYC’s next phase of growth and efforts to uplift New York City’s communities’ cultural, economic and educational power. The community hub will serve as a space for content creation, dedicated art exhibits and programming, and civic engagement. It will also be a place to convene a richer dialogue across generations within Queens-based and immigrant communities.

“Epicenter’s model reframes newsgathering toward partnering with, rather than reporting on, people and places whose heritage and stories have not always been told on their own terms. To be in such deep alignment with a philanthropic partner who shares our vision to center communities is a delight,” said S. Mitra Kalita, co-founder and publisher of Epicenter-NYC. “We are grateful to the Humanities in Place team at Mellon for this initial grant. Queens needs more spaces to gather, convene and unite, and we are eager to innovate in partnership with our neighbors and community organizations.” 

Epicenter will work to secure a purposefully intimate but spacious enough hub within Queens, establish community interests and programming partners, and develop residency program parameters and selection criteria. The community hub aims to deepen creative economies within New York City vis-a-vis a video creator lab and podcast studio as well as serve as dedicated arts areas for gallery displays, collaboration and even a studio space for Epicenter’s featured artists.

“Epicenter amplifies the work of independent artists by centering creative makers and thinkers in our local community. This investment from the Mellon Foundation enables us to further support arts and culture through a physical space where we can house a series of residencies, workshops, and facilitate a dialogue between artists’ work and new audiences,” added Nitin Mukul, co-founder and creative director of Epicenter-NYC.

Epicenter-NYC supports local artists through its dedicated and growing artist network, exhibits such as “Ground Games,” and a newly launched shop. These artists, whose work ranges from visual art, poetry and short stories to any shareable experience, are profiled weekly and each receive a $100 stipend. Launched at the height of the pandemic to tap into the power of art as a way to engage the community to share their experiences and help reduce the spread of Covid, the program shifts formats of news and info dissemination, storytelling and offers sustainability to artists at risk of leaving NYC or abandoning their craft. 

Epicenter aims to uplift and elevate communities through informational architecture grounded in trust, collaboration, and cultural dialogue — efforts span running digital sessions on high school admissions including for special education, advising students on college and career, engaging with community organizations and New Yorkers one-on-one about Covid and mpox vaccines and NYC Care’s health care access program, devising cultural events like a guided tour of the TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy Airport or an abolitionist site along the Underground Railroad in Flushing. 

The organization’s deep roots within the neighborhoods it serves and its efforts to ensure diverse communities, especially those that were at the epicenter of the epicenter of Covid, have access to information and resources have been critical to government and community partners with advancing a more equitable New York City. The Mellon Foundation grant not only supports Epicenter’s mission, it will be a game-changing conduit for placemaking for so many communities.

Carolina Valencia

Carolina Valencia is longtime media and digital executive who has worked at The New York Times, Univision and The Recount. A native of Guayaquil, Ecuador who grew up in Queens, Carolina also worked for...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.