ArtsConnection is proud to announce the virtual launch of Culture Connected!

ArtsConnection is proud to announce the virtual launch of Culture Connected! 

Culture Connected is a new program linking New York families and students to our city’s amazing cultural institutions! Developed by ArtsConnection and funded by the New York Community Trust, the program seeks to erode the social and economic barriers which often exclude New Yorkers from accessing the city’s premiere cultural centers. By addressing the needs of NYC’s most historically disenfranchised families, Culture Connected aims to be a resource for all.

The program plans to bridge this gap in two major ways…

  • Hosting a variety of fun, interactive learning materials from partners on the program’s website, updated regularly and available year-round.

  • Providing free or max $1.00 tickets for EBT Cardholders and their families to cultural institutions in all five boroughs of NYC.

By building a stronger virtual relationship between families and partner institutions, Culture Connected will lay the groundwork for future in-person visits and spark important conversations about art and access while furthering the inclusive programming and new audience development initiatives that continue to make these institutions valued community resources.

Current partners include the Bronx River Art Center, Noguchi Museum, Staten Island Children’s Museum, Intrepid Museum, with more to be announced shortly.


Dionne Thornton attends Teen Program’s Back to School event at the Bronx River Arts Center.

The driving force behind Culture Connected is our very own Dionne Thornton, who serves as the organization’s Associate Director of Teen Programs and Community Engagement. Prior to gracing ArtsConnection with her expertise, the Florida native worked at Carnegie Hall, the International Center of Photography, and the Brooklyn Museum. “Access and exposure are fundamental to unlocking a child’s imagination and helping them explore all the possibilities for their future,” she says.We spoke with Dionne about the creation and future of Culture Connected.


Why is a program like this important, specifically in New York City? 

DT: The arts are essential, and despite their abundance in NYC, barriers to accessing the arts still remain. That’s why Culture Connected exists. By addressing the barriers of NYC’s most historically disenfranchised families, Culture Connected aims to be a resource aiding all families in interacting with and enjoying the arts through their smartphone, in their homes, and at our partner institutions.

What are some ways easier access to these centers, virtually and IRL [in real life], could benefit a child’s development? 

Studies have shown time and again that early exposure to the arts and creative activities help improve a child’s cognitive (e.g., reading, critical-thinking, problem-solving, etc.) and social-emotional (e.g., self-expression, communication, team-work) skills, as well as multi-sensory learning abilities.

Was there a specific moment that inspired the creation of the program? Waiting in line at a museum, or…

The COVID-19 pandemic gave us an opportunity to adapt the initial plan for Culture Connected, which has resulted in a far more expansive and inclusive design. With so many families and students suffering, it was imperative that we figure out how to design a program that reached farther and offered deeper support than initially proposed.

What are some of your earliest memories of museums and how has your relationship with these institutions changed over the years? 

For me, museums and cultural spaces have always been places where wonder abounds, discovery is encouraged, and the imagination liberated. That said, those spaces haven’t always been welcoming to me or safe for me to explore… even as an arts professional.

Sadly, my journey to ArtsConnection has been filled fighting for validation of myself and the audiences I represented to be welcomed. I’m relieved to be at ArtsConnection, which centers diversity in its staff and programs while actively advocating quality arts education across the city, beginning with the city’s most historically disenfranchised students and families.

What does Culture Connected mean to you personally?

If I had access to the quantity and quality of arts programming available to NYC school-aged kids now when I was growing up in Florida, I would be the artist of my childhood dreams. Access and exposure are fundamental to unlocking a child’s imagination and helping them see all the possibilities for themselves that are truly within their reach.

Culture Connected supports the exploration of the arts, sciences, history & culture by allowing families to easily experiment and engage with free activities from the comfort of home. It’s an additional opportunity to ensure no child will feel as I felt because the arts weren’t accessible.

The culture writ-large is beginning to interrogate who has disproportionate access to cultural and social resources. Can you speak to how Culture Connected plans to bridge this gap? 

As mentioned earlier, access and exposure are fundamental to unlocking a child’s imagination and helping them explore all the possibilities for their future. Now with Culture Connected, all New York families have more opportunities to explore our partners wonderful programs and activities at home, on the go, or with our partners.

What do you hope New York families interacting with Culture Connected walk away with?

Our goal is help families feel that our partner institutions are excited to welcome them into their spaces and eager to be fun and engaging resources for family enrichment and enjoyment.


Explore today! 

Teaching Artist Spotlight: Peter Bogdanos

Photo courtesy of Todd Jones.

A formally trained multi-percussionist, Peter Bogdanos has been teaching Flamenco and Latin percussion with ArtsConnection for over 15 years. He is a staff musician for Motown Records, and most recently toured with international sensation Noche Flamenca.

Despite his resume, Peter is not Mexican. A second-generation Greek immigrant, he began visiting Mexico in 1996 and co-founded Mexico Beyond Mariachi with Alda Reuter in 2005. The New York-based ensemble of musicians, actors, dancers, and teaching artists tours across the United States, celebrating Mexican culture.

In addition to his work with ArtsConnection, he has co-taught dozens of residencies about the culture, traditions, music and dance of Mexico for New York City students in K-12.

You can learn more about Mexico Beyond Mariachi at their website.


Attend GIVE’s upcoming workshops with the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable! 

Calling all educators! 

GIVE is free online resource library developed by Teaching Artists for Teaching Artists. Created by ArtsConnection in collaboration with New Victory Theater and Community-Word Project, the website serves as a digital resource to support educators in the creation of liberated learning environments and vibrant arts experiences within inclusion settings.

Keeping with ArtsConnection’s commitment to accessibility, the resource is partnering with the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable for a series of free workshops in October! All educators are invited to register, for more info click here.

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