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Heidi Schreck in What the Constitution Means to Me at New York Theatre Workshop. Photo: Joan Marcus.

New York City Launches New Fund to Promote Civic Engagement through the Arts

New York City’s Office of Strategic Partnerships has established a new fund to support opportunities for young New Yorkers to connect with local arts productions and civic projects. The Civics and Arts Fund will work with cultural organizations and community groups across the five boroughs to promote civic learning, engagement, and discourse. “New York City is home to some of the world’s best art and theater, and yet it’s not accessible to all,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With this initiative the city is taking steps to change that.”

The fund’s first partnership will be with Tony-nominated Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me. Written by Heidi Schreck, who also stars in the production as herself, and directed by Oliver Butler, the play reflects on Schreck’s journey from the fifteen-year-old girl who gave speeches about the US constitution to put herself through college to adulthood and a new state of awareness about the document, which she notes does not guarantee women’s rights—it actually doesn’t even mention the word woman. The ninety-minute performance is currently being staged at the Hayes Theater on West Forty-Fourth Street through August 24.

In his review of What the Constitution Means to Me, the New York Times theater critic Jesse Green wrote: “It is a tragedy told as a comedy, a work of inspired protest, a slyly crafted piece of persuasion and a tangible contribution to the change it seeks. It is not just the best play to open on Broadway so far this season, but also the most important.”

Coordinated by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, DemocracyNYC, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the fund is launching with $25,000 in seed funding. Those interested in supporting the initiative and helping to expand its reach can donate to it through the city’s website.

Commenting in the fund, cultural affairs commissioner Tom Finkelpearl said: “Creative expression has a unique power to spark meaningful dialogue. We look forward to introducing our city’s future activists, elected officials, and voters to how cultural creators help us understand social and governmental issues, opening their eyes to the opportunities civic engagement provides to shape the world we live in.”

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