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Jackson Heights organization focused on community journalism awarded $250K grant to establish neighborhood hub

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Jan. 31, 2024 By Ethan Marshall

A Jackson Heights organization dedicated to community journalism has been awarded $250,000 to establish a community hub dedicated to content creation, art exhibits and programming and civic engagement.

Epicenter-NYC, an online media company launched in 2020 to help New Yorkers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, secured the grant to establish a multipurpose community hub. The grant came courtesy of the Mellon Foundation, an organization that seeks to provide grants for ideas and organizations that contribute to a more connected, creative and just society.

The new multipurpose hub is expected to play a big role in the company’s next phase of growth, as well as its efforts to uplift the cultural, economic and educational power of communities across the city.

The space will be used for content creation, dedicated arts exhibits and programming and civic engagement. Additionally, the hub will be a place for people across generations within Queens-based and immigrant communities to convene a richer dialogue.

Some features that will be included in the hub include a video creator lab, a podcast studio and dedicated arts areas for gallery displays, collaboration and studio space for featured artists.

“Epicenter amplifies the work of independent artists by centering creative makers and thinkers in our local community,” Epicenter-NYC co-founder and creative director Nitin Mukul said. “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.”

Local artists have garnered support from Epicenter-NYC through the organization’s growing artist network, including exhibits like “Ground Games” and a newly launched shop. This program was launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to tap into the power of art as a way to engage the community to share their experiences.

The works from these artists range from visual art, to poetry and short stories to any shareable experience. The artists are profiled weekly and receive a $100 stipend. The program provides artists at risk of leaving New York City or abandoning their craft with a source of sustainability.

Epicenter-NYC is now in the process of finding the right location in Queens for its community multipurpose hub. The organization’s ideal location for this would be intimate yet spacious enough. At the same time, the organization is looking to establish interest from local communities and programming partners. Additionally, there are goals of developing residency program parameters and selection criteria.

“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,” Epicenter-NYC co-founder and publisher S. Mitra Kalita said.

“To be in such deep alignment with a philanthropic partner who shares our vision to center communities is a delight. 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.”

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