Hostos Community College: Lessons Learned
Pre-planning and adequate capacity are necessary to maximize, and take advantage of the opportunities that arise during, the project.
Relevancy to your community matters.
Much of the success of the Hostos Creative Campus project has been due to the fact that it was built around festivals and arts programming that are relevant to two of Hostos Community College’s most important constituents, the Puerto Rican and Dominican communities. Furthermore, much of the class work focused on issues pertinent to the students’ own experiences: The effects of development on their own cultures; the effects of gentrification on their communities in the United States; the immigration experience, etc.
There are two important hallmarks of successful partnerships:
1. All partners come away with something, i.e., there is a benefit added because of the relationship, there is true reciprocity or, to put it bluntly, every partner’s interests were served. Examples from the Hostos experience:
- The Office of International Studies and the Humanities Department got an enriched study abroad program (students had encounters with artists, saw performances, took dance and percussion workshops, etc.)
- Community partners got programming at their own venues or just plain got performance opportunities.
- For the Hostos Center, the project has in effect been an audience development project. The experience has helped keep it “honest” by obligating the Center to be more sensitive to its audiences, and has created among management and staff a more consultative approach to programming. In short, it has developed good customer relation habits among us.
2. Successful partnerships do not force partners into doing things that they don’t normally do. They may require more work, but in the long run they make each partner more effective at what they do. Partnerships help partners accomplish their missions.
We have learned to be more entrepreneurial and we have become quick to seize opportunities. Examples:
- In the course of the project, we have developed off-campus programming at community-based institutions such as Los Pleneros de la 21 and Rincon Criollo. We were quick to see the value of this programming: it’s good outreach, plain and simple. (Significantly, Los Pleneros subsequently chose the Hostos Center as the venue for their 25th anniversary celebration last November and their annual children’s educational program’s recital last June.)
- Collaborative habits and a cooperative environment developed during the project have impacted on other projects, e.g., the Hostos Repertory Company, a recent celebration of the centennial of the Grand Concourse Boulevard produced by the Hostos Center, the Provost’s Office and the college library, an emerging partnership between the Arts Center and a faculty member whose innovative approach to teaching employs music and Latin jazz in particular. (Partnering can be infectious!)
- During the course of the project and especially at the festivals, we were surprised by the emergence of a young cohort of folk practitioners. These inspired us to consider showcases for them and led ultimately to the BronxIndie project with the Bronx Council on the Arts.
- The Creative Campus project also strengthened an existing partnership with Alianza Dominicana. As a result, both Alianza and the Center are poised to exploit any number of opportunities as the former opens its new Casa Afro-Quisqueya cultural center.
Ideas for improving the Cultural Guide component:
- The Cultural Guide service will, for the most part, be provided at the schools, under more controlled conditions rather than transporting schoolchildren to the Hostos Center.
- Grow the Hostos Center’s capacity by contracting an individual to design and coordinate the program more fully.
- Include advanced students in the cultural guide cohort to increase the potential of students being able to mentor and assist each other in developing their skills and knowledge as a Cultural Guide.