Old Songs, New Voices Project Aims to Foster Intercultural Understanding

Friday May 31st, 2019

Doris Duke Grant

Erie Arts & Culture is pleased to announce receipt of a $37,500 Building Bridges grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The Foundation awarded grants totaling approximately $2.49 million to initiate arts and media projects designed to create powerful experiences that advance relationships among communities of U.S. Muslims and their neighbors. Erie Arts & Culture’s grant will support the development of Old Songs, New Voices, a 15-month cultural exchange and preservation project that aims to tap into the rich indigenous knowledge that is “hidden in plain sight” by nurturing and developing the talents of folk and traditional artists from Erie’s community, including former refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Bosnia, and other predominantly Muslim countries.

The grants are announced as anti-Islam sentiment in the U.S. is rising according to a report released this month by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). Additionally, across Americans surveyed by ISPU, Muslims - at 62 percent - are the group most likely to report experiencing religious discrimination.

“In many places across the country, the frayed bonds of community need restoration and strengthening,” said Zeyba Rahman, senior program officer of the Building Bridges Program. “The projects proposed by this year’s Building Bridges Program grantees offer an inspired, inventive, arts-based approach to deepen connections between Muslims and their neighbors in the U.S. We are excited to support the launch of these 15 ambitious and worthy endeavors to improve well-being across the country.”

The City of Erie’s immigrant population has increased substantially over the past two decades, with foreign born residents now representing nearly 20% of the total population and refugees making up over half of that. As this population has grown, so too has Erie’s Muslim community, with Islam being Erie’s second largest religious affiliation.

Old Songs, New Voices will engage up to ten emerging artists affiliated with Erie Arts & Culture’s Regional Folk Arts Program. These New American artists will be mentored as they perform for and present to students through residencies at schools in Erie’s Public Schools and Millcreek Township School District and adult audiences at events hosted by One Table, a multicultural interfaith group. The project will culminate in performances at two of Erie’s largest festivals, Celebrate Erie and the Erie Blues & Jazz Festival.

Old Songs, New Voices is a re-envisioning of Erie’s award winning Old Songs, New Opportunities project, which trained refugee women to bring authentic, culturally diverse games and songs to early childhood and elementary school classrooms.

About the Building Bridges Program
The Building Bridges Program is the grant-making arm of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), which is an extension of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). Based in New York, the program supports national efforts to advance relationships and increase understanding among Muslim and non-Muslim communities for mutual well-being. For more information, please visit www.ddcf.org/what-we-fund/building-bridges.

About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. For more information, please visit www.ddcf.org.