The Power of Cultural Diversity

Local 802 joins new Immigrant Arts Coalition; theatre rep Marlena Fitzpatrick García elected president

Volume 118, No. 3March, 2018

The Immigrant Arts Coalition, an alliance of New York City cultural organizations, has unveiled an agenda aiming to recognize the important and ongoing contributions of immigrant artists and arts organizations representing America’s diverse cultural mosaic. Local 802 theatre rep Marlena Fitzpatrick García was elected president of this coalition and Local 802 has joined the group.

At its inaugural meeting and celebration held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, members presented plans to serve as a united front for advocacy and audience development, and pledged to produce the second Immigrant Arts Summit this summer.

Local 802 theatre rep Marlena Fitzpatrick García, newly-elected president of the Immigrant Arts Coalition

“Artists are the cornerstone of our society,” said Fitzpatrick. “Art heals. Art unites. Artists are doers. We work shoulder-to-shoulder to build this nation and our native homelands alongside union workers, domestic workers, farm workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, public policy makers, executives and entrepreneurs, cooks, tech and inventors, activists, veterans, and emergency responders who risk their lives to save ours.”

Fitzpatrick added, “This is why we’re here today; we must tear down those invisible walls and coexist in solidarity with all cultures, all communities and all forms of art. We’re doing this through advocacy as we’re working with various facets of the community to help undocumented and documented immigrants. We’re also collaborating by cross-pollinating our audiences and programs amongst our coalition members. In doing this, we’re fostering diversity and unity,” she said.

Michael S. Glickman, president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, noted that the museum’s guiding principles stand against fascism, restrictions on free speech, and limits to the humanities. “We are dedicated to supporting free expression and convening diverse thinkers for important conversations,” he said. “Across the water, Lady Liberty lifts her lamp and Ellis Island marks the gateway through which millions flowed into this country seeking refuge. New York Harbor is a fitting backdrop for conversations that touch on the challenges and urgencies of art about immigration.”

The coalition began forming last July, when a group of arts and cultural organizations held their first summit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Leaders of the coalition announced an agenda focusing on key areas of the arts: advocacy, diversity support, collaboration, empowerment through the arts, and artistic engagement.

Chris Massimine is the chair of the Immigrant Arts Coalition and is also chief executive officer of the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene. He said, “Diversity is our strength, and illustrates why we must unite together to support the immigrants who for generations have contributed to the advances, collaboration, and innovations that have helped enrich our country through the arts. This reflects our mandate to advance immigration rights through artist advocacy, foster multicultural collaborations, encourage diversity initiatives, promote empowerment, and be the foundation of support for those who raise their voice.”

Local 802 member and violinist Sita Chay speaks at the launch of the Immigrant Arts Coalition

Local 802 member Sita Chay, violinist from the Grammy-winning, all-female mariachi band Flor de Toloache, said: “What people don’t always recognize is that we are all benefiting from the rich cultural diversity. Behind every culture is the influence of our neighboring cultures and on a broader spectrum every culture commonly carries the most humanistic side of us.”

Chay added, “As a musician, it is my duty to invite all musicians to come together and create art that’s ground-building and celebrates culture. Because, when all else collides, music unites. Instruments, for example, reflect that. String and percussion instruments show that human side of us: our common thread and our heartbeat.”

Another coalition member, Shawn Cawls, the director of Emotions Physical Theatre, said, “Art for me saved my life. Without diversity, you won’t get the wonderful things outside of your own bubble. One head is not as smart as many heads and many perspectives.”

In celebration of the artistic diversity of programming in New York City, the celebration featured moving performances by Yiddish Theatre star Daniel Greenwood, acclaimed Latin jazz pianist Carolina Calvache of Colombia,  and 25 students from P.S. 124’s Theatre Club, which is an educational outreach program of the National Asian Artists Project.

Besides Local 802, other organizations who have joined the Immigrant Arts Coliation are Pan Asian Repertory, Repertorio Español, Irish Repertory Theatre, Kairos Italy Theater, Irish Arts Center, National Asian Artists Project,  Dance NYC, Turkish American Repertory Theatre, El Museo del Barrio, Museum at Eldridge Street, Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in the USA, Museum of Jewish Heritage, Irish American Writers & Artists, and the Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance.

In addition to Chris Massimine and Marlena Fitzpatrick, the coalition’s board includes Vice Chair Ayse Eldek, stage and screen actor and director; Secretary Carrie Beehan, artist at GOH Productions; Treasurer Giacinta Pace, actor, producer and journalist; and Member-at-Large Laura Caparrotti, actor and founding artistic director of the Kairos Italy Theater and the In Scena Italian Theater Festival, both in New York.

You can learn more about the coalition at