How Do These Duke Grant Recipients "Build Bridges" With Muslim Communities?

Back when the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) launched its Building Bridges program, we asked, "Can arts organizations create a better understanding of Muslim societies?" Now, three years later, it looks as if we have an answer.

Duke recently announced that eight U.S. nonprofit organizations won a total of $1,503,100 in grants and by taking a look at the winners, we can get a clearer picture of what the foundation means when it talks about "building bridges."

Specifically, Duke observed that "strong relationships are built most effectively when audiences are able to immerse themselves in the experience of the project and directly interact, collaborate or communicate with the artists and other participants." A panel of four experts with extensive knowledge in the arts and culture of Muslim regions reviewed the applications and recommended the eight projects to receive grants of up to $300,000, distributed over one to three years. Here are three of the eight winners:

  • Brooklyn Children’s Theater in Brooklyn, New York will receive $78,100 to support "Muslim Voices: Children’s Musical Theater Collaborative," a series of four new plays created collaboratively by professional and student artists dealing with Muslim heritage, performed in public schools and distributed to community theaters nationwide.
  • Sundance Institute in Los Angeles, California will receive $125,000 to support its artists from the Middle East and North Africa region in their creation of up to four new theatre projects, thereby encouraging increased intercultural exchange and relationships at the lab.
  • Words Beats and Life in Washington, D.C. will receive $175,000 to support two upcoming seasons of "From Sifrs to Ciphers: The Global Muslim Influence on Hip Hop Culture," a series of performances, exhibitions, workshops, and dialogue sessions highlighting the breadth and diversity of global and American Muslim hip hop artists across gender, religion, and geography.

"In a world fraught with divisive problems, the work of creative people can be a powerful conduit to one another, a way to connect and see each other more clearly," said Zeyba Rahman, senior program officer for the program. "We are proud to support the fresh ideas and courageous programs that these organizations have proposed to expose the public to cultures rooted in Muslim regions, both abroad and in their own backyards, and look forward to watching them unfold."