LaGuardia Community College Receives a $240,000 Grant from the Doris Duke Foundation to Increase Awareness About Muslim Societies

Long Island City, NY—January 13, 2014— LaGuardia Community College and the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center have received a $240,000 grant funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts to create an artistic and academic program that will illuminate the life experiences of Muslims in post-9/11 New York City.

LaGuardia was the only community college among the six finalists to be chosen to participate in the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Program, a nationwide initiative to expand awareness, knowledge and understanding of Muslim societies.  The competitive project attracted hundreds of applicants.

The LaGuardia Performing Arts Center’s (LPAC) Beyond Sacred: Unthinking Muslim Identity is an 18-month interdisciplinary project created to expand the awareness and understanding about Muslim society through a panoply of activities that include live theatre performances, community forums, and photography exhibitions.

“Although Muslims are a vital part of the fabric of our shared city, too many exist as outsiders, “ said Steven Hitt, managing director of LPAC, who cited a Pew Research Center report that stated the number of Americans with favorable views of Islam dropped from 41 percent in 2005 to 30 percent in 2010.  “After 9/11 we still find too much misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and fear of the Muslim faith and culture.  This project will use the power of live performances, cultural dialogue and academic engagement, across disciplines and genres, to inspire community-wide conversations to address those wrongs.”

The centerpiece of the Beyond Sacred project will be four theatrical performances developed by Ping Chong + Company, an internationally recognized theatre company known for bringing marginalized voices to the stage.  PCC has been commissioned to develop a new work that will be part of its Undesirable Elements series, an oral history theatre project that uses personal testimonies to examine issues of culture and identity.

The in-person testimonies will be gathered by an artistic team made up of PPC and LPAC representatives that will travel to the five boroughs to conduct in-depth interviews of Muslim residents.  From the collection of interviews, the dramatic scripts will be developed.  “The artistic scripts will weave together interviewees’ individual experiences with historical events in a chronological narrative touching on both political and personal experiences,” said Mr. Hitt who noted that joining the cast will be six to eight interviewees who will perform a dramatic narrative describing their own experiences.

An additional 12 live theatrical performances will be presented at LaGuardia.  Dance, music and multi-media performances will be with local, national and international artists.  Also taking the stage will be LaGuardia theatre students who will create and perform an original piece.

LPAC will also partner with the other City University of New York campuses that will host live performances, exhibitions as well as community panels and forums that will cover such topics as culturally-based bullying; the role of media in the perception of Muslim culture; LGBT identity within Muslim cultures; and identifying as Muslim in a contemporary Western world.

Still another partner will be the Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert Series that will feature three live music performances headlining Muslim performers and composers.

Mr. Hitt said that through the activities the project will reach a minimum of 36,000 live attendees and an additional virtual audience of 45,000.

“Since its founding, LPAC has been dedicated to presenting culturally and ethnically diverse programming of the highest quality to the residents of the richly diverse borough of Queens,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia.  “Through this generous gift from the Doris Duke Foundation, LPAC will be able to increase awareness and a better understanding of the Muslim communities through the performing arts.”

The other Building Bridges recipients were: Art2Action, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; Davis Performing Arts Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; The Cedar Cultural Center, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, University of Houston, Houston, Texas; and Wesleyan Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit to learn more.