MoCADA, or the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, is a museum of contemporary art in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is the first museum of its kind to be opened in New York. MoCADA’s mission is to rediscover valuable African cultural traditions that were lost through colonization and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and to foster a dynamic space for the creation of the continuous evolution of culture.
MoCADA believes that the concept of the museum exists within its people and it is the museum’s goal to serve as a conduit for African Diaspora forms of expression ranging from the visual and performing arts to film and television with the goal of repositioning the continent of Africa and its people in both a foundational and central role in world development. Since the museum’s inception, MoCADA has placed primary emphasis on reaching underserved communities through on-site as well as out-of-doors programming.
MoCADA was founded in 1999 by Laurie Cumbo in a building owned by the historical Bridge Street AWME Church in the heart of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn, New York. Cumbo founded MoCADA in response to the need for a museum reflective of the arts and cultures of the African Diaspora.
In 2006, MoCADA moved to its current home, an expanded space at 80 Hanson Place, at South Portland Avenue, in Fort Greene, a historically black middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn which is home to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) arts district. MoCADA has grown to accommodating many exhibitions throughout the year that highlight various identities of the African Diaspora. The central location of Fort Greene, allows for a cross section of the Brooklyn community to gather at MoCADA and partake in the many events produced for each exhibition. With a large bookstore, MoCADA holds the space for such events as book readings, student tours and musical events.
Saying No: Reconciling Spirituality and Resistance in Indigenous Australian Art is an exhibition curated by Australian artist Bindi Cole. Based on Cole's previous exhibition in Australia, Saying No combines the religious ceremonial practices highlighted by Indigenous artist with the protest for Indigenous rights and visibility in the public imagaination. The curatorial statement is as follows: "The word 'no' does not exist in the Australian Aboriginal languages. Where it does exist, this powerful word is reserved for the elders and is used with great care and ceremony. As these languages reach the brink of extinction, indigenous Australian artists are using contemporary art to assert their identity and culture and say no to racism, land theft and colonialism in an urban world. Saying No features sculpture, installation, painting, photography, video, audio and mixed media works." Some of the exhibiting artists include Tony Albert, Vicki Couzens, Fiona Foley, Daniel Boyd and Maree Clark.
Re-imagining Haiti was a two-part exhibition curated through a partnership between MoCADA and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI). MoCADA and CCCADI celebrate capstone anniversary years and pay tribute to the tenacity and resilience of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Re-Imagining Haiti is a collaborative exhibition project that reflects a desire to preserve sacred traditions as well as contribute to a collective vision of what Haiti can become in the future.
CCCADI presented the exhibit Standing with Papa Legba: Vodou at the Crossroads. This is an exhibition that explores the state of contemporary practices of Vodou and the aesthetic traditions associated with this ancient spirituality.
MoCADA presented Le Projet Nouveau, a multi-media platform that reflects the voices of many artists who propose ecological, cosmological, architectural and sociological methods to be used in Haiti's reconstruction. Coinciding with the 1st anniversary of the devastating earthquake that ravaged the country, Re-Imagining Haiti serves to facilitate the production of ideas and actions in modern day Haiti. Le Projet Nouveau brings together 18 artists whose work presents ideas about the re-construction of Haiti. The exhibiting artists draw upon political, cultural, architectural and socio-economic themes to propose what can be offered towards the re-shaping of the first black republic. The exhibition highlights the aesthetic response of artists to the turbulence that has plagued the nation since it gained independence from France in 1804. The artists in the exhibition used their practices to visualize Haiti's future by re-imagining the country through its people, its culture, the African Diaspora, and its artistic legacy. The artists featured in this exhibit are as follows: Trevor Brown, Nelson Caban, Rebekah A. Frimpong, Edouard Steinhauer, Michele Stephenson, Wahala Temi, Adrienne E. Wheeler, Nathan Williams, Tracee Worley.
List of past exhibitions
- PIXELATING: Black in New Dimensions
- Feed Your Head: The African Origin of the Scientific Aesthetic
- Saying No: Reconciling Spirituality and Resistance in Indigenous Australian Art
- Ain't I A Woman
- Gentrification of Brooklyn
- Johannesburg to New York
- Perspectives: Women, Art and Islam
- I Am A Man
- Dread Scott: Welcome to America
- Black Madonna
- They Won't Budge: Africans in Europe
- The Middle Passage: White Ships, Black Cargo
- Arturo Lindsay: Love
- The French Evolution: Race, Politics and the 2005 Riots
In 2012, the museum landed a $100,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to pay for a two-year program that brought monthly concerts to public spaces in NYCHA Houses like Walt Whitman, Ingersoll, and Farragut in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The concert series, titled "Public Exchange," attracted talented musicians and drew crowds up to 500 or 600. The following year in 2013, MoCADA launched another art performance series, Soul of Brooklyn, which is "a series of block-party style arts events meant to bring the community together and promote local businesses." As the current executive director stated: “Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties are meant to concentrate Brooklyn’s artistic energy in a single place at a single time, in order to bring people together and foster interactions between artists and the community as a whole. What better way to increase vibrancy in our community than to showcase this renaissance in the streets and the businesses that people frequent every day? Rather than expecting people to adapt their lives to the arts, we bring the arts right to the people.”
From 2001 to 2011, Cumbo served as a graduate professor in the Arts and Cultural Management program at Pratt Institute's School of Art & Design.
In 2014, now-city councilmember Laurie Cumbo designated $1.4 million, her largest capital budget allocation, to MoCADA, which she founded and directed before winning a position on city council. This was matched by the same amount of money in the city’s executive budget for the 2015 fiscal year. While technically not illegal, Capital New York noted, her support for the museum is "notable chiefly for the sizable, seven-figure contribution, and for her personal closeness to the recipient organization." The blog reported that for most city council members, "the allocations reported on their conflict-of-interest forms were a fraction of the one to MoCADA." The executive director of Citizens Union, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, said the action “raises questions about why she alone would fund an organization that she founded....It smacks of showing favoritism, in a way that almost crosses the line." Coordinates: 40°41′7″N 73°58′27.5″W / 40.68528°N 73.974306°W
- "MoCADA Mission & History". MoCADA. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- Croghan, Lore (26 June 2012). "A $100,000 grant will bring free concerts to Brooklyn housing projects". New York Daily News. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- "MoCADA's Community-Oriented Event Season". Downtown Brooklyn. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- Kraus, Mercedes (17 April 2013). "Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts: Fort Greene, Brooklyn". Urban Omnibus. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- "Alumnae Profiles: Laurie Cumbo, C'97". Spelman College. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- Pazmino, Gloria (16 July 2014). "Councilwoman funds expansion of museum she founded". Capital New York. Politico. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
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