Meet Curtis Young

March 24, 2015

We chatted with Curtis Young, co-chair of our 2015 SOAPBOX Steering Committee! Keep reading to find out more about him.


You were a part of the SOAPBOX Steering Committee last year, and this year we’re honored to have you as our event co-chair! What made you excited about getting involved with The LP?

I was introduced to The LP by a close friend and immediately loved the concept. Last year, I was honored to be part of the Steering Committee and supporter of many on-the-ground projects administered by The LP throughout the year. After seeing first hand the impact The LP is making in communities throughout New York, I couldn’t resist saying yes to co-chairing the event. I am most excited to serve in a larger capacity and being able to have a larger impact. Much like I was introduced to The LP, I’m looking forward to sharing this amazing work to friends near and far who are supporters of the arts and youth programming.


You used to work in politics (including at the House of Representatives and the John Kerry campaign), and international education. In your free time, you’re active with a TON of amazing philanthropic efforts. Clearly, you’re passionate about making a positive impact in the world. How do you see arts and culture effecting social change?

Arts and Culture has always played an active role in social change. Some of my favorite artists around the world use / used their craft to promote messages of equality, peace, and enhancement of the human experience. When walking past a powerful piece of art, you stop and say, “Wow, that’s a powerful message.” It causes you to reflect and stand still in that moment. It causes us to consider the condition which inspired the artist. I always find art created by children to be some of the most important pieces when thinking of art as an agent for social change. Children create with purity. They are not consumed with making money, nor do they care about art critics. They are simply creating and sending powerful messages directly through their human experiences and from their hearts. Imagine the world painted by children. That could change many things.


You’ve traveled widely and lived in many interesting places. Any favorite places you’ve lived (besides NYC, of course!)?

I love all things Middle East and North Africa. My most memorable experiences, other than living in France for nearly three years, was the year I lived in the West Bank working as an instructor at An Najeh University and also teaching 2nd graders at a local private school. However, Morocco would be number one on my list. I spent a summer based in Marrakesh in 2010 and it was certainly a life enhancing experience. Morocco embodies all things I love: the French and Arabic language, centuries old architecture, delicious food, and quintessential African hospitality, which immediately reminds you of home. I also love the colors of each city. “Kech” as I call it was coined the red city because of the red walls surrounding the old city built in the 12th Century. I think it’s stunning.


What advice would you give to other young professionals interested in getting involved in philanthropy?

My father taught me to follow the heart in all cases. I would give that advice to young professionals interested in philanthropy. It’s easy to over-commit, so one must really take a step back often and ask the following question: “Am I passionate about what I am doing and am I providing a service or improving the lives of others?” If the answer is no, then you probably should be doing something else.


What are you most excited about for SOAPBOX 2015?

I’m excited that SOAPBOX 2015 falls on the cusp of the 10th Anniversary of The LP’s programming! It’s going to be the perfect lead up to this momentous occasion. I’m also excited to be on the same team with so many dedicated individuals who embody the mission of The LP in their daily lives. That alone inspires me!


What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?

Frank Sinatra: New York, New York


What’s your favorite thing about your neighborhood / uptown?

I’m an uptown guy. Living uptown gives me the separation I need from the downtown hustle and bustle. I’m on the West side near Riverside Park, which is perfect for my morning runs.


What song gets you going when work is hard?

“7/11” by Beyonce.


About Curtis

Curtis D. Young is a New York based cultural enthusiast with a profound interest in art, politics and international education. His lifelong passion for politics was enhanced as an undergraduate at Hampton University, when he served as a White House Intern in the Clinton Administration’s Office of Cabinet Affairs. This momentous experience provided the foundation for his future work with Congressman Bobby Scott, Virginia House of Delegates Member Mamye E. BaCote, and both Al Gore and John Kerry’s Presidential Campaigns. After years in politics, Curtis enrolled in graduate school at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service in 2005 where he studied Urban Planning and Development. This new educational venture led him abroad where he volunteered for the award winning NGO Tostan International in Senegal and Guinea assisting in efforts to end the practice of female genital cutting in West Africa.


A passionate francophone at heart, Curtis can be found supporting causes connecting his appreciation for French patrimony, the French language, museums, cancer research and sustainable development in Africa. He is currently an Advisory Council member of the Young Patrons Circle of American Friends of the Louvre Museum, Young Friends of the Dream Ball (American Cancer Society), and Young Ambassadors of Malaria No More.


Curtis currently works as the Co-Director of the Ross Institute, RLS Project.


More Suggested Readings from The LP Community

March 19, 2015

When we published our last blog post of suggested readings from The LP community, the response was overwhelming. We received a ton of additional recommendations of readings and resources and decided we’d share them here. Thanks so much to everyone for all your suggestions!


The Color Line and United States Cultural Policy

Roberto Bedoya


[Evolution > Revolution?]

Carlton Turner


Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

Robin D.G. Kelley


In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Richard Iton


Real Love: In Pursuit of Cultural Justice

Andrew Ross


The Subversive Imagination: Artists, Society & Social Responsiblity

Carol Becker, editor


Unraveling the Yarn: Self-Reflection, Critical Incidents, and Missteps Leading to Continued Growth as a Culturally Sensitive Art Educator (PDF)

Jeffrey L. Broome


The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Isabel Wilkerson


Do you have feedback for us, or other recommendations? We’d love to hear from you! Send us an email at and let us know!


Formula for Community-Based Projects

February 28, 2015

Program Director Petrushka Bazin Larsen was part of Bronx Artists Now: Showcase & Conversation hosted by Pepatián for the 2015 APAP conference, where she presented on the theme of “Creating Site-Specific Works in the South Bronx.” Below is a transcript of her remarks:


There is actually no real formula to follow or to execute in this practice. In my opinion there are three essential elements: time, listening, and research. We bring art programming into laundromats and other community/public spaces, specifically in Bed-Stuy, Harlem, Hunts Point, and Longwood. We worked closely with Casita Maria last year and will also continue doing so this year.


At the base of all the works are our artists and artists-in-residence. We provide a residency, monetary support, and professional resources/development to make their work happen, and we work with local artists only. What do I mean by local artists — artists that live in that neighborhood. Artists who respond to the question, “Do you live here?” with “Yes!”


The research to conduct is what the community is about, what is going on in the neighborhood, and how to relate to it. The projects should reflect what the area is. That means that as an artist, you have to put aside your personal, brilliant ideas and first think about what surrounds you. And this is how our residency works. The artists have their project, they have their ideas, but they also know that they have to open a

space for their neighbors.


I cannot stress enough the time component when working on a site-specific project. Everything takes a lot of time. You have to invest a lot into conversations, meetings, running around, and collecting information that has to later be synthesized with what you want to do. You have to be a curator, an educator, and an artist all at once. Not easy. It’s a lot of work at the same time. You have to make space for your neighbors and for their ideas, stepping away from what you are concerned about.


We have developed a small booklet called “Community and Neighborhood Mapping Workbook” which presents a listening exercise and helps in conceiving a site-specific work. It was developed for our artists, but it is actually good for everyone. You can download it as a PDF here.


Please download our Community and Neighborhood Mapping Workbook (PDF). We would love to gather feedback about your experience with the workbook and find out whether it is useful. Email us at and let us know!