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Building community through the arts

Create New York (CNY) was a multiyear partnership program between TDF and community centers, one in each New York City borough, and used theatre and dance as a way to promote change in oneself, one’s neighborhood and, ultimately, one’s city.

Create New York


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Create New York ended in 2023.

Every group completed a three-year cycle with increasing autonomy every year. Each year, participants democratically selected performing arts events whose themes, aesthetics or artists directly related back to their shared interests and vision for their community. Over post-meal discussions, the groups discussed their experience and its relevance. Together we aspired to increase cultural participation in live performance through the development of community ambassadors and cultural architects who, by serving as leaders and influencers, helped to create sustainable audiences for dance and theatre throughout New York City. At each year’s end, participants created a community-based project inspired by their cultural experiences that benefited their neighborhood at large.


Read more about Create New York on TDF Stages.



H.E.R.S, Healing Evolving Resolving Self, was an original event curated by a group of women as a part of The Dream Center Harlem and TDF’s Create New York program. The H.E.R.S event was inspired by our group’s dialogue stimulated by theatrical events throughout the year. The event focused on female empowerment through four specific lenses; Health and Wellness, Self-Image, Self-Love, and Sexuality. These lenses were explored through the performing arts, multi-media productions, and interactive themed workshops led by experts in the field, plus the opportunity to purchase naturally made products, and to develop relationships with people in the Harlem community who share the same value system. For a full list of local business partners present at HERS, download the PDF.


HE IS: EMBRACE, ENHANCE, EDUCATE was a day for men. The women of TDF’s Create New York Program created HE IS in response to seeing plays throughout the city, specifically, The National Black Theater of Harlem’s production of KILL MOVE PARADISE by James Ijames. The conversation surrounding that production inspired the women to curate an event for men in their community.

MATTERS: In Search of truth, humanity and other themes. The Dream Center Harlem and TDF’s Create New York group curated an Harlem Art Gallery Crawl. Our guiding words for the crawl were Truth. Humanity. Expectation. Pain. Ascension. Each word is representative of the five live theatrical performances. CNY members led gallery crawl tours and used each guiding word as a lens to view the art on display. The Dream Center Harlem was transformed into a gallery with 15 local artist’s work on display and for sale. The main attraction was the unveiling of a dome representative of the five words at The Dream Center by local artist, Tony Gonzalez.


This is how we did it! Family. Love. Joy. was a daylong wellness event that welcomed all families with children in the South Bronx community to unplug and reconnect with one another. It took place in the gymnasium at Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education this past August. Together we went on a journey that took us from playing street games of the past, to cooking healthy meals on a budget with chef, Raynelle Sahadeo, and closing with family meditation facilitated by Lisa Green.

East New York: My Story: Arts East New York’s TDF CNY group teamed up with one of East New York’s largest farmer’s markets, and curated a photography exhibit of select individuals in the local community who are doing good and giving back. The AENY CNY group wanted to honor their local community, share their stories, and be a part of a big event in their area. Create New York community projects are planned, created, and executed by every group every year. The projects are always inspired by the experience of collectively seeing live performances, making connections to each other and the art on stage, and the conversations that are sparked by the shows. The main theme of their community project was empowerment through personal storytelling.

The Power of Storytelling - Interviews. TDF invited students from Democracy Prep Harlem High School & Democracy Prep Endurance High School to participate in community event titled The Power of Storytelling. During the event at The Dream Center Harlem, student’s spoke about personal experiences as they relate to themes from performances they had seen over the past year as well as post-show discussions with their Create New York cohorts.

The Power of Storytelling In a conjoining, latter event (after the interviews above) all CNY cohort members and students participated in a workshop led by teaching artist, Lisa Strum. Strum's teachings on the power of telling your own story and leaning into vulnerability, were centered in self-acceptance and love. After the workshop, the CNY cohort surprised the students with professionally taken portraits in frames as well as a video of the complied interviews seen above.


For more information on Create New York, contact


Thank you to our sponsors:

Bloomberg Philanthropies
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
New York State Council on the Arts
TD Charitable Foundation


Create New York is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council

Create New York is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

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