Efforts of Grace, Inc. operates the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, a 6600-square-foot multi-use facility located on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in the heart of the historic Central City section of New Orleans. In addition, Efforts of Grace is in the process of also developing another facility – The Kuumba Cottage, a multidisciplinary arts education center for youth. The Ashé Cultural Arts Center also has several other innovative programs and projects in various stages of development. All these endeavors are designed to utilize culture to foster human development, civic engagement and economic justice in the African-American community.
The Efforts of Grace /Ashé Cultural Arts Center and its principals have been the recipients of several prestigious honors, including the 2001 New Orleans Multi-Cultural Tourism Network's New Product Award and a 2004 New Orleans Mayor's Arts Award.
The work of Efforts of Grace has been supported by private and public funders as well as by contributions from individuals. Additional funding is sought to support both ongoing programs and new initiatives.
Organization History and Values
Efforts of Grace, Inc. was coaxed into existence in 1993 by members of the African-American community who were concerned about complicated, stereotypical and negative images that had become popular subject matter for contemporary art exhibits in white-controlled organizations in New Orleans in the early 1990s. The concern was so great that a number of individuals, organizations, educators, and families raised money and urged artist Douglas Redd and writer/producer Carol Bebelle to create and exhibit a more positive and inspiring view of African Americans for New Orleans. The result was an installation named Efforts of Grace.
The early history of Efforts of Grace was dominated by community visual-art and eventually performance-art projects that toured throughout the South. Over time, five self-contained installations were developed by Redd and Bebelle. The themes of the works were the story of our people's struggles in America and our hopes and dreams for a better life. The exhibits were called Efforts of Grace, Grace Under Fire, Savin' Grace, Throne of Grace. In the process of developing and traveling these exhibitions and their performance components throughout the Southeastern United States, it became obvious that there was a need to develop an organizational structure to support these activities.
Douglas Redd and Carol Bebelle became the founders and Carol Bebelle is the current head of the organization, named Efforts of Grace by Jerome Smith, a New Orleans community-based leader and noted Civil Rights Movement hero. Soon after incorporating, the need to find space to rehearse, to store, to present, and to continue creating became so constant that it was clear Efforts of Grace required its own home.
In December of 1998, through the blessing of friends and the good fortune of networking, Efforts of Grace, Inc. was able to lease its current space on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center was established.
After opening our doors for business, we soon discovered that we were not the only ones needing space to further our efforts. Our physical community (Central City), our affiliation community (art and cultural workers and organizations), and our alliance community (schools, churches, community organizations, etc.) all needed space, too.
The Ashé Cultural Arts Center was available, accessible and flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of activities, from "Undoing Racism" workshops to Teacher Corps Training; art exhibits; theater; New Orleans Police Department award programs; an anniversary remembrance of a Black Panther Party standoff with the police; community planning meetings; and family gatherings to celebrate births, marriages and to help loved ones say final goodbyes.
We started with the concept of a welcoming place where folks could meet with regularity to plan and to create art. Inside of that simple formula we then added productions, art exhibits, community events and gatherings. This basic foundation led to a natural and easy evolution that has created its own organic path for growth. The progress has allowed us to strengthen our commitment to culture, to community and to art in general, while expanding the opportunities for the intersections of our physical, affiliation and alliance communities.
The core values that guide Efforts of Grace, Inc.
and Ashé Cultural Arts Center are:
• Community-based Connectedness
• Community Advocacy
• Community Dialogue
• Cultural Reciprocity and Justice
• Economic and Community Development
These values shape and permeate the work
and initiatives of the organization.
Our partnerships and alliances include artists, cultural workers and cultural/arts organizations, change agents, churches, community advocates and advocacy organizations, service delivery organizations, schools, and service organizations. These partnerships and alliances are critical to the success of Efforts of Grace and our home base.
Despite the fact that New Orleans is a close-knit community and the fact that Central City is "smack dab" in the middle of town and adjacent to the most active areas of New Orleans – the Central Business District, the civic district, the Garden District, and the arts district – it is isolated from economic opportunity and the paths of upward mobility. As a result, it has been really important to our organization to foster and participate in community organizing and networking efforts in Central City.
We are active participants in the Central City Partnership, a community-based collaborative. We are active participants and meeting host for the Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Merchants and Business Association, a neighborhood improvement association.
We are members of the Carter G. Woodson Community School Planning and Implementation Team. We are convenors of the annual community remembrance of ancestors lost in the Middle Passage called the "New Orleans Maafa Commemoration".
We have accepted the role of vocal advocate and lead negotiator in sharing the vision for the redevelopment of O.C. Haley Boulevard with the broader community, identifying potential resources, allies, as well as potential threats to this vision.