In 2020, Hester Street began working with The Pocantico Center to develop an audience diversity and outreach strategy to ensure more inclusive, expansive programming as the Center builds a vision for its future. The Center, based in Westchester County, has long been a private estate of the Rockefeller family and is now open to the public for a range of arts and cultural programs. The Center has taken this moment to proactively develop an engagement strategy to build new audiences and establish its value as a community resource, working with diverse local communities to overcome the physical and perceived barriers to access. This institutional commitment to better engage low-income communities of color across Westchester County and beyond is an important step towards equitably sharing the arts, open space, and resources within the estate.
Throughout Summer/Fall 2020, Hester Street engaged staff at the Center, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, local arts and cultural institutions, and community-based organizations across Westchester County, drawing upon their experiences to co-develop a strategy that can diversify the Center’s audiences and advance community partnerships. The goal was to broaden community awareness about the Center’s existing programs and engage potential audiences and stakeholders for feedback, with a focus on meeting people where they are. Within the context of COVID-19 pandemic, the Hester Street team leveraged its community engagement expertise to conduct inclusive virtual conversations and activities to gather critical input on ways to better foster relationships between the Center and potential audiences. Such audiences would include local community partners, families with young children, millennials, non-native English speakers, low-income residents, and communities of color. We delivered a report to the Center with our research, findings, recommended actions and suggested pilots in 2021.