President’s Perspective is a blog by Grace Farms Foundation’s Chair & President, Sharon Prince.
Grace Farms opened in October 2015 as a new kind of public space for people to encounter the arts, pursue justice, foster community, and explore faith within our 80 acres. Our open architecture and hospitality encourage people to spend time here, for a leisurely afternoon or to contribute to the Foundation’s mission to advance grace and peace in our communities and around the world.
The River building, with its transparent volumes, abundant communal spaces, and transcendent views of the landscape provide the ideal environment from which to launch our core initiatives. Thanks to our team and the collaborations forged with our partners, the outcomes have far exceeded what we could have anticipated or achieved alone. Hotel employees across the state were trained to identify and report signs of trafficking, our support of local non-profits through grants of space increased while state funding diminished, and Unchain, a first-of-its-kind global awareness campaign to eradicate modern day slavery was introduced after a year of development at our second anniversary benefit on October 14th.
We are beginning to make a lasting difference in the world because innovative experts and people of all backgrounds have contributed dialogue, artistic expression, action-oriented strategies, new partnerships, and thoughtful perspectives to our place and mission. In this time of heightened concern for women and people of color, we engaged issues related to gender, race, and faith with Auburn Seminary President and Senior Fellows, and examined the history of racism in the United States with National Book Award-winner Ibram Kendi, author of Stamped From the Beginning. We’re looking forward to next month’s performance of The Langston Hughes Project led by artist and scholar Dr. Ron McCurdy, in the fourth installment of our Race and American Memory series.
This year, through the Arts Initiative, artists working at the intersection of the visual, literary, and performing arts, gathered at Grace Farms to participate in Practicing Silence, a yearlong collaborative Arts Initiative workshop, resulting in new works shared with the public. This summer, dancers from The New York City Ballet, poet Ilya Kaminsky, a sound designer and live musicians, created a piercing story addressing the silence of oppression. It will soon be followed with a participatory public art project, The Quiet Circus: Landscape Game, inspired by the history of Grace Farms and theme of silence as contemplation. Next year, we’ll introduce Practicing Joy.
Engaging not-for-profits working on the front lines and cultivating new community solutions among these partners has continued to enhance the life of our River building and grounds. We have offered more than 80 grants of space to not-for-profits to do their work on site, and are now connecting those organizations with each other through roundtable discussions and the Foundation’s public programming.
A multi-year process of restoring Grace Farms from its days as an equestrian facility to a healthy and sustainable ecosystem is underway. With the removal of invasive species and protection of open space, we’ve seen the return of pollinators, which have in turn brought back rarely seen bird species, including the American Kestrel. Birdwatching has become a highlight experience for people of all ages, often enhanced by spectacular glimpses of birds in flight over our meadows.
At Grace Farms Foundation, we believe that social impact requires systemic change, Grace Farms is an ideal place to bring individuals, corporations, governmental agencies, and not-for-profits together to initiate multifaceted action. We brought together such a group last summer for a workshop with United Nations University and 100 experts to address human trafficking in conflict, which resulted in a United Nations Security Council Resolution (2331) and our new Unchain campaign.
To create Unchain, we are partnering with WPP agencies, Geometry Global and J. Walter Thompson, and Shazam, to unite public, corporate, governmental, and individual efforts to stop the many faces of modern slavery by generating unprecedented public awareness. We have begun fundraising for media placement and solidifying partners to launch Unchain as a movement by 2019.
We hope that you will join us throughout the seasons for a pot of tea in the Pavilion and to link arms as we endeavor to contribute to a more equitable, peaceful world.