Ethnic Arts Center

History and Accomplishments

          The Ethnic Arts Center was founded in 1980 following a series of 6 Ethnic Festivals and a very popular Ethnic Arts Project in the East Somerville, Massachusetts neighborhood.  At that time, the scope of "ethnic heritage" projects extended to the image of a (now politically incorrect) Native American Indian wearing a feathered headband.  Somerville at that time was primarily Irish and Italian.  Over 150 children from the Nunnery Grounds neighborhood participated for 6 months in a lively program. From this 18 parents met to plan a new nonprofit which opened its doors October 1980 with much fanfare.  Through a model after school program and a myriad of projects which linked up with numerous agencies and schools, the Center blossomed and became a part of the fabric of Somerville.  Three programs of note were the rewriting of the Local History Curriculum of the Somerville Public Schools to include its immigration history, the creation of a 40,000 Ethnic Resources Collection, and leading a series of 18 yearly International Festivals.
          Through waves of immigration including Tamils, Vietnamese, Haitians, El Salvadorians, Brazilians, etc. the Center became a welcoming presence for scores of Newcomers as well as a fun way for the Old-timers to "break bread" with their new neighbors. 
          More recently, the Center lost its long term storefront under the pressures of gentrification in the area.  The Center creatively transformed itself into a caravan approach which continues its interagency and school collaboration in the form of sharing space in the cooler months.  In the warmer months it brings programs to local playgrounds.  The Center has been at the forefront of gang prevention in the neighborhood with its milieu therapy approach. The Ethnic Arts Center has grown to provide contracts throughout Eastern Mass. - to schools, day care centers, and housing projects.  With the hopes of building a World Puppet Theatre, the center continues its work of providing inspiration and resources to ethnic discovery projects everywhere.