Q&A with Culture for One

Feb 29, 2024

We are thrilled to introduce you to New York based non-profit Culture for One, an organization bringing arts and culture opportunities to youth in foster care. Learn all about their mission in this Q&A!

What is Culture for One (CFO)?

Culture for One is a non-profit devoted solely to making a difference in the lives of New York
City children and youth in foster care through the power of the arts. Our Cultural Excursions,
Arts Scholarships, and Arts Workshops programs inspire creativity, create community,
and introduce vulnerable young people to broader possibilities for their future.  
We fill a critical gap in child welfare services — while the arts are known to promote healthy
growth at every developmental stage, opportunities to engage in the arts are rarely available to
youth in foster care. Our programs introduce the wonders and magic of the arts, from music,
dance, and painting to fashion, writing, and theater. These programs deliver the motivation
that young people need to thrive, not just survive.

How did Culture for One start? 

Culture for One was created in 2010 when its founder, Linn Tanzman, interested in learning
more about becoming a foster parent, invited Kadijah, a teen living in foster care, to a
Broadway play and dinner. The impact this event had on both Kadijah and Linn motivated Linn
to offer this opportunity to more children in NYC’s foster care system. That year, Linn and a few
dedicated volunteers brought 53 children to theater, dance, and music performances. Today,
we offer three core arts programs, partner with six NYC-based foster care agencies and serve
over 1700 young people every year.

What types of activities do the participants get to partake in? 

We offer through three different programs: 

Cultural Excursions
We bring families and youth to cultural events including Broadway shows, museums, art
galleries, concerts and ballet. For our December Excursions, we took children to Alvin Ailey
American Dance at City Center, The Magic Flute and The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and the
Christmas Spectacular at Radio City. We hosted a small group of older youth at an event with
Ross Rayburn, for the launch of his new book. We are now planning an excursion to the
Brooklyn Museum to see Swizzz Beatz’s collection of works by black artists and a tour of the
Spike Lee exhibition. These events are followed by meals where our staff, volunteers, and
youth discuss the event and nurture conversation and friendship to build community.

Arts Scholarships
Our Arts Scholarship program allows children to explore interests and acquire skills by offering
scholarships, guidance, and enrollment at cultural enrichment programs in the fields of music,
theater, dance, and art. Classes take place after school or on weekends at convenient locations.
Currently we have 49 children enrolled in 72 arts classes in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and
Manhattan. Scholarship study is game-changing for many of the youth who participate. They may even
move from an interest in an art to a formal study at one of NYC’s respected cultural institutions.
Some examples: Nickson studies piano at Third Street Music School in Manhattan, MacKenzie
studies visual arts at Harlem School of the Arts, and Arianna pursues dance and drumming at
Ifetayo in Brooklyn. 

Arts Workshops
Our Arts Workshops program brings arts study to young people living in residential care who,
for a variety of reasons, might not be able to attend individual classes or excursions outside the
residence. Culture for One has a trusted community of experienced teaching artists who offer
theater, dance, and art workshops. For example, we offer a Creative Writing and Theater
workshop for teen boys living at Martin Porres Residence in Ozone Park, Queens.
 

What kind of impact has Culture for One had on the community? 

Sadly, youth in foster care are an at-risk group whose futures can be statistically grim. Early
trauma and lack of opportunity makes emotional, educational, and professional success a major
challenge. Our programs have changed these trajectories for many of the youth we serve. For
example — Marissa, age 20, emigrated from the Caribbean when she was 10. A couple of years
later, she lost her mom. Because she had no other family who could take her in, Marissa
entered the foster care system and moved to residential care at Good Shepherd Services.
Marissa’s case worker let us know of Marissa’s interests and talents in art and graphic design
and we enrolled her in classes including sewing, graphic design, and art. We then set Marissa up
with a teaching artist who worked with her for 6 months to create a fashion design portfolio for
college applications. Marissa is now in her third year at the Fashion Institute of Technology and
doing great!

What are some of the goals of Culture for One? 

Our goal is to use the power of the arts to help young people in New York City foster care reach
their potential and follow their dreams. We do this one child at a time, focusing on what that
child wants and needs, and the resources we can offer. We believe all children are entitled to
participate in the arts and our mission is to help close the gap in arts opportunities available to
youth in care. As Culture for One “grows up” each year, so do many of the youth we have been working with for years. We strive to go even deeper in our support of these amazing young people as they
move towards independent adulthood. We hope to expand our outreach to more foster care agencies throughout the city and into the homes of families in preventive care, cultural experiences, and the arts to strengthen family bonds to keep them together.

Will you tell us about the children Culture for One works with? What are some of their challenges & how does Culture for One work to alleviate those challenges? 

We work with youth ages 2 to 25 in New York City’s foster care system. Children enter the
system because it is unsafe for them to stay in their homes due to poverty, neglect, and
sometimes, abuse. Most children in the foster care system enter adulthood with few prospects
for a successful future. However, participation in our programs opens new worlds and
possibilities while also giving access to caring and supportive adults – artists, arts teachers, and
CFO staff and volunteers — who can teach, mentor, and contribute to the youth’s social and
emotional well-being and success.
 

How can our audience get involved/support your endeavors?

We’d love everyone to learn more about what we do by following us on Instagram –
@cultureforone – and visiting our website – www.cultureforone.org – where you can support
us with a donation! Since we are a small organization, every dollar has a large impact.
To make a deeper contribution, you can inquire about invitations to our Spring Cultivation Event or
Fall Gala, volunteering for excursions, or hosting a small group of youth at an arts-related
business ( see below). To go even further, please reach out to me directly at
susank@cultureforone.org.

Can they attend workshops and/or work directly with the kids? 

Yes, there are opportunities to work directly with the kids. Interested adults can be trained to
become CFO volunteers and join us on excursions, of which there are about 40 per year. For
those who own an arts-related business or have connections to someone who does, our older
youth get a lot out of visiting a company, meeting with employees, and learning about different
jobs and skills – we call these “Cool Company Visits.” Teens and older youth in our programs are
aging out of care and benefit greatly from learning about job possibilities and talking to role
models.

What events can they attend?

We will host a ticketed spring event and can share the details soon. Our Fall Gala takes place on
Monday, October 21, and we’ll also share those details when we get closer to the date. Last
fall, we honored choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, and are very excited about this year’s
honoree as well. Please check our Instagram for updates!

Where can people find you?

Follow us on Instagram @cultureforone, and on our website, www.cultureforone.org

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