In celebration of the Creative Arts program, Fortune is thrilled to announce the launch of the Art Portal. The new website serves as a digital platform for the Fortune Arts community. It features original works by participants – including music, visual art, spoken word, poetry and theatrical performances – plus details on collaborations, upcoming events, standing workshops and additional resources.
Jamie Maleszka, Director of Creative Arts at Fortune, shares that Art Portal was born out of a need to better forge community connection, celebrate and amplify the artists and advocate for healing through the arts.
“There are amazing things happening and the world should know what happens here,” said Jamie. “The whole world should know about the joy that is being shared.”
With that goal in mind, the Creative Arts community partnered with Laura Cerón Melo, an artist and graphic designer to create Art Portal. Laura quickly noticed as they began attending Arts workshops over the course of more than a year that the people in this community were deeply talented and committed to being involved in each other’s lives. However, there was not a central place where they could publish and amplify their work.
Art Portal is rooted in a commitment to community, and the artists whose work is featured were included in each design decision, from typography and color palette choices to broader messaging, content and language.
Laura and the group of talented artists that worked on the website also wanted Art Portal to serve as an invitation to other individuals with justice histories who may be seeking a brave space where they can use creative expression to explore, learn and unlearn.
“A lot of people who are coming back into the community don’t know about this Arts program, so it’s important to share this life-affirming community and the power that is art and art-making,” said Laura. “More than a website, it is really is conceived as a portal: a door, a gateway where people can come in and be welcomed and share their magic.”
The participating artists are energized for the opportunity that Art Portal offers for their voices to be celebrated. Becky, an artist and Fortune participant, likes that her work is featured in this community-focused manner.
“To be able to share your work in a space that is safe and secure and supportive,” Becky said. Part of what makes her most excited about the platform is the chance to connect with other artists, advocates and organizations. “I think the biggest part of this program is the healing and the connectivity to not just our community but the chance to collaborate with other communities too.”
Hilton, a prolific poet and writer and a Castle resident in Harlem, is excited that Art Portal will make Fortune’s Creative Arts Program even more accessible to people who are interested in joining. Though he had been a part of Fortune for a while, Hilton had not been involved with any art workshops as they were predominately held at the Long Island City service center. But, when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the bulk of programs to be held virtually, he eagerly joined workshops on Zoom
When the artists are asked about their hopes for the future of Art Portal and the Creative Arts Program in general, they speak about how they want their work to impact other artists and individuals who have yet to join this community. Becky and Hilton view the Portal as a way to give back.
Hilton underscored that sentiment saying, “If nothing else [comes from the site], that we’ve all left our mark somewhere for somebody to look and see. And if somebody looks – some 17- or 18-year-old kid that’s just gotten involved in the system looks at something that we accomplished, maybe they’ll think they can do it as well. And that’s enough of a legacy.”
Helen, another gifted artist and Fortune participant, shared gratitude for the program and hopes that the new website will inspire others to get involved at Fortune and find the same positivity she has.
“I’m so grateful for the creative writing and acting classes and for my family that I developed here,” Helen said. “Without writing, I don’t know where I would be, because that’s my medicine.”
Looking forward, Jamie acknowledges each of the artists participating in the program stating, “They are the future. They have so many ideas and this community is who is guiding our program forward. It only makes sense that more people need to know the magnificence of the art that they are creating.”