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City Leaders, Elected Officials, Community and Cultural Organizations, and NYC Speaks Celebrate Arts, Culture, and Civic Engagement Wins

As The Clemente Center welcomed The People’s Bus, the City and its partners to celebrate New Yorkers stepping up to shape their city

The People's Conversation is taking place on April 29th at 3 PM. Photos show NYC Speaks canvassers, The People's Bus, and Community Conversations in action.

NEW YORKOn Friday, April 29, 2022, at The Clemente, City Hall leadership, elected officials, community and cultural organizations, and NYC Speaks joined together to welcome The People’s Bus being permanently stationed at The Clemente Center. The People’s Bus is a former Department of Corrections bus used to transport people detained on Rikers Island from 2009 to 2021. It has been transformed, with input from New Yorkers, into a community center on wheels with the purpose of engaging New Yorkers in civic life through beauty and joy. 

The event celebrated arts and culture and civic engagement in New York City. The People’s Bus’ former artist in residence, Yazmany Arboleda, was announced as The People’s Artist for the NYC Civic Engagement Commission. The program began with NYC Speaks Community Conversations, in-depth discussions on civic engagement, arts and culture, and several other policy areas. During these conversations, New Yorkers went over the data collected from the largest policy survey ever to be completed in NYC and had robust discussions on how individuals’ personal stories and ideas related to the findings. Government and community leaders announced recent wins in participatory government from key civic leaders. The program ended with performances from a local salsa band, poetry from NeON Arts, a partnership between the NYC Neighborhood Opportunity Network and Carnegie Hall, and several civic engagement activities.

“The People’s Bus is a gymnasium for the human imagination. A place to exercise our creativity together to imagine a future where all New Yorkers take care of each other. I believe that for a democracy to be sustainable it must prioritize beauty and joy in its process and outcomes.  Through our work at the Civic Engagement Commission, we are just beginning to create a story-telling tradition that centers the heart. We are thrilled to join The Clemente community of artists in our expansion of this vision,” said Yazmany Arboleda, The People’s Artist.

“The Clemente is uniquely able to serve as a community anchor, and has long been an affordable, collaborative hub for multidisciplinary, independent cultural producers, building multigenerational leadership, promoting community ground practice, and unmistakably holding our communities together in times of crisis. We could not be more thrilled to build on this work together with Yazmany Arboleda, the LES artist-in-residence at New York City Civic Engagement Commission, who first conceptualized The People’s Bus. We look forward to the transformative practices and nurture of the role culture plays in protecting a healthy democracy as we engage together with our shared communities,” said Libertad Guerra, Executive Director of The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center. 

“NYC Speaks is a pioneering initiative that shows New Yorkers the power they have in creating real change,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Sheena Wright. “I am thrilled to see The People’s Bus find its permanent home at The Clemente Center, one of our most vital cultural spaces. Through the work of forward-thinking artists and engaged community partners, they have transformed a former corrections bus into an essential civic space for all New Yorkers.”

“The Civic Engagement Commission is excited to collaborate with NYC Speaks, The People’s Bus, and The Clemente Center on community conversations that center arts in civic engagement.  As a new agency, the Civic Engagement Commission has been enriched by our collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Public Artist in Residency program. Throughout the pandemic and with Yazmany Arboleda’s creative leadership, the transformation of The People’s Bus and the accompanying People’s Festival have helped connect us with diverse New York City communities and affirm community resilience in powerful ways. We’re looking forward to continuing this programming in the coming months,” said Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Chair and Executive Director, Civic Engagement Commission.

“New Yorkers are stepping up to co-create their city in so many ways,” said Dr. Shango Blake, Co-Executive Director of NYC Speaks. “I am excited to see New Yorkers come together to discuss the city’s most pressing issues through our NYC Speaks Community Conversations events. I am also excited to see the commitment to arts and culture, exemplified through The People’s Bus, NeON photographers, poets, and musicians. We are creating a New York for everyday New Yorkers, by everyday New Yorkers.”

“Civic engagement, the arts, and culture are all about bringing people together,” said José Serrano-McClain, Co-Executive Director of NYC Speaks and Partner at HR&A Advisors. “We appreciate New Yorkers joining us at Community Conversations at today’s event in the Lower East Side and dozens of other Community Conversations events across the city this month. Thank you to The Clemente, The People’s Bus, the Civic Engagement Commission, the Department of Probation, and so many others for building with us today.”

“The People’s Bus ushers in a new era of civic engagement,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “A hub of cultural and neighborhood activity, The Clemente will be an excellent partner for The People’s Bus, and I look forward to hearing what is proposed in the Community Conversations.” 

“Active civic engagement and a robust arts and culture scene are integral to a healthy and resilient New York. Well-funded and accessible cultural institutions strengthen communities and improve economic outcomes while reducing crime, and it’s lovely to have the opportunity to spread awareness of this fact through civic events like this one to ensure that this fiscal year’s budget adequately funds the cultural groups and institutions that are the lifeblood of our city,” said Council Member Chi Ossé 

“By engaging neighborhoods through Community Conversations, NYC Speaks ensures all New Yorkers have an opportunity to contribute to the direction of our city. I am proud to join the Mayor’s Office and the New York City Civic Engagement Commission in efforts to develop programming for citywide participatory budgeting and celebrate the new permanent home of The People’s Bus at The Clemente, a beloved arts and education center in the Lower East Side whose contributions to the community extend far beyond this neighborhood, and even this City,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera.

“This is shaping up to be one of the most important elections in our history, and there are more ways to be involved than ever before,” said Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie. “I encourage all New Yorkers to show up, turn out and make their voices heard, and I’m grateful to the Civic Engagement Commission/DemocracyNYC for engaging our communities in every corner of the city.”

“NYC Speaks is a pathbreaking model for civic engagement that is built for New Yorkers, by New Yorkers,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “We are excited to bring The People’s Bus to The Clemente Center, meeting New Yorkers where they are, and highlighting the importance of arts and culture as a catalyst for engagement and change.”

“We’re so excited for The People’s Bus to roll into its new home at The Clemente, kicking off an incredible partnership between two arts groups deeply committed to community and culture,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “This NYC Speaks engagement is the perfect way to launch this new partnership, and we’re encouraging everyone to come and join The People’s Conversation and let us know how our city’s arts and culture could be better served, supported, and integrated into the life of New York City. NYC Speaks has been a historic effort to invite New Yorkers to weigh in with a collective voice on the future of their city, and arts and culture have to be at the center of that conversation. Thank you to our hosts for bringing together this amazing culturally-focused civic event.”

“The transformative power arts and culture can have on a person and the impact of government partnering with community are two of the most powerful engines of change in criminal justice.  And that is what NYC Speaks’ celebration of The People’s Bus at The Clemente is all about: arts, culture, and true community engagement,” said NYC Probation Commissioner, Ana M. Bermúdez.  “Similarly, our Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) uses a participatory budgeting model where community stakeholders select the arts and cultural programming (some of whom are performing here!) their community needs. A community with a voice and an administration with an ear is a true treasure; so I want to thank all who are speaking up and all who are listening and helping to shape the bright future of our city.” 

“Now, more than ever, government and community must work TOGETHER to shape the systems that shape our lives. The vehicles that inspire, gather and feed community-led solutions like NYC Speaks, The People’s Bus, the Civic Engagement Commission, NeON, and The Clemente are exactly what we need in this moment to build civic power and connect us to each other and to our city,” said Betsy MacLean, Senior Advisor, Civic & Community Engagement, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives

“It is critical that we continue to engage with NYC’s diverse immigrant communities to ensure they have a voice in the future of our city,” said Manuel Castro, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “I look forward to MOIA’s continued partnership and the success of The People’s Bus in future events.” 

“We are excited to see The People’s Bus at its new permanent stop, where it will continue to cultivate a unique space for civic engagement,” said Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit (PEU) Executive Director Adrienne Lever. “The Public Engagement Unit is proud to support The People’s Bus and NYC Speaks in empowering communities through arts and culture.”

“The People’s Conversation is an example of the creative energy that’s possible when we combine arts and culture with civic engagement,” said Rose Guerrier, NYC Speaks Arts and Culture Policy Council Co-Chair. “The NYC Speaks survey showed that the people of this city want to support all artists representing the diverse cultures and entertainment venues as our city roars back from the COVID-19 pandemic. At today’s event with the Clemente and the People’s Bus and beyond, we are listening as New Yorkers share their stories and their ideas about strengthening arts and culture in New York City.” 

“The People’s Bus project melds arts and civic engagement, exactly what we have done at El Puente for 40 years,” said Marco A. Carrión, Executive Director of El Puente, “and being stationed at our sister organization Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center is an amazing symbol of government meeting community.   Along with NYC Speaks, this shows a commitment of City government connecting to the people where they are.

About the Hosts

About the People’s Bus

The People’s Bus is a former Department of Corrections bus used to transport people detained on Rikers Island from 2009 to 2021. It has been transformed, with input from New Yorkers, into a community center on wheels with the purpose of engaging New Yorkers in civic life through beauty and joy. Created under the leadership of artist Yazmany Arboleda, in collaboration with the NYC Civic Engagement Commission as part of the Department of Cultural Affairs’ Public Artists in Residence program, Territorial Empathy, and Mujeres en Movimiento, the bus is an expression of New Yorkers’ resilience in the face of change. Beginning April 29, 2022 the bus will be housed at The Clemente Cultural Center for New Yorkers to engage with yearlong activities.

About NYC Speaks

NYC Speaks is a six-month citywide public engagement and people-driven government transformation initiative that is engaging tens of thousands of New Yorkers to inform the priorities and policies of the Eric Adams administration. The effort, a public-private partnership between the new administration and a growing network of community leaders and civic institutions, is hosted by Goodnation Philanthropy Advisors, managed by HR&A Advisors in partnership with Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright’s team, and backed by some of New York’s largest and most innovative philanthropic organizations, including Ford Foundation, Robin Hood, Open Society Foundations, Trinity Church Wall Street, New York Women’s Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, New York Community Trust, and Education Fund. For more information about NYC Speaks, visit

About The Clemente 

The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center Inc. is a Puerto Rican/Latinx multi-arts cultural institution that has demonstrated a broad-minded cultural vision and inclusive philosophy rooted in NYC’s Lower East Side/Loisaida. While focused on the cultivation, presentation, and preservation of Puerto Rican and Latinx culture, we are equally committed to a multi-ethnic/international latitude, determined to operate in a polyphonic manner that provides affordable working space and venues to artists, small arts organizations, emergent and independent community producers that reflect the cultural diversity of the LES and our City.

About NEON Arts

Because focusing resources on the people and communities where they are most needed can make the most difference, DOP’s Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) provides services and programming to people on probation and other community members, in seven NYC neighborhoods that have been disproportionately impacted by the justice system for decades. NeON Arts—a partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute—empowers stakeholder groups to choose arts projects for their communities that engage participants in strengths-based activities that support educational outcomes and connections to employment opportunities.


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