Building Bridges: Arts, Culture and Identity

As the APAP Building Bridges grant program moves toward its next iteration, we reflect on the impact the community unifying initiative has had over the years and will provide you with lessons learned and resources for you to study, consider and enact in your own community-building efforts.

Building Bridges Collage

Building Bridges: Arts, Culture, and Identity was a grant program for campus and community-based arts presenters to help their community—especially young people born after 1980—deepen their knowledge and understanding of Muslims in contemporary society through direct experience with artists who have roots in Muslim-majority cultures. 

What you'll find here:

  • The history of Building Bridges

  • Why this work is important

  • How to begin your community-building effort

Coming soon:

  • Lessons learned

  • Resources you can use

  • Grantee profiles

Background on Building Bridges


Why this? Why now?

Performing arts presenters have long recognized the need and responsibility to curate programs that engage the diverse makeup of their community. 

APAP’s Building Bridges Program was conceived, in collaboration with and support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts (DDFIA) and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), to counter misconceptions and provide opportunities for project participants to expand awareness about the diversity of Muslim identities and cultures, while increasing understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim communities for mutual well-being.

APAP commissioned a white paper, Building Bridges Across the Performing Arts Presenting Field: Muslim Arts and Culture as a Catalyst for Change, that provides further grounding about the important role arts presenters can play in bringing members of diverse communities together.



Deepen Your Understanding

Getting grounded: Developing insight and sensitivity

What and how we communicate about Muslim artists and their work requires an understanding of appropriate language, protocols, and response mechanisms. To engage in such work requires a mindset of cultural humility and openness and a willingness to acknowledge and learn what you or your organization may not know.

Building Bridges grantees found differences among faculty, students and community leaders in their perceptions about “Muslim culture” and “Islamic culture” regarding faith, cultural practice, and global socio-political issues. It quickly became clear they needed to deepen their own understanding and knowledge. Taking the time to learn, build relationships, and engage in efforts to ground and contextualize their work was critical.

We offer the following resources to support your own exploration of Muslim cultures and identity.

  • The Pew Research Center’s video, “Being Muslim in America,” provides a summary of public views about Muslims, based upon data from a 2017 survey, as well as the personal stories of Muslims from across the United States.

  • Evidence that Americans lack general knowledge about the contributions of Muslims to American society is parodied in the animated video, “Secret History of Muslims in the U.S.” (developed with support from DDFIA in collaboration with the New York Times).


Lessons Learned

This developing online resource will highlight insights and examples of strategies and resources to help presenters apply lessons learned from the Building Bridges programs to their own programs and activities. We invite you to return often to explore the information presented in each of the following sections:

  • Intercultural Learning and Sensitivity
  • Student Engagement
  • Muslim Artists and Their Work
  • Making a Difference
  • Roster of Building Bridges Projects and Artists