Artists and youth as visionaries within an ecosystem of care and accountability.
Recess partners with artists, youth, writers, and their chosen publics to create transformative cultural experiences.
Our programs welcome radical thinkers to imagine and shape networks of resilience and safety. By challenging dominant narratives and activating new forms of creative production, Recess defines and advances the possibilities of contemporary art.
Recess is free and open to the public to serve as a meeting place to generate art, ideas and actions.
We believe in the power of creative reimagination to affect meaningful change
Visual art can catalyze social change and, inversely, radical social justice work can augment the significance and possibilities of art.
We are led by artists and youth
We conceive of the organization as an artist project–driven by the priorities and direction of our creative community, including our youth, artists, staff, and program partners.
We define community safety not solely as the absence of violence
—but also in the cultivation of joy.
We pursue our goals through a racial justice lens
—utilizing an abolitionist framework to embed shared power in our internal decision-making.
Recess formed in 2009. We began by uniting artists and audiences through the creative process and we have steadily and intentionally pushed ourselves forward towards greater accountability to our values of equity and justice. As Recess grew and developed in response to priorities articulated by artists, community, and youth, it became increasingly urgent to focus on replacing systems of oppression. As such, our vision has sharpened, and our strategy for achieving our vision has likewise evolved.
Since our inception, our artists have addressed mass criminalization in their work. In response, in 2017 we initiated our Assembly program for artists to directly support system-impacted youth. In the context of Assembly, art, performance, and storytelling disrupt the deeply problematic and false narrative of the “criminal” that governs the legal system and perpetuates cycles of oppression. Assembly is a pathway to long-term, meaningful creative involvement in the arts.
We choose to participate in an economy of trust and care rather than an economy of service or charity. As such, we are led by our community members, manifesting an ecosystem in which individuals are valued for their creative vision, lived experience, varied skills, cultural vibrancy, and imaginative capacity.
In 2020, in response to the intensity with which the COVID-19 pandemic hit our predominantly Black community, Recess redoubled its long-standing commitment to care and accountability. This reality was further sharpened by reemergent racial justice uprisings, which brought urgency and focus to our practice of institutional accountability and clarified our abolitionist lens. We've since committed to an abolitionist framework for our programs, operations, board, and mission, further moving us toward working as an artist-led and POC-driven organization.
Recess defines abolition as a mandate to work toward the removal of interlocked systems that cause harm, with a simultaneous investment in networks of community resilience, safety, and joy. Compiled in 2020, our Care & Accountability Towards Abolition Framework guided us to extend our abolitionist efforts beyond our organization to build a foundational network of communities and institutions committed to both internal and external work and visioning towards an abolitionist horizon. Externally, by embedding Recess artists and youth within partnering organizations and producing scalable resources grounded in creative reimagination, Recess helps build community and institutional capacity to combat systemic oppression from the ground up.
Internally our Care & Accountability Towards Abolition Framework has established: a universal starting salary for all employees including part-time staff on a prorated basis; healthcare benefits covered at 100% for all staff including part-time staff; onsite mental health care and wellness support for staff, artists and youth participants to promote resilience and healing; mentorship and professional development opportunities for staff; and shared power model including co-executive leadership. A Care & Capacity Fund was established to provide resources for self-determined care for artists and staff beyond capitalist production, and an Emergency Fund was implemented for immediate support in any situation that poses imminent harm or danger to members of our community’s mental or physical health and safety,
Recess is committed to a growth model that scales in depth of relationships and support within our ecosystem. Our evolution, therefore, relies on caring connections and security among our organization and its constituents. By working in this deep relational way, we ensure that we are always led by those most impacted by the harmful systems we seek to dismantle, while in a constant process of learning.
How does Recess define abolition?
We work from Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s definition of abolition that advocates for the removal of interlocked systems that cause harm, with a simultaneous investment in networks of community resilience and safety.
What is care at Recess?
Care, within our majority-BIPOC staff, artists, and system-involved participants, is central to our ability to achieve our mission with integrity and maintain our abolitionist horizon. We define care in opposition to control. Therefore, care is an antidote to systems driven by fear and containment.
An economy of care likewise exists outside of a service economy. Service, indicative to nonprofit culture, is rooted in the transactional wherein a service is delivered in response to a need and service is remunerated by charity. Conversely, an economy of care is more nebulous and dwells in the relational. Proximity among individuals allows for care to flourish holistically and in relationship to each other.
What is accountability at Recess?
Accountability at Recess is a system of reciprocity in which individuals are simultaneously held and thus compelled to hold others. This network of holding establishes an ecosystem in which each is accountable to the other and to our mission-driven work. Trusting relationships is a precursor to this form of accountability.
What is leadership at Recess?
A core element of reimagining and changing nonprofit operations is revising leadership models. Since our inception, Recess has been guided and led by artists. The organization, thus, actively seeks to emulate an artist’s practice by becoming an engine of revision and imaginative expansion.
Our co-leadership and shared power model, and in turn our pay equity model, acknowledges the value of the varied skills and experiences at our communal table. We acknowledge the existence of power and leadership within our organization, but likewise champion the many forms that leadership might take and the myriad skills and experiences necessary to achieve our message with integrity. As a result, we’ve chosen to compensate individuals for assets that reflect our institutional priorities.
How does Recess work within and outside of systems?
All our work strives toward abolition. In order to abolish systems that cause harm and invest in networks of resilience and safety, we prioritize relationships with our community. As such, any touchpoints we establish with existing systems (legal, education, healthcare, for example) are in place to empower our partners on the ground and must always privilege our community’s agency, safety and wellbeing.
Lindsay C. Harris joins Recess as Co-Director.
Recess begins Board reorganization work aligned with its care and accountability framework.
Recess further integrates mental health and wellness capacity building and professional development.
Recess receives a New York Community Trust Capacity Building grant for new leadership across the organization.
Allison Weisberg steps down as Co-Director.
Recess receives its first Ford Foundation Creativity & Free Expression grant.
Recess institutes a universal staff salary of 80k and co-directorship salary tier at 120K.
Shaun Leonardo joins the staff as Recess Co-Director alongside Allison Freedman Weisberg.
Recess receives its first Mellon Foundation Art & Culture grant.
Recess institutes a universal staff salary of 65k with full benefits for all staff.
Recess receives MacKenzie Scott 2M donation and engages in Resource Mobilization efforts.
The addition of Digital Assembly Programming allows Recess to work with youth beyond NYC.
Recess begins to develop its care and accountability towards abolition framework.
Recess establishes mental health training for staff and onsite services to youth.
Recess Assembly begins external-facing Community Safety Workshops, curricular training and exhibitions.
Assembly joins Session at 46 Washington Ave.
Assembly Peer leaders build an on-site screen printing lab.
Addition of a second cohort of felony diversion at Assembly.
Recess receives its first ELMA Philanthropies for Art & Youth Justice
Recess Analog sunsets.
Recess moves to 46 Washington Ave in Brooklyn.
Recess receives its first Art for Justice Fund grant.
Recess Assembly opens at 370 Schermerhorn with support from Alloy Development.
Recess receives a Donald & Shelley Rubin Foundation Art for Social Justice grant.
Recess receives a Pinkerton Foundation Youth Justice grant.
Recess receives its first New York Council on the Arts grant.
Recess receives a VIA Art Fund Incubator grant.
Recess receives its first National Endowment and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs grants.
Sold-out Recess / MoMA event "Pop Rally" draws over 4,000 people.
Recess opens a satellite space in Redhook for the year.
Recess hosts its first Recess Analog artist.
Recess hosts its first Critical Writing Fellow.
Recess receives its first Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts grant.
First New York Times mention.
Recess Activities Inc. becomes a registered non-profit.
Recess is founded by Allison Freedman Weisberg and opens at 41 Grand St. in Soho, NYC.
Recess hosts its first Session artist.