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Elissa Carmona, lead singer and founder of Morrisania Band Project, in front of the 2006 Arquitectonica–designed North Wing at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Photo: Tom Stoelker.
Elissa Carmona, lead singer and founder of Morrisania Band Project, in front of the 2006 Arquitectonica–designed North Wing at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Photo: Tom Stoelker.

Elissa Carmona agrees about the need for Bronx artists to find a venue. She grew up in Morrisania in the South Bronx and Park Hill in Staten Island, and her voice was discovered early, at church, taking her on tour at a young age. But as a teen she started working. She soon joined the service, raised a daughter, and got her master’s in social work. Singing was put on hold until seven years ago. Carmona’s experience in grant writing for non-profits spurred a local effort to clean up Reverend Lena Irons Unity Park in Morrisania—aka Unity Park. Her skills also came in handy when founding her band sprung from the park cleanup, with support from the Bronx Council for the Arts. The band still performs at Unity Park each summer, describing its sound as “a blend of hip-hop soul, neo soul, afro punk, jazz, and funk.”

Carmona, who had looked forward to appearing at “It’s the Bronx,” had performed on the Grand Concourse only a year previously at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. She enjoyed meeting artists from across the borough, something that doesn’t happen enough. “We’re culturally diverse, but we tend to be clannish; we stay within our own separate enclaves,” she said. “Occasionally we mingle if we work together, but that’s not always the case in the arts.”

Artists in the Bronx, she said, need to be “strategic and very creative to find and create opportunities here in the Bronx that provide venue space.” For her, the social media pressure that shut down “It’s the Bronx” shut down a lot of opportunities, too. “It’s no secret that the Bronx is one of the poorest cities in New York State; we have a lot of homelessness, and people are hungry,” she said. “People figure the arts are not as important, and the limited funding that does go to artists goes to school-age youth—and rightly so, they need it—but it leaves us adults having to leave the borough to find any opportunity.”

Keep reading:

1. East Village, Manhattan: Ryan Haddad, Playwright and Performer at the Public Theater
2. SoHo, Manhattan: Charles Leslie, Founder of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, at the Museum
3. Arthur Avenue, the Bronx: Michael Rella and Peter Servedio, Butchers at Peter’s Meat Market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market
4. Garment District, Manhattan: Nicola Caito and Camille Tetard, Patternmakers, at their Atelier
5. Grand Concourse, the Bronx: Basma Sheea, Bengali-American Singer, at the Andrew Freeman Home
4. Garment District, Manhattan: Nicola Caito and Camille Tetard, Patternmakers, at their Atelier
> Grand Concourse, the Bronx: Elissa Carmona, Lead Singer and Founder of the Marrisania Band Project, at the Bronx Museum of the Arts
7. Washington Heights, Manhattan: John Paul Enfante, Writer and Teacher, at the Hispanic Society
8. Midtown, Manhattan: Ness McKelvey at Home
9. St. George, Staten Island: Bain Coffman and Gui Junta, Restaurant Owners at Chang Noi Thai
10. Astoria, Queens: Admir Ekmestic, Former Soccer Player, at Mrki’s Place   ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
11. Astoria, Queens: Dee Flattery, Pub Owner at The Quay  ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
12. Tomkinsville, Staten Island: Veronica Arze, Café Owner at Duzer’s Local  ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

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