Ashé Cultural Arts Center
Southern Cultural Treasures
New Orleans, Louisiana
Year of Award
Grant or Fellowship
Southern Cultural Treasures
WHO WE ARE: Our charge as issued by our co-founder, Mama Carol Bebelle, is to “to fly in leaps and gusts of provocation, instigation, inspiration and aspiration...to call for and exhibit the higher standards of justice, integrity, and kindness for all...to be brilliant concoctors of opportunity, creators of vision, navigators of bs, advocates of culture, and defenders of children...to make real the majesty of dreams, to make plain the magic of being, to manifest the difference between perceiving and seeing!”
WHERE WE ARE: Ashé maintains a high value, high profile real estate portfolio in the Central City neighborhood, where historic residents are being aggressively displaced. In understanding the impact and importance of Ashé’s ability to guide equitable development in our surroundings, we have engaged in strategic planning that allowed us to create a vision for leveraging and expanding our own real estate portfolio, increasing our capacity to make place and to keep place on behalf of a community facing growing displacement, working on asserting our collective Right to Stay & Return!
WHAT WE DO: Ashé Cultural Art Center’s innovative programming is designed to utilize culture in fostering human development and civic engagement. We maintain 10,000 square feet of gallery space and 30,000 square feet of performance space to create and preserve opportunities for the curation, exhibition, and commission of fine, folk, and fine-folk art. Producing over 350 music, theater, dance, spoken word, drum circles, and multi-disciplinary events a year, Ashé believes in art as a paradigm-shifting call to action. As ecosystem builders, we deliver programming and direct services that support, leverage, and celebrate the people, places, and philosophies of the African Diaspora.
Leadership - Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes
Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes is a mother, daughter, educator, organizer, author, event producer, performance artist, and community servant. Most know her by her many pursuits, but the way this writer knows herself and the world around her, is through her exploration of the word. Embedded in the cultural soil of New Orleans and watered by the writings of her literary idols, Kalamu ya Salaam, Sonia Sanchez, and Toni Morrison, Asali has grown to bask in the sun of her literary heritage—from the sages who transformed pharaoh to God in Ancient Khemet to the Spy Boys who chant the way clear for Big Chiefs on Carnival Day. Ms. Ecclesiastes excitedly brings her deep roots in New Orleans’ indigenous culture to her work as the new Executive Director of Efforts of Grace and Ashé Cultural Arts Center.
The author of two TED Talks and chosen as one of the 300 most influential citizens for the City’s Tricentennial, Ms. Ecclesiastes is a 2019 Tulane University Mellon Fellow who counts among her honors President Obama’s 2012 Drum Major for Service Award, the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council’s 2013 Queen’s Scribe Award, and Essence Magazine’s 2018 Excellence in Service Award.
As she embraces her new role as CEO of Efforts of Grace and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Asali holds the wisdom of Zimbabwean author Matshona Dhliwayo who proclaims, “To help people takes strength, to inspire people takes wisdom, to rule over them takes virtue, but to elevate them takes love. The real power of a leader is in the number of minds she can reach, hearts she can touch, souls she can move, and lives she can change.”
Southern Cultural Treasures is a program of South Arts and made possible with support from the Ford Foundation.