A Haitian drummer plays at the opening of the Creole Market & Cultural Center in Miami, 2000.
Throughout American history, immigrants have contributed their distinctive cultures to the arts in America, creating flourishing subcultures. Jews created a vibrant Yiddish theater district on Second Avenue in Manhattan, while Dominicans brought merengue and Jamaicans imported reggae music.
Besides the theater and music, immigrant arts and literature were popularized in newspapers via short stories and serialized novels in the immigrant communities’ native languages.
Immigrants also played a pivotal role in defining art and literature in the United States. Willem de Kooning, the Dutch painter, stowed away on a ship in 1926, and became a pioneer of abstract expressionism in New York. Frank Capra, born in Sicily, directed popular inspirational movie comedies during the Depression; Yo-Yo Ma, born in France to Chinese parents, has set an unparalleled standard in the cello; and Elia Kazan, born of Greek parents in Istanbul, redefined the modern American theater, staging the seminal plays of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, as well as directing landmark Hollywood movies, including “On the Waterfront.”Arts
Chinese dancers performing in New York City, c. 2000.Immigrants also brought dance and drama from their homelands to America. Haitian drummers, Japanese painters, Chinese folk dancers and Irish musicians have all helped create the diverse world of the arts in America.
Oleg Kleban, a Ukrainian immigrant (right) and Andrey Pogrebinskiy a Russian immigrant, perform Isaac Babel's "Odessa Tales" at the Brooklyn College Hillel, 1999