Ten years ago, Conexión Américas planted the seeds for a community center where organizations could work together under one roof and provide services to a rapidly growing immigrant community.
Today, Casa Azafrán stands proudly as a nonprofit collaborative and inspiration for community centers across the country. It has evolved into a central economic and cultural hub for Nashville’s immigrant and refugee population through public-private partnerships, wraparound services, public art, and so much more.
Our casa is also home to eight peer nonprofit resident partners: the American Muslim Advisory Council, Catholic Charities, Casa Azafrán Early Learning Center, Family and Children’s Service, the Global Education Center, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Neighborhood Health, and Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors.
The joyful and vibrant spirit of Casa Azafrán will bring the community together to celebrate our 10th anniversary and these partnerships on Thursday, December 8.
It's 'like no other place in Nashville'
Prior to Casa Azafrán, critical resources were spread far apart or were non-existent, creating barriers for many, especially for new Nashvillians.
Casa Azafrán is like no other place in Nashville, offering opportunities for meaningful interaction and cross-cultural exchange, among immigrant and native-born residents.
The 30x12 foot mosaic represents the movement of people across many lands. This year, the newest addition to the center was unveiled during Hispanic Heritage Month: the “We All Belong” mural by Mexican artist Rubén Torres which celebrates heritage, culture, and the changing fabric of Nashville. Besides these important pieces of public art, Casa Azafrán also offers a community art gallery showcasing a rotating art by Latinx and immigrant-origin artists throughout the year.
A U.S. president has come to our center
We’ve been fortunate to receive national recognition for what our center embodies. In 2014, the Urban Land Institute awarded Casa Azafrán the Excellence in Development Award saying, “This should be an example across the country on ‘smart building and design’ meets ‘economic and cultural investment’ through public/private partnerships.”
And one of the highest honors Casa Azafrán has experienced was the visit of President Obama at Casa Azafrán in 2014. During his visit, the sitting president met with immigrant community leaders and described the pressing need for immigration policy changes.
Housed within Casa Azafrán is Mesa Komal, a licensed, affordable commercial kitchen that supports food entrepreneurs — immigrant and native-born—in starting and growing food trucks, market retail, and catering businesses.
The first of its kind in Nashville, this innovative culinary incubator has served more than 60 microentrepreneurs.
Casa Azafrán’s impact over the past 10 years hasn’t been limited to a building. Created through a public-private partnership and community engagement process, Azafrán Park opened in 2018, adding much needed open green space to our neighborhood.
Today, the park is home to public art, a pavilion for events, and play areas for young Nashvillians.
As Latinx and immigrant communities continue to grow, we also hope to see the growth and expansion of the spirit of Casa Azafrán alongside it, as we continue advocating and creating spaces for immigrant families who too often get pushed to the margins of our city.
Whether you are new to Nashville, looking to start a business, seeking health or legal services, are interested in cultural programs, or have some time to spend volunteering, Casa Azafrán has proven that there is a welcoming space for us all that will remain for decades to come.
Join us as we continue to create spaces and opportunities for new and existing Nashvillians to thrive, collaborate and genuinely get to know one another. Nuestra casa es tu casa.
Martha Silva and Tara Lentz are the co-executive directors of Conexión Américas at Casa Azafrán. Learn more at www.conexionamericas.org.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: For 10 years, Casa Azafrán has created a culture of belonging