Boogie on the Boulevard

Streets are the biggest public space in New York City. Nevertheless, these are mostly use for vehicular traffic.

Boogie on the Boulevard re-imagines how a street in this case, Grand Concourse in The Bronx, can be transformed into a different kind of public space for pedestrians, people on wheels, and community.  This project began as an artist project by Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and grew into something bigger.

Boogie on the Boulevard has been organized by a community advisory council comprise of grassroots community organizations, city agencies, artists, community members, including  the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, BronxWorks, BxArts Factory, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, among many others.

Photos by Lauren Click, Elizabeth Hamby, Hatuey Ramos-Fermín


Timeline

1909, Grand Concourse is inaugurated

The Grand Concourse was designed by the architect Louis Risse, modeled on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. It was intended to provide a quick route from the increasingly developed Manhattan to the rural calm of the Bronx.


1991, Car Free Sundays on the Grand Concourse begins

Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer introduces “Car-free Sundays on the Grand Concourse.” From May-November, the center lanes of the entire four-mile stretch of the roadway were closed to cars every Sunday. Neighbors could bike, walk, skate, and spend time together using the roadway as a paved park.


1996, Car free Sundays shut down by NYC Mayor

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani insists that the organizers of Car-free Sundays apply for permits to hold the event, and then rejects their application. Political observers suggest the event was cancelled due to enmity between the Mayor and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, a potential mayoral challenger. But the Citizens To Restore Concourse Car-Free Sundays, who sent hundreds of postcards to the Mayor, hope Giuliani will see the favorite Sunday institution not simply as a Fernando Ferrer project, but as a major boost to quality of life that Bronx residents support, need and enjoy.


2006, Car Free Sunday on the Grand Concourse by Transportation Alternatives

Transportation Alternatives and a group of neighborhood residents worked together to bring back Car-Free Sundays on a trial basis.

Street films Car free Sundays on the Grand Concourse article


2012, Boogie Down Rides

Boogie Down Rides was established by artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín  a bicycling and art project.

Boogie Down Rides is a celebration of bicycling in the Bronx. It includes educational events, community visioning sessions and group rides.

Boogie Down Rides firmly believes in the power of bicycling as a way to promote active transportation, recreation, and exercise. We support and build bridges of existing efforts to expand safe cycling while connecting communities and people in the process.

This project is organized by meta local collaborative, an initiative by artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, and includes a broad coalition of individuals and organizations. 

This project started as part of the exhibition This Side of Paradise, presented by No Longer Empty


2012, Campaign to reinstate Car Free Sundays on the Grand Concourse begins

As part of Boogie Down Rides project the artists organized a community advisory group including community members, local activists, city agencies, non profit organizations. Discussions lead to the idea to reinstate Car Free Sundays on the Grand Concourse and a campaign started supported by Transportation Alternatives.

Boogie on the Boulevard Coalition LetterDownload


2014, First Boogie on the Boulevard

2014- Boogie on the Boulevard brought back Car-Free Sundays to the Concourse for three Sundays in August. More than 2,500 people came out to celebrate the street as public space.


Boogie on the Boulevard continues…


Marchers demand cleaner air, healthier food

By Rachel Brown for the Hunts Point Express

Dozens of Hunts Point residents marched with nearly 400,000 demonstrators in the People’s Climate March in Manhattan this past Sunday, calling on world leaders to make drastic changes, all the while chanting slogans such as, “The South Bronx is under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

Local marchers gathered at 9 a.m. with the Bronx Climate Justice bloc at La Finca del Sur community garden in Mott Haven, and started the day with some yoga, a contrast to the huge cardboard fists people would soon carry. Led by two yoga instructors, the marchers were encouraged to remove their shoes, spread their toes, feel grounded to the earth and breathe deeply, bringing calm to the already palpable hustle of the day.

Representatives from Sustainable South Bronx, South Bronx Unite, the Green Worker Cooperatives, Mothers on the Move, Percent for Green, The Point, Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition and La Finca del Sur then took turns outlining their platform points, from waterfront access to healthy food. Most of the groups also made the point that while climate change affects everyone, vulnerable communities such as Hunts Point often bear the brunt of the negative impacts. Another common theme among speakers was that the people have solutions for the issues they face, and lawmakers need to listen to them.

By 9:30 a.m., the group dispersed to take the 1 train to Central Park West, where the citywide march began. A faction of the crowd instead mounted bicycles, and several riders wore lime-green gas tanks labeled with “Stop FreshDirect” stickers to symbolize the health effects that the company’s diesel trucks would bring into a community already burdened with very high asthma rates.

“As a mother whose daughter grew up with asthma, I decided to join today,” said Candace Adams of Morrisania, who rode her bike to midtown after the Bronx gathering. The South Bronx bike group later joined with a larger bike bloc, a group advocating for divestment in fossil fuels and calling attention to bicycles as an environmentally friendly way to get around the city.

Also on the bicycle route was Hatuey Ramos-Fermin, one of the co-founders of Boogie Down Rides, a Bronx-based cycling group. “As a South Bronx resident, at a time when the city is making decisions that affect us, I’m here today because I want to be a part of that,” Ramos-Fermin said.

Longwood resident Nicolás Dumit Estévez said he was participating in the demonstration to be united with the people of the South Bronx who are routinely neglected by the city government. He suggested that climate justice is connected to race, class and gender. “There is a reason we refer to the earth as mother,” Estevez said. “I think we need to change that idea to lover. We have to start loving the earth.”

Mychal Johnson of South Bronx Unite, a coalition working to improve and protect the social, environmental, and economic future of the area, was also one of 38 international civil society delegates to the United Nations Climate Summit held on Sept. 23. He marched along while monitoring the FreshDirect parade float, which was the size of a delivery truck and bore the message, “FreshDirect aims to bring 1,000 daily diesel truck trips through a South Bronx community where 1 in 5 children have asthma.”

“Hopefully I will have the opportunity to bring issues facing people every day in the South Bronx to the world stage,” Johnson said, interrupting himself to tell marchers to watch their step, and, a second later, to pick up the pace. “And I hope that the governments will create a binding agreement on carbon emissions.”

“Sustainability with Dignity!” was a phrase on Alicia Grullón’s Percent for Green sign at the march. Through months of conversations with Bronx residents, she has drafted the Percent for Green bill, which would require that city-funded development projects dedicate 5 percent of costs to public green space. The youth activist program A.C.T.I.O.N and the circus program from The Point could likewise be seen marching, juggling and holding up a banner that read “The Bronx is Breathing.” “It feels amazing to be part of a huge march like this,” said Twahira Khan, a long-time Bronx resident and volunteer with the Bronx River Alliance. “When you’re in a small community trying to solve problems, it can feel overwhelming. But when you know that others are out there working on the same issues in their communities, it’s inspiring.”

Boogie on the Boulevard

After two years of hard work from a diverse range of Bronx community members, I’m happy to report that Boogie on the Boulevard (formerly known as Car Free Sundays) is coming back to the Grand Concourse! Please join us and help spread the word about these great events!
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‘Boogie on the Boulevard’ to Turn Grand Concourse Into Thoroughfare for Recreation

By: Erin Clarke for NY1

Link to original article and video

A popular event from the past is being revived that will close the Grand Concourse for three days this summer and turn it into a wide thoroughfare open for recreation. NY1’s Erin Clarke filed the following report.

No vehicles, not even one, will pass along a stretch of the Grand Concourse for three days this summer.

Instead, live performances, music, workshops and more will fill the space as part of Boogie on the Boulevard.

“This idea of being open, inviting community to bring children, bring their families, bring their friends and have fun here,” said Hatuey Ramos-Fermin, curator at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

The event revives the tradition of car-free Sundays, when nearly the entire length of the Concourse closed every Sunday of the summer. It stopped in the ’90s.

“I remember when I was younger, when the concourse on Sundays was closed and all I would see was bike riders and people walking around, and there was this big sense of community,” said Ed Garcia Conde, a blogger with Welcome2TheBronx.

Several community partners are bringing the idea back as a way to showcase the borough, its people and culture, and to encourage healthy lifestyles.

“It’s good to have it for the community, but they should have been done this a long time ago to all the people that get to see different cultures of everything that is going around this city,” said one member of the community.

Another goal of Boogie on the Boulevard is to start a conversation among community members about the Grand Concourse.

“Folks can reimagine the Grand Concourse, where they can look at how they would improve the Concourse or changes they would make so that they can have it, have better access to it all year-round,” said Jill Guidera, filed organizing manager with Transportation Alternatives.

Organizers hope to open a dialogue about the roadway, especially since Transportation Alternatives found that similarly constructed roadways accounted for 60 percent of fatal crashes or serious injuries citywide.

“It’s still sometimes referred as the Boulevard of Death because the cars are really zooming and racing by,” Conde said. “I really would love to see it be more pedestrian-friendly, also friendly for bikers and rollerbladers like myself to be able to experience that. Do we really need all these lanes for cars?”

They’re questions that will hopefully get the wheels moving in the direction of change.

Boogie on the Boulevard will be held on August 3, August 10 and August 17.

(how to) make friends, make a scene, make things happen, and fall in love with your neighborhood

(how to) make friends, make a scene, make things happen, and fall in love with your neighborhood is based on Meta Local’s ongoing project, Boogie Down Rides. Participants are invited to consider the act of riding a bike as a form of performance and community-engaged action.

Download PDF

 

This is part of Meta Local Collaborative’s contribution to Christine Wong Yap’s Make Things Happen Project

 

 

Make Things (Happen)

Make Things (Happen) is a participatory project organized by Christine Wong Yap featuring 29 artist-created activity sheets to make things or make things happen.

 

mkth

 

Artists: Lauren F. Adams, Oliver Braid, Maurice Carlin, Kevin B. Chen, Torreya Cummings, Helen de Main, double zero, Bean Gilsdorf, Galeria Rusz, Sarrita Hunn, Maria Hupfield, Nick Lally, Justin Langlois, Justin Limoges, Jessica Longmore, Mail Order Brides/M.O.B., Meta Local Collaborative, Roy Meuwissen, Dionis Ortiz, Kristina Paabus, Piero Passacantando, Julie Perini, Risa Puno, Genevieve Quick, Pallavi Sen, Elisabeth Smolarz, Emilio Vavarella, David Gregory Wallace, Lexa Walsh.

Visit

Social in Practice: The Art of Collaboration

Curated by Deb Willis and Hank Willis Thomas

March 27–October 2, 2014
Nathan Cummings Foundation
475 Tenth Avenue, 14th floor (between W. 36th & 37th Streets), New York, NY 10018
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 27, 6-8 pm
Reservations required; email exhibits@nathancummings.org.

Mid-October to November 28, 2014
NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Photography and Imaging galleries
721 Broadway, 8th Floor (between Washington Place and Waverly Place), New York, NY 10003
Opening Reception: TBA

Project Statement

Make Things (Happen) is intended to multiply creative activity. I started by asking 29 artists to create activity sheets; these are downloadable here and freely available in Social in Practice: The Art of Collaboration. Anyone and everyone are invited to use them to make things or make things happen, then share their results (#mkthngs or #mkthngshppn) to encourage further participation.

ACTIVITIES. I was inspired by enjoyable, memorable, shared experiences—from showing my niece how to sew her own holiday decorations, to initiating a book club via video chat with distant peers. The invited artists branched out, enriching the project with their diverse artistic and didactic pursuits. Their contributions reflect their optimism and ambivalence towards how-to directives, and thus offer concrete objectives as well as space for open-ended interpretation. The activities range from drawing worksheets to elaborate constructions; community exchanges to gallows humor; and studio instructions to discussion prompts.

Activities fall into two categories. Make Things entails hands-on, tangible art activities. Through drawing worksheets, participants can encounter the techniques and social concepts in the work ofKevin B. ChenDionis Ortiz, and Lauren F. Adams, or potentially increase positive sentiment (Galleria RuszPallavi Sen). Participants can also create hands-on 3-D projects, such as a shadow puppet show (David Gregory Wallace) or multi-person swing (Kristina Paabus). The projects also intersect with the virtual; one could modify the code in digital images (Emilio Vavarella), or hand draw algorithmic patterns (Nick Lally).

Make Things Happen encompasses manifold approaches. Projects from Helen de MainMaria Hupfield, and Lexa Walsh catalyze or facilitate interpersonal exchanges. double zero has programmed a telephone menu as a public, interactive, and collaborative experience. Individuals can also improve bad days (Elisabeth Smolarz), meditate (Piero Passacantando), take a tongue-in-cheek personality quiz (Risa Puno), or explore looking as a form of time-travel (Genevieve Quick).

Other artists’ projects instantiate the expanded boundaries of contemporary art practice. The studio itself is re-thought with alternatives for creating and inhabiting spaces, both individually (Jessica Longmore) and collaboratively (Maurice Carlin). Meta Local Collaborative describes the extra-studio art practice of bicycling. Bean Gilsdorf’s kooky, illustrated handout, How to Use It, never identifies what “It” is, calling upon users’ interpretation and open-ended application.

Four artists riff on (im)possibilities, referencing feature films (Torreya CummingsRoy Meuwissen) and texts (Oliver BraidJustin Limoges). They alternately employ poetics, darkness, and ambivalence.

While how-to instructions typically describe concrete actions, four contributors ambitiously invite participants to engage in efforts and radical re-imaginations towards social change. Julie Perinidescribes how white people can challenge white supremacy. Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. parodies corporate handbooks to tackle gender and power. Sarrita Hunn contributes a well-researched How to… Make An Alternative Institution, and Justin Langlois’ list of provocations encourages collaborative visions for a self-determined future.

ARTISTS. I invited these particular artists, duos, and collaboratives because their practices are a mix of hands-on, participatory, and engaged with the world. They work across social practice, drawing, sculpture, video, and performance. About one-third of the artists are international—from the UK, Canada, Poland, Italy, and India; one-third are from California; and the rest are from New York or other parts of the US. A few actively create new conditions for art and engagement by founding organizations and initiatives. All excite me with how their lives and art-making are interconnected with the world at large. I am particularly interested in highlighting practices unconcerned with, despite, and agitating against the demands of the art market. Profiles and links to their sites are included so you can learn more.

BACKGROUND. About a year ago, I wrote an essay and created a diagram to explore “What Artists Make (Happen).” I wanted to think through how artists who create art objects make things in their studios, also make things happen with others beyond the studio walls—events, dialogues, possibilities. The point was that artists also involve and affect other people, and therefore manipulate social realities.

what-artists-make_01c

 

 

Make Things (Happen) continues to explore these ideas. In this case, making things is still defined as hands-on fabrication, while making things happen includes social, conceptual and performance actions. By participating, the public can sample activities that manipulate objects, forms, and social realities, and experientially encounter artists’ practices and thoughts. These activities are intended for participation—so it’s your move.

—Christine Wong Yap, 2014

THANKS to curators Deb Willis and Hank Willis ThomasNYU Tisch Department of Photo and ImagingKarl Peterson and Sonia Louise Davis; and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. My sincerest gratitude to all the artists for their time, enthusiasm, and thoughtful contributions; and to Sarrita Hunn for exploring the potential of the initial concepts. And thanks in advance to participants!

LINKS. For more participatory contemporary art projects, see Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher’s Learning to Love You More, Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Do It, and Paper Monument’s Draw It With Your Eyes Closed.

Caption: Various Artists, Make Things (Happen), 2014, 29 activity sheets, 8.5 x 11 inches / 216 x 279 mm

 

The Sixth Borough Bike Tour at Marfa Dialogues

ML_marfa_cover_BDR

 

Project Description

It is often said that water is New York City’s “sixth borough.” Historically, the working waterfront was a site for commerce and development that shaped the character of the city forever. Today, much of New York City has shifted away from shipping and manufacturing on the waters edge as the city grapples with the tension between economic development and the pressing issues of climate change and rising sea levels. The waterfront has become a site for dialogue and debate. How is the waterfront used? Who has access to it? Who doesn’t?

The Sixth Borough Bike Tour is a bike ride presented by Boogie Down Rides, a Bronx-based bicycling and art project produced by Meta Local Collaborative. The ride will explore New York City’s waterfronts, discuss the ways that they are used (or unused) and consider how these spaces might shape the future city.

Participants will visit contested spaces along the shoreline including the site of a proposed Marine Transfer Station on the Upper East Side, 96 acres along the Bronx Kill where Fresh Direct has met with community opposition over it’s proposal to build a warehouse and distribution center, and the Bronx River, the city’s only fresh water river, which has been reclaimed by its surrounding community. The ride will follow a meandering route, tracing the shoreline and the paths of hidden streams that flow just beneath the city’s surface.

The Sixth Borough Bike Tour is a participatory performance. Cyclists will be both performers and audience in the project, articulating the relationship between the city and the waterfront. The tour will use bicycles as a tool for engagement, and a vehicle for traveling through the spaces in between the city’s past, present, and future.

The tour will take place on Saturday, November 9, 2013. It  will start at 10:00 AM at the East 180th Street train station (2, 5 trains) and will travel from the Bronx to Manhattan. The ride will end in Manhattan, at the 86th Street station (4, 5, and 6 trains), approximately 4 hours later. The ride will be moderately paced, and accessible to cyclists with some experience riding in a group, in traffic. Cyclists are encouraged to wear helmets, and must wear closed-toed shoes, as well as appropriate clothing for the weather.

Stops will include: Starlight Park, Bronx; Concrete Plant Park, Bronx; Brook Park, Bronx; Randall’s Island; Harlem Creek; and East 91st Street, as well as others to be determined.

INFO:

Saturday, November 9, 2013
beginning at 10am at the East 180th Street train station (2,5 trains).

The tour will travel from the Bronx to Manhattan and end in Manhattan, at the 86th Street station (4,5, and 6 trains).

The ride is approximately 4 hours long.

Get the Boogie Down Rides T-shirt

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Show your Boogie Love and support bicycling in the Bronx with the BDR t-shirt! GET IT HERE

Unisex

This is an Anvil Organic T-shirt

5 oz. 100% certified pre-shrunk organic cotton
Soft, comfortable fabric
Double-needle stitched for durability

This shirt complies with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act

More info about Anvil compliance policies here.

Artists are the People in Your Neighborhood

By Elizabeth Hamby for NAMAC

The narrative of artists in neighborhoods often follows an arc that goes something like this: artists, in search of space to live and work cheaply, move to an industrial/low-income/out-of-the-way neighborhood. Real estate values rise, and all of a sudden the industry/low-income housing that made the area affordable, disappear, people are displaced from neighborhoods where they’ve lived for generations, and national chain coffee shops open up on every corner.

Meta Local disrupts this narrative by using community engagement as a vital strategy to develop projects collaboratively with our neighbors. We use our artistic practice to amplify the work that is already taking place in our community, bridging the gap between art, activism, everyday people, and the environment.

Meta Local is the collective practice of Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and myself. Hatuey and I are partners in both life and art, and Meta Local contains our work, which is grounded in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx, where we live. Together, we investigate the dynamics of urban spaces; exploring the histories of buildings and neighborhoods, and tracing the flows of people, ideas and products. We combine documentary strategies with performance and fine art, in order to articulate concepts of origin, and the sense of place.

Often, artists whose work deals with community engagement grapple with the challenges of working outside their own community. Urban Bush Women, creators of dance and community talk elegantly about the work of “Entering, Building, and Exiting Community.” This is important work. But I also wonder about the day-to-day life of being an artist in our own communities.

I’d like to share two of our ongoing Meta Local projects as examples of how we define and create engagement in our own community.

Boogie Down Rides is a bicycling and art project that started in 2012. The goal of the project is to create a culture of bicycling, and build a diverse community of cyclists in the Bronx. By creating and celebrating active transportation, Boogie Down Rides increases awareness of bicycles as a mode of transportation and recreation, promoting safe cycling and bridging existing efforts to expand cycling in the Bronx.

“Bicycling is Art,” is the tagline of Boogie Down Rides, highlighting the aesthetic, as well as political function of creating a visible bicycle culture in a borough that struggles with disparities in health, infrastructure, and income. The project brings together artists, activists, public health workers, advocates for safe streets, and everyday folks who like to ride their bikes. It has also sparked a local conversation about who rides bikes in the Bronx, and the barriers that keep others from joining in. This dialogue, which often takes place at stop lights and street corners, is the link between art-making and place-making that is the crux of our practice.

Mind the Gap/La Brecha considers the relationship between the neighborhoods of the South Bronx, and the surrounding waterfront. As part of the Laundromat Project’s Create Change Public Artist Residency, this project was stationed at the Blue and White Laundromat on East 140th Street in the South Bronx. Collaborators included James Rojas, an artist and urban planner who helped us design an interactive 3D model, local community groups, such as South Bronx Unite, who are advocating for more South Bronx waterfront access, and the everyday people of the neighborhood who shared their visions, fears, and aspirations for the waterfront.

Hosting this project at a laundromat helped to broaden the constituency of the conversation about the future of the neighborhood’s waterfront access beyond those activists and organizers, including children, parents, elderly people, and others who are not typically able to attend community meetings. By facilitating storytelling, working with interactive models, and creating an “Ideal Waterfront” photo booth, our project created a space where art-making was a living thing — contingent on the relationship between people and place that constitute the neighborhood.

It is not strange that community engagement in the arts is becoming more visible in the broader art world. In a moment characterized by startling inequality, global crises, and threats to civil liberty, artists are compelled to respond to complex problems with projects that seek to not only articulate the conditions of everyday life, but to engage them head-on. Art-making requires sustained attention, both stubbornness and willingness to change,professional amateurism, and deep engagement. It requires collaboration across disciplines, and a long-term perspective that pays close attention to the present. In short, the practice of art-making is well-suited to the task of confronting social and political climate that is more and more often characterised by fear and fraction.

Conversations like artsENGAGE are important in the midst of this practice because this work is not easy, but also because we are the constituents of the community of practitioners, working to articulate the terms of our engagement. We are storytellers, visual artists, media makers, and administrators, and we are also the people in our neighborhoods. This salon has presented powerful examples, and raised important questions. I hope that it is the beginning of a longer conversation that can sustain the work of the participants, and support the creation of new, powerful work.

 

Process and Progress: The Bronx River

Process and Progress: The Bronx River was produced in a partnership between Meta Local Collaborative & The Bronx River Alliance. It included an exhibition and a series of public programs focusing on the past, the present and the future of the Bronx River. Meta Local  installed  at the Bronx River Art Center, a large timeline with a  selection of images, videos, ephemera from the archives of the Bronx River Alliance. The images traced changes to the spaces along the river  revisited past restoration and recreation plans, and considered the river’s present state and plans for its future.

Further, Meta Local organized a series of free  public programs, panel discussions with local activists, advocates, educators, environmentalists, and architects, as well as a literature reading and a documentary screening. “Take me to the River” connected the Bronx River’s past and future histories, with conversations and presentations from Morgan Powell, Editor, Bronx River Sankofa, Anthony Thomas the Environmental Justice Coordinator from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi, SLO Architecture. “Wade in the Water“ examined efforts to improve diverse Bronx waterfronts, with Damian Griffin the Bronx River Alliance’s Education Director, Kellie Terry-Sepulveda Executive Director of The POINT CDC, Chauncy Young, Community Organizer from the Harlem River Working Group, and Mychal Johnson from South Bronx Unite. “Underwater New York: The Bronx River,” Underwater New York (UNY) is a journal of writing, art and music inspired by real-life objects found in the waterways of NYC, UNY invited three Bronx writers to write original fiction or poetry around surprising once-submerged Bronx River finds like a piano, a human skull, a horse trailer and more. Featuring: Allison Amend, Rich Villar, Carolyn Ferrell

WADE IN THE WATER AT BRONX RIVER ART CENTER

http://www.bronxnet.org/plugins/hwdvs-videoplayer/jwflv_html5/player.swf

Hautey Ramos from Bronx River Art Center is back to discuss the Waterfront event happening at Bronx River Art Center.

Elizabeth Hamby, Performing Public Space

First published at Performing Public Space

Elizabeth Hamby is an artist and an educator working between the studio, the classroom, and the city. She is a member of Meta Local, an art collective that investigates the dynamics of urban space, and is one of the founders of Boogie Down Rides, a bicycling and art project in the Bronx. Recent projects include Urban Layers, a web-based collaborative platform for urban writing, mapping and media; Process and Progress: Drew Manahan, Meta Local Collaborative, and the Bronx River Alliance, at the Bronx River Art Center; and Mind the Gap-La Brecha as part of the Create Change Artist Residency at the Laundromat Project. Ms. Hamby is currently participating in the Artists as Arts Workers Residency program at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, as well as an unofficial residency at the Museum of the City of New York, where she coordinates the Neighborhood Explorers afterschool program. Elizabeth Hamby holds a BA in Cultural Studies and Philosophy from Eugene Lang College and a BFA in Fine Art from Parsons School of Design. She lives and works in the Bronx.

Underwater New York, The Bronx River

 

Friday February 22, 2013

7:00pm-9:00pm

At BRAC’s temporary space 305 East 140th St. #1A, Bronx, NY 10454

This event is FREE and open to the public!

Underwater New York is a digital journal of writing, art and music inspired by real-life objects found in the waterways of NYC. In conjunction with “Process and Progress,” UNY has invited three writers with strong ties to the Bronx to write original fiction or poetry around surprising once-submerged Bronx River finds like a piano, a human skull, a horse trailer and more.

Featuring:

Allison Amend

Rich Villar

Carolyn Ferrell

Wade in the water

wade-1

Friday February 15, 2013

7:00pm-9:00pm

At BRAC’s temporary space 305 East 140th St. #1A, Bronx, NY 10454

This event is FREE and open to the public!

Join Meta Local Collaborative and BRAC for a special panel discussion about the different efforts to improve the Bronx waterfronts, with

Damian Griffin the Bronx River Alliance’s Education Director,

Kellie Terry-Sepulveda Executive Director of The POINT CDC,

Chauncy Young, Community Organizer from the Harlem River Working Group,

Mychal Johnson from South Bronx Unite as well as other Bronx activists.

Take me to the river

 

Tuesday February 12, 2013

7:00pm-9:00pm

At BRAC’s temporary space 305 East 140th St. #1A, Bronx, NY 10454

Join Meta Local Collaborative and BRAC for  “Take me to the River”,  connecting the Bronx River’s past and future histories with presentations and conversations with:

Morgan Powell, Editor, Bronx River Sankofa

Anthony Thomas the Environmental Justice Coordinator from Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice.

Amanda Schachter and Alexander Levi, SLO Architecture

Event is  FREE and open to the public.

Process and Progress: Drew Manahan, Meta Local Collaborative & The Bronx River Alliance

Process-progress-river

On View from February 01 – February 23

Gallery Location: 305 E. 140th Street, #1A, Bronx, NY 10454
Reception: Friday, February 1, 2013, 6-9pm

GALLERY HOURS: Wednesday–Friday, 3pm–6:30pm / Saturday, 12pm–5pm FREE ADMISSION

Bronx, NY, January, 2013—Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) is proud to announce Process and Progress: Drew Manahan, Meta Local Collaborative & The Bronx River Alliance. This is the third in the series of five exhibitions that invites artists and architects to engage with systems of urban development in the Bronx and beyond. Process and Progress is presented in BRAC’s temporary gallery space in Mott Haven while our permanent facility in West Farms is undergoing renovation.

The exhibition series, Process and Progress: Engaging in Community Change, highlights the Bronx River Art Center’s development during a time of significant structural and cultural change in the borough. BRAC’s major building renovation project, now underway, is leading the way for more environmentally sustainable and technologically advanced designs within our local West Farms Community. At the same time, the surrounding area has become home to new and imminent urban development projects that will dramatically impact the built environment, social fabric, and cultural composition of our local community.

Process and Progress: Drew Manahan, Meta Local Collaborative & The Bronx River Alliance focuses on the past, the present and the future of the Bronx River. Architect Drew Manahan explores how the wilderness around the river has resurfaced within the South Bronx’s urban environment through renderings and drawings and how this evolving ecology and the river is creating new ephemeral or transcendental experiences for the borough’s dwellers.

In partnership with the Bronx River Alliance, Meta Local Collaborative has curated a selection of photos, plans, maps, ephemera from the Alliance’s archives. They trace how spaces along the river has changed throughout the years, revisit past restoration and recreation plans, and consider the river’s present state and plans for its future. In addition, Meta Local is showcasing work they are developing focused on public access to the Bronx River Greenway.

Artists and Partners:

Andrew Manahan is an Eagle Scout from Northwest Ohio who received his Bachelors of Science in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati and his Masters of Architecture from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His vision is to create architectural and cultural policy through an opportunistic and proactive practice. He completed his first building just this past year through a mixture of contemporary and digital fabrication techniques and traditional woodwork and handcraft, featured in Metropolis magazine. Andrew has become increasingly interested in the reemergence of wilderness and nature in highly populated or recently vacated urban areas, and is interested in crafting a relationship between culture architecture and wilderness.

Meta Local Collaborative is the practice of Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos Fermin. Their work investigates the dynamics of urban spaces, exploring the histories of buildings and neighborhoods, and tracing the flows of people, ideas and products. Combining documentary strategies with performance and fine art, they articulate concepts of origin, and the sense of place. Meta Local develops site-specific, participatory works that refer to the complexity of their community in the South Bronx and beyond. The artists observe, analyze, and dissect the social, cultural and economic structures of their neighborhood, as well as the design and organization of buildings and spaces, and use the information gathered to develop questions that serve as a foundation for their projects.

The Bronx River Alliance serves as a coordinated voice for the river and works in harmonious partnership to protect, improve and restore the Bronx River corridor so that it can be a healthy ecological, recreational, educational and economic resource for the communities through which the river flows.

Creative Conversations

Creative Conversations: Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Elizabeth Hamby, and Hatuey Ramos-Fermin

Reposted from the Laundromat Project.

Each year, The Laundromat Project commissions 5-7 Create Change Public Artists-in-Residence to create socially engaged art in their own neighborhood coinops. Over the course of six months, they join our Create Change Professional Development Fellows in a series of workshops meant to strengthen their creative practice. Over the next few weeks, we will share a series of conversations between pairs of our most recent Residents and Fellows.

Nontsi: Social practice implies collaboration between artists and community members. Elizabeth and Hatuey, you chose to build a project together before bringing other people into the equation. What was this experience like?

Elizabeth: Our collaborative work is both arduous and incredibly rewarding. I think that the constant work that is required in order to collaborate with each other is a big influence on the way that we work with other people. Hatuey and I hold each other to very high standards, and the accountability that we demand from one another frames our work in our neighborhood. I really related to Urban Bush Women’s presentation about mutual support through collaboration, and the work that is required to achieve that support–their presentation really articulated things that Hatuey and I have been working on and talking about but had not really been able to make clear for ourselves at that point. Thinking specifically about neighbors, and neighborhood engagement, can you talk a little about your hair braiding project in Detroit? You were new to that community, but you used the vernacular of hair and braiding as a bridge between a lot of different social, ethnic, and geographic communities.

Nontsi: When I got to Detroit I realised that I had a very short amount of time to meet people in the community, conduct research, make some artwork and organise an event. I started with the people I had connected with on a previous visit and then met others through their network. I collaborated with a barber, ZooNine Bey and former hairstylist Dina Peace. We spent time together before the event talking in depth about our respective work, cultural differences and similarity. Our interactions culminated in a wonderful event where they demonstrated and spoke to me and everyone that came out about their craft. I really acted as a facilitator and allowed talented knowledgeable people to share with others in their community. I stepped into a place that has a rich history and a strong African-American community committed to presentation, culture and craft. It was a great learning opportunity for me. It was wonderful seeing people coming around to share and be involved with leading and listening.

 

Elizabeth & Hatuey: Could you share a specific story from your experience doing this project that really captures that sense of people coming together?
Nontsi: Actually, the best part of the project was when it was all over. People stayed for a long time after we were done, continuing conversations, swapping information asking how and when something similar could be organised again. I am happy that people felt invested.

 

Elizabeth & Hatuey: On the website “Brainpickings,” there was recently a quote from Bruno Munari (from 1966) that we think is relevant to this discussion. Munari said:

 

“Today it has become necessary to demolish the myth of the ‘star’ artist who only produces masterpieces for a small group of ultra-intelligent people. It must be understood that as long as art stands aside from the problems of life it will only interest a very few people. Culture today is becoming a mass affair, and the artist must step down from his pedestal and be prepared to make a sign for a butcher’s shop (if he knows how to do it). The artist must cast off the last rags of romanticism and become active as a man among men, well up in present-day techniques, materials and working methods. Without losing his innate aesthetic sense he must be able to respond with humility and competence to the demands his neighbors may make of him. The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing. … There should be no such thing as art divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and hideous things to use. If what we use every day is made with art, and not thrown together by chance or caprice, then we shall have nothing to hide.”Both your practice and ours vacillates between art and design. How do you navigate the differences between those two practices? Does thinking like a designer (rather than an artist) change your perception of “the public” and the way that you participate in public life?

 

Nontsi: I want to make work that has a space in the world and that can speak to or capture the imagination of people within the space of the museum but more importantly meeting people where they are at. Making things that people can hold in their hands, or focusing on ways of making that borrow from vernacular design and craft has been a way for me to move my work towards people. Sometimes the audience is specific, I aim to create dialog at street level or on the shop floor between my neighbours and peers. One of the parameters of the Laundromat Project residency is that you produce a project in your very own neighborhood. How long have you been living in the Bronx?

Elizabeth: I have only lived in our neighborhood for about a year. But I don’t see myself going anywhere any time soon.

Hatuey: I’ve been living in the Bronx for 5 years total, 2 years near Yankee Stadium and in Mott Haven 3 years.

Elizabeth & Hatuey: Nontsi, you’re new to New York. How did The Laundromat Project Professional Development Fellowship affect your perception of the city–both as an artist and as an everyday person?

Nontsi: The workshops for the fellowship were held in different Boroughs. Commuting to and from sessions taught me my first lesson about New York – THE PLACE IS HUGE! The population density is incredible and even more so the diversity represented throughout the city. This has really made me reconsider my definition of community. What is a neighbour? What vocabulary, visual or otherwise, do I use to engage them?

Do you feel you had a connection to your community before the Laundromat Project residency?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. We are very lucky to live in a neighborhood with a lot of people who are very committed to achieving social justice through coalition and community-building. We have a lot of neighbors who are organizers and activists, as well as artists, which creates a really amazing space for the kind of work that we do. There are a lot of people who really want to work together.
Hatuey: Yes, we’ve been involved directly and indirectly with this project and other projects as well with our neighbors and organizations. So, we are present.

 

Nontsi: How did you decide on the issue to tackle for your project? Have you been doing other work around this theme?

Elizabeth: Last spring we did a project called Boogie Down Rides dealing with bicycling as a form of transportation, recreation, and art in the Bronx. We built relationships with a lot of organizations who were dealing with different aspects of the built environment in the Bronx, and we wanted to build on that. But we didn’t feel like bicycling was the right project for The LP.

Hatuey: Also, since we have to be in one place to do the residency (at the laundromat, as opposed to biking around) we chose the waterfront that is within our neighborhood to focus on. So, when we talked about the waterfront with our neighbors they could relate to it or not, but it was something tangible, a specific place that they could go to (even though with difficulty). It is the first time we tackled the idea of the waterfront, but we are interested in places and how they can tells us or give us clues about how they are, the way they are and how they affect, influence and in a way define neighborhoods, boroughs, cities etc.

 

Nontsi: Can you highlight something that you felt was most effective at reaching your goals or fulfilling the needs of the participants?

 

Hatuey:  The goals of the project were to interact with our neighbors about their waterfront, to listen to what they have to say about it and the neighborhood, and to use all of that information for the future. It is hard to meet people’s needs, but at the very least we served as a “channel” for people to tell us things that they saw and wanted to improve and we learned a lot from active listening.

 

Elizabeth: It’s similar to what you were saying about your project in Detroit– the best moments of the project were when we were talking with our neighbors about the next steps, the future, in our own terms.

Nontsi: Your project seemed interactive on so many levels, could you tell me about the range of activities you set up at the Laundromat?

 

Hatuey: James Rojas, an artist/urban planner, helped us set up an interactive model making project where people came to our table and played with different toys and objects by placing them in different configurations that transformed them from their regular uses into buildings, trees, slides, parks, boardwalks etc… It was the most successful activity since it is very easy to interact with, it is totally non-threatening and can engage multi-generational participants.
We also had a backdrop of a photo of a place within our waterfront and asked people to write on a speech bubble what they wished the place could be and we took portraits of them, we also recorded audio interviews with neighbors about the neighborhood, their stories about the water, etc.

 

Nontsi: I like the combination of activities you folded into your bigger project. My own work seems to be moving in that direction. The recording of oral history is as important to my investigations as making interactive tools. You’ve mentioned how you worked with participants of all ages. I was very impressed by that. It is so important to harness the energy of all the people to whom a project is relevant.I also liked how your interactive model utilised everyday objects. This is a great way to get people to feel comfortable with touching and moving pieces around. Also it is a way of working that is not out of the reach for others, the children and adults that participated could easily use this format to extend the work you begun or build their own self-initiated projects.

 

Elizabeth & Hatuey: It’s similar with your braiding project. Hair braiding is certainly aesthetic and artful, but it is also an activity that takes place within people’s everyday lives. By framing it within an art context, you’re able to simultaneously amplify the “art” of braiding and hair and to (literally as well as metaphorically) weave together art and life.

Nontsi: My own practice as an artist is process-based. Iteration and labour are an important part of all my projects. Braiding embodies these aspects. For me it is very performative, both the learning and practising. It was interesting to see this played out in the space of a museum. I have also been collecting images and objects associated with this craft. It is important to take a close look at things that seem mundane. There is so much richness and variety around us, even in the things that are most familiar to us.

GUEST BLOG: Global to Local, environment and space – ideas from around the world

Excerpt

By Maria Adebowale (Capacity Global) for  Local Trust

Boogie Down Rides: Bicycling as an art (New York, America)

Boogie Down Rides was set up by artists who use bikes and art to start conversations about improving local space and how people access it.

Elizabeth Hambey and Hatuey Ramos Fermin, the two artists who set up the project, were keen to show how riding down a street can be a starting point for turning a place around. The conversation starter they used with the local people they met focused on how bike riding helped to encourage a cycling culture or make an area even safer. If more people felt comfortable riding bikes around the neighbourhood then more people using the streets and lanes could help to reduce crime and give an area a buzz.

Talking about bikes helped people to start thinking about why areas feel unsafe to ride and what the solution might be for people living locally.  Elizabeth and Hatuey noticed that more local people started using a bike, mending their bikes or learning to ride (particularly women) for the first time.

For some residents cycling represents the ability to get outdoors and explore their local green spaces.

To find out more about Boogie Bikes click here.

Citizen Placemakers: Elizabeth Hamby & Hatuey Ramos Fermín Use Art to Bring People Together

By  for Project for Public Spaces

Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos Fermín are people connectors. As artists, activists, and Bronxites, their creative collaborations are all about gathering information from neighbors and presenting it in ways that allow communities to better understand themselves and the urban spaces they create. The two have worked in all kinds of public spaces, from major thoroughfares and street corners to laundromats, grocery stores, and vacant waterfronts.

Recently, they organized Boogie Down Rides: Bicycling is Art. The artists used the social act of biking as a springboard for talking with people about the creation of healthy, active urban environments. Throughout the month of May 2012, they set up many different formats for engaging the public: a temporary bike shop that simultaneously served as an education hub, group rides across the Bronx, and visioning workshops about biking and greenway initiatives in the city.

The project was organized as part of the public art exhibition, This Side of Paradise, by No Longer Empty at the Andrew Freedman Home. I recently sat down with Hatuey and Elizabeth to talk aboutBoogie Down Rides and the other urban projects they have in the works.

 

What was it about your community that inspired Boogie Down Rides? Was there a particular need that you were responding to or wanted to address?

Hatuey: Boogie Down Rides grew out of another project of mine, Transmit-Transit. It explored the idea of taxi drivers as a mode of transport in the the Bronx, and the need for cabs to move around. Public transit in the north-south direction works well but east-west not so much. No Longer Empty first approached me about that transportation project, which became a video installation at the Andrew Freedman Home that connected the gallery space to the outside world. Then we began thinking about how to physically and conceptually expand transportation within the community. Transportation was a major theme extending back to Mr. Freedman’s time, with Mr. Freedman being a major backer of the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), New York City’s original underground subway. The IRT addressed the linking of open space from Central Park to Van Cortlandt Park. Extending the idea of Transmit-Transit beyond cabs, we wanted to look at bikes as another viable option to address mobility in the Bronx.

One of the great things about Boogie Down Rides is how it brings together many activities that people may not normally associate but which all contribute to healthy places. Your tagline, for example, is Bicycling is Art. Can you explain how biking, public art, and urban spaces are linked in your project?

Elizabeth: Instead of representing reality as a painting, we live it on a bike. The bike embodied action for this issue of transportation in the Bronx, where biking is a social act and a political act. Instead of designing a solution to a problem, we tried to figure out the questions that exist in real life through the experience of biking. We both live in the Bronx. It’s part of our day-to-day reality, and because we’re artists, we have a compulsion to make what we see public. We often talk to people about the role that artists play as citizens and neighbors in our communities. We hope our work as artists can help make our neighborhoods more safe, lively, and liveable in many ways.

The project also involved community visioning sessions for the Bronx’s longer-term development. What came out of these sessions?

Elizabeth: The visioning sessions were really spearheaded by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which was just launching an interactive toolkit to gather data and address threats to active transportation and public space. They were key in leading some of the concrete visioning work happening around the Sheridan Expressway, where dangerous connections make it unsafe to bike between the parks. Rather than focusing on cause and effect, the visioning sessions were about figuring out opportunities for improvement. Safety—specifically, feeling safe in public—was an ongoing theme in the conversations we had with our neighbors.

Throughout your various interactions with the public, did you come across questions or reactions that particularly surprised you?

Elizabeth: One of the most surprising things that we learned from Boogie Down Rides was the number of adults—particularly women—who had never learned how to ride a bike, and who were very excited to find out about opportunities for biking in the Bronx. In the instance of another project, Mind the Gap/La Brecha, we talked a lot with folks in our neighborhood about their ideas for the waterfront. One of the critical components to the waterfront that came up over and over again was the basic need for clean public restrooms!

Collaboration seems integral to your work. What other community partners were vested inBoogie Down Rides?

Hatuey: Conversations and collaborations were important from the start; we worked with Transportation AlternativesDepartment of Health and Mental HygieneBronx River AllianceBike the BronxBronx Health REACHPartnership for ParksVelo City

Elizabeth: We also had a meeting with City Planning and the Mayor’s Office where we were able to show our recommendations. It was perhaps an unusual case in that the Mayor’s Office and City Planning came to us. Our collaborations really grew organically, and our project was timely in terms of how they related to conversations already happening in New York about biking, complete streets, and the South Bronx Greenway Plan.

And did people express any misconceptions that you were able to address through these collaborations?

Elizabeth: I think that artists working in public the way that we do are often confused with non-profit or other community-based organizations. We often talk to people about the role that artists play as citizens and neighbors in our communities—and the ways that we hope that our work can help make our neighborhoods more safe, lively, and liveable.

Any advice you would give to communities who are trying to build healthier places?

Elizabeth: You have to remember the factor of critical mass. If you notice a problem, someone else probably has too, so it becomes about working together in a long-term way.

Hatuey: It’s realizing there are already resources within the community, and that becomes the main point of departure. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel. You want to create space to bring stakeholders together.

Elizabeth: Also humility and willingness to listen and genuinely collaborate—those are really important, in regard to attitude. There’s a lot of work that goes into working together.

Hatuey: Listening is the biggest thing, listening with a big ear.

Street CARTographies

[vimeo 29644855]

“Maps are about relationships among which meanings circulate.”

Denis Wood, Rethinking the Power of Maps

More than half of the world’s population are classified as “urban dwellers,” but their experience is hardly unified. For example, drastic socio-economic disparity and unequal access to resources occur in startling proximity in dense urban areas. Further, the city itself is richly woven with public and private spaces constructed through the collective action of individual citizens. Using a street cart as a vehicle for exploration and dialogue, Street CARTographies will travel across a city, exploring the relationships between people from diverse neighborhoods and communities.

This multi-day participatory urban intervention visits plazas and other public gathering places throughout the city. The cart unfolds to serve as a base for a community map and visitors to the plaza are invited to pin locations in a city that are important to them. Participants  are given a balloon corresponding to the color of the pin, printed with the text, “I am on the map” As they move through the plaza with their balloons, participants effectively turn the plaza itself into a map representing all of the places important to its’ inhabitants.

Following the intervention, the maps, accompanying documentation including photographs and videos, and the street cart itself is installed in an exhibition space in order to further the dialogue and include other participants.

Street CARTographies maps the relationships—both visible and invisible—that shape the meanings of the city for its inhabitants. These maps are not only containers for information but rather bridges between people, ideas and places. By visualizing the relationships at work in public spaces, this project articulates the construction of space in both geographical and human terms.

This project is a collaboration between Hatuey Ramos Fermín and Elizabeth Hamby we are artists and educators working together to investigate the dynamics of urban space; exploring the histories of buildings and neighborhoods, and tracing the flows of people, ideas and products. Combining documentary strategies with performance and fine art, their collaborative practice seeks to articulate concepts of origin, public-ness and private-ness, and the sense of place.

Voices and Visions: Re-imagining America Media Exhibition

The Voices and Visions Re-imagining America Media Exhibition at the recent Imagining America national conference in New York City presented the work of artists and artist collectives whose practices articulate the mission of Imagining America by thriving in and contributing to community-based action and revitalization. The program was divided between two screening rooms, focusing on the strategy and practice of community-based art work.

The first room, “Visions,” presented documentation of tactics used to engage with a variety of publics to initiate dialogue and catalyze meaningful change. Featuring the work of Meta Local CollaborativeGhana Think TankThe Laundromat ProjectThe Tax Dodgers, and Housing is a Human Right, this program looked at the strategies that a diverse group of artists use to collaborate with different communities, instigating broad conversations about history, culture, and politics.

The second room, “Voices,” presented the work of Kanene HolderAna Garcia-RockafellaLa BrujaMichael Paul Britto, and Zachary Fabri, showcasing the product of community-based artistic practices. The works presented in this program emerged from long-standing relationships between artists and their communities, and demonstrated the power of large-scale collaboration in production, performance, and design.

In addition, monitors in the atrium of the screening rooms featured the work of youth from the Global Action Project, and the artist Shani Peters.

All of the artists and artist collectives whose work was presented in the Voices and Visions Media Exhibition occupy a complex place between the art world, activism, and social practice. Their work presents actionable strategies to achieve Imagining America’s ambitious vision of an enriched civic life, facilitated by publicly engaged artists, designers, scholars, and other community members working with institutions of higher education.

About the Curators

Bill Aguado was the Executive Director of the Bronx Council on the Arts, 1981–2009. His accomplishments were many over the years as the influential force behind many of BCA’s more successful and noteworthy programs. Among them, The Longwood Art Gallery, one of New York City’s oldest and longest running alternative spaces, and BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) is a twenty-year independent artist fellowship program offering 25 fellowships to Bronx artists. In 2000, he was the recipient of the Governor’s Arts Award. He is also the recipient of the Mayor’s Arts Award in 2006, and most recently he received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service to Artists at the 38th annual Skowhegan Awards Dinner in April 2009.

Elizabeth Hamby and Kanene Holder at the IA Conference
Elizabeth Hamby and Kanene Holder at the IA Conference

 

Kanene Holder is an avant-garde performance-artist, poet, photographer and chronic-contrarian, educator, and spokesperson for the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Her newest political satire, Searching for American Justice, premiered for NYU’s LowLives festival.

Elizabeth Hamby is an artist and an educator, working in a complex space between the studio, the classroom, and the city. Using drawing, video, installation, and participatory workshops, she explores the dynamics of place and the rhythms of everyday urban experience. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. She teaches at the Museum of the City of New York, Millennium Art Academy, and The Drawing Center. She holds a BA in Cultural Studies and Philosophy from Eugene Lang College and a BFA in Studio Art from Parsons School of Design.

Hatuey Ramos-Fermín is an educator, multimedia artist and curator who uses photography, video, installation, graphics, performance, interventions, maps, audio, collaborations, social and curatorial practices to creatively investigate issues related to urban spaces. He is interested in articulating conceptual ideas regarding our society into thought-provoking critical language using a combination of documentary and fine arts practices. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

About the Artists

Michael Paul Britto‘s work ranges from videos to digital photography, sculpture, and performance. Britto has had residencies at the New Museum, as well as Smack Mellon and The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation in New York. Britto’s work has been featured in shows at El Museo del Barrio, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw; Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Britto has been written about in The New York Times, Art In America, and The Brooklyn Rail.

La Bruja has numerous acting credits, spoken-word performances, and hip-hop albums. Her presentations span television, theater, and film, such as HBO Latino, The History Channel, public service spots for Americans for the Arts, and Spike Lee’s commercials for IAM.com. She has recorded with Fat Joe, Vivian Green, Jadakiss, Don Dinero, The Jungle Brothers, Black Ice, B-Real, Tony Touch, Afrikaa Bambaata, Chingo Bling, Hurricane G, Boy Wonder, and The X-ecutioners. La Bruja released her debut album Brujalicious in 2005 on De La Luz Records. La Bruja is a dedicated artist-activist, who frequently performs at schools, universities, hospitals, and community centers around the country.

Focusing on video and performance, Zachary Fabri‘s work seeks to create a space for discourse around social and political systems of oppression. In addition to video, he also incorporates various media, including photography, sculpture, drawing, and installation into his work, which often responds to a specific environment or context.

Ana Garcia-Rockafella is a female breakdancer (B Girl Rokafella) who co-founded Full Circle Productions, Inc. in 1996 with her husband Kwikstep. Their mission has been to present uplifting Hip-Hop dance performances and provide educational Hip-Hop dance programming throughout NYC. The only Hip-Hop dance company of its kind in NY, Full Circle proudly references its roots and style to street performing. In the span of its near-two-decades’ existence, Full Circle has gone from hosting international contemporary companies for exchange to representing Hip-Hop at places once intangible to the street vibe, such as The Library of Congress in Washington D.C., where they have the credit of being the first Hip-Hop group to grace the stage.

Founded in 2006,  Ghana Think Tank is a worldwide network of think tanks creating strategies to resolve local problems in the “developed” world. The network began with think tanks from Ghana, Cuba and El Salvador, and has since expanded to include Serbia, Mexico, and Ethiopia. In a recent project, GTT sent problems collected in Wales to think tanks in Ghana, Mexico, Serbia, Iran, and a group of incarcerated girls in the U.S. Prison system.

Global Action Project works with young people most affected by injustice to build the knowledge, tools, and relationships needed to create media for community power, cultural expression, and political change. GAP has provided media-arts and leadership education for thousands of youth living in under-served communities across New York City and the country.

Housing is a Human Right is a creative storytelling project that aims to help connect diverse communities around housing, land, and the dignity of a place to call home. We create a space for people to share stories of their community and ongoing experiences trying to obtain or maintain a place to call Home. We are building a collection of intimate, viscerally honest narratives exploring the complex fabric of community and the human right to housing and land, painting a living portrait of human rights.

The Laundromat Project is a community-based non-profit arts organization committed to the well-being of people of color living on low incomes. Understanding that creativity is a central component of healthy human beings, vibrant neighborhoods, and thriving economies, we bring arts programs to where our neighbors already are: the local laundromat. In this way, we aim to raise the quality of life in New York City for people whose incomes do not guarantee broad access to mainstream arts and cultural facilities.

Meta Local Collaborative develops site-specific, participatory works that refer to the complexity of their community in the South Bronx and beyond. By actively engaging a broad range of people and working across disciplines, Meta Local challenges the existing hierarchies, inclusions, and exclusions that characterize “participation” in the larger democracy of New York City.

Shani Peters is a New York based artist working in video, collage, printmaking, and social practice public projects. She is interested in collective movement, cyclical patterns throughout history and generations, and cultural record keeping and accessibility. Her work examines histories in the focused context of present societal conditions, and re-presents them in manners consciously influenced by a hyper-mediated society. Her perspective is heavily informed by her family and by the historical era in which she lives. Peters was born into the me generation of the socially conservative 1980s by way of faithful Black Power era parents who live by a mantra of social responsibility. The intersections of these influences, combined with that of contemporary life’s constant media program, produces work dense with appropriated material (both highly recognizable and commonly overlooked), contradictory notions, and always with an eye towards realities yet unseen. She layers ideas and references through video, print, and public projects in an attempt to push back her own program—a new account, or record of existence.

The Tax Dodgers is a high-impact media spectacle that is able to show up anywhere real corporate tax dodgers do, and immediately attach itself to their “brand.” It works on corporations, lobbyists, and politicians. Because of the creativity, humor, and, of course, the massive popularity of baseball, the message sticks. Whoever they “go to bat for” is immediately re-branded as a Tax Dodger.

2 BX artists bring ‘Mind the Gap’ project to Mott Haven

2 BX artists bring ‘Mind the Gap’ project to Mott Haven by Bornx News 12

MOTT HAVEN – Two Bronx residents have launched a project in an attempt to bridge the gap between the waterfront and Mott Haven. ‘Mind the Gap’ is part of The Laundromat Project, which brings artists to neighborhood Laundromats to document what locals think about the waterfront and how to improve access to it. The participants hope the project helps residents appreciate the area’s natural resources. ‘Mind the Gap’ will be stationed at the Blue and White Laundromat on East 140th Street through September.

Mott Haven Artists Transform Laundromat Into Interactive Art Site

By Patrick Wall for DNAinfo

MOTT HAVEN — With its rumbling dryers and stinging smell of detergent, the Blue and White Laundromat on East 140th Street is a fine place to wash clothes, but an odd one to dream about a river.

But that is what two Mott Haven artists are asking patrons to do as they conduct interviews outside the laundromat and invite passersby to fiddle with a whimsical model of the South Bronx waterfront, where popsicle sticks stand in for bridges and blue tape signifies water.

“Feel free to touch things and put things here,” said artist Hatuey Ramos-Fermín as locals approached the tabletop river. “Make your own little place along the water.”

Through the model, the recorded interviews, maps, photographs and riverside walks, Ramos-Fermín and his creative partner, Elizabeth Hamby, want to draw their neighbors’ attention to the South Bronx waterfront, which sits just a mile south but often feels a world away.

“There is a disconnect between people’s everyday experience here and the waterfront,” said Ramos-Fermín, noting that many locals travel some nine miles northeast to Orchard Beach or walk along the Manhattan bank of the Harlem River to spend time near the water.

The piece, which will culminate with a public presentation in October, was commissioned by The Laundromat Project, a citywide nonprofit whose residency program gives artists $4,000 to launch interactive art projects inside laundromats in the neighborhoods where they live.

Other artists have converted sections of laundromats into yoga studios, reading rooms and English language classrooms for immigrants — all with the blessing of the storeowners, who are not paid by the artists or the nonprofit.

The Mott Haven pair hopes their piece, called “Mind the Gap/La Brecha,” can connect residents with the ongoing efforts of local activists, city officials and urban planners from as far away as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge to convert stretches of Bronx waterfront from their old industrial uses into public spaces.

“A lot of plans already exist,” said Hamby, including ones for new riverside parks, pathways and a long-delayed footbridge to Randall’s Island. But, she added, there is a need to carry “that conversation out of those meetings and onto the ground.”

Riverfront access gained new attention this year when some Bronx residents loudly opposed FreshDirect’s plan to build a new 500,000-square-foot facility in the Harlem River Yards in Port Morris.

But when the art project began this month at the laundromat on East 140th St., talk of the water was far less contentious and much more personal.

After shoving her clothes into a dryer, an elderly woman told the artists that she loves dipping her feet in the water. A man passing on the sidewalk pulled out his cell phone to share a picture of his favorite beach in Puerto Rico.

Alex Alonzo, 9, played with the river model until he had designed his dream waterfront, with pipe connectors as telescopes, a plastic badge as a police station and a pack of pink wafers as a cookie factory.

Alex’s older brother, Alberto Alonzo, stopped folding clothes for a moment to imagine fishing and picnicking by the river.

“You sit by the water and feel the breeze and you feel relaxed,” Alberto Alonzo, 25, said. “You forget about the city.”

When the artists asked their neighbors about their visions for a reclaimed South Bronx waterfront, they mentioned shade, bright colors, swimmable water, security and, of course, restrooms.

“What this exercise reveals is that everybody has feelings about water,” said Hamby, while some young children pushed plastic fish through the blue-tape river. “It’s elemental.”

Calendar of Mind the Gap / La Brecha

For more information visit: here and here.

 

Mind the Gap / La Brecha

Mind the Gap/La Brecha is a temporary art and education hub located at the Blue and White Laundromat on 140st Street in the Bronx. From July-October, 2012, Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín worked with their neighbors to propose new ways of connecting the community to green space along the waterfront within the South Bronx and Randall’s Island. By mapping the relationships–both visible and invisible–that shape the issues affecting our community, Mind the Gap/La Brecha built connections between people and place, bringing new voices to the conversation around the future of our neighborhood–all in the time of a spin cycle.This project was developed in and commissioned by The Laundromat Project’s Create Change Public Artist Residency Program.

 

 

 

For more information visit: here, and  here.

Soundview Park Summer Festival

 

Friends of Soundview Park annual celebration of the park and the Bronx waterfront!

All activities are FREE and open to the public. Performances for all ages, family friendly fun and educational activities, and fitness and recreational programming.

10:00 am – 6:00 pm – Street Cartography
This bicycle-based mobile exhibition of ideas about ways to make bicycling accessible, safe and sustainable in the Bronx. The artists Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín will share existing initiatives in the Bronx and generate new ideas with participants in the festival.

This Side of a Postmodern Paradise: No Longer Empty in the Andrew Freedman Home

By  

The two-month run of This Side of Paradise, the much celebrated exhibit by No Longer Empty, is quickly coming to a close. Last minute viewers have until June 5th to see the works of 34 artists occupying the Andrew Freedman Home (1125 Grand Concourse) before it closes this Tuesday.

Since the opening on April 4th, the exhibit has received over 2500 visitors and significant press attention, making it by far the most successful show for the nascent arts organization No Longer Empty. Founded in the heart of the recession by the prominent curator Manon Slome, No Longer Empty transforms the vacant storefronts littering NYC into temporary art exhibits. Slome, former curator of the Guggenheim, stresses that No Longer Empty’s unique vision does not produce ‘pop-up’ shows; their mission is rather to dissolve the barriers between public and private art through curated, site-specific exhibits which are truly inspired by the empty spaces they occupy. In this way the group also revitalizes forlorn streetscapes; a key part of No Longer Empty’s mission is to provide neighborhood benefits by fostering activity in and around their show spaces.

This Side of Paradise, however, differs from most of No Longer Empty’s previous exhibits as it utilizes a historic site rather than a commercial space. Looming over the 167th street B / D stop, the Andrew Freedmen Home opened in 1924 as a retirement home for former millionaires to live their last days in the manner in which they had become accustomed. Freedman, who died in 1915, used his eponymous project as an extension of his interests in life. He was known as a great connector and developer critical in the growth of New York around the turn of the 20th century. Freedman was a member of the controversial Tammany Hall development machine and a key financier of the original IRT subway line. His substantial wealth funded the Home’s operations until the endowment dwindled in the early 1980s, making the living conditions for later residents considerably less luxurious than Freedman originally intended.

Justen Ladda, German-born artist featured in This Side of Paradise, first noticed the Andrew Freedman Home in this period of decline. Ladda began exploring the South Bronx in 1970s for spaces for his installation pieces. “Coming from Europe,” Ladda said, “I can only compare the state of the South Bronx in the 1970s to Pompeii. Whole streets were abandoned and vacant, like some European cities after World War II. I noticed the Andrew Freedman home then- it was already derelict. The place was dimly lit, and you could tell that the residents were heavily sedated. I was able to enter the grounds and building and look around with no questions asked.” Ladda’s piece, “like money like water” (2012) acknowledges the tension between wealth, death and relationships. “My piece is about pissing money,” said Ladda, “how dead these people are who are constantly buying stuff to fill the content of their lives. It does things on a personal level, and also on a wider societal level, this influences our interpersonal relationships.”

 

Ladda’s piece transforms depending on the stance of the viewer. Similarly, the Andrew Freedman Home transforms depending upon the time and space in which the Home is seen. Naomi Hersson-Ringskog, the Executive Director of No Longer Empty, describes her first engagement with the Andrew Freedman Home much differently than Ladda: “My first impression of the home is the amazement that you don’t recognize it exists. It occupies an entire block and you don’t really notice it. The fence around the grounds still gives off its original air of exclusion; it remains a gated space.” Artist Frederico Uribe’s installation “The Fence” (2012) installed on the exterior gate, softens the Home’s disconnection from the Grand Concourse promenade. Similarly, show’s opening drew over 2,400 people thanks in part to the large blue flag flying in the front lawn with a simple word and message: “free.” According to Hersson-Ringskog, the show receives around 60 visitors each day, a record breaking average for a No Longer Empty show.

While the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council currently owns the property, it is no longer used as a retirement community. The Home is in a period of transition; the Council is renovating separate sections of the large building into a bed and breakfast and community arts and education center. This Side of Paradise acts as a bridge between the old and new uses for the space- the exhibit explores the Home’s captivating past and burgeoning future. Hersson-Ringskog describes the show as a celebration of “human ingenuity, the strength of the human spirit and the resilience needed to fashion beauty, hope and rejoicing.”

According to Hersson-Ringskog, Slome conducted over 60 studio visits to Bronx-based artists to ensure the show featured a cadre of local artists. Their pieces explore the different facets of the Home’s past, present and future. For example, Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermin’s piece “IRT” (2012) indirectly alludes to Freedman’s impact on NYC’s subways while explicitly illustrating how Livery cabs fill in public transit service gaps in the Bronx. Bronx-based couple Hamby and Ramos-Fermin also collaborated with many existing community groups in the neighborhood to create Boogie Down Rides, a temporary bike shop near the Home. The shop was open throughout May and served the area with bike rentals and repairs. Boogie Down Rides also served as an outpost for residents to learn about the development of bike paths and greenways in the Bronx, as well as the new city-wide bike share. Hamby describes the couple’s work as a means of “bringing about meaningful change in the world. As citizens, neighbors and resident of this area, a better network of active transportation is something that {Ramos-Fermin and I} really want to see. It’s something that our neighbors value as well. Something that has a life beyond just a gallery.”

Boogie Down Rides is an extension of No Longer Empty’s Urban Initiative. An urban planner by training, Hersson-Ringskog described the Initiative as following the same site-specific model inspiring the exhibits: “We noticed that transportation was the issue in the Bronx, and so we formed our partnerships around this issue.” She continued to describe how “ No Longer Empty thrives on hybridity. We like the mixing of things- urban planning with professional art. We wanted to put the Andrew Freedman Home on people’s radars and foster visitors for its future programming.”

This Side of Paradise is open until June 5th.
1125 Grand Concourse
Thursday – Sunday
1 – 7 PM

Laundromat Project 2012 Cycle

We are excited to be part of the Laundromat Project Create a Change Artist Residency!
Hatuey Ramos-Fermin and Elizabeth Hamby will turn their laundromat into a classroom environment in their project Mind the Gap/La Brecha to invite their neighbors to propose new ways of increasing their access to green spaces and the waterfront. Collaborating with locals, they will use 3D models, workshops, and other platforms to visualize the future development of the South Bronx. The interior and exterior space of the laundromat will be used to exhibit the culmination of ideas generated by locals.

Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín are artists and educators working between the studio, the classroom, and the city. Their collaborative practice explores the relationship between people and place through a variety of media, and relies heavily on community participation and engagement. Their recent projects, Boogie Down Rides in “This Side of Paradise,” organized by No Longer Empty, and When the Bronx was Burning, Casa Amadeo was Holding it Down produced with Action Club for “Shifting Communities” at the Bronx River Art Center combined installation with public programming and community engagement to create conversations about critical issues in the Bronx.

Boogie Down Rides

Boogie Down Rides is a bicycling and art project.

Boogie Down Rides is a celebration of bicycling in the Bronx. It includes educational events, community visioning sessions and group rides.

Boogie Down Rides firmly believes in the power of bicycling as a way to promote active transportation, recreation, and exercise. We support and build bridges of existing efforts to expand safe cycling while connecting communities and people in the process.

This project is organized by meta local collaborative, an initiative by artists Elizabeth Hambyand Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, and includes a broad coalition of individuals and organizations.  Community partners include Bike the BronxBronx River AllianceVelo CityBronx Health REACHNew York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,Partnership for Parks,  Transportation Alternatives, and New York City Department of Transportation.

This project started as part of the exhibition This Side of Paradise, presented by No Longer Empty.

Bicycling is art.

Boogie Down Rides on Facebook

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=109615

 

 

 

This Side of Paradise

Rebecca Rothberg for Whitehot Magazine

The conflicted protagonists in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, Amory Blaine of This Side of Paradise (literary inspiration for the title of No Longer Empty’s exhibition) and Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby, are inherently nostalgic characters. Imbued with an innate yearning for what was, what never will be, they are both perpetually dissatisfied by and disillusioned with the present. A life with Daisy Buchanan is paradise to Gatsby; a fantasy personified, she is unattainable. Amory seeks admiration and popularity at Princeton amidst constant rejection. Both characters want desperately to fit into the seemingly glamorous worlds they feel constantly on the outskirts of. Paradise exists only in their minds, in contrast to the lives they live and the realities they can never escape.

Like Fitzgerald, Manon Slome, Ph.D., President and Curator of No Longer Empty, the nomadic organization established to revive and facilitate creative exchange in once-abandoned spaces, has orchestrated an environment of nostalgia and lost paradise in the Andrew Freedman Home. Once a respite for the wealthy who had lost their fortunes in the early 20th century, the home was denied funding in the early 1980s and has been deserted ever since. Thus, Slome’s bold new exhibition implores artists to examine the notion of paradise in juxtaposition to the present-day realities of the Bronx’s Grand Concourse, a place that, like the backdrop of Fitzgerald’s literary realm, was last alive during the Jazz Age.

Beginning with the Princess Ballroom on the first floor, Slome leads me through the 123-bedroom home a week before the show opens explaining that when the chosen artists first came into the space she told them they were free to scavenge for and use pieces of the house and various artifacts found in it wherever they may discover them. The first piece we examine exemplifies this creative repurposing of the past. In Nicky Enright’s audio sculpture The Ravages, the artist adorned an old piano found on the third floor of the house with antique typewriters also found scattered throughout the Andrew Freedman Home. About memory, decay and loss, evoking the fingers of the residents, this will be a sound piece – a precursor to what we call salsa music will be playing at the piano, the rhythm of the typewriters as percussion. This haunting son montuno speaks to both the building’s past and the Latin origin of many current Bronx residents.

“How did this project come about?” I ask Slome. She explains that No Longer Empty had been in operation for about three years when Holly Block, Director of the Bronx Museum, invited her team to come to the Bronx and collaborate with the museum. Holly initially envisioned the location of 900 Grand Concourse, which, in Slome’s words, was the diner of “a fabulous hotel where the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis performed when the Grand Concourse was in its hay-day.” However, as Manon explains, “the building manager of the Andrew Freedman Home met us there that day, too, and said ‘Guys, I have something so much better for you…’ He showed us this place and I immediately said ‘Done! I’ll take it!’ ”

The next piece we explore is a captivating installation by Cheryl Pope called Shove. A slew of Anniversary plates thrust into a wall, it begs the questions about what becomes of memory and how do we celebrate the passing of time. “Is it in your bones, or is it just something you observe by this kitsch?” Slome asks. The front side of the wall is a smooth façade, but the piece is multi-dimensional; when we walk around to the other side, it is apparent that it is all a set.

While the Princess Ballroom is about memory, the Bronx of the past, Slome explains that the next room we step into is very much concerned with the present realities of the Bronx. “One of the really big problems of the Bronx is getting around. It’s easier to get from the Bronx to Manhattan than from here in the South Bronx to Riverdale, so people rely a lot on gypsy cabs.” Thus, Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and Elisabeth Hamby’s work in the Executive Ballroom features an actual loudspeaker and top of a gypsy cab that will beconnected to a cab dispatcher in real time, with a video playing above it showing cabbies driving different routes around the Bronx that will be reflected in a nearby wall drawing of the Grand Concourse and various maps of the Bronx.

Walking up to the second floor, Slome explains that there will be a sound piece in the stairwell of all the artists reading sections from This Side of Paradise. In questioning Slome why she chose to appropriate this particular title, she replies by musing about the Jazz Age, thinking about when the Grand Concourse was in it’s hay-day in the 1920s when immigrants came from Europe, escaping up from the Lower East Side. “The idea of paradise came up right away because when you think of the Bronx and Manhattan and you say ‘paradise’, everyone would say it’s Manhattan. So the title is kind of ironic, but it’s also asking people to question what paradise is. Certainly for the early immigrants here and even for immigrants today, the Bronx is a Paradise.”

Upstairs, every bedroom utilized is devoted to a different artist’s installation; each one is completely different from the next, creating unexpected but welcome and thought-provoking juxtapositions. From an interpretation of a hip-hop recording studio, to a room of photographs from an old Village Voice photographer, to an immersive psychedelic environment, to a cheeky homage to Andrew Freeman complete with a note thanking him for enabling the residents to “live in denial just a little longer,” Slome’s Paradise is a fun-house for the wistful, the forward-thinking, and the provocative.

When I ask about her plans for the home and engagement with the public once the exhibition closes, she explains that the community definitely hopes they will retain a presence there in some way. “No Longer Empty is always going to be nomadic. I don’t want to ever have just one site where we operate, but I have suggested artist residencies for the building, which I think could really turn this place into a kind of cultural hub.” Entering the home on a rainy Saturday afternoon during installation, I expected to feel like I was walking into a haunted house; just the thought of a three-story dilapidated mansion in the middle of the Bronx was creepy. But with dozens of friendly artists and handymen working on getting the show ready to open, the home felt vibrant and very much alive. As youth culture in our generation, just as was the case in Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age, seems relentlessly addicted to the past, this house just might have a future.

For more information on No Longer Empty and This Side of Paradise, visit http://www.nolongerempty.org.