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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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.
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 second room, “Voices,” presented the work of Kanene Holder, Ana Garcia-Rockafella, La Bruja, Michael 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.
Kanene Holderis 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‘swork 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
In collaboration with community-based organizations in the Bronx, the artists presented Boogie Down Rides, a month long cycling celebration and public education project. The project ran throughout the month of May and hosted a series of educational events, community visioning sessions and group rides. Visitors and community member learned about ongoing cycling projects in the Bronx including the development of greenways and bike paths. The project was also a place for community engagement and for members of the public to respond to these initiatives through surveys and participatory workshops. By creating a cycling project, Boogie Down Rides aimed to increase awareness of cycling as a mode of transportation and recreation, promote safe cycling and bridge existing efforts to expand cycling in the Bronx.
Photo Documentation by Jo Q Nelson, Chad Stayrook and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín While the Bronx was
Burning, Casa Amadeo was holding it down was a multi-modal installation and series of public programs. This project was produced collaboratively by Elizabeth Hamby, Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, and Action Club (Chris Domenick, Kerry Downey, Jo Q. Nelson, Douglas Paulson), as part of Shifting Communities, a sequence of exhibitions curated by Chad Stayrook at the Bronx River Art Center. Casa Amadeo is a record shop and a cultural treasure trove preserving the history and vitality of Latin music in the South Bronx. By choosing it as a launch pad, we are able to explore ideas of community, collaboration, and culture. In response to challenges we each have in our individual artwork and our shared concerns about the responsibilities of socially engaged art, we gave each other assignments that respond to Casa Amadeo’s rich social, visual, and acoustic space. DEATH TO FALSE BOOGALOOmixtape in collaboration with Douglas Paulson, Kerry Downey, Hatuey Ramos FermínEl Elemento del Bronx Panel Discussion
The first Bronx Music Heritage Center (BMHC) Latin Music roundtable, “El Elemento del Bronx, a Latin Jazz Tale”, was moderated by Bill Aguado of the Bronx Music Heritage Center with guests: Elena Martinez, folklorist; Bobby Sanabria, multi-nominated Grammy bandleader, drummer, and educator;Michael Max Knobbe, Executive Director of Bronx Net; Angel R. Rodriguez Sr., musician, arranger and Bronx Living Legends producer; and Al Quiñones, producer of 52 Park Music Series. Roundtable guests have distinguished themselves as Latin Jazz music leaders and historians, representing the Bronx through their creativity and commitment.
Participants discussed the role of demographic shifts in the Bronx in the shaping of the musical landscape of today, the evolution of Latin Music over the last 30 years, and the role of women musicians in the Latin music field.
Hip hop has become the chronicler of our times, providing historical context of issues, concerns, social attitudes, and negative stereotypes Panelists will be asked to reflect on hip hop as they remember it and talk about what hip hop is today. They also were asked about how the changing demographics influenced hip hop as a genre. The BMHC is committed to preserving the legacy of hip hop and other music genres in the Bronx for current and future generations. This conversation was documented in audio and video and was added to the growing archive of the Bronx Music Heritage Center for sharing with the broader community.
Collaborating artists Jules Rochielle (text), Elizabeth Hamby (image) Hatuey Ramos Fermín (text treatment). This project was part of Pacific Standard Time Art in L.A. 1945-1980. Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival, LA>Tower of Protest (1966). Originally conceived by the Los Angeles Artists’ Protest Committee, and designed by Mark di Suvero, the Artists’ Tower of Protest was erected on a vacant lot at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and La Cienega in 1966 as a symbol of collective dissent against the Vietnam War. Surrounded by hundreds of artist-designed 2′ x 2′ panels, the tower stood firm for a period of three months despite attacks against it, and at times, its organizers. A powerful declaration, the Artists’ Tower of Protest has since become one of the most important landmarks in the history of arts activism. From January 19-29, 2012, the Artists’ Tower of Protest was erected once again on a vacant lot at the corner of Sunset Blvd and Hilldale in West Hollywood, CA. Inviting artists who originally participated in the creation of the tower and others from younger generations, this iteration of the Artists’ Tower of Protest aims to create an opportunity to reflect on the status of arts activism today in light of our social, economic, and political climates. This is one of the panels included in the installation.
Urban Layers (www.urbanlayers.net) is an experimental collaborative platform (created by Elizabeth Hamby and David Sundell) for urban writing, mapping and media. Its goal is to foster creative combinations of old and new media techniques for describing and understanding cities including tours, essays, photography, maps and video. UrbanLayers is intended to span platforms and settings, for example linking location-based augmented reality using mobile devices with the emerging possibilities for long-form reading offered by tablets and ebooks.
UrbanLayers is currently under active development. Our “preview” first issue, “Food,” uses East Harlem, one of the city’s “food deserts” as a springboard for investigating the relationship between people, place, money and health in New York City. It is being released to coincide with the opening of Taller Borricua’s exhibition Barri-o-rama, which includes UrbanLayers collaborator Hatuey Ramos-Fermin’s Grocery Map Project.