Meet Development & Communications Associate Akiva Steinmetz-Silber.
What attracted you to The LP? How does working here relate to your professional goals?
I love how The LP recognizes the role creativity can play in building political agency and effecting social change, and how it blurs the line between arts and activism, between who is considered an artist and who is not.
Working with The LP, I’ve been particularly struck by how many artists want to use their practice to effect social change, but aren’t always exactly sure how best to do it. By connecting artists and neighbors, The LP’s programs bring about “social bridging,” facilitating the building of new relationships and the cross-pollination of ideas between neighbors. The idea of creating new audiences in a manner that is participatory and dialogical is extremely interesting to me as a DJ.
Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you.
Glenn Ligon is amazing, particularly the way he works with text, legibility, and identity. I find his work extremely powerful. A non-contemporary artist that’s been a huge inspiration to me is Franz Kafka. I’m completely obsessed with Kafka.
Has The LP changed the way you think about art? If so, how?
By producing arts programming in “unconventional” spaces, I see The LP as one among a number of organizations leading the charge, thinking outside the box defined by more conventional art institutions. While “creative placemaking” has become a trendy buzzword, I think The LP exemplifies what activist Roberto Bedoya calls “place keeping,” a more community-centered approach that builds upon the cultural wealth already present in neighborhood.
In other words, instead of thinking of communities as blank slates for “making,” The LP’s approach asks socially engaged artists and organizations to begin by listening, observing, and recognizing what’s already there. This undermines the notion that artists (or funding organizations) are the ones with the answers. Rather, the answers already reside within communities, along with the wealth of cultural expertise and creative practices embedded and situated there, and the work is about amplifying those forms of practice and expertise, rather than inventing or bestowing something that was (presumably) not there before.
I think this embeddedness is often lost in “mainstream” narratives about arts and culture. In contrast, The LP’s approach is truly radical and serves as a corrective to the hierarchical discourses endemic to the “art world.” Also, by meeting people where they are, The LP engages publics and audiences that more traditional art institutions often struggle to connect with.
What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?
Krush Groove (probably my favorite hip-hop film ever). It’s about NYC hip-hop in the ‘80s, and the cast includes lots of actual rappers: Run DMC, the Fat Boys, New Edition, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J (in his first ever—and completely awesome—movie appearance) and more! It’s a must-see.
What song gets you going when work is hard?
What have you been reading lately?
Energy Flash by Simon Reynolds.
What’s your (a) favorite food?
Hard to pick a single favorite, but I love hand-pulled noodles! There is a great place on Eldridge St. just south of Canal called Sheng Wang.