Buttons Bring Neighbors Together on the Sidewalk by Alix Camacho
July 25, 2017
Every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, since March, The Laundromat Project has been offering free art workshops in front of Laundry Pro laundromat at 938 E 163rd St in Hunts Point/Longwood. These workshops are spaces of experimentation and inspiration, where people can dedicate time to work with their hands, and connect with other dimensions of their lives.
According to The LP’s Program associate, Emily Mock, “The sidewalk workshops are a continuation of this idea of art in everyday places. The LP wanted to offer a consistent, visible, and accessible program at the laundromat around the corner from our community creative space on Kelly Street in Longwood.”
The workshops occur in front of the Laundry Pro with permission from the family owners. In the words of Chris, one of the business owners, he likes the sidewalk workshops and believes, “this is something that the community needs, because there are not many activities that kids can do, and they need something to keep them busy.”The kids have a little bit of fun and he loves that.
One of the activities offered by The LP at the workshops is “design your own button/ diseñe su propio botón.” It includes, but is not limited to coloring, drawing or writing on a template provided by The LP with the prompt “In my neighborhood I…,” and creating a button with the resulting image.
Emily Mock also shared that “this activity of making ‘In my neighborhood I…’ buttons is something that has been in The LP’s programs repertoire. [The LP] likes [engaging neighbors through] this activity because it uses written and visual expression to think about neighborhood and community. The open-endedness of the prompt can lead to all kinds of verbs or memories.”
Some participants write the names of loved ones, other people write phrases coming from local organizing groups fighting displacement and gentrification, such as “The Bronx Is Not For Sale.” Lais, one of the participants, said that she decided to do buttons with the name of different people together with the phrase “my hero” because “these are all positive people in [her life].”
These workshops provoke other creative processes within the community. For instance, Emily remarked that “Mary, a resident and community leader, started a project about two months ago making buttons for each person at her extended family’s first ever family reunion that was in June in South Carolina.”
Faye (pictured above),is another neighbor, artist, and community leader that has been frequently attending the sidewalk workshops. She is now trying out different techniques and styles. She says that at the beginning she used The LP’s template and then thought, “why don’t I use construction paper?” Since then, she has been drawing and doing buttons with her images at the sidewalk workshops. Animals, fruits, and landscapes are some of the elements that she depicts using paint, colored pencils, and markers. In the words of our artist catalyst, Alicia Grullón, “Faye’s buttons are little works of art. From a distance, the colors and shapes are very prominent. A small world inside a button.”
These weekly sidewalk workshops occur thanks to the collaboration of community partners like Laundry Pro, and the creativity, motivation, and generosity of our neighbors around our Kelly Street Collaborative space in Hunts Point.