Wonder Lee, Bio Feliciano, Joe Conzoby Trevon Blondet

Report from the Bronx: BX200 Launch Party

April 1, 2015

Development & Communications Associate Akiva Steinmetz-Silber reports from the Bronx Visual Artist Directory (BX200) launch event at the Bronx Museum. (Image of Wonder Lee, Bio Feliciano, and Joe Conzo by Trevon Blondet.)

 

On Wednesday, March 25th, I had the pleasure of DJing at Bronx Museum for the BX200 launch party. Co-created by Bronx artists Laura James and Valeri Larko, BX200 aims to promote the work of Bronx visual artists, creating a new platform for visibility and community-building in the Bronx and beyond. Their list of artists is impressive, a veritable who’s who of Bronx visual artists—and incredibly diverse in age, race, backgrounds, and geography.

 

BX200 Launch Party

Photo by Ed Alvarez

 

I was honored when Lady K-Fever (Bronx artist and veteran teaching artist with The LP) approached me to DJ at the event. The Bronx is a musical Mecca—the “Boogie Down” is not only the birthplace of hip-hop (which traces its origins to Sedgewick Avenue in the West Bronx), but also the fertile soil that nourished so many other musical styles—from jazz and r&b to salsa and doo-wop—and indelibly shaped popular music as we know it today. (For more on the Bronx’s rich musical history, visit the Bronx Music Heritage Center—and be sure to check out their map of lost music venues of the Bronx.)

 

Needless to say, I wanted to do my part to represent this rich musical tradition correctly.

 

1200s

Photo by Akiva Steinmetz-Silber

 

Just to raise the stakes a bit higher, I found out that a few days later, the Bronx Museum’s spring opening reception would feature none other than legendary hip-hop pioneer, the “Master of Records” Afrika Bambaataa. But, no pressure! I loaded my crates with a variety of records I knew this crowd would appreciate, and made sure to include plenty of artists that helped shape the sound of hip-hop as we know it today—especially disco, soul, funk, and jazz greats like Roy Ayers, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Kool & the Gang, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. You can’t go wrong with records like these!

 

Alexis Mendoza Xavier Figueroa  Beatrice Coron Melissa Calderón Martine Fougeron Sean Paul Gallegos I and Daniel DelValle

Photo by Ed Alvarez (left to right: Alexis Mendoza, Xavier Figueroa, Beatrice Coron, Melissa Calderón, Martine Fougeron, Sean Paul Gallegos, and Daniel Delvalle”)

 

I was impressed with the level of organization the BX200’s co-founders brought to the event. They invited a host of Bronx businesses to serve as food and drink sponsors, and screened a slideshow of work by the artists. Despite its immense musical and artistic contributions, we all know the Bronx often doesn’t get the credit it deserves, so it was immensely heartening to see the level of dedication and love with which this event was organized by and for Bronx artists.

 

crowd

Photo by Akiva Steinmetz-Silber

 

As I expected, the response was incredible. Over 300 guests attended the event, and while I was mostly stationed behind the turntables, I did get a chance to make the rounds and say hello to some familiar faces. The energy in the room was electric, and I was truly moved by the feeling of camaraderie and community. It’s been my experience that Bronx artists have always tended to support one another, but hopefully, the BX200 will offer a brand new platform to promote the Bronx visual arts scene to a wider audience. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next. Thanks again to Laura and Valeri, and to the Bronx Museum, for including me in this magical and inspirational event!

 

crowd2

Photo by Akiva Steinmetz-Silber

 

Visit www.bx200.com for more information about the Bronx Visual Artists Directory. Meet Akiva and find out more about him here.