Formula for Community-Based Projects
February 28, 2015
Program Director Petrushka Bazin Larsen was part of Bronx Artists Now: Showcase & Conversation hosted by Pepatián for the 2015 APAP conference, where she presented on the theme of “Creating Site-Specific Works in the South Bronx.” Below is a transcript of her remarks:
There is actually no real formula to follow or to execute in this practice. In my opinion there are three essential elements: time, listening, and research. We bring art programming into laundromats and other community/public spaces, specifically in Bed-Stuy, Harlem, Hunts Point, and Longwood. We worked closely with Casita Maria last year and will also continue doing so this year.
At the base of all the works are our artists and artists-in-residence. We provide a residency, monetary support, and professional resources/development to make their work happen, and we work with local artists only. What do I mean by local artists — artists that live in that neighborhood. Artists who respond to the question, “Do you live here?” with “Yes!”
The research to conduct is what the community is about, what is going on in the neighborhood, and how to relate to it. The projects should reflect what the area is. That means that as an artist, you have to put aside your personal, brilliant ideas and first think about what surrounds you. And this is how our residency works. The artists have their project, they have their ideas, but they also know that they have to open a
space for their neighbors.
I cannot stress enough the time component when working on a site-specific project. Everything takes a lot of time. You have to invest a lot into conversations, meetings, running around, and collecting information that has to later be synthesized with what you want to do. You have to be a curator, an educator, and an artist all at once. Not easy. It’s a lot of work at the same time. You have to make space for your neighbors and for their ideas, stepping away from what you are concerned about.
We have developed a small booklet called “Community and Neighborhood Mapping Workbook” which presents a listening exercise and helps in conceiving a site-specific work. It was developed for our artists, but it is actually good for everyone. You can download it as a PDF here.