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The Artist Good Neighbor Policy

July 22, 2014

Chloë Bass, 2014 Bed-Stuy artist-in-residence, discusses the unintentional and intentional forms of being an artist-neighbor and what led to her LP project The Department of Local Affairs. To meet Chloë and contribute to her “reverse tourism” guidebook, visit us at Field Day in Bed-Stuy on September 21!

 

Prior to moving to Bed-Stuy and becoming a quiet, private citizen, I spent about five years living and working very publicly in Bushwick. My primary project was Arts in Bushwick, more commonly known as the group that produces the annual Bushwick Open Studios. While I’m proud in many ways of what the organization has become today, I’ve also been shocked and dismayed by some of the unintentional contributions that the festival has made to the neighborhood. I still believe in the visibility of creative community, but I also see how it can be quickly co-opted to terrible effect.

 

In thinking about creative placemaking as a process, I’m eager to learn from some of my Bushwick lessons. The biggest of these was not to assume that other people want what you want – or that you can convince them over time to want what you want. Particularly within diverse communities, people can have very different immediate goals. Try to make a list of what everyone wants. I called mine the “not going to cry” list: no one’s going to cry if we have more safe green space. No one’s going to cry if we have better schools.

 

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I’m sure there are many things you could put on that list for your own community. But what do these changes mean? Who do they really benefit, and for how long? I think it can be difficult to understand the long-term consequences of even seemingly innocuous improvements to a neighborhood. I know that I personally am incapable of thinking at—or even better ahead of—the speed of developers, much to my frustration and regret.

 

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I think the process of respecting the diversity of a place, therefore, has to come before the desire to make an impact on that place. In Bushwick, especially in 2007, there was a perceived lack of connected creative community. Artists have a bad reputation for being transients (there are many reasons for this). However, whether or not we choose, or are able, to remain in a particular neighborhood, there are positive impacts that we can have even in the short term. These impacts are not actually related to the higher calling of creative practice: just because we are artists does not necessarily mean that we must be respected for that above all else. Most of the positive behaviors I’m thinking about really fall under the category of Being A Good Neighbor: the boring, repetitive tasks of living in a place and actually engaging with it. Shop local. Wash local. Say hi to your neighbors. Be around enough to know what is changing, how it’s changing, and to see whether or not you’ve had a part in it, even if just by accident.

 

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It’s taken me three years of quiet living to begin to approach a public project in Bed-Stuy. I’m still uncertain in a lot of ways, but I think that uncertainty is good. I hope to lead with questions, not solutions, this time around.

 

Learn more about the Department of Local Affairs.

Also, read The LP interview with Chloë Bass.




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Sukjong Hong

July 17, 2014

Meet our 2014 Commissioned Artists!

 

Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you?

Ana Mendieta, Cuban American artist

Doris Salcedo, Colombian artist

William Kentridge, South African artist

 

Please tell us about a place in your neighborhood that is personally meaningful to you, and why?

In my studio neighborhood of Bushwick—I love walking down Troutman and Jefferson Streets, where long-term residents have strung up street installations on trees of everyday objects (stuffed animals, toys, vases, etc.)—it reminds me how everyone has a hand at making beauty.

 

What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?

Zone One, Colson Whitehead (post-apocalyptic novel) – is one of them.

 

Read about Sukjong’s project, Beauty in Her Own Words.

See a full list of 2014 artist projects here.




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Bridget Bartolini

July 16, 2014

Meet our 2014 Commissioned Artists!

 

Please tell us of an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced you or inspired you?

Danny Hoch is a quintessential New York artist with a multicultural polyglot upbringing that influences all his work. His play “Taking Over,” which deals with gentrification in NYC, was transformative for me when I saw it in 2008 (not that long ago, but gentrification was much less of a hot topic then). “Taking Over” expressed frustration with how some New Yorkers are marginalized, and how their voices count for less than those who are more affluent. I was feeling the things that he spoke about it, but that was the first time I heard them publicly expressed. He blew me away.

 

Please tell us about a place in your neighborhood that is personally meaningful to you, and why?

The corner of 113th Street & Liberty Avenue in South Richmond Hill, Queens. This is the corner near our family home, where my grandparents lived and where my mom now lives. This is my favorite corner in the whole world. When I went away to college in Ohio and lived in Japan, I’d endure these 10-hour bus rides and 14-hour flights to get back home. I’d come to my mom’s house and sleep and be fed. And the next day, I’d set out to see my friends—which meant a trip on the A train and a walk to Liberty Ave. Whenever I walked down 113th Street and turned down Liberty Avenue, I’d breathe in that South Richmond Hill air and be filled with the happiness of being home.

 

I love that corner so much that I made a carving of it while I was at school in Ohio!

 

What is your favorite book, film or song about NYC?

Spike Lee’s film “The 25th Hour” really beautifully captures post-911 New York and the protagonist’s mixed feelings about his city—a place riddled with brutality, racial tensions and inequity. The protagonist goes on a rant at the end about all the people and things he hates in NYC, but nevertheless, you know he’d never leave it. This scene chokes me up. NYC is far from perfect, but it’s the perfect place for me. And that’s the sentiment that I take from this film.

 

Do you have a website or blog?

My website is www.fiveborostoryproject.org, and our new blog is fiveborostoryproject.tumblr.com! I’d love if people could contribute to creating neighborhood portraits here!

 

Read about Bridget’s commissioned project, Neighborhood Portrait Series.

See a full list of 2014 artist projects here.