Urbanist, curator, and artist Dr. Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani is founder of Buscada, which creates vital spaces for dialogue to foster more just cities by fusing art, design, and research. She is author of Contested City: Art and Public History as Mediation at New York’s Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (University of Iowa Press, 2019)—finalist for the Municipal Art Society’s Brendan Gill Prize—and teaches urban studies at Bryn Mawr College & the New School. Gabrielle’s creative practice has been shown at MIT, Brooklyn Public Library, the Center for Architecture, Artists Alliance, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, and Tate Britain. She is a life-long New Yorker.
Get to know Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
In what neighborhood do you live?
How did you first become connected to The LP, or hear about The LP?
My relationship with The LP is a long one! I first got to know The LP in 2014 after I’d created a curriculum based on the work of poet Sekou Sundiata with MAPP International, and The LP reached out to work with me on a curriculum they were creating. Since then, there are so many collaborations—from bringing my students to The LP’s home on Kelly Street to interviewing Kemi [Ilesanmi, Executive Director] & Petrushka [Bazin-Larsen, The LP’s first Director of Programs] for my “Working with People” project, to leading the organization through its strategic planning process, all of which have been highlights of my work.
Do you have your own creative practice? If so, tell us more!
I’m a photographer and writer, and I run an interdisciplinary practice with my partner Kaushik Panchal, called Buscada. We make projects—exhibitions, public art engagements, books, and events—that create vital spaces for dialogue by fusing arts, design, and research. We often collaborate with community in contested neighborhoods with the goal of fostering more just cities. My book, Contested City, is about one of our long-time projects with housing activists on the Lower East Side.
Can you tell us about an artist or project that has inspired you?
I’m inspired by the artists I grew up around, starting with my mom, Winnie Bendiner-Viani, who’s a visual artist, and my grandfather, Elmer Bendiner, who was a writer, and extending to the people who I grew up with as family: most especially painter Jack Whitten and poet Hettie Jones. My dad Paul Viani inspired me to make photographs. The photographic work of artists like Carrie Mae Weems, Roy de Carava, and Gabriele Basilico helped me think about photographs as poems, as storytellers about place and people.
What is your favorite… film? … album? … food?
My favorite album is Horace Silver’s The Cape Verdean Blues. My favorite food is Kaushik’s chicken curry.
Where do you do your laundry?
The basement of our apartment building.
In your opinion, why does art matter?
Art matters because it helps us ask new questions and have necessary conversations.
What LP value do you most relate to and why?
I’m invested in all of the values of The LP—engaging deeply with what it means to “Be POC Centered,” for example, has reshaped the way I’ve thought about not just The LP, but about radical possibilities in other organizations I’m part of—from institutions of higher ed, to the DEI committee at my son’s public school. But, in this particular moment of The LP’s work, I am especially excited about “Value Place,” and to be helping the organization think though its process of grounding itself in Bed-Stuy. The layered meaning of neighborhoods, and the way arts practices can honor and understand these, is central to everything I do.