GO is a
community-curated open studio project.

Showing posts tagged nycha
Aug 16

Partnering with NYCHA for GO

GO is a project that’s rooted in community, but “community” is one of those words that can have a lot of different meanings. As Sharon and I conceptualized GO, we thought a lot about this—how is community defined for a project happening within the incredibly diverse communities of Brooklyn? There are some obvious answers here—we’ve talked about going local and how important that has been for the project, but we started to ask ourselves, what are the things that are unique to the communities of Brooklyn where artists are working?

In looking at the areas with the highest concentrations of artists, we noticed that studio buildings are quite often right next door to housing developments managed by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

As a resident of Red Hook, I see this every day. With 157 artists registered to open their studios for GO (purple dots on this image), some are a stone’s throw from the Red Hook Houses, the largest NYCHA housing development in Brooklyn, seen here in satellite view.

This proximity is something that felt unique to Brooklyn and the communities that GO would directly be engaging. We wanted to insure that GO would be a project open to every resident in Brooklyn, including residents of NYCHA housing. Working with our Vice Director of Education, Radiah Harper, we reached out to Sharon Myrie, Juan Santiago, and Wiley Lucero at NYCHA to see if they would partner with us; everyone was incredibly supportive of GO and the opportunity to bring these communities closer together. Our partnership also tied in with NYCHA’s new initiative, Plan NYCHA, as well as aligned with the work they had been doing with StudioNYCHA and continued an existing partnership with the Brooklyn Museum.

As Sharon and I researched open studios, one of the artists we visited in Red Hook said he really liked the open studio model because, for him, it was full of surprises. One year, his door was open and a group of kids from the Red Hook Houses came in to visit. He said he had the best time with this group and, even though his studio is just a block away from the housing development, he felt like he often didn’t have a chance to engage with his neighbors this way and his open studio allowed that kind of exchange to take place. Seen above, the Red Hook Houses sit right beside studio buildings in the area.

Over the spring and early summer, we worked together to develop a plan, and, as a result, Maya Valladares, GO’s Project Educator, is managing a team of ten teaching artists who will lead art walks during the open studio weekend. Walks will start from community centers in five NYCHA developments: Wyckoff Gardens (Gowanus/Boerum Hill), Red Hook Houses (Red Hook), Cooper Park (East Williamsburg/Greenpoint), Bushwick-Hylan (Bushwick), and Lafayette Gardens (Clinton Hill/Bedford Stuyvesant). As part of this partnership, NYCHA will be opening these community centers on Sunday for the first time and, not only will walks be based out of these locations, NYCHA will be offering art activities for residents.

Teaching artists working on the GO NYCHA partnership include: (back, from left) Veron Israel Williams, Joseph H. Falero, Paula Santos, Taeesha Muhammad, Edyta Halon, Pansum Cheng, Keneisha Turner, Juan Santiago, (front from left) Wiley Lucero, Maya Valladares, Laurel Shute, Melinda Yale.

As part of this program, teaching artists from the Brooklyn Museum have been paired with teaching artists from NYCHA staff. Each pair is reaching out to the NYCHA community centers, residents of the houses, and grassroots organizations to help get the word out about the collaboration. The pair will lead the walks during the weekend and participants will check-in and nominate artists using an iPad app specifically designed for these walks. When the GO exhibition opens in December, we will continue to work with NYCHA so participants can attend the opening and take in the show they helped create.

The programming we are doing in collaboration with NYCHA is something that our corporate sponsor, Deutsche Bank, really encouraged. Deutsche Bank is supporting GO through its Art & Technology program and in their own participation, they wanted to support an initiative that thought broadly about community and sought to enable all residents of Brooklyn access to both the process and the technology that would be used throughout.

Aug 29

Teaching Artists at Work for NYCHA Partnership

Last Wednesday a group of 10 Teaching Artists (TAs)who make up the core of the GO partnership between the Brooklyn Museum and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) sat down for their final meeting before the open studio weekend. The group has been working on creating “art walks,” guided visits to multiple studios that depart from each of five NYCHA community centers three times a day on September 8 and 9.

It’s one type of experience to stroll through open studios and let artwork catch your eye, and quite another to plan out the logistics of an engaging and rich experience, with a time cap. The teaching artists merged research on the GO website with on-the-ground visits and detective work. The goal was to craft walks that include a variety of styles and media, are nearby each other (so more time is spent in the studios than on the sidewalk), and make the whole experience take no more than 2 hours.

In our first meeting the TAs also expressed how important it was not to over-plan, to allow for that ever-important moment of the artwork that catches your eye and you just have to look at closer. So how do you create something that is both structured and flexible? You hire a Teaching Artist (ask any TA, this is exactly the combination one needs to teach studio art well).

Here’s what they did:

Step 1: Learn about your neighborhood. Our ten Teaching Artists formed five teams (one BM educator paired with one from NYCHA), each pair focused on a specific neighborhood, and a specific NYCHA community center as a home base for the walks. It takes some serious research, both online and in person, to get to know a Brooklyn neighborhood (ever seen neighbohoodies? we’re a bit neighborhood proud around here), so starting with that was crucial.

Step 2: Select your studios. GO is all about seeing more than one or two studios, and we wanted walk participants to be able to vote, which means seeing at least five. 5 studios multiplied by 3 walks each for 2 days equals 30 studios. Building in flexibility (say you get a group who are all interested in seeing painting but not so much sculpture), makes that 35 or 40. Because of step three, each team actually came up with more than 35 studios, then narrowed it down. Props to the GO website, this was actually way faster and easier than I imagined it would be.

Step 3: Edit. Are some of the studios too far a walk, eating up your precious studio time (remember, in order to do three walks per day they can only last max 2 hours)? Is the artwork diverse enough to appeal to a range of interests (of people you will only have known for about 5-10 minutes when you set off)? If someone on your walk is in a wheel chair or stroller, can they get into the space? Considerations like this actually played a large part in the selection process. To all those studios nearby community centers in buildings with elevators or ramps: THANK YOU.

Step 4: Grieve a little. Because of logistics, TAs often had to give up on visiting some of the studios they were super interested in seeing. To all those folks who live a 20 minute walk from the community center in a five-story walk up: we’re sorry, and we still think you rock.

Step 5: Continue learning about your neighborhood, and help the folks in it learn about you. This is where we are at now. We have our plans, and our back up plans, and our ability to make connections between the artwork in front of us and the people looking at it with us. This is what we do for a living. But it all falls apart if no one knows we’re there. So if you know someone who lives in NYCHA housing or hangs out at the community center, spread the word? We’ll be in Wycoff Gardens, Cooper Park, Red Hook East, Bushwick/Hylan, and Lafayette Gardens all weekend. Join us?