About the project:
THE POINT CDC, in partnership with the New York
City Economic Development Corporation, Mayors Office of
Recovery and Resiliency, Interaction Institute for Social Change,
and HDR, Inc. selected three artists to work with local Hunts
Point residents and explore the intersection of arts and climate
change. Artists worked with THE POINT CDC to help bring to life
the communitys hope for a climate resilient future and
connect art to two local and ongoing resiliency campaigns: Hunts
Point Resiliency and The South Bronx Community Resiliency Agenda.
Hunts Point is an interesting neighborhood, as
it is part residential and part industrial. Most of the food
markets feeding New York City are in Hunts Point, which brings
in jobs, but also brings its share of problems, such as air
pollution from truck traffic, as well as noise pollution. The
neighborhood is one of the poorest congressional district in
the country (the 15th Congressional District of the South Bronx).
It is also in a flood zone, and was heavily impacted by hurricane
Sandy in 2012. It remains very vulnerable should another hurricane
hit the city in the future.
The residency's goal was to have artists do outreach
in the neighborhood about resiliency, and find ways to connect
with residents about climate change and pollution. My past installations
had all involved the community which I like to engage in the
art-making process. The biggest lesson I have learned from these
projects however, is that the most vulnerable populations will
not seek out art-making, and may not have the time and energy
to think about creativity as part of their daily lives.
So I went looking for them.
I made a mobile art workshop, which was essentially
a shopping cart equipped with a table, an umbrella, two chairs,
and art supplies that I rolled around the neighborhood. I stopped
anyone who looked stationary, adults and children alike: people
on their stoop, people sitting on public benches seeking cooler
air, families waiting for their laundry to dry, and asked if
they wanted to do artwork for the Bronx. After the usual quizzical
look of amusement, I would explain that I had picked up street
litter, made simple tiles out of the trash, and was going around
asking residents to make artwork on the trash tiles, which would
later be assembled on a mural.
Essentially the idea was this: could we as a community
turn negative experiences into something positive? The results
were stunning. People sat with me and readily created artwork
on the street, and told me their stories, which were most often
heart-breaking. They created tiles about their lives, living
in an urban environment, loving nature, and missing their home
country. I hope that the experience has given a little bit of
positivity and power to the participating artists, and that
maybe, just maybe, it has given them a little bit of the happiness
and peace of mind they deserve.