"the story is not over, not at all..." • Kelly Tanner

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St Ann & the Holy Trinity Church

August 14th • Brooklyn Heights

There are over 2,000 churches in NYC, with some of the oldest exquisite architecture in the city and some of the most prime real estate not turned into high rises in a constantly changing skyline. Churches are religious dwellings, but in NYC, they are often the places in this city that can hold gatherings, events, cultural happenings and sanctuary for migrants fearing deportation. St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church is an Episcopal house of worship and community commons in Brooklyn Heights. In their own words- all are welcome to seek sanctuary and solace, follow a spiritual path, celebrate music and the arts, participate in civic discourse, and engage in service for the common good. Fresh off the heels of a 10-week extended run of Theater of War’s Antigone in Ferguson, a free production with a professional rotating cast and full chorus that brought thousands to the church this summer for performance and civic dialogue, St Ann’s continues to be an icon of a Brooklyn common house- a place where people come to engage.

Kelly Tanner was one of our first applicants, applying to work on a memoir about growing up Catholic. We asked her if she would want to do her residency in a church- if it would be helpful or triggering. After her emphatic yes, we thought, easy. We have 2,000 to pick from and most should have open doors. But some churches, especially traditional houses of worship, interpret openness differently. St Ann and the Holy Trinity Church has a small congregation of church goers but a huge community of people who engage with the space for the social and artistic events that bring people to the gorgeous Gothic Cathedral, built in at the end of the 19th century. Their event and space use manager Lauren met us the prior week to show us around and made sure Kelly had everything she needed for her micro-residency to feel comfortable and welcome. Father John also made himself available for questions and connection. Here are Kelly’s reflections:


The residency at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church was extraordinary. I have spent many hours of my life in churches, for celebrations, Mass, funerals, or just to seek out the good art, but never have I had the experience of having a space like that all to myself in order to create. Father John and the staff at St. Ann's were kind and welcoming. I had an hour and a half to myself to skulk around the space, take some photos, and find myself a corner to work. Then I started revision on a story I have been working on for the last several months. I spent some time with scissors, cutting the piece up to find the various moments and ideas, and started looking at what I had. Revision, for me, is all about trying to understand - what is this thing I have written? What is it trying to be?

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When I started the story, I thought it was a memoir piece about my complicated relationship to the church during my childhood (Catholic, though St. Ann is Episcopal.) However, wandering in the space that was so grand and yet so intimate and peaceful, I started making lists of moments I remembered, and new chapters not yet written, and I realized - the story is not over, not at all. Oh, heavens, might it be a book? Shhhh, I never said that; I'll never admit to it. But it is taking on more than I initially thought it would be, and far more interesting and nuanced than I had originally envisioned.

St. Ann's church is a beautiful, large cathedral, well suited to thinking some pretty big ideas about the world and our connection to it, and our human efforts to frame our understanding through narrative. The time absolutely flew by, and I came away with a new refuge, a notebook full of ideas, and a healthy start on revision. What fun; what a gift.

Whether or not one is religious, it is fortifying to see a church living out their gospel in the daily engagement of a community and a writer revising her own memories into an understanding of her life and the world.

Find out more about St Ann and the Holy Trinity Church and how and when to visit here.
Read some of Kelly’s writing here.

Afterthoughts:

There’s always a story behind a space. St Ann & the Holy Trinity Church has quite a history. In the 40s and 50s, the Reverend William Howard Melish was seen as a provocateur for supporting the National Council for American-Soviet Friendship, which was on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy's list of Communist organizations, and being associated with prominent Black Americans, W. E. B. DuBois and Paul Robeson. Some parishioners thought he was mixing church and politics, while others thought he was supporting the Judeo-Christian ideals of human rights and the right for dissenting opinion. After a bitter feud within the parishioners for 10 years, Rev Melish was ousted and the church was shuttered for 12 years. While the practice of maintaining friendly relations with the Soviet Union and being associated with black artists do not seem as radical now, especially in Brooklyn, at the time the divide was extreme, and communism was seen as a significant threat. Presently, our country is bitterly divided over immigration and the changing face of America being less white and less male-dominated. Churches have become some of the only places where providing sanctuary is protected, even from ICE agents. People have always used religion to pit against and come together. Spaces that preach openness but do not make you everyone feel welcome are unfortunately more common than not, but when a church fulfills the tenets of its doctrine, where people are encouraged to seek sanctuary and solace and engage in service for the common good, regardless of one’s religion or absence of religion, the ripples are felt throughout a community.

Recently Antigone in Ferguson, that played at St Ann’s for much of the spring and summer, was a successful and deeply moving example of following one’s moral convictions and taking action instead of making a martyr or a saint out of someone once they are already gone. We’re not far from the Red Scare of the 40s, where the fire of fear was set ablaze to divide and alienate one’s own neighbors against each other. In fact, history is happening now, and may look even worse in hindsight. As Kelly Tanner remarked, our memories and relationships with even painful things are complicated, and one thing doesn’t represent all the rest. The story is not over, not at all.

Being in Nature is helpful these days • Elyce Semenec

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New York Botanical Garden

August 10th • The Bronx

In NYC, green space is celebrated like water in a drought. Everyone in the city has ‘their park’ - Central, Prospect, Corona, Riverside, Tompkins, Washington Square, Van Cortlandt… and these beloved green spaces keep many of us with not enough space, air or bit of ground to put our feet to, from losing our cool. While the city parks democratize and calm a city restlessness with people and plants navigating the city together, the Botanic Garden acts like a living museum where people come to learn, conserve, and admire nature from all over the world. Founded in 1891 in the Bronx near the freshwater Bronx River, glacial rock gorges, and 50 acres of old-growth forest, the 250-acre Garden is the largest in any city in the United States. Like a museum, you can’t touch everything, climb on things, eat anywhere. But you can walk in one of the only old growth forests in NYC, see cacti you’d otherwise have to go across the world to see, stop to smell the roses, bask in perennials and be somewhere even in the middle of a giant metropolis where nature is the main attraction.

When Elyce Semenec, who teaches yoga and wellness in Brooklyn, and has a history in performance art and video, applied for the 360 residency, we knew the NYBG would be a perfect match to hold her latest project. Here are Elyce’s thoughts and photos from the day. To learn more about her work and follow her practice check out www.elycesemenec.com.

My photo project is titled Being in Nature is Helpful These Days. The project involves me spending time in nature in the urban environment and then taking self portrait photos of myself in setting, so I loved being at the NY Botanical Garden for my 360 Residency. Walking the grounds felt luxurious, as did my 6-hours dedicated to creativity. Sitting on various benches in the gardens with the sign reading "Resident in Progress" propped next to me helped to protect my time and my process. I think I will continue to use this sign in my everyday life to guard my creative time at home, where I'm also a single parent! I enjoyed what felt like an enormity of time to think and play around with my project; this a luxury I don't often have in my day to day life and it felt spacious. Being in nature is helpful these days and at the Botanical Gardens I was able to make some headway with the book aspect of my project and to add in some photos I didn't expect to be used. It was also wonderful to witness so many people enjoying their day by simply being outside in the Gardens amongst the trees, flowers, grasses and open sky.

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The NYBG, along with being an iconic living museum, supports research and conservation around the world and houses one of the preeminent Botanist libraries, the Mertz Library. The current exhibit Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx is their largest botanical exhibit ever and is on until the end of the September.

small actions add up • Robert Scheuering

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SIMS Materials Recovery Facility

August 9th • Sunset Park

Those of us who live in cities don’t really know where most things we interact with come from originally or go to after we’re done with them. Food and waste especially. We’ve all been taught the holy R’s of reducing, reusing and recycling at some point in our lives, and many of us dutifully separate our trash and recycling each week knowing a big loud truck will pick it up for us. But then what?

SIMS Municipal Recycling handles most of all the recycling in NYC picked up curbside by sanitation trucks. With a city of almost 9 million people, that’s quite a lot of recyclable material (around 250,000 tons a year). Located in Sunset Park on the water and overlooking the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn plant is the most state of the art and largest commingled recycling facility in North America. With an elevated pier for flood protection, the only commercial scale turbine in NYC, and a full education center for youth and adults alike (with activities like spin the job wheel to contemplate a different career in the recycling field), it makes for a unique blend of industrial powerhouse and green future integration.

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When Robert Scheuering applied to the 360 program as a sound artist, writing that he enjoys “really delving into, electronically altering, and sitting with sounds that seem boring to find something going on inside them that may have been overlooked,” we knew we had to find something worthy of the challenge. After being denied by the Hunts Point Meat Market (no outside visitors are allowed), we found SIMS Recycling Facility. Where else would be so excited to transform the crunch of metal and the electric whine of a giant crane into a creative process?

Kara Napolitano, the Outreach and Education Coordinator greeted us, gave us a mini-tour and explained some of the fundamentals of the sorting process. Visit for yourself - they have free monthly tours. Check them out here.

Here are Rob’s reflections and the piece he worked on during the residency:

My time at SIMS Municipal Recycling was spent recording, listening, and editing together sound. As someone who's never done a residency, it was a great feeling to know I had 6 hours dedicated just to making something. It was surreal to have time to dedicate after a regular work week.

It was a great experience to see the work that goes into recycling and the processes involved in sorting materials to prepare them for shipping. At first listen, the sounds of the facility were homogeneous. If you listened closely though, you could hear clinks and clanks of bottles, rustles of paper, and plastic sounds..

The connection I made from this experience is: combating the world's climate crisis needs to happen on an individual level as well as a systematic one. Individually, it is overwhelming, but small actions gradually add up. I felt like being in this space allowed me to reflect on the importance of individual action to combat climate change as well as the necessity of shifting systems that have allowed climate change to go unchecked. That said, I'm very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work in such an inspiring space.

Listen to the sound composition Robert made during his micro-residency.
He recommends listening through speakers or headphones:

Afterthoughts…

SIMS is not a Recycling plant per se- it’s a recovery plant that sorts materials and sends them places where they can be recycled. Actually recycling materials is not as easy as putting it in the bin and patting your back for a job well done. Fears of it all being a waste of resources and time, that recycling has ceased as we know it now that China isn’t buying our barges full of plastic are not completely unfounded.* But neither is swearing the whole thing off and cynically throwing your cans in the trash with a shrug of “doesn’t matter anyways,” The habit of recycling is actually the hardest to create, and now that we are used to separating our plastics, cardboard and glass, perfecting and improving the system to be more efficient and to have materials be designed with their return to the market in mind instead of as one-use throw-aways is the imperative. Do any reading from Cradle to Cradle material efficiency gurus like William McDonough & Michael Braungart and you realize how intensive the process of recycling actually is, sometimes creating more environmental harm than help. But also see how by widening the scope to think about recycling when something is designed, before it is made and is no longer needed by a consumer, can be the key to regenerative materials and economy. That’s one of our biggest reasons that Holes in the Wall Collective wants to make a Center for Research, Reflection and Action. To give time and space to people before the crisis to make the conditions not arise in the first place. And as Rob said, every little thing does add up. So keep recycling, sign up for our teaspoon brigade and when you can, opt to use something again or not at all instead of recycling it (buy bulk, use a water bottle, eat-in instead of take-out, buy something in your hood instead of from amazon, etc.) The more we are aware of where things come from and where they are going, the more we can do to make choices that matter.

*For the record, SIMS hasn’t been sending recyclable bales to China for quite some time, so they haven’t been in the pickle many other municipalities have found themselves in with the abrupt stop of receiving the glut of American plastics.

A home for the people• Izzy Pinheiro

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MINKA

August 3rd • Flatbush, Brooklyn

Minka means ‘Home of the People.’ When you look up the word, you get pictures of the iconic A-frame farmhouses in japan, with woven grass roofs. Houses made by hands, of the earth, to hold those that live on this earth. It seems so natural and so far from what most of us experience daily in NYC. Likewise, MINKA is a space for healing, wellness and holistic living hosting workshops, meetings, lectures, meditations, and classes in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

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Izzy Pinheiro applied to the 360 residency program to work on her short film looking at the health care needs of Syrian and Jordanian refugees. At first we tried to match her with clinics and hospitals in NYC, but reconsidered when we realized Izzy was looking for somewhere that focused on wellness not necessarily places that specialize in ailments or disease. The health care system is many things in this country, but when looking at the health needs of individuals who need it most, it’s sometimes more fruitful to find places that are environments of wellness, where there are holistic approaches to dynamic care. Here are Izzy’s thoughts:

Working in the MINKA space was such a gift! Often when I work on video advocacy projects I feel emotional tension because the work is so meaningful, rewarding, and stimulating but also feels so important that it inflames inherited/indoctrinated demands I place on myself for perfection that require ongoing, active work to undo. 

There was a reiki workshop happening at the same time so I was in a space that was full of people who were committed to healing themselves and others. This was amazing to witness, to feel reinforced by, and to feel a sense of community even being on the periphery of this kind of pursuit because it mirrored my own intentions of being in that space. 

In this space I was able to ground myself in the energy that shapes my life and my work— commitment to healing on an individual and collective level. Having the space reshaped my process, too. I was able to take breaks when I started to feel an emotional toll from some of the interviews and go to the library of MINKA to absorb bits of poetry, read passages on mysticism, and pull oracle cards that landed squarely in my heart. One I pulled from an animal deck had an elk that was a signifier of leadership and certainty. Receiving this very majestic emblem was very affirming and clarifying. I am someone that lives very ceremoniously and practices different sorts of rituals and is committed to learning/intuiting new modes of healing, and now I see how I can integrate this into my workflow in a very meaningful way. 

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From their programming and the lives they are affecting, MINKA is thriving; They offer weekly and monthly acupuncture, Reiki certification, mystical mentorship, sex-positive workshops, full moon rituals and corporate wellness packages. From a business perspective - one that has to turn a profit to afford to hold space well in this increasingly prohibitive city, MINKA continues to rally to stay open. Check them out, go to a class or think about supporting their drive to keep the lights on. minkabrooklyn.com/

Afterthoughts

Holes in the Wall Collective’s first encounter with MINKA was at our first WhatNOWwhat pop-up benefit in 2017. HWC co-director Dhira had met MINKA co-founder Aki years before at the Youth Farm in Brooklyn, and after a chance run-in, MINKA jumped onboard to come celebrate and raise up women just weeks after Trump was inaugurated. A team of wellness practitioners arrived in a blizzard and held space throughout the blustery evening. The space was transformed.

MINKA continues to be one of the only places in NYC that lives, operates and thrives by non-patriarchal paradigms. Their first community agreement is This is a BRAVE space, not a SAFE space. A bold and beautiful statement. Yet, in some ways, MINKA is the safest kind of space. Not safe in that nothing will change, not safe in that it will only feel nice, but safe in that you can be wholly fully yourself, where feelings are honored, alternative pathways to healing and wellness, indigenous wisdom and female centered values drive the practice. Whatever you feel about moon rituals, witches, crystals & alternative health models— you can’t deny that most of our western culture has eradicated these modes of interacting with each other and the environment we find ourselves in. Make a hole in the wall of what is to see what could be. Any place looking to do no harm that embodies new models is invaluable to this city.

Were we the ghosts? • Charming Disaster

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MORRIS JUMEL HOUSE

July 10th • WASHINGTON HEIGHTS

The Morris Jumel Mansion is the oldest house in Manhattan, so it’s had some time to gain itself a reputation.

The Morris Jumel Mansion is unique in that it holds a piece of American history (it’s where Washington was stationed for a time during the revolutionary war. As the second highest point in Manhattan, he had a singular vantage to look out over the terrain to watch the movements of incoming hostilities), has a reputation as haunted house (it’s been known to have abnormally high paranormal activity, attracting thousands of people annually), and it’s one of the only 18th century stand alone houses built in Manhattan that still exist, giving visitors a colonial taste right there in the heart of Washington Heights.

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Charming Disaster is a gothic folk duo made up of Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris, that’s known for sweetly singing into the darker realms. Their new album Spells + Rituals, solidifies this Addams Familyesque warm morbid aesthetic. It helps that Jeff and Ellia are extraorindarily nice. Even the ghosts can’t complain sharing the space with them. The Morris Jumel house was actually their idea, so give credit where its due– sometimes our hand is heavy in curation, and sometimes it’s just connecting two things that were destined to go together. Here are Charming Disaster’s thoughts from their time:

Our 360 minute residency at the historic Morris-Jumel Mansion was such a gift; New York City is hectic and Morris Jumel is a quiet refuge, another world in another time. We feel such gratitude for being able to hunker down in this beautiful space and work in a focused way. We were able to accomplish a great deal in a relatively short period of time, inspired in part by the stately calm of the surroundings. We were able to dig in and work uninterrupted for six hours straight, although we took advantage of our breaks to explore the house. We felt as if we were part visitor, part exhibit -- while we were working in the mostly empty front room of this (haunted) mansion, once in a while a visitor would peek in and quietly observe us in the throes of our creative process (singing or playing a part over and over; typing; staring at the laptop screen), then walk on. Were we the ghosts? Vinny, Chris, and the rest of the staff were helpful and supportive, yet left us on own during our time there. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience and we are pleased to report we have a new song very close to completion.

Listen to a sneak peak of the new song HERE.

Afterthoughts:

Ghosts come in many forms. Some of them are history’s shadows– things we as a culture have not put to rest, acknowledged, digested. Others are just eccentric spirits who aren’t quite done with this realm. Morris Jumel Mansion seems to have a bit of both.

One of the best parts of our job as curators is finding the creative lining in all the upholstery.

Vinny Carbone, the program manager at Morris Jumel House, doesn’t come from a historical restoration or Colonial period background, like you might expect. He’s a theater guy who stumbled upon Morris Jumel while doing a Ghost Hunt and working with them to create a haunted house experience. It just goes to show you that most people in most jobs have some passion, some creative underlining that drives them. How amazing to have a moment to celebrate it in every unassuming person doing their job to get by, pay the bills, hustle their flow. Sometimes it’s just about giving it a little time, space or acknowledgement. On that note: same goes for how to deal with the ghosts.

"A real place." • Yvonne Brown

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ABBOTT HOUSE

June 27th • Irvington, NY

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Housed in an old hospital that specialized in children, Abbott House sits on a hill up the road from Madam C. J. Walker’s old estate and less than 20 miles from midtown Manhattan. Abbott House is a non-profit supporting children and families with complex needs. Historically opened as a place to support and house children in the foster system, Abbott House evolved to also provide a continuum of services for those foster children with developmental disabilities as they grew past their foster years and yet still need services and community. Since the migrant crisis, Abbott House has welcomed over 900 children, in conditions far different than the ones currently making headlines. Here children have beds, clothes, activities, medical care, school, emotional support and the dedication of staff working to support them as they await being reunited with their families. The heart of Abbott House’s work is about helping human beings recover from trauma or preventing it from happening in the first place.

We met Yvonne Brown at a writing retreat we were hosting a few years ago led by Garrard Conley. She was working on her novel, based on her life, as “an homage” to her late mother. Since then, she’s published her book Crying Girl, and is looking at the next chapter about her experience of becoming a foster child with an African American mother-figure and a ward of the state of Maryland until the age of 21.

We arrived and were greeted by Lauren Candela-Katz, Chief Development Officer, who gave us a tour and filled us in on the history and evolution of the Abbott House. When she offered space in the brightly colored and cheery art room for Yvonne to work, Yvonne asked if she could spend her time in the main house, “a real place.” Where she could feel the walls. This was personal to Yvonne and she was there to be with all of it. Lauren got it. Here are some of Yvonne’s reflections and pictures.

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"Foster Parents… Answering the Call" the wall plaque reads. The building----which once was a hospital in 1938 for typhoid fever and also found the cure is where I sit at the head of the board room of the largest board room table I've ever seen comprised of a total of 8 wooden folding event tables making one large table surrounded by twenty black leather high-back chairs. The grand set up of the table and chair arrangement gives the feel that serious meetings take place here. Supporting this thought are the plaques on the wall which serve as a back drop of the meeting room as if to call its members to remember or serve as reminders of their overall purpose when burnout strikes. Two floors above me was a make-shift child morgue and Martin Luther King once visited to give a speech about the significance of helping. Now the building beckons the attention of volunteers to cut the ivy sprawling through the concrete siding, painting the basket ball court, digging holes for a new playground and the children, the foster children----the children from the border, that I've heard so much about…

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Afterthoughts:

Sometimes we think we know something because we read about it, we see a film, hear a story. It’s different to step into a place. Put your hands to it. Feel it from the inside out.

The migrant crisis is not something that is just a momentary newsflash, nor is it just on the border. As we have seen in recent weeks, the crisis is growing and the conditions in which kids are being detained and treated is often unconscionable, often worse than prison conditions. Supported by federal funds, many foster homes that have taken in migrant children are in the tricky position of caring for what the government considers “detainees,” becoming responsible for children whose parents sent them here out of desperation and hope they would be safe and have a better life, but without being able to change the policies that bring them these kids.

Abbott House is just one of the facilities housing unaccompanied migrant children in NY state. But a home that has a history of supporting children who need support is very different than a prison. True to their long history, while the circumstances that bring them the kids are often awful, Abbott House is doing what it can to create the best environment. No one wants to leave their home unless they have to.

Abbott House is known for being a place for children who have no other place to go. For most of the last 50 years, that meant homeless, neglected, or traumatized boys from often lower income communities. These are the kids that much of society was already writing off, setting up to be locked up and out from the rest of their communities. It’s easy to critique something once it exists. That’s why most people don’t even try. No place is perfect but Abbott House is doing some of the most important work out there. Giving a place, a real place, that someone can call home. To children especially. Yvonne knows what that means.

You can learn about and support the Abbott House here.
More about Yvonne’s work here.

Without the pressure of deadline and expectations... • Alanna Blair

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ROUGH TRADE NYC

June12th • Williamsburg, BK

Started in 1978 in the heart and heyday of punk, Rough Trade began as a record shop in London and soon began recording artists under its independent label. Rough Trade NYC, its flagship US presence, is a sprawling independent record store and event space in Williamsburg, located next to the boutique hotels that have popped up in the last few years like unreal mushrooms on the forest floor. Where did that come from? How did that grow so fast? Rough Trade feels more like a fern, unfurling and signaling the health of the surroundings. Despite the difficulties, independent music is still surviving, in NYC of all places.

A giant space with high concrete beams, a listening studio, art installations, coffee shop, full music venue, Melville book annex, and various nooks to listen or read, it doesn’t quite resemble the cozy crammed record shop of its older British siblings- but it’s an amazing place to find new and used vinyl, books, and even CDs- one of the only spots not relegating them to the stoops and thrift shops.

Alanna Blair is a working DJ and recording artist/producer as well as actor and writer. While recently moving somewhere where she could finally set-up her own studio, Alanna still was missing having time and uncluttered space for creativity. Rough Trade felt like a perfect, albeit obvious, choice. Like so many New York artists and creatives, Alanna is currently weighing if the city continues to be worth its burden of cost, hustle and relentlessness. Having six hours to create, away from a gig or job suddenly felt like a lot longer than just a micro-moment. Rough Trade generously placed Alanna in the Sonos studio for the residency, giving her a chance have a designated secluded space, while still being able to walk the stacks and be immersed in the hum of the store. Here are her reflections:

I definitely experienced a recalibration of direction and expectations, reminding myself that there's no need to create a finished product in the given time. Without the pressure of deadlines and expectations, I found myself following random impulses when collecting found sound in Rough Trade via field mic, selecting and stitching the beats together using a pre-recorded conversation as backdrop and metronome, and adding a bassline with my Fender 4-string. I ended the residency with a rough draft unlike what I'd planned, and I'm excited about it!

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FIfth Ave Record shop, park slope

Afterthoughts: When we met Alanna at Rough Trade, she had just been in a conversation with her friend, in from England, of the shared difficulties of being a working artist and the very real differences. London and NYC are both notoriously expensive, but having access to state health care and other services makes a huge difference for how sustaining one can make a life making music. As an organization continually concerned with more time and space for creativity, especially without the pressures of producing for deadlines or as a commodity, we find dilemmas like Alanna’s more and more common and spaces that support independent expression and production, like Rough Trade, all the more important. Yet they are dwindling at a rapid rate in this city. In the last 15 years, we’ve seen hundreds of independent record-shops shutter, and even beloved spots like Kim’s Video, CBGB’s and St Mark's Bookshop fold, despite tremendous public support. Even the small Fifth Avenue Record Shop in Park Slope that has been there for almost 50 years is closing this month. Change is inevitable, but when the places that give NYC its culture, its flavor, it iconic stories and grit disappear, and artists and poet philosophers leave for other shores for fear of drowning, what remains of this city we love?

‘Experiences aren't free’• Emily Garfield

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NYC FERRY SYSTEM

May 29th • NYC COASTLINE

New Yorkers love to complain about transit. The packed subway cars, the late subway cars, the rising expense, the need to give yourself an hour to get anywhere… It’s our duty and privilege, like children who can be picky about what they eat, to complain even as NYC has the largest transit system in the world with nearly 6 million people riding it every single day. Still, it’s a novel idea for most New Yorkers to think of utilizing the growing NYC Ferry system as their main commute. NYC Ferry system, run by Hornblower has 6 lines to 4 boroughs (the Staten Island Ferry is separate). You can get to the Rockaways from Lower Manhattan in under an hour at the same cost as the subway, with concessions onboard, a view of the water and a seat. Trying doing that on the A train.

Emily Garfield is an artist who specializes in imaginary maps through watercolor and ink. We decided to put her on the NYC Ferries for the day, with an ambitious itinerary, to see what would happen being in locomotion along the constructed coastlines for her cartographic brain. It turns out it was quite an adventure, much to do with the logistical rigmarole of transfers and getting on and off. Here are some of her reflections:

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This day was entirely about chains of experiences.

ferry life • emily garfield

ferry life • emily garfield

When I got back on the Astoria ferry I made my way back to the crewman who’d just told me off for not understanding anything about transfers and terminal stops, and explained that really I wouldn’t have minded being kicked off “because today is all about having experiences”. His friend, sitting with him in their brief downtime by the concessions stand, laughed that “experiences aren’t free, though”, so I reminded them “except for the Staten Island Ferry!”

Emotion map of the journey • Emily Garfield

Emotion map of the journey • Emily Garfield

After laughing with me, he said “if you’re an artist, can you draw me a globe tattoo?” I drew the design, which involved copying by sight some hastily-pulled-up globe imagery—  which gave me enough practice copying designs that I decided to copy the ferry-provided route map— which developed into a drawing that was then complimented by a little girl at the Dumbo pier who was alone after being told off by her overwhelmed tourist dad— and also noticed by the survey-taker on the next ferry, who’d probably never read about a ferry day quite like mine. 

See more of Emily Garfield’s work HERE.

 
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Afterthoughts: When Emily Garfield applied to be a 360 resident, with her work “drawing imaginary maps using mental “rules” informed by subconscious applications of geographic experience as well as the connections between maps and biological systems,” we knew we wanted something with enough locomotion and manmade/natural geometric skyline to inspire her hand. So we took a risk and put her on the NYC Ferry system, traipsing all over NYC for the 360 minutes.

The trip gave a lot in terms of experiences but not as much time for the creating, especially in the imaginary realm. Like many parts of this program, by trying non-traditional residency spaces, you get non-traditional results. Emily was the perfect resident to flow with current and the residency introduced us to a whole other way of transit in NYC- we just might not ask anyone else to be on one (or 5) in 6 hours.

Suminagashi in the garden - "a labyrinthine dream." • Linh Truong

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9th Street Community Garden

May 25th • EAST VILLAGE

Sign by Laurie Olinder, 9th Street Community Garden member.

Sign by Laurie Olinder, 9th Street Community Garden member.

The 9th street Community Garden is one of the more magical green spaces in NYC. With multiple nooks, canopies, pathways and natural arbors, there are many places to be and sit and talk and eat even if you are not a plot-bearing member. Encompassing an acre on the corner of 9th st and Ave C, the garden is iconically warm and welcoming, where its easy to forget you are a few blocks from the FDR and the urban din. But like most gardens, it began as a vacant lot, a dumping ground for a city that had abandoned it. It earned and continues to earn its beautiful ease with constant work, community decision-making and the transformative power of growing things.

Linh Truong is a textile artist who we originally met through the Textile Arts Center. Among many things, Linh practices the art of Suminagashi, a Japanese marbling technique, with the process projected onto surfaces through an overhead projector or transferred onto fabric and paper in a water bath. Linh was open and excited for public interaction with her practice and we thought it would be wonderful to place her in a natural space with an active public that was non-transactional, out in the open and with all the natural variables of an outdoor space (sun, wind, clouds, falling petals).

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Here’s Linh’s reflection from her time at 9th Street Community Garden:

Walking into the 9th Street Community Garden was like a labyrinthine dream filled with unique objects tenderly placed around friendly tree trunk faces. Peonies and roses in bloom, the smell of Spring and the sound of Spanish wafting by you. We were greeted by Maria, a community garden member for decades. She told me about how the garden was founded over 40 years ago and once was an empty lot with empty syringes, now transformed into a well-loved city oasis through years of hard work and devotion. Throughout the day, I marbled on paper and silk, gaining assistance from any passersby who were curious enough to try. Maria came up later and told me about her mother in Brazil who was a natural dyer and used to make all her own clothes. Engaging with people about making art can bring up all sorts of interesting associations and stories worth reflecting on. After being inspired by the resourcefulness of the garden members, I am now flooded with ideas of guerrilla marbling projection and creating a solar-powered outlet to aid in portability and unpredictability. The immediate feedback from the process of suminagashi was not only overwhelmingly positive but also challenging to my own perception, making me eager to continue the conversation in the future.

See more of Linh Truong’s work here.
Go visit the garden, lend a hand for a few hours and remember what can be transformed:
9th Street Community Garden. 9th Street and Ave C. Open Saturdays and Sundays 12-5p April-October.

Afterthoughts:
Walking in East Village today, with its thriving abundance of community gardens teeming with flowers, kids and passer-bys taking refuge in the shade, it can be easy to forget the recent history (and even continuing threat) that most gardens faced in the early 2000s.

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New York City has over 600 Community Gardens, and many were started with the vision of transforming the blight of vacant lots after the city went bankrupt in the 70s. Buildings were abandoned, foreclosed, torched by landlords for insurance, while heroin and crack flooded in, and with it crime, especially in the lower East side and East Village. Community Gardens are not just spaces made in communal public places, It was literally the community that birthed them, transforming the often dangerous and toxic vacant lots with their own hands and resources, into green spaces where the community could gather, grow food and have a refuge. In the late 70s and throughout the 80s, gardens popped up all over NYC, but especially in the areas hardest hit by neighborhood blight. Yet by the late 1990s, the gardens were at the apex of a fight over neighborhood rights all over the city. After years transforming the neighborhoods, suddenly those once vacant lots were seen as hot commodities for a gentrifying neighborhood and rising real estate market. Because the city still officially owned them, the administration felt that those plots were theirs to take, even though it was the community that had done the work to transform the neighborhood. With grassroots activism and the forming of many coalitions (More Gardens!, New York Restoration Project, LUNGS, GrowNYC, GreenThumb), gardens are continuing to thrive.

Community gardens are democratizing spaces– a place for youth and elders to gather, cooler in the hot summer months, growing flowers and food and some of the only spaces left in the NYC that is non-transactional. They are bedrocks of the community.

For many years 9th St Garden had a large willow tree, evidence of an underground stream. Whenever you see a willow, you know there has to be significant water in the ground. A great place for a garden, not as great place to build a building. Over 40% of new development is being built in flood zones, over former wetlands or water logged areas. In an ever-changing climate, these gardens remind us how to engage with our natural systems.

The large willow had to be cut down but from its stump is growing the next generation,
evidence of resilience and will of the neighborhood. Shout out to the East Village.

How do you describe what you expect to always be there? • Su-Yee Lin

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FRESHKILLS PARK

MAY 15th • STATEN ISLAND

On Wednesday May 15th, we picked Su-Yee up from the Ferry Terminal in Staten Island on one of the few perfect days we’ve seen this spring. Blue sky, bright sun, with clouds like paintings and just enough of a forceful breeze to keep us moving.

Su-Yee is a writer currently working on a bird-centered narrative drawing from mythology while simultaneously placed in the speculative future of climate change. Freshkills Park, once the largest landfill in the world and now the largest NYC green space endeavor in over 100 years is a testament to transformation. It was an immediate choice for matching Su-Yee’s work with a natural landscape.

We were met by Mariel Villeré, the Arts and Program manager at Freshkills Park, outside the park and escorted in. After being introduced to the amazing vantage from North Park we left Su-Yee to her time and Mariel’s balanced hosting. Here’s are some of Su-Yee’s reflections during her residency.

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Coming here to Freshkills, there's a lot to take in. The transformation of the park from landfill to nature preserve, the resiliency of nature (the deer that swim across the river, the volunteer trees on the mounds, planted by seeds dropped by birds and other animals), the effect on the local economy, the understanding that this is a project that takes years and years and years. In the here and now, so much has returned—there's fish in the creeks and osprey in the trees, and a quiet that signifies space to breathe and to think.

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Because there are so many birds in my story and here in Freshkills Park, I'm thinking a lot about sound and how to capture it on paper. The mechanical whirr and twang of the red-winged blackbird, the strident calls of gulls signaling a bird of prey overhead. The soft chirps of sparrows and the familiar warbling song of the robin. Killdeer, nothing as imposing as its name suggests, call with their high-pitched cries—what I'd thought somewhat like a gull's, and the sound they're named after. A high chipping call of another bird I cannot identify and a high-pitched whistle like the intake of a breath. How to bring sound into a story: here, the wind rustling new leaves, the hum of an airplane overhead, those various birdcalls that are both familiar and unfamiliar. Just a part of the landscape but such an important part: how do you describe what you expect to always be there? What happens once it's gone?

Read more of Su-Yee’s work at https://suyeelin.com.

Afterthoughts: Su-Yee Lin was our first 360 applicant and Freshkills Park was the first space we contacted as a match. If it was a portend of things to come, we were off to a good start. Driving into Freshkills park is a stunning kaleidoscope mixing past with future- the return of birds and grasses to the once thriving marsh wetlands feels prehistoric and simultaneously hopeful towards the possibility of transformation. Sometimes we find we need to make something new, and sometimes we find we need to recognize and nurture what already existed before we made the wall in the first place.

Mariel Villeré, the manager of Programs, Arts and Grants at Freshkills Park, keeps up a stream of creative curation in both the arts and sciences, giving the public access into the not entirely open/finished park. We were grateful for her immediately getting why we would go through all this process to match an artist in a space for just 360 minutes.

Just like our actions, our former trash and future remediations, the ripples will last way beyond one day’s clock.
Thank you Freshkills Park.