"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.

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.

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.