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In January 2003, STREB moved into a former loading facility in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and transformed it into the STREB LAB FOR ACTION MECHANICS (SLAM ), a multipurpose space housing a 150-seat performance space, the company’s school, rehearsal facilities, trapeze rig and offices. With support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, City Council and offices of the Mayor and Brooklyn Borough President, STREB purchased SLAM in 2007.

When SLAM first opened the neighborhood was a mix of  Latino and Polish communities long established in this corner of the borough along with industry and a growing community of young artists and entrepreneurs looking for affordable space within a culturally diverse urban setting.  With a 2005 rezoning, gentrification began.  A large segment of the community was, and remains, concerned about the direction of this development and its potential negative impact on the character of the community.

Our ArtPlace initiative aligns with the community’s concerns and strategies to maintain neighborhood character and create a stable, healthy mixed use community by providing employment, offering affordable programs, supporting and enriching quality public schools in the face of budget cuts, invigorating the community’s waterfront, parks and open spaces and helping to create safe, enlivened streets while respecting and promoting human scale development.

A major component of our overall plan is renovation of SLAM’s façade and lobby.   STREB is working collaboratively with the architecture firm Snohetta to design a space that “inspires everyone to drop their fear of possible rejection pushed out by an overwhelming curiosity that compels them to walk in our doors.” (Streb)  The new façade, based on its aesthetic and functionality, will be an interactive work of public art. That, coupled with the opening of the interior space will blur the boundary between street and space, public and private and by doing so, will provide a much needed common ground for the community  – a commodity which is becoming ever more important as private residential development increases.

In mid-June, Snohetta along with their consulting engineers and construction manager made a site-visit to SLAM to discuss design concepts, outline scope of work and assess current structural conditions.  We’re looking forward to receiving the preliminary design drawings in the coming weeks.

Another central element of our ArtPlace initiative to connect SLAM with its community is SLAM Summer Camp. Today was opening day.

Summer Camp is an integral part of the culture of SLAM — campers are encouraged to explore issues of self-expression, creativity, self-discipline and self-image.  In an environment that is both safe but values risk-taking and the pushing of boundaries, campers become contributing members of a community of shared learners that includes all those who create and participate at SLAM — STREB company members, aerial artists, action specialists, inventors, engineers and neighbors. Socio- economic, gender and educational identifiers are left at the door when young people come to SLAM dressed in sweats and t-shirts to learn and collaboratively create action.

 

 

 

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