Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn

Creative Time

Funding Received: 2013
Brooklyn, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 27, 2013

Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, Dean Street at Troy circa 1881

Over the course of our exploration of Weeksville Heritage Center’s archive and our ongoing meetings with organizations working in the neighborhood, the figure of Joan Maynard has emerged as a central and dynamic organizing force, uniting the past with the present. Maynard co-founded Weeksville Heritage Society and served as its Executive Director from 1974 to 1999. She was also an artist and illustrator for “Freedomways” and “Crisis” magazines, and worked with Tom Feelings on the Golden Legacy comic books on African-American history.

Recent Wins
We are continuing to approach potential community partners, including public schools, wellness centers, churches, and small businesses. Learning about the life of a community provides artists with a valuable framework for guiding project ideation and enables us to think through the requirements for sustainability and long-term local stewardship in real terms.

In scouting locations for next year’s art projects, it’s been fascinating to track the ways in which historic sites are used in the present day. Some of the more interesting examples include the former site of the “Howard Colored Orphan’s Asylum,” at Troy Avenue and Dean Street (now a bus repair shop owned by the MTA); and the former site of PS 83 at 1634 Dean Street (once known as the “Colored School #2,” it was the first integrated school in Brooklyn and is now a community center owned by Bethel Tabernacle AME Church).

We will be announcing the names of artists and partnering organizations in early 2014. Stay tuned!

In working through a multifaceted public art project with a network of artist-community partnerships at its core, it is incredible to consider the fact that Weeksville Heritage Center owes much to the work of artist, activist, and community organizer Joan Maynard (1928–2006). Her story offers our current endeavor a bit of perspective: the journey from Weeksville Society’s original mandate to “fix up the old houses and make a museum” spanned more than three decades, as the historic Hunterfly Road homes weren’t open to the public until 2005. When artists truly engage with a community, a history, and larger issues that are born of that synergy--it may take several decades for a project to come to fruition.