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

Creative Time

Funding Received: 2013
Brooklyn, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
October 18, 2013

Sites of interest in and around Weeksville (clockwise from upper left): (1) A Better Community Garden (2) Artwork at St. Mary’s Hospital of Brooklyn (closed in 2005) (3) Boys & Girls High School (4) Sunflowers at Imani Community Garden (5) View of Kingsborough Houses (6) “BK City Chickens” at Imani Community Garden

Project manager Marcus Mitchell, who joined the team in August, has spent the past several weeks immersing himself in the rich history of Weeksville, conducting studio visits with artists, scouting potential project locations throughout the neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant, and working with project curators to prepare for the diverse range of art commissions, performances, and events planned to open at and around Weeksville in 2014.

Recent Wins
As mentioned in previous blog posts, one of the central objectives of this project is to pair artists with local community partners to actively inform the development of each artist’s proposal, and also to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of community-based initiatives. In light of this important objective, much of the past month has been spent outside the office and in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Weeksville.

Community Outreach: The project team has ramped up efforts to introduce the project to potential local partners, which means attending community-organized events like end-of-summer block parties and performances, church meetings, farmers markets and fairs. This has also proven to be a great way of introducing the Weeksville program to diverse community members and organizations.

Artist Studio Visits: The curatorial team has selected four artists to develop their preliminary proposals into fully-fledged action plans. In addition to regular studio visits and curatorial discussions, we are very excited to be scheduling meetings between the artists and Weeksville community partners beginning in October.

Location Scouting: Walking through the neighborhood with eyes wide open has been an incredible experience, and we’ve included some photos from some of our location-scouting excursions.

New Insight/Provocation(s)
The wins mentioned above have driven home the focus of this project, which is just as much about the actual, present-day reality of Weeksville as it is about celebrating its historic past. Through this ongoing process of discovery and recovery, several salient themes and issues that have emerged that we hope will form the focus of the public art commissions, performances, and events planned for next year:

-- “Self-care,” healthcare, and the dignity of the body; particularly in the wake of several recent (and planned) area hospital closures.
-- Green spaces, communal gardens, and utopian visions for urban spaces;
-- Uncovering/recovering forgotten sites, histories, aesthetics, crafts, skills, narratives, and resources. Implicit in this thematic strand is transmitting to future generations and communities what is known, dreamed, and remembered.
-- The complex relationship between spirituality, religion, and the struggle for self-determination in the African-American community.