Pop Up SLAM & Façade


Funding Received: 2012
Brooklyn, NY
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
October 22, 2013

This month’s blog post comes from Craig Tooman, SLAM parent and STREB Board Member.  Craig’s involvement with the company exemplifies our approach to creative placemaking as defined by relationships and collaboration—erasing boundaries and mixing up who does what and how it’s done. Last spring, Craig, who is a founding partner of the architecture firm, Cutsogeorge, Tooman and Allen, agreed to co-chair STREB’s Capital Campaign committee, a role which involves much more than helping us identify individual donors. For the past six months, Craig has attended bi-weekly design meetings, facilitated countless conference calls and drafted innumerable emails assuring clarity, consistency and cooperation every step of the way.

I began my association with STREB as a parent of two young boys. My oldest son Kalei, who was in second grade then, had missed the final cut for Ballet Tech at his public school after staying up all night; he was so upset that he was going to be "forced" to participate in this audition. I come from a family of dancers, and he had experienced dance on many levels. It was very upsetting to realize that even in second grade there was a stigma attached to dance. As is often the case with my son, he must have jumped into the audition at the last minute, loved it of course, and he was devastated that he did not get a letter offering a scholarship after his call back. We turned to STREB as an alternative.

I first met Elizabeth when I went to register the boys at SLAM. I had never met the woman, and she asked me to move some piece of very heavy equipment with her, as if she had always known me and as if I was just returning home. This is the way the boys saw this wonderful place. They saw SLAM as their space. They felt a profound sense of ownership when they entered the building. It was visible in their posture, in their expressions, and in their actions. My boys were a part of the Kid's Company for many years; they aged out but held on longer than most. SLAM was their home and they were welcomed there. Due to their association with STREB, they perform remarkable physical feats that I was never able to perform and they do them with a confidence that permeates their whole lives. Their physical ability translates into so many other aspects of their lives, like the confidence with which they approach problems, the way in which they communicate with other children and adults, and the way that they are willing to take risks. They had close role models in the company dancers, people who have the ability to communicate through extreme action and who explore the edges of the ability of the human body through dance. Still today they look to these individuals with love and admiration as they witness each new STREB season.

I was asked to join the Board several years ago. I accepted and was deeply honored to participate in the work of STREB. I now serve as the treasurer and I have agreed to co-chair the Capital Campaign in order to use my architectural background to help with the renovation of our precious SLAM facility and to maintain it for years to come. We plan a complete renovation of the front facade of the building to raise our visibility on the street and to accentuate our relationship with our community. We plan an interior renovation to provide better facilities for our dancers, our staff and the thousands of people who use our building every year. And we will be maintaining our other facades to increase energy efficiency and long-term performance.

I commit to my position on the Board with the knowledge of what STREB provided to my boys. I believe that the lessons taught at SLAM have helped my sons overcome the divorce of their mother and I. STREB was a steady influence in their lives for almost ten years. My oldest son, now 17, continues to dance, and is a founding member of the dance company at his high school. As we explore colleges for the years to come, he insists that any college he considers have a strong dance program although he has no intention of majoring in dance. My younger son, now 15, burned up energy at SLAM like at no other place in his life. Now in high school, he is on the basketball team and is also a staple in the dance room. I am now the father of a little girl, and I cannot wait until she is old enough to share the experience that her older brothers were lucky enough to have at SLAM.  I hope that with my Board presence I can offer the same opportunities my boys had to other children. My boys are proud that they are "dancers." Things have changed for all of us since that sleepless night so many years ago.