Join us for a roundtable discussion on shaping future streets for culture with Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, Jennifer Nitzky, Elena Ketelsen González, and Streets Ahead Culture Working Group members.
As New Yorkers took to the streets to clap, sing, dance, and protest in the summer of 2020, we saw more than ever that culture connects us, builds safety, and fosters empathy. We also witnessed how streets can serve as new cultural spaces, demonstrated by the creative reclamation of street space for Black Lives Matter murals in Bed Stuy, theater and dance in the Lower East Side, and outdoor live music in the Meatpacking District.
To launch Urban Design Forum’s forthcoming platform of ideas Five Visions for New York City Streets, we will hear bold new proposals from Streets Ahead’s Culture Working Group members Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and Jennifer Nitzky, along with MoMA PS1’s Elena Ketelsen González.
Gather with Fellows to discuss: How can we reimagine cultural expression and creative activation to more permanently live in the fabric of our streets?
About the Streets Ahead Roundtables ↓
Streets for Culture is the first of five roundtable events, tied to the launch of Five Visions for New York City Streets. Last fall, the Forum launched Streets Ahead, a year-long effort advancing ideas and proposals to envision a more vibrant, equitable streetscape. Over the past year, the Forum has hosted field studies, local dialogues, and international exchanges to catalyze new ideas for New York’s streets.
Five Working Groups of experts in design, government, policy, and advocacy convened to envision bold new possibilities for New York’s streets by 2030 through the lenses of Commerce, Culture, Climate, Care, and Continuity. With the upcoming launch of Five Visions for New York City Streets, Urban Design Forum will work with city leaders to shape streets that serve New Yorkers for generations to come.
Guest Policy ↓
The Urban Design Forum promotes conversations between invited civic leaders, designers, developers, and advocates. The Streets Ahead Roundtable series is open to Forum Fellows and invited guests.
Hatuey Ramos-FermÍn and Valeria Miranda, experienced leaders in community programming, offered insights into their professional journeys in the arts sector, and the path that led them to leadership roles in the field. This session centers their experiences as people of color navigating the field. They discussed what it means to create programming curated around the community and will talk through some of the challenges and advice they have for emerging leaders interested in developing intentional, successful community programming.
Present case studies to participants to engage in reflective practice in considering community programming
Discuss different entry points into the field of community programming in the arts
Examine a career in the arts as a personal and professional journey
This program was part of the Arts & Cultural Equity Studio | Emerging Leaders collection provides emerging arts administrators access to tailored training aimed at helping them develop the skills needed to advance in the arts management field. ACES is a three-part professional development collection spanning all topics regarding cultural equity in arts administration and career advancement. You can register for the full collection here.
Rose Petal Refuge: Mental Wellness Workshops for Queer & Trans* People of Color will include three Soulscape installations in Harlem community parks and greenspaces. The Soulscapes will act as spaces of sanctuary for queer and trans* people of color, upholding spirit, self-love and emotional wellness. A series of healing and mental wellness workshops will take place inside each installation, and incorporate sensory experiences using herbs, aromatherapy, taste, and guided meditation. In addition, each Soulscape will feature pairings of bleach paintings–serving as subtle delineations of space for collective engagement and action–along with custom-made music to set the intimacy of each workshop.
Yes, Femme! A Community Space for Femmes of Color is an extension of Sal’s ongoing multifaceted series, The FEMME Project, which features photographs and interviews with femmes of color. The body of work confronts the erasure of trans and cis femmes of color while giving them space to articulate their identity in their own words. Yes, Femme! A Community Space for Femmes of Color will be a convening of femmes of color throughout New York City and build on the past work of The FEMME Project to celebrate femininity via interactive activities and a curated meal. Complementing the convening will be the launch of an exhibition of The FEMME Project, which will be open to the greater public.
The LP Documents: Leslie Jimenez – A World Inside Drawing
Throughout the course of her LP residency, Leslie facilitated a series of collaborative art-making workshops with families in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem. During the gatherings, community members created illustrated books of drawings inspired by memories and experiences in their neighborhood.
The workshops culminated in a large-scale interactive installation featuring the illustrated book drawings and larger than life, diorama-like versions of the drawings, as interpreted by the artist. A World Inside Drawing celebrates community members and familial neighborhood spaces, and it acts as a sanctuary, where neighbors can literally see themselves inside their own creations.
n the midst of an era fueled by generalizations and incendiary rhetoric, how do we share immigrant stories in a way that is reflective and representative of their complexity and humanity? We the News aims to amplify these unique stories via physical newsstands located in small businesses around Bed-Stuy. Each newsstand will be filled with bilingual zines created by immigrants affiliated with local partnering organizations. Historically, zines have been a medium of communication within subcultures and a tool in activist movements and organizing. Via zines that focus on stories of traditions and rituals, Lizania hopes to co-create spaces of sanctuary through the use of language, personifying the role words and messages play in uniting, empowering, and building community.
In this voicemail style, call-in episode, Laundromat Project Artist Engagement Manager Ladi’Sasha Jones and Programs Director Hatuey Ramos-Fermín listen to stories and reflections from Create Change Fellows on what connection and affirmation has looked like for them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Featuring the voices of Angela Miskis, Anjelic E. Owens, Ayling Zulema Dominguez, Ella Mahoney, Kimberly Tate, and Manuel Molina Martagón.
In the Fall of 2021, Urban Design Forum’s Streets Ahead convened interdisciplinary Working Groups made up of our Forum Fellows to advance a set of visionary proposals and tools for a more vibrant, equitable streetscape.
Each Working Group will focus on one of five key lenses: Commerce, Care, Climate, Culture, and Continuity.
Made up of designers, arborists, advocates, and community leaders, the Forum Fellows that make up our Streets Ahead Working Groups have extensive experience shaping the streetscapes of New York City.
The Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) and Urban Design Forum joined forces for Power After the Pandemic: Rebuilding Our Post-COVID Cities. Collaboratively, they convened civic leaders from New York City and across the nation to reimagine a path toward a just recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an event featuring panelists from ANHD’s Center for Community Leadership (CCL), Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes (CCL ‘17-18) shared how her grassroots organizing work has shaped her legislative process and Louis D. Bailey of WE Act for Environmental Justice (CCL ‘14-15) shared strategies for centering empathy in the transition to virtual organizing. Hatuey Ramos-Fermin of the Laundromat Project (CCL ‘16) discussed coalition building and UDF Member Fernando Ortiz Baez of NYC City Planning shared the importance of community-led organizing.
“While I’m organizing at the legislative level and pushing my colleagues, I’m also funneling information that’s helpful to the ground for the work that [organizers are] doing, and we’re coordinating, and they’re pushing on the outside while I’m pushing on the inside. [I’m] really seeing that develop as part of a larger movement and being able to take my cues.” – Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes
Panelists: Ayana Evans, Independent Performance Artist; Shannon Finnegan, Independent Artist; Hatuey Ramos-Fermin, The Laundromat Project
Space is not neutral. Public space is not equally accessible, but can depend upon race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, economic status, age, and other markers of identity. This session considers artists and culture producers whose work disrupts public and semi-public space, challenging societal conventions.
Risë Wilson developed the concept behind The Laundromat Project in the late 1990s while attending graduate school at New York University and living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Her idea was to own and operate a functioning neighborhood laundromat that doubled as a neighborhood hub for the arts. Even then the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Bed-Stuy faced decades of redlining, disinvestment and city neglect.
Twenty years later, after the organization evolved and placed roots in both Harlem and the South Bronx, The Laundromat Project is returning to Bed-Stuy. Its new centralized headquarters, set to open in 2021, mark a new phase for a community-centered organization primarily led by artists of color. It returns to a neighborhood altered by gentrification that has hardly benefited all residents, with COVID-19 exacerbating the inequalities.
Wilson called Bed-Stuy “a space of Black resilience, creativity and entrepreneurship” in a press release announcing the organization’s move. The challenges posed by COVID-19, according to executive director Kemi Ilesanmi, “gave us something to root for, to grow into, and a very clear vision of what the stakes were and why we wanted to get to the other side of this crisis.”
The Laundromat Project has actually never been a laundromat. Early on, there wasn’t enough capital to acquire a Bed-Stuy laundromat and begin the project as intended. In 2005 it was officially incorporated with funding from the Echoing Green Fellowship and a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council to kick off community projects across New York.
The first public program, a fabric mural workshop, took place inside a Bed-Stuy senior center. Then the Create Change Artists-in-Residence program allowed artists to stage projects in laundromats across the city. “It ended up freeing us to actually think about the whole city,” Ilesanmi says. “Even since we pretty much haven’t looked back.” In 15 years the Laundromat Project has supported artists in all five boroughs through both fellowship and residency programs. Community-centered arts programming has happened inside libraries, community gardens, public plazas and in partnership with local cultural organizations.
After becoming an official nonprofit in 2010, staff moved into Harlem offices in 2013. Starting in 2014, the Laundromat Project began laying groundwork for truly place- and community-specific programming, collaborating with South Bronx organizations to transform a two-bedroom apartment in the Longwood neighborhood into a hub known as Kelly Street Collaborative.
“There’s this opportunity of being embedded in place that offers you a chance to build deeper trust, be held accountable to people and a neighborhood,” says community engagement manager Cievel Xicohtencatl, who worked closely within the Kelly Street Collaborative. Over five years, local residents were consistently engaged to determine how best the space could support them, as well as Bronx-based artists, educators and community leaders. Offerings included art installations inside the apartment, workshops on knitting, community weaving projects and summer block parties.
The organization also fostered a unique “process-based” practice for artists across the city, according to Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, who participated in The Laundromat Project’s Create Change Artist Residency before becoming director of programs for the organization.
“I get questions if it’s about hanging work or painting a mural at a laundromat,” he says. “But in all of our projects, artists are engaging in the artmaking process and thinking about the projects together with community … that shows up in many different ways depending on the artist’s expertise, their medium and the way that they work, from photography to theater to performances.”
In 2018 The Laundromat Project kicked off a strategic visioning that prioritized centralizing in one place. “The very first thing was to name it to ourselves as a possibility,” Ilesanmi says. “Then we gave ourselves all of 2019 to go through a collective process on where that place might be.”
The organization narrowed in on Bed-Stuy and Harlem, where much of its artistic community is located. They held focus groups with Laundromat Project artists, the organization’s board members and staff, community members, partners, advisors and funders. They carried out research that considered factors like nearby public housing, local anchor organizations and resident income levels. They held walking tours of the neighborhoods and interviewed community leaders. “We wanted to get a sense of what was needed, where we were needed and where we could make a difference and be a part of the community,” says Ilesanmi. “I like to think that we went slow so we could go fast.”
At the end of 2019 the organization closed the Kelly Street Collaborative and began a real estate hunt in both neighborhoods. They ultimately felt a two-story space with a small garden on Fulton Street, a main drag of Bed-Stuy, fit the bill. “We signed the lease about a week into COVID,” Ilesanmi notes.
COVID has both transformed the current work of The Laundromat Project and the future of its Bed-Stuy headquarters. One residency project based in Woodside, Queens, added to their series of community conversations and public art activations for Filipino residents by creating a rapid-response mutual aid project pairing Filipino restaurants in Queens with hospitals to provide free meals to frontline health care workers.
As The Laundromat Project continued its community outreach specifically with Bed-Stuy residents, arts organizations, block associations, community gardens, houses of worship, businesses and libraries, they’ve addressed needs around the pandemic. “It’s super imperative as we look to rebuilding in the city, how we can redistribute resources and be of help to local artists and creatives that we know are suffering,” says Xicohtencatl. “These listening tour calls have an ear out for what we can be supporting and creating.”
The community engagement is also crucial as the organization returns to a neighborhood significantly changed by gentrification and rising real estate costs. “We really want to understand how not to be part of a gentrification or anti-displacement wave, but instead be a value add to the community,” says Ilesanmi. “That takes actual work and self- reflection and conversation and reciprocity with community.”
The Laundromat Project has taken both the pandemic and this summer’s protest movement as an opportunity to slow down, listen and use that feedback to refine its values and vision for the Bed-Stuy headquarters. The organization expects to wrap construction early next year and then focus on virtual programming, as well as outdoor and hybrid programming as safety standards allow. Staff are also getting creative on what programming may look like as the pandemic wears on, including window, broadcast and sound installations.
“There’s so much we have learned this year, and in 2021 we can take that information and take it to the next level,” Ilesanmi says. “Maybe there’s programming inside the building, or on the building … we’re open to all the possibilities. We do know it’s all going to be centered on speaking to our artists and neighborhoods, doing as much as possible in coordination and rhythm with the communities we care about.”
This article is part of “For Whom, By Whom,” a series of articles about how creative placemaking can expand opportunities for low-income people living in disinvested communities. This series is generously underwritten by the Kresge Foundation.
In the context of the Hindsight 2020 conference, I curated an exhibition celebrating 5 years of the Kelly Street Collaborative.
From 2014-2019, The Laundromat Project collaborated with Workforce Housing Group, Kelly Street Garden, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, among other community based organizations, to transform a two-bedroom apartment and surrounding public spaces on Kelly Street in the Longwood neighborhood in the South Bronx, into a thriving creative community hub named the Kelly Street Collaborative. This exhibition celebrates 5 years of the Kelly Street Collaborative. Rooted in a history of sweat equity, and resilience, the Collaborative brought a neighborhood together through artist studios, arts & wellness workshops, events, farming, potlucks, bbq’s and community-led programming. When artists, youth, community leaders, and neighbors come together towards a collective vision, creative community building is catalyzed, bringing about meaningful transformation and wellbeing to the community.
– The Laundromat Project in partnership with Kelly Street Collaborative
What can a mindset of abundance, rather than scarcity, do for communities? We’ll explore the Laundromat Project’s engagement with the Kelly Street neighborhood in the South Bronx, showing how Laundromat weaves abundance into its organizing model—and what it means to practice abundance as a way to imagine more for ourselves and our communities.
This session will use Zoom as its platform and is limited to the first 500 attendees. For details on how to use Zoom, visit https://bit.ly/3kw8xcm.
Session led by Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and Cievel Xicohtencatl
Workshop led for the Artworld Conference Defining Value(s) in the art world
Arts and culture institutions wield influence, impacting and transforming social issues in our communities. For an institution to be authentic (honoring mission, values, and communities of accountability), a practice of self-reflection and adaptation is required to ensure inner structures and processes align with values and impact. What are we willing to change? What are we willing to give up? What are we willing to share? Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and Ladi’Sasha Jones will use The Laundromat Project as a case study to discuss weaving a practice of abundance into a cultural organizing model. Participants will learn about leveraging abundance, which includes: collective creative ideas and actions to fuel new ways of making positive, community-attuned change; engaging in deep listening and responsiveness; learning from mistakes; and creating a greater sense of community among artists, neighbors, arts administrators, and cultural workers.
workshop led by Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and Ladi’Sasha Jones
This essay appeared on City Amplified, Oral Histories and Radical Archives publication, by The Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY, edited by Allison Guess and Prithi Kanakamedala
In 2018 the Lower East Side’s historic Essex Street Market is closing and relocating as part of the Essex Crossing development. The old building will be demolished to make way for new developments. This move is bittersweet, on the one hand, business owners from the old building will have newly upgraded facilities to work from, on the other, their connection to place, history and sense of belonging will be shaken as the old market disappears and, with it, the stories that lived through its hallways and aisles. These stories are mostly immigrant stories.
The Essex Street Market serves as a marker for generations of the vibrant immigrant communities that live around it. Since 1940 different vendors from Jewish, Italian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican, Chinese backgrounds, to name a few, called the Essex Market home. The influx of immigrants makes the market a thriving place to buy groceries and products from home. It also serves as a space for the community; people connect with each other while walking through the aisles, or sit to have a bite to eat.
In the context of this historic time, I was tasked to do a project about the market. Curator Anna Harsanyi, invited me to participate in a group exhibition called In, Of and Crossing Essex, at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, a nonprofit space run by Artists Alliance within the market. The exhibition was meant to “…explore the public and private histories of the Market through the stories, perspectives, and lived experiences of the people who work and shop there every day.” As an artist working at the intersection of community and design, I was interested in highlighting business owners perspectives and stories in this time of transition.
I developed a project called Messages to Go and I interviewed 10 out of 26 the Essex Street Market’s vendors. Through my interviews, I learned about their experiences as business owners and I documented their unique perspectives on the role of the market within the neighborhood. From those conversations, I chose quotes, one per vendor, and designed 10 different reusable bags featuring each person that I had an opportunity to speak with. This was done in consultation with the vendors and approved by them before going into production. In the end, we produced 1,500 bags that were given to the vendors and made available to customers at the participating businesses throughout the market. As a result, the bags become part of a larger network of visitors outside of the Market, amplifying the stories and anecdotes featured in their designs.
104 pages, perfect-bound, book design by Partner & Partners, published by the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY. For any questions, or help purchasing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This book is sponsored by The City Amplified: Oral Histories and Radical Archiving research team as part of the Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research from the Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center, CUNY, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The City Amplified: Oral Histories and Radical Archives (edited by Allison Guess & Prithi Kanakamedala) is a book of ten commissioned essays by archivists, activists, artists, and historians that reflects the creative and intellectual energy of the City Amplified working group. The essays explore the meaning of community-centered oral history archives and the ethics of archival work, rooted in a local context. The book also includes a detailed resource guide for those looking to start a community oral history project. The book features representatives of community partners such as The Laundromat Project, Interference Archive, Buscada, City Lore, South Asian American Digital Archive, Urban Democracy Lab, New York Public Library, American Social History Project, and others.
The end is nigh. With no Hercules in sight, the multi-headed Hydra better known as Essex Crossing is erasing memories all over the place. In an effort to assuage the inevitable, a final string of art exhibits is about to commence in the soon-to-be-former Essex Market space before it’s demolished.
In, of, and Crossing Essex comprises three artist installations by Sonia Louise Davis, Dillon de Give, and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, and curated by Anna Harsanyi. Visitors to the institution will be able to explore and interact with the public and private histories of the Market through stories, perspectives, and lived experiences of the people who work and shop there every day.
At this time of transition, In, Of and Crossing Essex aims to visualize moments from the day-to-day life of Essex Market as it prepares to move. By engaging the market’s vendors, shoppers, Lower East Side and city residents, this project seeks to share with a larger public what transition looks like for different people, making visible the often unseen or under-appreciated aspects of Essex Market in the present.
Among the exhibits includes an interactive post card project, where you can send a verbal message to the city through a facilitator; a reusable shopping bag project, on which the quotes from business owners within the Essex Market will send their voices out further into the city; and there will be several workshops and public forums throughout the duration of the installation as well.
Check it out (and say goodbye) April 27-June 10. More specifics here.
Sonia Louise Davis, Dillon de Give, and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín Curated by Anna Harsanyi
On View: April 27-June 10, 2018 Closing Reception: Sunday, June 10 from 5-7p Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 12-6p
By Fall of 2018, Essex Market will prepare for its relocation as part of the Essex Crossing development. At this time of transition, In, Of and Crossing Essex will present three artist projects by Sonia Louise Davis, Dillon de Give, and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín. From April 27-June 10 visitors to the Market will have opportunities to explore the public and private histories of the Market through the stories, perspectives, and lived experiences of the people who work and shop there every day. Within the Market space, a project hub will be located at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, which will serve as a meeting space for public programs and events, and will feature installations by the artists. Cuchifritos is open Tuesday-Sunday, 12-6 pm.
Sonia Louise Davis’ Become Together Freedom School is an experimental platform to cultivate critical improvisation and a container for collective study. This first iteration of the project will feature workshops and a printed guide that will stimulate site-specific interrogations through abstract and ephemeral actions. The artist will open up her own methodology by facilitating score-making and authentic movement in a number of public sessions, using participants’ inherent improvisational skill sets and imaginative strategies as starting points. In addition, a printed zine will offer text-based prompts and activities for market visitors to respond to on their own as they explore the market and its surroundings. The artist will lead workshops on May 29 and June 2, which are free with RSVP.
In Dillon de Give’s project Go Between, the artist will work with a group of trained facilitators to collect and deliver messages from Essex Market. Facilitators will be stationed inside Cuchifritos, where they will meet visitors and accompany them on a stroll through the Market and help them formulate a message they wish to send to anyone within the Lower East Side and, on special circumstances, New York City. Facilitators will memorize and attempt to physically deliver the messages by reciting them to their intended recipients, creating an inter-personal telegraph service sending spoken postcards from Essex Market around the city. To send a message for free, schedule an appointment with a facilitator on Thursdays-Sundays between April 27-May 13 at calendly.com/go-between.
For Messages to go, Hatuey Ramos-Fermín interviewed Essex Market’s vendors, learning about their experiences as business owners and documenting their unique perspectives on the role of the market within its neighborhood, the Lower East Side. Quotes from these interviews, featured on reusable shopping bags designed by Ramos-Fermín in consultation with vendors, will be available to customers who purchase items at participating businesses throughout the market. As a result, the bags will become part of a larger network of visitors outside of the Market, amplifying the stories and anecdotes featured in their designs.
Two public programs on May 14 and June 10, presented in partnership with Artists Alliance Inc, and The People’s LES/FABnyc, will bring together artists, organizers, small business owners, and city residents to explore how artists work together with neighborhood residents to support small businesses. Both programs and are free and open to the public with RSVP.
At this time of transition, In, Of and Crossing Essex aims to visualize moments from the day-to-day life of Essex Market as it prepares to move. By engaging the market’s vendors, shoppers, Lower East Side and city residents, this project seeks to share with a larger public what transition looks like for different people, making visible the often unseen or under-appreciated aspects of Essex Market in the present.
Friday, April 27-May 13 from 2-6p Send a message from Essex Market Work with a facilitator to construct and send immaterial “postcards” from Essex Market before its historic relocation. Schedule a conversation with a facilitator at calendly.com/go-between.
Monday, May 14 from 6:30-8p Panel discussion on small businesses as cultural contributors As much as artists and cultural establishments hold importance in shaping New York City, small businesses are equally as vital to the cultural lifeblood that defines New York City. This discussion will bring together artists, small business owners, and city organizers to discuss the contributions of small businesses to the city’s cultural fabric. Panelists will consider how arts and culture can continue to align with small businesses in order to strengthen the foundation of how cultural vibrancy is represented in a city-wide context.
The public programs are organized by Artists Alliance Inc/Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space in partnership with The People’s LES/FABnyc and made possible, in part, through a Humanities New York Action Grant.
Tuesday, May 29 from 6:30-8:30p After-Hours Performance Workshop with Sonia Louise Davis Explore Essex Street Market in a unique movement/sound-based experience led by Sonia Louise Davis. Participants will improvise in the empty market while it is closed to shoppers and create scores to guide their private performances.
Saturday, June 2 from 2-6p Drop-in Score Making with Sonia Louise Davis Stop in for an afternoon of hands-on score making. Informed by a wide range of artists’ graphic notations, participants can practice drawing or invent their own marks and symbols.
Sunday, June 10 from 3:30-5p (closing reception to follow) Roundtable discussion: what steps can artists take to support small businesses? What steps can artists take to support small businesses? As arts and culture are increasingly tied to the economic benefits of real estate development, this roundtable discussion will bring together artists, organizers, small business owners, and city residents to question how artists and cultural institutions can become active community members by supporting small businesses – and what this kind of support looks like in concrete, day-to-day actions.
The public programs are organized by Artists Alliance Inc/Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space in partnership with The People’s LES/FABnyc
In, Of and Crossing Essex is an independent project organized by Anna Harsanyi, in partnership with Artists Alliance Inc, Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, and Essex Street Market. This project is made possible with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos Fermin (also known as Meta Local Collaborative) are Bronx based artists who continue to transform our understanding of New York’s largest public space: its streets. They explore the histories of neighborhoods, create site-specific participatory work, engage a broad range of people, and work collaboratively across disciplines. In this episode, we have a conversation about work, about crossing between disciplines, how bicycling is an art form, using history as a jumping off point for deep dialogue, and the kinds of moments that can turn your life in a direction you never saw coming.
Meta Local is the collaborative practice of Elizabeth Hamby and Hatuey Ramos Fermin. Our work investigates the dynamics of urban spaces; exploring the histories of buildings and neighborhoods, and tracing the flows of people, ideas and products. Combining documentary strategies with performance and fine art, we articulate concepts of origin, and the sense of place. Meta Local develops site-specific, participatory works that refer to the complexity of our community in the South Bronx and beyond. We observe, analyze, and dissect the social, cultural and economic structures of our neighborhood, as well as the design and organization of buildings and spaces, and use the information gathered to develop questions that serve as a foundation for our projects.
By actively engaging a broad range of people and working collaboratively across disciplines, Meta Local challenges the existing hierarchies, inclusions, and exclusions that characterize “participation” in the larger democracy of New York City. Projects are entirely site specific, and are developed collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders including community organizations, neighbors and visitors in different capacities.
Four decades later, the three kings (and queens) still reign.
The East Harlem streets will once again be taken over byreal camels, giant hand-made puppets and live music, when El Museo del Barrio celebrates its annual Three Kings Day Parade on Fri., Jan. 5 at 11 a.m.
Long rooted as a neighborhood institution, the parade is now in its 41st year. It celebrates Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany, one of the most important holidays on the cultural and religious calendar of many from the Latin Caribbean.
The parade route begins at 106th Street and Lexington Avenue and ends on 115th Street and Park Avenue.
In the aftermath of Hurricane María, the observance of Puerto Rican heritage will take on a more poignant meaning, said Ana Chireno, Director of Government and Community Affairs for El Museo.
“We had a galvanizing event this year that brought the community together,” said Chireno of the hurricane. “It definitely hangs over this year’s parade.”
El Museo has been active in attempting to help those affected by María. In October, the museum held an artwork auction, raising $18,000 to aid hurricane victims.
In addition to the typical parade glitz, this year’s march carries added cultural significance, with the current U.S. political climate causing immigrant communities to feel oppressed.
“Parades aren’t normally thought of as political events, but with people feeling that that their heritage is under attack, celebrating culture is politically powerful,” remarked Chinero.
She said the theme for this year’s parade is “Freedom Fighters,” intended to celebrate individuals dedicated to promoting liberty and equality.
The parade boasts three women as its Honorary Kings, a rarity for the Three Kings Parade.
Bárbara Hernández, actress and LGBTQ activist, Paola Mendoza, filmmaker and artistic director of the Women’s March on Washington and Ana-Ofelia Rodríguez, Director of Community Development for Broadway Housing Communities, will all take center stage as 2018 Honorary Kings.
Hernández becomes the first Puerto Rican Transgendered artist to be honored in the parade, Chireno said.
“I think it’s a strong statement that all three Kings are women,” she stated.
Leading the parade will be its longtime King Emeritus, Jesús ‘Papoleto’ Meléndez, a poet, performance artist and East Harlem native.
This year’s Madrinas are Sandra García-Betancourt, Poet, Writer, Arts Activist and Administrator; Ana Maria López, Assistant Professor of the Humanities Department/Latin American and Caribbean Unit at Hostos Community College; Nancy Pereira, Family Leadership Coordinator, School District 4; Vanessa Pérez-Rosario, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College; and Jaritza Taveras-Caba, Director of Community Affairs, Manhattan North Management.
The 2018 Padrinos are Jorge Merced, Artistic Director of Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (PRTT); M. Tony Peralta, Designer and Artist, Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, Director of Programs and Community Engagement, The Laundromat Project; Adrián ‘Viajero’ Román, Artist; and Charlie Vásquez, Deputy Director at Bronx Council on the Arts.
The morning will kick off with a breakfast at El Museo featuring the Honorary Kings (who are Queens this year), Madrinas and Padrinos, as well as various elected officials.
Following the parade, community residents are invited back the museum for an improv theater performance by Teatro 220 and a parranda with Bombazo Dance Company.
Other performers slated to appear in the parade include Abya Yala Arte y Cultura, Annette A. Aguilar and StringBeans, Bomba Yo!, Fogo Azul Bateria Femenina, Gays Against Guns (G.A.G), KRT3S Dance Company, Los Pleneros de la 21, The Marching Cobras, and the PS/MS 57 marching band.
Counting both marchers and spectators, the parade typically draws more than 5,000 participants.
Chireno said she believes the parade’s appeal comes from its inclusive nature, and the tight-knit community of East Harlem.
“It’s a time-honored tradition,” she said. “It brings together different generations. It’s something that community members share with their children, and their grandchildren, and it’s become a neighborhood ritual.”
El Museo del Barrio is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue (at East 104th Street) in Manhattan. The Museum’s Galleries are currently undergoing renovations and will reopen to the public in the summer of 2018. For more information on these and other renovations, visit http://bit.ly/2CxANbx.
Please note: El Museo del Barrio’s 41st Annual Three Kings Day Parade has been CANCELLED due to inclement weather. Instead, El Museo del Barrio will be hosting a special SUPER SABADO on Saturday, January 20th. The free afternoon will feature live musical performances, art-making workshops, storytelling, and more. For more information, please visit elmuseo.org.
Through a decade, The Laundromat Project worked for the residents of New York’s historic minority neighborhoods to get their voices heard. The tools for it? Art and design.
– How can art and design as a catalyst for change in a neighborhood, on both a personal level, but also as an influence in your neighborhood?
This question has Hatuey Ramos-Fermín and his colleagues in The Laundromat Project asked and tried to answer for over ten years. Based in New York, the organization has focused on three of the neighborhoods in the big city: Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, Harlem in Manhattan and Hunts Point in the Bronx. All the neighborhood that has a rich culture, history is the neighborhood with several minorities, but that is changing due to gentrification. The Laundromat Project uses culture and design and art fields to network, to increase cohesion and to introduce tools that residents in these neighborhoods can use to amplify their voice, together working towards positive change and preserve the history of the place they are from.
– In these neighborhoods, access to different artistic experiences very limited, says Ramos-Fermín over Skype from The Bronx. He has the title Director of Programs & Community Engagement and first became involved in the organization as an Artist in Residency. – Creating work and workshops that are different and unique to the places we are on and which are made by artists who look like people who live there, is very important.
Looks like neighborhoods A laundry presents itself might not be the most obvious place to while away the art and design workshops. But The Laundromat Project saw the potential in these locations as focal point, and which places ownership and neighborhood feel. Since the inception of the organization in 2005, laundries in these three neighborhoods become the seats for workshops, exhibitions and various pop-up event. In addition, Laundromat acquired an apartment in the Bronx and a corresponding neighborhood garden that is used for public events, exhibitions and workshops.
– We are very proud that we the last ten years has been working with 125 artists and designers, and over 40 different projects. We have been present in all five boroughs in New York, says Ramos-Fermín enthusiastic.
– Our programs and projects look very similar to New York in relation to ethnicity, gender and how the city is built. We have a diverse group of artists, mostly artists of different ethnicity, and just what is an important part of the work we do, he adds.
Bed-Stuy, Harlem and Hunts Point, all neighborhoods of the past 10-15 years has undergone gentrification. Through including open calls for public commissions, residencies and projects, jobs The Laundromat Project to preserve the history of the places. Equally important is to byggge social sense, to find ways for citizens from minority groups in the neighborhoods to get together and get their voice heard.
The art of listening
An example of a recently conducted Laundromat project is Havana Fisher Newby his Harlem Motion. Developed while she was in residency at Laundromat Project, she worked here with questions about gentrification in Harlem. As a result of the animation workshops with residents in the neighborhood she created a series of short films. Along with participating in the workshops she walks in Harlem and documented their stories about the places they visited. So stressed she how several of the places have changed as a result of gentrification of the neighborhood. Ends screenings, where residents of the neighborhood had the opportunity to tell their stories through just animation films.
– It was important for us to build up during a Harlem-based artist who was concerned about the changes in their neighborhood, said Ramos-Fermín about the project.
Several of the projects created under The laudromat Project trades just to collect the stories of residents in neighborhoods. Among them is also the Iyapo Repository, a project of designer and artist Salome Asega and Ayodamola Okunseinde. A pop-up museum exhibits technological objects designed by residents of Bed-Stuy during a series of so-called design-thinking workshops. The aim of the museum is to speculate and design the future of people of African descent in the neighborhood.
– When we organize workshops, we are interested in working with artists from the neighborhood and bringing their methods and themes from neighborhood, tells Ramos-Fermín. – We will not take anything from the outside and forcing it into. Nor will we build from the inside out.
By telling the stories of people who often are not heard, and to document their past and thoughts about the future, creating The Laundromat Project a sense of ownership and pride for the people who are part of the projects. Meanwhile suggest they also methods for the neighborhood residents to discuss and gather around topics that are meaningful to them.
– There is a sense of importance as follows feeling to be part of a community, and that some have listened to you and that your story has been heard and continued, believes Ramos-Fermín. – For designers and artists we work with, it’s also about listening to how other people think that things can change for the better, then take it into its process.
Art and design as a problem solver – A claim may be that you instrumentalised art and design subjects, meaning that you use them as a way to achieve something more than an expression in itself. Is this something you try to avoid, or – as you are clear that you will be working with?
– “Art for art’s sake” is a nice discussion, and that is important, but also instrumentalized art in many different ways. For example of powerful people, of governments, organizations and artists, responding Ramos-Fermín.
– We have an interest that goes beyond art for art’s sake. It’s not that we are against it, but we believe that in order to find new ways to solve problems so we can use the power of art has. Then to tie together strangers and turn them into neighbors, and to find methods to rethink the ways our cities are built and the things that affect us on a daily basis.
– How do you think knowledge of art and design disciplines can alter mechanics in a neighborhood or community?
– One of the values we emphasize is deep listening. That means we will learn how to build the basis element affecting the neighborhood and what the people there are interested in. This is the base for most projects we do. As a designer or artist working with society not necessarily from, so it is important to listen and to be responsive, he says and adds:
– This creates a stronger project. Meanwhile, it opens for the subjects in which they were not aware of can come to the surface and become part of the discussions. It is not necessarily about finding solutions, but about linking people from different backgrounds and interests together. And creating ways to learn from each other.
early autumn each year stands Laundromat Project for arrangement Field Day. Through the three neighborhoods Workshops, creative tours, open studios, exhibitions and food stalls. Through events that are open and accessible to all age groups they create engagement around organization, but also issues that are important for neighboring teams inhabitants.
– The workshops we did this year was all related to Black Lives Matter and how artists, particularly black artists can use the artistic process to center the conversation around a cause that affects many people in this country, says Ramos-Fermín.
– For example, the focus was in Harlem on activism in the neighborhood. Here was the tour visited key locations in active organism history, including habitats for Malcolm X. For us in Laundromat Project is important not to forget where we are, and the things that affect people who live here.
“It doesn’t have to be exactly your place where you live,” said Fermín. “Maybe it’s where you’re from in the city, or it’s a struggle that pertains to that specific borough.”
Most of the flags are in The Bronx so far, which could be due to how many people from The Bronx have come to see the exhibit, according to Ramos.
Struggles that people wrote down for the borough include environmental concerns (“Stop FreshDirect” and “Stop NYPA Power Plants“), economic concerns (“gentrification” and “empowering the underserved”) and personal concerns (“have fun”).
A few visitors also wrote down people’s specific names, which Fermín said he found surprising and possibly indicative of struggles the author was having with that person.
“It’s an open-ended invitation, so people can map what struggle means to them,” he said. “They’re invited to add their own meaning to that.”
The Young Lords were a radical group of social activists founded in the 1960s by young Puerto Ricans who demanded housing, police, employment, education and health care reform, according to the Bronx Museum.
In addition to the map, the museum’s exhibit on them also includes a reconstruction of the group’s Bronx office and an installation dedicated to women in the organization.
The map is meant to show how issues that the Young Lords fought for, such as social justice and racial equality, are still very relevant today, according to Fermín.
“I hope that it connects to today’s struggles. They’re all more or less similar,” he said. “They might not look the same, but they might be similar to the ones you faced 40, 50 years ago.”
The map will be up until the Young Lords exhibit comes down on Oct. 18, and Fermín said he was very pleased with the response it had received so far.
“I didn’t know if people were actually going to do it, first of all,” he said, “but it’s been great to see people walking through and reading and taking careful notice and writing thoughtful comments. That’s been great.”
“You never know with something like this how’s it going to work, if it’s going to work or not,” he continued, “but it seems like people are into it.”
The Bronx Museum of the Arts has long distinguished itself by its commitment to the communities that surround it, with its three-and-a-half decade Artists in the Marketplace (AIM) program a leading example of this dedication. The program assists emerging artists of varying degrees of seniority and experience with the more practical aspects of life as a working artist, and has produced a small coterie of notable alumni. Initially conceived as a means of training, the museum began tapping its AIM cohort for a biennial exhibition six years ago, and the latest iteration of this effort, “Bronx Calling: The Third AIM Biennial,” is now on view. Curated by the Bronx-based artists Laura Napier and Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, the biennial is a dizzying mixture of styles and mediums, comprising the work of 72 artists of varying backgrounds and interests. We spoke with Napier and Ramos-Fermín about their approach to the third AIM biennial, and how they sought to bring two classes of AIM participants — from 2014 and 2015 — into the public eye.
The Bronx Museum of Art, El Museo del Barrio, and Loisaida Inc. are exhibiting the work of the artists and activists in the Young Lords Party in ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York. Curated by Johanna Fernandez and Yasmin Ramírez, the Bronx exhibit aims to give local and global context for Young Lords’s activism while situating the social conflicts they addressed in ongoing struggles.
In the museum’s lobby, an interactive piece invites visitors to flag different “points of struggle” on a tabletop map of New York’s five boroughs. Some of these points on the map represent moments in the public consciousness, such as the lone flag on Staten Island indicating the site of Eric Garner’s death. Other points cryptically tell stories of personal struggle, such as “Ricardo Israel 1991-1992 #BlackLivesMatter.”
The Young Lords Party was a political group that emerged from the Puerto Rican community in the United States. Through its organizing, the group engaged with urban issues such as tenant’s rights and police brutality. The group’s political actions are immortalized through their pamphlets, newspaper, and posters, on view here. The Young Lords’s design is rooted in the leftist agitprop tradition, incorporating striking symbols and colors that can be easily reproduced and distributed.The exhibition is also showcasing radical art inspired by the Young Lords, including work by Shepard Fairey.
Legal and photographic documents, including a wall plastered with photocopies of FBI documents, highlight the intimidation the activists must have felt in their pursuit of social justice. The radical community galvanized by the Young Lords — first in Chicago, then New York — is likewise documented through photography peppered throughout the exhibit, including work by Michael Abramson and Fred W. McDarrah.
¡Presente! fosters institutional memory of the Young Lords’s agendaby situating the group’s struggle within the persistent problems of urban life, defined by quotidian yet flagrant inequities like access to affordable housing. The flurry of dates and events denoted by the Young Lords’ poster art serve as plot points and touchstones in New York’s cultural and social history. The group’s work and anti-racist mission resonate with the current wave of movements like Black Lives Matter or the Fight for $15, who continue to organize against the same social forces that the Young Lords resisted.
¡Presente! The Young Lords in New Yorkcontinues at the Bronx Museum of Arts (1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx) through October 18; at El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Ave, East Harlem, Manhattan) through October 17; and at Losaida Inc. (710 E 9th St, Alphabet City, Manhattan) through October 10.
The Bronx has a rich, diverse, and productive artistic community, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a commercial gallery in the borough. Community groups, including artists and arts organizations, who rebuilt the Bronx from the inside out have played a critical role in shaping the renaissance that has taken place there over the last 40 years. These arts initiatives support and build solidarity, bringing people together not to sell objects but to lift up the voices and experiences of people of color and confront injustices perpetuated by a city and a private sector that had constantly looked the other way. So what validates art, anyway? The market? Its effect on individuals or communities? Its role as a pedagogical instrument? The Bronx art ecosystem of independent artists, DIY spaces, and non-profit institutions offers a viable alternative to the profit-driven art world just a few miles away.
On July 26, 1969, a group of young Latinos stood in the band shell in Tompkins Square Park, in the East Village, and made an announcement. They were founding a New York branch of a revolution-minded political party called the Young Lords.
Inspired by the Black Panthers and an earlier street-gang-turned-activist Young Lords group in Chicago, their purpose was to gain social justice for New York’s working-class Latino population, then largely Puerto Rican and treated with contempt by the city government.
Most of the members onstage that day were recent college graduates well versed in leftist political theory. To gain the trust and cooperation of Latino communities — concentrated in the East Village, East Harlem and the South Bronx — they knew they needed to get their feet on the street, and they wasted no time.
The next day they started a “garbage offensive” in East Harlem, the Barrio, pulling mounds of trash left festering by the city’s sanitation department into the middle of Third Avenue and setting the refuse alight. Local residents pitched in.
In October of that year, the Young Lords teamed up with a band of mostly black and Latino hospital personnel to force improvements in labor conditions and medical services for the poor at Gouverneur Hospital on the Lower East Side. (Six months later, they would take over Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx for the same reasons.)
In December, they occupied an East Harlem church and, until the police evicted them, turned it into a food dispensary and free clinic by day and a performance space for music, poetry readings and history lessons at night.
By that point they had started a newspaper, Palante. (The name, a contraction of “para adelante,” means “forward” or “right on.”) Bilingual and published every two weeks, it was a color tabloid with some of the jazziest graphics around.
You’ll find dozens of copies covering the walls in the tripartite exhibition “¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York.” Spread over three institutions — the Bronx Museum of the Arts; El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem; andLoisaida Inc., a cultural center in the East Village — this show departs from straight political history by presenting the Young Lords as a cultural phenomenon as well as an ideological one, with a highly developed instinct for visual self-projection, right down to having an official party photographer, the gifted Hiram Maristany.
Each of the show’s three parts is more or less self-contained, giving a general picture of the party’s brief history while centering on events specific to each venue. The Bronx Museum portion, for example, organized by two New York-based art historians, Johanna Fernández and Yasmin Ramirez, focuses on the July 1970 takeover of Lincoln Hospital, which is not far from the museum, but also touches on developments elsewhere in the city.
It gives particular attention to links between the Young Lords and Taller Boricua, a print workshop started in East Harlem in 1970 by a group of Puerto Rican artists — Marcos Dimas, Adrián Garcia, Carlos Osorio, Manuel Otero, Martin Rubio and Armando Soto.
Still in operation in a converted public school building at 106th Street and Lexington Avenue, the workshop was originally across the street from the barrio headquarters of the Lords, who occasionally appropriated prints for Palante covers. Mostly, though, the exchange was in the form of aesthetic influence: The workshop’s presence seemed to inspire members of the party who were artists.
Denise Oliver-Velez, an African-American member of the Lords who designed several Palante covers, was one. She was also one of the few women to gain a place in the party’s governing hierarchy. Like many other male-dominated radical groups, the Young Lords were inherently sexist and promoted a form of revolutionary machismo in their original statement of purpose. She would have none of it. Under pressure from her and another female member, Iris Morales, the group revised the statement to read: “We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male chauvinism.”
Those words appear in the Bronx show and again in the installation at El Museo del Barrio, organized by Rocio Aranda-Alvarado and sharply designed by Ignacio Vázquez-Paravano. There are brilliant, monumental prints here by Antonio Martorell, Juan Sánchez and Rafael Tufiño, although the general mood is dark.
A photograph by Geno Rodriguez records a demonstration after a teenager named Martin Perez died while in police custody. An issue of Palante records the death, under similar circumstances, of Julio Roldán, a Young Lords member. When the Lords staged an anger-fueled funeral procession for him in the streets of the Barrio, they were fully armed.
A 1970 video of the poet Pedro Pietri reciting his chantlike “Puerto Rican Obituary” feels like a lament for the end of a certain type of activism. The Young Lords Party was already beginning to narrow along hard ideological lines and splinter into competitive factions. It had bought into American gun culture, becoming its own enemy in the process. The group had lost its connection to the grass-roots communities it was meant to serve.
The Pietri poem, however, ends with a direct address to the people of those communities, exhorting them to carry on and to find joy where they can and in who they are. The exhibition at Loisaida Inc., which opens next Thursday, is pitched in that key. Organized by Wilson Valentin-Escobar and Libertad O. Guerra, it’s about the cultural legacy that the Lords left, a populist activism that produced vivid images and had the imaginative lift of performance art.
In that upbeat spirit, Mr. Pietri often collaborated with another former Young Lord, Eddie Figueroa — you see them in beautiful photographic portraits by Adál Maldonado at the Bronx Museum. In 1976, Mr. Figueroa founded a space for experimentation, the New Rican Village Cultural Arts Center in the East Village.
Taller Boricua artists like Sandra Maria Esteves and Nestor Otero appeared there. So did a who’s-who of musicians combining African-Caribbean forms with jazz. The mood, as captured in a series of fabulous photographs by Maximo Colon, was ebullient and embracing.
In terms of identity, the Young Lords were, at least initially, also embracing. Puerto Rican society is multiethnic and multicultural; so was the party. This may be one reason that feminism was able to forge a presence, and why the Lords made common cause with the gay rights movement.
A month before the Tompkins Square Park announcement, the Stonewall riots happened across town. Sylvia Rivera, a transgender Latino performer who was rumored to have been involved in the riots and was arrested soon afterward, joined the Lords and helped attract a lesbian and gay contingent.
There’s a small photographic homage to her at Loisaida Inc. And there are tributes to other figures from the past by contemporary artists elsewhere.
At the Bronx Museum, the young New York painter Sophia Dawson has three strong paint-and-collage pictures made in collaboration with women who had been Young Lords. And a sculpture by Miguel Luciano, also at the Bronx Museum, commemorates a militant offshoot of the Lords, a Puerto Rican nationalist group called Los Macheteros, or the Machete Wielders.
For them, Mr. Luciano has customized a pair of Nike sneakers by transforming the brand’s Swoosh logo into a machete emblem. In doing so, he symbolically gives these activists a swift means for attack and retreat. But he also asks a blunt question, particularly pertinent in the market-saturated present, about the bond between rebellion and consumption.
How revolutionary can you be if what you’re basically fighting for is the right to have the coolest — usually meaning the most expensive — shoes on the block? The Young Lords, who knew a lot about style, might have had a persuasive answer for that. We could use one.
A large banner with an AK-47 silhouetted in front of a cutout of the Puerto Rican flag greets visitors to the Bronx Museum of the Arts’ latest show, conveying something of the shock New Yorkers might have felt when the Young Lords took the city by storm starting in the summer of 1969.
The exhibit offers a sympathetic history lesson on the group’s rise and fall by way of the posters, publications, paintings and other artwork that members used to fight for better conditions for Latinos and others in the Bronx, Manhattan and Puerto Rico. A recreation of the group’s Bronx office includes a wall covered in photocopies of FBI files on members, illustrating the police infiltration that contributed to the Lords’ disintegration in the early 1970s.
“¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York” also features items ranging from a list of the group’s 13 socialist goals to a sofa scorched during a 1961 work of performance art.
“A lot of the imagery is very violent. It’s obviously of its era,” said Yasmin Ramírez, an adjunct curator at the museum. “If we look at it at a broader level, I think it’s resonating with people in the community because these issues are still occurring, unfortunately, to this day.”
While the City Council continues to debate free lunch for all public school students, works documenting the Lords’ effort to provide free breakfast for children show the idea is an old one. There are also photos of the group’s one-day occupation of Lincoln Hospital and of demonstrations against the filming of “Fort Apache the Bronx.”
A wall covered in silkscreens by the still-functioning artists coalition Taller Boricua shows the Lords’ roots in Puerto Rican culture. One image is a vibrant homage to Puerto Rican labor organizer Luisa Capetillo, while another protests the death of Young Lord Julio Roldán while in NYPD custody.
Large collages commissioned for the exhibit emphasize the role of women in the movement, who demanded that the Young Lords’ 13 goals said “Down with machismo and male chauvinism” along with battle cries like, “We want self-determination for Puerto Ricans—Liberation of the Island and inside the United States.” Sophia Dawson’s “Women of the Young Lords” incorporates a photo of activists Iris Morales and Denise Oliver-Velez. Her “Sistahz” references a 1970 poster protesting the sterilization of Puerto Rican women.
Organizers said the exhibit was five years in the making and incorporated lengthy discussions with original Lords members. Some of them, like Ms. Oliver-Velez, continued work as community organizers while others, like Juan González, have made their mark as journalists.
A long with Young Lords banners and the wall of FBI files, the recreation of the group’s Longwood Avenue office includes a table map of all five boroughs. Little blue flags mark the locations of demonstrations like the 1970 Lincoln Hospital takeover and a protest for greater minority representation at the Museum of Modern Art in the same year. Visitors to the free museum are invited to plant white flags and write causes that are important to them.
“What does struggle mean to you, and where can we map it?” said education curator Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, who made the office recreation. “It’s really open-ended.”
“¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York” runs at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, located at 1040 Grand Concourse, through Thursday, Oct. 15. Admission is free. For hours and more information, visit www.bronxmuseum.org.
When garbage started piling up on East Harlem sidewalks in the late 1960s because of irregular trash collection, a group of young activists decided to intervene. They dragged the discarded mattresses, old refrigerators and abandoned cars into the street, blocking traffic in a dramatic protest. They then set the garbage aflame.
The protesters were members of the Young Lords, Puerto Rican nationalists who would go on to become one of the most radical civil-rights activist groups in New York City. Controversial in their heyday, they are now the subject of a new, multi-venue exhibition.
Like their better-known collaborators, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords—whose New York chapter was founded in 1969—aimed to combat social oppression in their community through highly organized protests that sometimes involved run-ins with the law.
The exhibition, titled “¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York,” documents those efforts with photographs, publications, films and artwork that came out of the movement. The Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio and the Loisaida Center will each focus on different aspects of the Lords’ history, which began as a struggle for Puerto Rican independence and racial equality, before evolving into a much larger fight.
“The civil-rights movement is imagined in black and white,” saidJohanna Fernández, co-curator of the Bronx Museum’s exhibition. “But the movement in itself was diverse, and it was concerned with problems of social and economic import” in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, such as unemployment and poor health care. Their work testing East Harlem children for lead poisoning—and trumpeting the dire results at news conferences—helped lead to city legislation on the issue.
The intersection of activism and art is a major theme of “¡Presente!” The Bronx Museum’s portion of the exhibition, which runs until Oct. 15, features an artistic re-creation of the Young Lords’ headquarters, complete with their distinctive posters and a ’70s-era radio that plays interviews with its members.
It also includes around 30 pages from group’s bilingual newspaper, Palante, many emblazoned with vibrant artwork by artists associated with the Young Lords. Several in the group were themselves artists and writers, said co-curator Yasmin Ramírez. Founding New York member Juan Gonzáles, for one, has written several books, and the original party chairman, Felipe Luciano, is a published poet.
Prints and paintings from the era are interspersed with newer pieces, such as a reimagined Young Lords poster by contemporary street artist and activist Shepard Fairey.
The walls of the main gallery are lined with photographs depicting the organization during fiery demonstrations in the Bronx.
In 1970, Denise Oliver-Velez became the first woman elected to the party’s central committee. (Gender equality was a big issue.) She was among the Young Lords who barricaded themselves inside Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx to protest the facility’s unsafe conditions—an event portrayed in the exhibition with both photographs and film footage.
Paintings and political prints created by prominent Young Lords artists will also be on display in the Harlem museum, including a colorful silk-screen print byAntonio Martorell protesting the U.S. Navy’s occupation of an island off Puerto Rico.
Several contemporary works were commissioned specifically for the exhibition. Miguel Luciano fashioned a piece consisting of four fuchsia-colored AK-47s, recurrent symbols in Young Lords iconography.
A third exhibition, opening July 30 at Latino social-service and cultural center Loisaida Inc., will focus on the Lords’ presence in the Lower East Side. Documents include audio recordings and found footage of party members reciting poetry and speaking about their cause.
The show will also feature unpublished photos by Mr. Maristany, and posters by graphic artist and poet Sandra María Esteves. It will examine the efforts of the Young Lords Gay and Lesbian Caucus, as well as the organization’s influence on the neighborhood’s burgeoning Latin-jazz scene, said Wilson Valentín-Escobar, who is co-organizing the exhibit with Libertad Guerra.
“The Young Lords redefined the mainstream stereotypes of Puerto Ricans [as being] prone to violence, drug addiction and welfare dependence,” Ms. Fernández said. “They challenged that perception through their eloquent, strategic and smart activism.”