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Bronx Art Space in Mott Haven

Bronx Cultural Space Provides Venue for Artistic Expression

bronx art space mott haven cultural centers in south bronx mott haven neighborhood things to do nycNovember 13, 2017 / Mott Haven Neighborhood / Bronx Neighborhoods / Arts & Culture in the Bronx / Bronx Buzz NYC.

A few weeks ago I visited the Bronx Art Space as part of my effort to in some measure capture [and release] the heart and soul of the Bronx in pixels. Beverly Emers was my primary contact and her guidance was invaluable not just into the Bronx Art Space, but also in introducing me in some small way to the surrounding community.

As a bit of background, the Bronx Art Space first opened in 2008 in the South Bronx to provide a communal artistic venue to local artists, musicians, film makers and performers. The Bronx Art Space was co-founded by Linda Cunningham and Mitsu Hadeishi.

I arrived on a Saturday evening to witness one of the Bronx Art Space Gatherings. In 2017 at the Bronx Art Space began hosting the Gatherings, which have been organized by James A. Brathwaite, who I met shortly after I arrived. James told me he's been organizing at least one Gathering per month. The Gatherings consist of performances by local talent which is offered free to the public.

James told me it's an opportunity for local dancers, musicians, comedians and performers to get in front of an audience to express themselves and show what they can do. At the time of the October 21st Gathering, James had organized and hosted nine of them year to date.


Bronx Art Space in Mott Haven

Bronx Cultural Space Provides Venue for Artistic Expression

November 13, 2017 / Mott Haven Neighborhood / Bronx Neighborhoods / Arts & Culture in the Bronx / Bronx Buzz NYC. Continued.

Bronx Art Space in Mott Haven

bronx art space mott haven neighborhood south bronx nycBeverly, was working at the Bronx Art Space as part of an internship through Hunter College. She's been studying to be a community organizer and from what I experienced in one longer-than-expected evening, I suspect she'll be quite successful. Beverly gave me a brief tour of some of the art hanging on the walls at the Bronx Art Space which as a whole made up the exhibit entitled State Property.

 

State Property Exhibit Closing at Bronx Art Space

The theme of the State Property exhibit was about American consumerism of prison labor. Private companies profit through the employment of prison labor and other private for profit companies are paid to manage incarcerated populations. The issue is that there's a profit motive in keeping prisons populated and that was the message embedded in many of the works. One of the exhibits noted some of the multi-billion companies profiting from low cost prison labor, going on to contemplate that for some - slavery hasn't ended.

In March of 2017 Mayor de Blasio committed to closing Rikers Island prison over the course of the next ten years. A study was released recommending that the prison be replaced with smaller prisons dispersed throughout the city to keep prisoners near their families and friends, so that their personal ties / human and community networks can become part of their rehabilitation / safety net. Rikers Island prison has been the subject of federal investigations and community protests for alleged brutality and abuses.

 

State Property Creates Awareness of the For Profit Prison System & Unfair Incarcerations of Ethnic Men

mott haven neighborhood bronx neighborhoods nycOne of the biggest complaints is that many prisoners are held for very long periods of time - including minors - without being formally charged with crimes. Beverly told me the story about Kalief Browder, who was incarcerated at Rikers at age 16, held for three yearswithout being charged with any crime. Kalief was held in solitary confinement for 23 days and reportedly beaten by both corrections officers and fellow inmates, so that when he was released he felt uncomfortable around other people and at age 23 he committed suicide.

 

The art works included an American flag made of spray painted human hair. Another exhibit showed tape markings identifying the spare amount of space prisoners are provided. And there were a number of other art works, including several former prisoners' reflections of their time spent in the pen. It was a thoughtful, moving exhibit that gave voice to the issues of those whose voices can't be heard.

 

Live Musical Entertainment at Bronx Art Space in Mott Haven

I stayed for some of the performances too. Venture Klan was performing when I first arrived. They're a three member hip hop group from Harlem that started in 2007. They perform in the city and boroughs, and sometimes beyond. The three members are Ave Campbell, BukdaWorld and Leland Charles. You can find their work at www.ventureklan.com.

things to do mott haven bronx arts culture in mott haven neighborhood south bronx nycI also met a solo performer, who goes by the name of Classic. He's been performing for the past ten years and frequently does gigs with a couple of other musicians, but not tonight. He did vocals with background music that he creates with instrumentalists in Eastern Europe. He's currently in the process of copyrighting his work. You can find some of his work on www.weownitrecords.com.

Beverly also introduced me to one of the Bronx Art Space neighbors, the Artistic Director of ID Studio Theater, German Jaramillo. ID Studio Theater is a non-profit Latino arts theater organization that develops and performs new works. They moved into their new home next door to the Bronx Art Space in Mott Haven about a year ago [2016], and this evening there was a production being shown in tandem with the Mexico Now Festival, which was founded by Claudia Norman. Claudia told me about the Mexico Now Festival which is an NYC-wide festival celebrating Mexican culture.

Before I left, Beverly introduced me to one of the neighbors, an artist who has a studio just behind the Bronx Art Space - Maria Scapini of www.scapinistudio.com. I didn't get a chance to see her work as we only met briefly on our way out.

All in all it was an interesting and fun night out, but really just the beginning of getting to know what's doing in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx.


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