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Ecological consciousness credit John Maggiotto 27

Now More Than Ever: Dissolving Barriers to Resiliency Project

Artists
South Bronx Resiliency Artist Fellowship, THE POINT CDC

Featuring Blanka Amezkua, Brandon Ballengée, Lynn Cazabon and Alicia Grullon

Four of sixteen projects in the 2018 exhibition Ecological Consciousness: Artist as Instigator.

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Left to right: Brandon Ballengée, Hunts Point Eco-Actions; Blanka Amezkua, Mi historia con juguetes / My toy story, Alicia Gullon, Surge. Photo: John Maggiotto.

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Left to right: Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated; Brandon Ballengée, Hunts Point Eco-Actions; Blanka Amezkua, Mi historia con juguetes / My toy story, and Alicia Gullon, Surge. Photo: John Maggiotto.

With the South Bronx Resiliency Arts Fellowship, THE POINT aims to further social cohesion between two distinct populations co-existing in Hunts Point—residents and workers—via the arts. Living and working in this community places everyone at continued risks of storm surges, displacement, and the trauma associated with marginalization. With the four artists, Blanka Amezkua, Brandon Ballengée, Lynn Cazabon and Alicia Grullon, THE POINT curated a series of engagements in strategic corners of Hunts Point where residents and workers co-exist alongside an invisible barrier disconnecting them, although they face the same concerns. Artists were trained in environmental and social justice campaigns via the South Bronx Community Resiliency Agenda Lab. This content inspired artists to facilitate experiences to elucidate and bind these two populations to demand crucial changes that can benefit everyone. The artist-led workshops and products intend to leave a long-lasting footprint in Hunts Point by forging crucial alliances needed now more than ever. THE POINT Community Development Corporation is dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. Celebrating over 20 years of service, THE POINT offers a multi-faceted approach to asset-based community development. Projects by the four artists are described in following sections.

My Toy Story/ Mi Historia Con Juguetes

Artists
Clarisa Velazquez, Josefina Ortiz, Rosa Sotomayor, Laura Agapito, Gloria Serrano, Ynosencia Burgos, Wendi Mercedes, Marcelino Cruz, Roberto Cordero, Carmen Perez, Yaniry, Yvonne Pantojas, led by Blanka Amezkua

Partners/Collaborators
South Bronx Resiliency Artist Fellowship, THE POINT CDC, Pio Mendez Senior Center and Sunshine Adult Center

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Photo: John Maggiotto

Mi historia con juguetes / My toy story is a project that allowed the artist Blanka Amezkua to discover the toys that adult and elderly communities in Hunts Point grew up with and the stories behind them, while addressing current socio-economic realities. Through a series of workshops at the Pio Mendez Senior Center and Sunshine Adult Center, she listened to the participants’ stories and guided them to create their toys through various media, such as textiles, drawings, and paint. The artist believed that using toys as a point of departure would lead to deep cultural introspection and unexpected discussions—such as a contemplation of climate change and resiliency in Hunts Point. Through these creative activities, the project addressed Hurricane Maria, immigration, access and conditions of bodies of water and rivers in South Bronx. The project was initiated by THE POINT CDC with support from the Lincoln Center Cultural Innovation Fund. It seeks a deeper awareness of the environmental preoccupations, needs, and desires of the seniors living in the Hunts Point area.

Hunts Point Eco-Actions

Artist
Brandon Ballengée

Partners/Collaborators
South Bronx Resiliency Artist Fellowship, THE POINT CDC

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Photo: John Maggiotto

For this project, residents and workers of Hunts Point collaborated on environmental sampling of the Bronx and East Rivers. They sampled fishes and other aquatic organisms with homemade traps and netting in search of bio-indicator species (animals that tell us about the health of the water). During the residency, multiple projects were created through a series of workshops, including a living Bronx River diorama filled with life that was studied at THE POINT’s campus. Some of the projects created are on view in the gallery including guerilla ‘gardened’ oysters by making biodegradable phragmites bassinets; bread sculptures inspired by river species made by local bakers; and a fish-trap costume used in THE POINT’s Fish Parade. Participants collected important ecological data, making them “citizen artist-scientists”. Seeing the young fish returning to the cleaner river is an inspirational way to learn about the Hunts Point environment and the challenges. Since the 1990s, artist, biologist and environmental activist Brandon Ballengée has conducted participatory Eco-Actions field trips, workshops and research around the world. The project was initiated by THE POINT CDC with support from the Lincoln Center Cultural Innovation Fund. It raises awareness about the local ecosystems and demonstrates the importance of coexisting with the non-human species.

Uncultivated

Artist
Lynn Cazabon

Partners/Collaborators
South Bronx Resiliency Artist Fellowship, THE POINT CDC

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Uncultivated focuses on wild plants within urban landscapes. The project includes a photographic survey of wild plants thriving in the vicinity of the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center that are displayed on the project website and as posters in bus shelters in Hunts Point in June. The posters feature images of plants in their urban habitat with the Spanish common names for the species. Common names are nicknames that indicate how a culture regards and uses a particular plant. Pre-teens used urban plants as subjects in cameraless photography workshops with the International Center of Photography (ICP) at THE POINT. (Panel pictured above in the window.)

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The artist hosted four community workshops in May; selected results were displayed in the entrance area (see above). Workshop participants learned about local edible plants while creating monoprint self-portraits using a technique for nature printing directly with plants.

The project was initiated by THE POINT CDC with support from the Lincoln Center Cultural Innovation Fund. It addresses ‘resiliency’ through its focus on adaptation strategies in response to changing climate conditions by introducing people to the benefits of plants thriving in their local environment.

Surge

Artist
Alicia Grullon

Collaborator
South Bronx Resiliency Artist Fellowship, THE POINT CDC

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Photo: John Maggiotto

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Photo: John Maggiotto

Through poetry and montage, Surge is both a video trailer and a broadside that highlights real narratives and movements on local and global scales to frame the interconnectedness of resiliency as fundamental to survival. Much of our information about climate change comes from Hollywood films where often the science is inaccurate. Climate change is frequently depicted through an apocalyptic lens, unexpected and swift, with military-style solutions as the only way to a happy ending. This approach leaves out essential narratives surrounding capitalism, colonialism, racial and social injustices, unacknowledged Indigenous land rights, and urban planning perpetuating inner-city poverty for people of color, disrupting our ability to fully understand global warming’s impact in order to prepare for viable solutions. In this trailer, there is no definite resolution. Rather the anticipation, “coming soon,” is left for viewers to confront business-as-usual attitudes against the rising tide of community demanding system change. Grullon invited other voices to contribute to a broadside, such as Dr. Debra Tillnger, a climate scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, who writes about flooding dangers specific to Hunts Point. Aaliyah Daniels, the NYC Teen Poet Laureate, created a piece about her experiences with environmental racism in the Bronx that is the trailer’s voice-over. Through illustrations, Hunts Point youth Matthew Baez offers his aesthetic response brokering climatic fantasies and urbanity through the imagination. Joining these elements are historical materials from Standing Rock and Hurricane Katrina, along with the Principals of Environmental Justice developed at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington DC in 1991. Resources are provided for connecting with groups active in the Bronx and the city at large.