Hunts Point Resiliency: Connection Stories

Behind the Art with The Point’s Artists in Residency

This is the fourth installment in our Hunts Point Connection Stories Series that have been published throughout this project to spotlight different voices and stories in Hunts Point. Throughout the series, both members of the Hunts Point community and those with ties to the community have been paired with different City representatives to explore different aspects of resiliency in the peninsula.

This story focuses on the creative resiliency of the Hunts Point community, featuring Isabelle Garbani, Mariposa Fernandez, and Roy Secord, The Point CDC’s Artists in Residency for the Hunts Point Resiliency project. Isabelle, Mariposa, and Roy were joined by Tommy Boston, a Planner at the NYC Economic Development Corporation and EDC’s outreach coordinator for the Hunts Point Resiliency project. We hope that the story that follows inspires you to embrace and share your creative spirit with others.

Under the direct supervision of Carey Clark, Visual Arts Director at The Point CDC, three unique artists were selected through a competitive application process to engage the community on key issues like climate change and resiliency through the use of creative expression.

On a bright and beautiful summer afternoon, I made the trip out to The Point’s Riverside Campus for the Arts and Environment: an inviting combination of structures and open space adjacent to Hunts Point Riverside Park where interactive learning and creativity collide. In a repurposed shipping container and an old brick building with a wooden lean-to-turned art gallery, I sat down with the resident artists to talk about their inspiration, their experiences, and their work.

Mariposa Fernandez is a local Bronx-based performance artist whose artistic roots have led her back to where she spent her formative years in the performing arts: The Point. “I am one of the artists that was nurtured inside of the space of The Point, where I got to really develop myself as a performance artist in the theater,” said Fernandez. Applying to this opportunity came easily to her after thinking of a project for the neighborhood in which she spent her childhood.

“This neighborhood is like a second home, my second home in the Bronx,” she said, reminiscing about her past. “And I just feel very connected and very proud of the neighborhood and I would like for people to know that there’s a lot more to Hunts Point than what they may have seen or heard about and there are a lot of negative stereotypes that I would like to help counter in my own storytelling and my own poetry. This project gave me an opportunity to find a way to collect different narratives.”

Fernandez’s “Pop-up Poetry” workshops allowed her to connect with the community after spending time in Hunts Point parks. Her approach had her engaging the younger community in a natural setting where she setup signs and a table in front of a park bench and offered popsicles in exchange for poems about climate change. The popsicles served as a metaphor to engage the young people to talk about global warming. Mariposa’s popsicles also connected to her grandfather who sold piraguas [Puerto Rican ices] in Hunts Point. The second portion of her engagement included workshops for adults with connections to Hunts Point to create poetry tied to environmental and climate change issues. Excerpts from these poems were read aloud at the Artists in Residency Unveiling Event on August 26th.

Originally from France, Isabelle Garbani is a Brooklyn-based artist that specializes in recycled material and art installations. She was first drawn to the Artist in Residency program because of the opportunity to do community outreach to educate the local residents on environmental and climate change issues. Her approach allowed her to bring the art to the residents and reach those who may not have come to her on their own. Garbani’s dedication to preserving the environment by incorporating strategic community outreach was directly reflected in her choice for her installation.

“I was doing a mobile art workshop with ‘trash tiles’. I basically picked up trash from the sidewalk, chopped it up into little pieces — you know, after I washed it — made tiles, and then went around the streets of the Bronx with a little shopping cart and a couple of chairs and an umbrella and art supplies and asked people who were just hanging out if they want to make art for the Bronx,” said Garbani. Her project features a collection of over one-hundred recycled “trash tiles,” each featuring individual illustrations, paintings, and expressions from the community representing what climate change and resiliency means to them. The tiles are strung together to create a larger, unified mural, showcasing the community’s artwork, representative of its concerns and thoughts about climate change. Her mural is located at The Point’s Riverside Campus for the Arts and Environment.

Roy Secord is an artist and sculptor who has done previous work in the Bronx. His desire to apply for this opportunity stems from his passion to explore community responses to climate change, and a keen interest in the role of community members in taking an active part in tackling these issues. “[NYC] Arts Commissioner Finkelpearl recently said that ‘artists are masters of communication’, and I find that very true; [and] you talk about resilience and resiliency in this community in regard to climate change impact and sometimes it’s like you’re talking a foreign language. Art connects, art unifies, and art educates, and it also works on multiple levels. [So] For me, as a public artist that is involved with this resiliency project, I can walk out into the community and engage community residents, businesspeople and leaders, with the communication of art, and it becomes something that is very understandable and also allows others to enter into the conversation,” said Secord.

Roy captured portraits and interviews of individual experiences and responses to climate change. His approach to sharing these stories was two-fold: through social media, and as part of a sculpture installation of the portraits. Secord likened the resilience of the community to that of monarch butterflies, a fragile species that amass for propagation and protection. His portraits and imagery of the community were incorporated into a large-scale (14’) sculpture, designed and built by Secord, showing the symbolism of monarch butterflies and the individuals of the community, and “how everyone must come together to ensure their own protection.” His sculpture, along with Garbani’s mural, can be seen at The Point’s Riverside Campus for the Arts and Environment.

This residency program has allowed these three artists to spread awareness about the issues of climate change and resiliency by engaging members of the community in ways not ordinarily seen in local government outreach processes. Above all, it gave the community a creative outlet to discuss these topics and express a vision for a resilient future through a different lens. As for those who may think they don’t have a creative bone in their body, the artists had this to say: “It’s your art, there’s no right or no wrong”, exclaimed Garbani; “Everybody is creative and everybody has talent, [but] you just have to find your message, and you just have to find your voice,” echoed Secord.

- Tommy Boston

PS — Stay tuned for a future blog post listing the final locations of the artist’s installations!

We want to hear your story! If you are interested in being featured in a Hunts Point Connection Story or have an idea for a story, please email us at huntspointresiliency@edc.nyc.

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