Photo credit: Gowanus Lounge
The "Democracy Wall" at 360 Smith Street
Friend, artist, and Carroll Gardens activist Triada Samaras will be part of the Brooklyn Utopias? show at the Brooklyn Historical Society, which opens tonight. Brooklyn Utopias? asks artists to consider differing visions of an ideal Brooklyn. it is a "series of art exhibits and public programs in Fall 2009 that engages artists, youth, and community organizations in an urgent dialogue about Brooklyn’s future."
Triada will present the "Democracy Wall" which was created as a community outcry against the development at 360 Smith Street. Triada writes:
A Utopia to me is a place where all the voices of a neighborhood can be heard and respected. It is a place where those who live, work, raise their families and invest their future in a community are able to participate in the shaping of its future, aiming to benefit the greatest number of people, not a greedy few.
My project re-visits a rather utopian moment in the recent history of Carroll Gardens: one in which several grassroots organizations sprung up with no other motive other than to preserve and protect the quality of human/natural life that exists in several small, human-scale Brooklyn communities. While Brooklyn has indeed experienced a rapid “boom” recently, it has historically occupied the place of offering an “alternative lifestyle” from the frantic pace of Manhattan, with more “human-scale” development and more natural environment. For this reason, many Brooklyn residents have experienced despair at the thought of losing their once cherished “oasis” neighborhoods.
This photo installation documents the “Democracy Wall,” a collaborative street art installation in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn from May 2007 to April 2008 initiated by local residents and to which I was a frequent contributor. This wall helped catalyze the rapid emergence of CORD (Coalition for Respectful Development) in Carroll Gardens in June of 2007, and the creation of the CORD petition and CORD blog and newsletter. It marked the beginning of extensive grassroots work done by the residents of Carroll Gardens to protect their neighborhood’s original planning scheme.
Carroll Gardens is named for the area's signature setback gardens, which were planned with great foresight by surveyor Richard Butts in 1846. In that year, a law established the gardens on the four Places between Henry and Smith Streets and deemed that the courtyards "shall be built on a line 33 feet 5¼ inches" that "shall be used for courtyards only." Unbeknownst to the general public until very recently, Carroll Gardens does not have adequate zoning or historical preservation laws that ensure that this scheme will remain intact.
To preserve and maintain the thoughtful planning of Mr. Butts, the community sought a new building moratorium on all projects in Carroll Gardens until the critical land use issues facing the community could be publicly discussed and aired. Before this time, the public had been largely shut out entirely of the process of self-determination and developers were quick to seize arcane loopholes to construct out of scale and out of context buildings in Carroll Gardens.
In my project I wish to remember those who courageously fought the development of one such building, the Oliver House/360 Smith Street, and who eventually won the Carroll Gardens Zoning Text Amendment. I also hope to inspire artists and residents in other communities to fight for their rights to have a say in their future. The “Democracy Wall,” situated on the fence around the Oliver House construction site and containing constantly-updated flyers, visual cues, and painted conversations, became a tool for engaging local residents in the Oliver House and zoning protests. It promoted discussion and debate in a public space, within an increasingly privatized urban environment. While the neighborhood is by no means a Utopia (yet), the community spirit shown in greater Carroll Gardens/Gowanus over the past two years by a dedicated and united community has been “Utopian” to say the least.
Triada will take part in the Panel Discussion : "Utopian Urban Planning:" Artists and Community Leaders Discuss Brooklyn's Future." at Sunday, October 25, 2009, 2-4pm, Brooklyn Historical Society
Below are the highlights of the The Brooklyn Utopias? show
Brooklyn Historical Society
Thursday, Oct. 1,
128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201, First Floor
Come see the work of over 30 artists exploring differing visions of an ideal Brooklyn, related works from the BHS historic collection, and even huge towers made out of recycled shipping materials.
Also, you are invited to participate in various FREE public programs coming up in October, bringing the artists in dialogue with community leaders and visitors about important issues facing Brooklyn today. Please see complete info at www.brooklynutopias.com. Next week, we will have the following events at the Old Stone House partner show:
Thursday, October 8, 6-8pm
"Do it Yourself Utopias:"
Artists and community groups consider sustainable Brooklyn Living
Featuring special guests Mary Mattingly and Ian Daniel of the Waterpod Project, Stacey Murphy of BK Farmyards
At the Old Stone HouseThis informative tour will provide background on the exhibit, and give you the chance to ask questions to "Brooklyn Utopias?" curator, designers, and participating artists.
5th Avenue between 3rd & 4th St. Brooklyn, NY 11215
What would it take for Brooklyn to grow its own food? Build with recycled materials? Strengthen local communities?
"Brooklyn Utopias?" artists will present their ideas for a more sustainable, “green” Brooklyn. They will receive feedback from guest presenters The Waterpod ProjectBK Farmyards, who will also discuss their work building sustainable local communities (see bios below). This will include hands-on demonstrations of projects you can do at home!
Saturday, October 10, 11am-1pm
Exhibition Tour with Curator Katherine Gressel and artists
At the Old Stone House
Part of the Open House New York weekend at the Old Stone House, October 10-11, 2009 and
And, the following event at the Brooklyn Historical Society in late-October:
Sunday, October 25, 2009, 2-4pm, Brooklyn Historical Society
"Utopian Urban Planning:" Artists and Community Leaders Discuss Brooklyn's Future
Brooklyn Utopias? artists and art historians will debate their ideas with community leaders, architects and urban planners, and the general public, with a focus on large-scale planning initiatives. Guest speakers include representatives of Transportation Alternatives, Propeller Group and Alex Gorlin Architects/Nehemiah Spring Creek Houses, and others TBD.
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