Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn
Weeksville Heritage Center and Creative Time have joined forces to pair four artists in collaboration with four community partners for Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn, a walkable month-long art exhibition that explores 150 years of self-determination in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods. All sites are open from 12-6pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from September 20-October 12th and all art projects are supplemented with free public workshops and events at Weeksville Heritage Center.
Artists and Site Partners:
FUNK - Xenobia Bailey with Boys and Girls High School
- For twenty weeks, Xenobia Bailey collaborated with Boys & Girls High School students to design and produce “up-cycled” furniture created in the African-American aesthetic of Funk. These pieces will outfit one of Weeksville Heritage Center’s historic Hunterfly Road homes. By designing home artifacts for an imaginary young artist couple living in today’s Bed-Stuy, students engage with recycled materials while exploring how Brooklyn artisans can leverage industrial design to support their creative dreams and self-determined financial goals.
- Location: Weeksville Heritage Center, 158 Buffalo Avenue between Bergen Street and St. Marks Avenue
GOD - Bradford Young with Bethel Tabernacle AME
- Award-winning cinematographer Bradford Young (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, 2013; Mother of George, 2013; Pariah, 2011) will create a three channel video installation titled Bynum Cutler. Inspired by late playwright August Wilson, the film will feature velvet monuments set against the backdrop of Weeksville’s historic Bethel Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in a tribute to the pioneering Black women, men, and children who embarked on countless journeys in search of refuge.
- Location: Former Site of Bethel Tabernacle AME Church and PS 83 - 1630 Dean Street near Schenectady Avenue
JAZZ - Otabenga Jones & Associates with Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium
- Houston-based artist collective Otabenga Jones & Associates (OJA) preserve and promote the core principles of the Black radical tradition, and—in the words of the late O’Shea Jackson— work to “OPEN THE EYES OF EACH!!!” The collective collaborated with the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium to produce a temporary outdoor radio station, broadcast live from the back of a pink 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Programming paid tribute to former Bed-Stuy cultural center “the East,” founded in 1969 as a hub for creating cultural awareness around the Black Nationalism and pan-Africanist movements.
- Location: Intersection of Fulton Street and Malcolm X Boulevard near A/C Utica Avenue Subway main entrance
MEDICINE - Simone Leigh with Stuyvesant Mansion
- Simone Leigh is known for an object-based, sculptural exploration of female African American identity, with a practice informed by ancient African and African American object-making. Her Free People’s Medical Clinic (FPMC) will engage the critical intersections of public health, racial consciousness, and women’s work as it asks viewers to consider the often-overlooked players—most especially the unknown Black women nurses, osteopaths, gynecologists, and midwives—who have overserved an underserved population for centuries. While the project name borrows from the Black Panthers’ community-based healthcare efforts in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, its gaze lingers on 19th century medical pioneers including Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first Black woman doctor in NY State and a Weeksville resident; The United Order of Tents, a secret fraternal order of Black Women nurses founded during the Civil War; and Dr. Josephine English, the first African-American woman to have an OB/GYN practice in the state of New York, delivering all six daughters of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. Leigh will convert the late Dr. English’s home at 375 Stuyvesant Avenue into a temporary space that explores the beauty, dignity and power of Black nurses and doctors, whose work is often hidden from view. Leigh’s FPMC will point to a larger need for dignified healthcare experiences by offering a limited array of homeopathic and allopathic services ranging from yoga instruction to community acupuncture, all offered by Brooklyn-based practitioners.
- Location: Stuyvesant Mansion, 375 Stuyvesant Avenue near Decatur Street
Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn launches from the site of Weeksville, a free and intentional community established in 1838 by Black citizens just eleven years after emancipation in New York. Black investors and abolitionists, including founder James Weeks, grew this intentional community to more than 500 households. This vibrant neighborhood—which included schools, churches, newspapers, and activist organizations such as the African Civilization Society—was subsumed over time by the growing city of Brooklyn. In 1968, three historic houses were “rediscovered” by prop plane thanks to a team that included pilot Joseph Haynes, Pratt Institute Professor and community historian, James Hurley, his students: Dolores McCullough & Pat Johnson; and later, artist and activist Joan Maynard. As Weeksville Heritage Center’s first Executive Director, Maynard led critical archeological digs and a community-based movement for preservation and landmarking.
This month-long exhibition draws inspiration from Weeksville’s incredible story of achieving self-determination through creating and preserving an intentional community of refuge and Black power. It also acknowledges the continued legacy of individuals, institutions, and movements that have sustained Weeksville’s core values in the contested landscape of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, from the nineteenth century until today.
In 2012, Rashida Bumbray and Nato Thompson began discussing a project that would explore African-American life and geographic space, and specifically the intersections of race and space in the contemporary reality of contested landscapes within our changing cities. The initial intention was to consider what cultural signposts exist as markers of Black resistance and protest to the terrorism and trauma of gentrification, stop-and-frisk, and police brutality. This led us to Weeksville, and its 150 years of creating space for humanity, dignity, and refuge in the midst of the violence of white supremacy. When we began conversations with Weeksville Heritage Center—and its then-research, programming and education team Elissa Blount Moorehead, Jennifer Scott, Rylee Eterginoso, and Shawn Peters—they urged taking a more deeply nuanced approach, drawn from the perspective of their own institutional positionality. The conversation moved to the development of a lens informed by self-determination and willful success, as an alternative to a narrative informed solely by struggle. With this lens intact, we began looking both back in time and into the future, inviting artists to respond to these intersections of the historical and contemporary by using existing local assets as their inspiration and directive.
For this exhibition, the curators have invited four artists to engage the history of Weeksville in intense collaboration with four community-based organizations to create site-specific artworks on the theme “self-determination.” These partnerships pair four artists with four community partners whose commitment to self-determination embodies their long-standing historical and cultural relevance to this neighborhood. Xenobia Bailey has been working for 20 weeks with Boys & Girls High School students to produce “funk-tional” handmade furniture from recycled materials for Century 21: Bed-Stuy Rhapsody in Design: A Reconstruction Urban Remix in the Aesthetic of Funk, designed in the African-American aesthetic of Funk and installed inside one of Weeksville’s historic Hunterfly Road Homes. Bradford Young has partnered with Bethel Tabernacle AME Church to create Bynum Cutler, a film on refuge and diaspora installed inside the historic church sanctuary at P.S.83 that honors the church’s elders–the “Living Legends”–while revealing tensions between collective forgetting and changing cityscapes. Otabenga Jones & Associates, together with the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, has turned the back of a 1959 pink Cadillac into OJBK FM, a community radio station that investigates connections between jazz, hip-hop, self-determination, and the history of “the East,” (1969-1985), a legendary Bed-Stuy educational, political and cultural hub. Simone Leigh has brought Brooklyn-based health and wellness practitioners to the historic Stuyvesant Mansion, creating the temporary Free People’s Medical Clinic to explore the beauty, dignity and power of Black nurses and doctors whose work is often hidden from view. Connecting all four sites is the Weeksville historical audio guide, which illuminates histories that might otherwise be invisible within the current local landscape, while allowing the artists to narrate their artworks.
These projects—which touch upon issues of community and individual enterprise, migration and memory, the radical tenets of music, and self-reliance in healthcare—hope to do so with a keen awareness of the complex relationships, histories, and economies embedded in this neighborhood. This neighborhood, with its intense history, is both a counterpoint to, and a mirror of the contested landscapes where Black people have sewn seeds, built homes, created legacies and institutions while struggling globally for sustainability.
- Rashida Bumbray, Rylee Eterginoso, Nato Thompson
About the Artists
Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Xenobia Bailey studied ethno-musicology at the University of Washington, where she became fascinated by the craftsmanship and sounds of the cultures of Africa, Asia, South America, and India. She later studied Industrial Design at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York, where she was introduced to lifestyle possibilities through design. Today, the New York City-based Bailey is best known for eclectic crocheted hats, large-scale mandalas, and tents consisting of colorful concentric circles and repeating patterns. Her designs draw influences from Africa, China, and Native American and Eastern philosophies, with undertones of the domestic aesthetic of her mother and other African American rural and urban homemakers, and of the 1960’s and funk visual aesthetic. Many pieces are connected to her ongoing project Paradise Under Reconstruction in the Aesthetic of Funk.
Bailey has been artist-in-residence at Pittsburgh’s Society for Contemporary Craft, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation in New York City. She has exhibited at the Studio Museum of Harlem; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York City; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Jersey City Museum. Her work is in the permanent collections at Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture and Museum of Art and Design, in New York City, and the Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania.
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, award-winning cinematographer Bradford Marcel Young moved to Chicago at age 15 to live with his father. There, he received early artistic inspiration from the works of Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Aaron Douglas. Young studied film at Howard University, where he was influenced by Haile Gerima. He was director of photography on the feature films White Lies, Black Sheep (2007), Pariah (2011), Restless City (2011), Middle of Nowhere (2012), Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), and Mother of George (2013). He has won Cinematography Awards at the Sundance Film Festival twice: in 2011, for his work on Pariah, and in 2013 for his work on both Mother of George and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Young’s collaborations with artist Leslie Hewitt have been exhibited at The Kitchen, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Menil Collection, Des Moines Art Center, the MCA Chicago, and Lofoten International Arts Festival, Norway.
Young is currently director of photography on J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, and recently finished shooting on Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice.
Otabenga Jones & Associates
Otabenga Jones & Associates is a Houston-based artist collective, founded in 2002 by artist and educator Otabenga Jones in collaboration with members Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans, and Robert A. Pruitt. The group’s pedagogical mission takes a myriad of forms, including actions, writings, DJ sets, and installations. In scope, the organization’s mission is three-fold: to underscore the complications of black representation, to maintain and promote the core principles of the Black radical tradition, and (in the words of the late Russell Tyrone Jones) “teach the truth to the young black youth.”
Otabenga Jones & Associates (OJA) preserve and promote the core principles of the Black radical tradition, and—in the words of the late O’Shea Jackson— work to “OPEN THE EYES OF EACH!!!”
Work by Otabenga Jones & Associates has appeared in exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and Whitney Museum of American Art (Whitney Biennial), in New York City; the High Museum, Atlanta; and The Menil Collection, Houston, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, among others.
Simone Leigh's practice is an object-based on-going exploration of black female subjectivity. She creates sculpture, videos and installations informed by her interest in African art, ethnographic research, feminism and performance. Leigh received the 2013 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award. She is a Creative Capital Grantee (2012) and a recipient of the LMCC Michael Richards award (2012). Leigh has been awarded the 2011 Joan Mitchell Foundation grant for Sculpture; The artist-in-residence program at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2010–11; The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace program, Bronx Museum’s Artist AIM program, the Art Matters research grant and the New York Foundation for The Arts Fellowship for Sculpture. Leigh was a facilitator of the 2012 International Art Programme at The Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos, Nigeria and the 2014 Asiko School, Dakar, Senegal, organized by Bisi Silva. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include: The Free People’s Medical Clinic (2014) a project commissioned by Creative Time, and solo presentations at; The Fowler Musum at UCLA, The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and The Kitchen in New York, NY, and group exhibitions at Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, SculptureCenter, NY, Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna; L’Appartement22 in Rabbat, Morocco; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; and the AVA Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa. Her work has been featured in several publications including: Bomb Magazine, Modern Painters, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Small AxE and Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art and EBONY Magazine.
About the Curators
Rashida Bumbray is an independent curator/choreographer living and working in New York, NY. From 2006 to 2011, Bumbray was associate curator at The Kitchen, where she organized several critically acclaimed projects and commissions, including solo exhibitions by Leslie Hewitt, Simone Leigh, Adam Pendleton, and Mai Thu Perret, among others, as well as performances by Derrick Adams, Sanford Biggers, Kalup Linzy, and Mendi & Keith Obadike. Bumbray has commissioned new-music concert works at The Kitchen by such artists as Alicia Hall-Moran, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Marc Cary, and Guillermo E. Brown, and dance works by Kyle Abraham, Camille A. Brown, and Jason Samuels Smith. Bumbray began her career as curatorial assistant and exhibition coordinator at The Studio Museum in Harlem, where she co-founded the ongoing lobby sound installation StudioSound andHoofers’ House, a monthly jam session for tap dancers—now called Shim Sham. At the Studio Museum, she also coordinated major exhibitions, including Energy Experimentation: African-American Artists 1964–1980, with Kellie Jones.
Bumbray has published texts on various topics pertaining to contemporary art, Africana studies and comparative literature. Her choreographic work, Run Mary Run, was on The New York Times’ list of Best Concerts for 2012 and was most recently performed as part of Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran’s BLEED at the 2012 Whitney Biennial.
Rylee Eterginoso is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, and educator. She has worked in program management for ten years, designing imaginative programs that activate history and cultural heritage for organizations such as Weeksville Heritage Center, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn Artists Gym, The New York State Summer School of the Arts, and The Sholom Aleichem Memorial Foundation. She currently serves on the Laundromat Project’s Artist and Community Council, as well as Cool Culture’s Laboratory for New Audiences. In 2012, she was awarded an ELNYA (Emerging Leaders in New York Arts) fellowship from the Arts and Business Council of New York. In 2013, together with Elissa Blount-Moorhead, she co-founded Tandem, a creative-engagement collective working at the intersection of art and public life to enact social change and celebrate community.
Nato Thompson joined Creative Time, where he is chief curator, in January 2007. Since that time, Thompson has organized such major projects as the annual Creative Time Summit, Kara Walker’s A Subtlety (2014), the group show Living as Form (2011), Paul Ramirez Jonas’s Key to the City (2010), Jeremy Deller’s It Is What It Is (with New Museum curators Laura Hoptman and Amy Mackie; 2009), Democracy in America: The National Campaign(multiple artists, 2008), Paul Chan’s acclaimed Waiting for Godot in New Orleans (2007), and Mike Nelson’s A Psychic Vacuum, with curator Peter Eleey.
Previously, Thompson was curator at MASS MoCA, where he completed numerous large-scale exhibitions, including The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere (2004), with a catalogue distributed by MIT Press. In 2004, the College Art Association awarded him for distinguished writing in Art Journal. Thompson curated the exhibition Experimental Geography, with a book available through Melville House Publishing, for Independent Curators International. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, includingBookForum, Frieze, Art Journal, Art Forum, Parkett, Cabinet, and The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest. His book Seeing Power: Socially Engaged Art in the Age of Cultural Production was published by Melville House in January 2012.
Special Thanks to Elissa Blount Moorhead and Jennifer Scott
For more information: http://creativetime.org/projects/black-radical-brooklyn/