Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine (Mildred Beltre and Oasa DuVerney)
Inspired By “What Is Left”
Exhibition on view: Oct 2020 – Jun 2021
Presented in partnership by BRIC, Prospect Park Alliance, and NYC Parks
This installation by Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, a Crown Heights-based arts collective founded by visual artists Oasa DuVerney and Mildred Beltre, comes from the 1993 Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) poem, “won’t you celebrate with me.” Clifton's words offer a reminder of the daily struggle for survival that Black women endure and of the work for racial equality that still remains to be done. Clifton’s poem along with Assata Shakur’s “What is Left” provide a vision of Black womanhood and motherhood, inspiring a profound feeling of presence and fortitude in the face of adversity. Through the word "celebrate," the quote provides a more nuanced understanding of the ongoing struggle for equality and connects to the artwork’s call for both joy and work, anger and love.
The Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine began in 2010 as a community based, socially engaged project in Crown Heights Brooklyn. Dubbing themselves the “Official Unofficial Artists in Residence” of their block, Oasa DuVerney and Mildred Beltre set up tents, tables, a banner, and art supplies on the street outside their apartment building on Lincoln Place next to the S train overpass, and began working. Grounded in grassroots organizing and Black Feminism, their practice is centered on the visibility and anti-criminalization of Black bodies on their street. Their monumentally-scaled text based fence weavings in neon pink and orange, the colors of protest posters, publicly address the current moment by often unheard voices in Black Radical Thought like Leopold Senghor and Assata Shakur. The fence on the Bandshell arches acts in a similar way to the Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine’s ongoing project in Crown Heights; they take a space that is underutilized or left behind and re-imagine what that space could be. Their fence is not one of separation but a space for community knowledge that has the potential to bring people together.
Known as a host for many joyous and powerful celebrations, including the beloved annual BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Fesitval, this installation continues Prospect Park and the Bandshell’s history as a gathering space and platform where Brooklyn can unite under a common cause. This has come even more to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, where it has served as the backdrop for moments of protest and joy, celebration and memorialization.
“won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton
won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
Source: Book of Light (Copper Canyon Press, 1993)
Learn more about Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine and the process behind the installation on this episode of BRIC TV's Brooklyn Made:
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Brooklyn-based artist, teacher, and community organizer Mildred Beltre’s work focuses on facets of social change through print, drawing, and a politically-engaged participatory practice. Beltre has had solo exhibitions at the Eli Marsh Gallery at Amherst College, Amherst, MA; and Burlington City Arts Center, Burlington, VT. Beltre has been part of group exhibitions at the International Print Center of New York, NY; Smack Mellon, and the Old Stone House, both in Brooklyn. Beltre is a co-founder of Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine, along with DuVerney.
Oasa DuVerney was born in Queens, NY. She had a recent solo exhibition at BRIC in the Project Room titled, Black Power Wave, and was a 2019-2020 recipient of BRIC's ArtFP exhibition open call. Select group exhibitions include: Brooklyn Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, BRIC, and Postmasters Gallery, all NY. She has taken part in following residencies: BRIC Workspace (now BRIClab: Contemporary Art), Rush Philanthropic Foundation, Smack Mellon, and LMCC Workspace Residency, all NY. DuVerney along with Mildred Beltre is part of the artist collaborative, Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine.
Work by Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine was exhibited as part of the BRIC Biennial: Volume II, Bed-Stuy/Crown Heights Edition at BRIC House. Beltre has completed residencies at Santa Fe Arts Institute, Santa Fe, NM; the Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT; and has received grants from the Rema Hort Foundation and the Brooklyn Community Foundation, among others.
Prospect Park Alliance
Prospect Park Alliance is the non-profit organization that sustains, restores and advances Prospect Park, "Brooklyn's Backyard," in partnership with the City. The Alliance was founded in 1987 to help restore the park after a long period of deterioration and decline. Today, the Alliance provides critical staff and resources that keep the Park green and vibrant for the diverse communities that call Brooklyn home. The Alliance cares for the woodlands and natural areas, restores buildings and landscapes, creates innovative new destinations, and provides volunteer, education and recreation programs. Learn more.
NYC Parks Art in the Parks
For over 50 years, NYC Parks’ Art in the Parks program has brought contemporary public artworks to the city’s parks, making New York City one of the world’s largest open-air galleries. The agency has consistently fostered the creation and installation of temporary public art in parks throughout the five boroughs. Since 1967, NYC Parks has collaborated with arts organizations and artists to produce over 2,000 public artworks by 1,300 notable and emerging artists in over 200 parks. Learn more.
BRIC’s contemporary art program benefits from generous private funding from B&H Photo Video, Coby Foundation, Harold and Colene Brown Family Foundation, Harpo Foundation, Humanities New York, Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and numerous individual supporters.
General support for BRIC is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Booth Ferris Foundation, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Con Edison, Howard Gilman Foundation, Industry City, JP Morgan Chase, Lambent Foundation, M&T Charitable Foundation, New York Community Trust, Scherman Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), Surdna Foundation, Tiger Baron Foundation, and numerous individuals.
Prospect Park Alliance receives major, year-round support from Booth Ferris Foundation, Hearst Foundations, Leon Levy Foundation, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Kettering Family Foundation, Henry and Lucy Moses Fund, National Audubon Society, New York Community Trust, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Pinkerton Foundation and Tiger Baron Foundation. The Alliance also receives support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, Citi, conEdison, NewYork-Presybterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, REI and Weill Cornell Medicine.
The BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is one of New York City's longest running, free, outdoor performing arts festivals and is held every summer at the Prospect Park Bandshell. View seating arrangements here.
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