Last August, BRIC celebrated the summer with the Downtown Brooklyn/Fort Greene community at the WE ARE BROOKLYN Block Party, presented by the Intergenerational Community Arts Council (ICAC) and Artist-in-Residence Najee Omar. Alongside artists, local partners, and performers, ICAC members invited Community Heroes, a community-based public art projectthat celebrate the everyday heroes in our neighborhoods, to join the party. The project, a series of large -scale portraits and biographies of the heroes, is now on view in Fort Greene Park and Commodore Barry Park.
Below, Community Heroes founder Jasmin Chang talks about her experience working with individuals and organizations around Fort Greene.
Community Heroes began in May 2016 when Zac Martin of Trellis invited me to help with an annual Memorial Day festival in Fort Greene Park by brainstorming ways to incorporate art into the event. Lady V (Victoria Amoo) founded FSR Peace Fest in 1990 to promote peace and unity, and uplift Ambassadors of Peace in the community. Together, we decided to highlight a few of these community heroes by displaying their stories as banners during the event. We invited neighborhood artists and writers to participate by taking portraits, interviewing and documenting their stories. Many of the heroes proudly invited their families to see their banner, and many passersby walking through the park stopped to learn their stories. The success of that one-day exhibition inspired us to work towards a long-term exhibition in the park, and this year we finally got the green light to produce an exhibition of Fort Greene heroes for Commodore Barry Park and Fort Greene Park.
Over the last few months, we’ve been canvassing the neighborhood asking residents “Do you know someone who makes Fort Greene a better place?” We’ve shared at neighborhood meetings with the NYCHA Tenants’ Associations and the community board. We’ve posted flyers all around the neighborhood. We’ve worked with the Fort Greene Park Conservancy and Friends of Commodore Barry Park to get the word out. We’ve tabled at the local libraries, the Fort Greene Park Greenmarket and at special events like Art360 on Fulton.
In August, we had a special opportunity to work with BRIC, artist-in-residence Najee Omar and the Intergenerational Community Arts Council to collect hero nominations during WE ARE BROOKLYN: A Community Block Party. The vision to gather neighbors of all ages through an arts-filled Brooklyn block party was right up our alley. We brainstormed ways to collaborate, and came up with the idea to ask visitors at the block party to nominate their heroes and contribute to a banner that would be displayed as part of the Community Heroes exhibition.
Through this project, we hope to celebrate those residents who have been a faithful, stable presence to strengthening and supporting their community. When people ask what makes a community hero, we say think of someone who likely would never call themselves a community hero (and often avoids the spotlight), but if they disappeared tomorrow, the community would feel their absence deeply.
Through this project, we’ve had the pleasure to meet heroes such as Saleem Ali, Coach Lloyd Rodriguez, Tracey Dickerson and Vincent Carolina who have mentored youth through sports. The founders of Soul Summit, the Fulton Flea and the Great PUPkin Halloween costume contest have established events that have come to define the neighborhood. We’ve learned the legacies of Mrs. Dorothy Berry and Mrs. Olivette Thompson, women who were trailblazers in advocating for their community.
We’re only halfway through this project, and we invite you to participate by:
- Additional hero banners will be unveiled throughout the exhibition run. Nominate a community hero>>
- We’re looking for photographers and writers to get involved. Document a community hero story>>
We hope you’ll visit the exhibition for yourself. It is on display through July 2019 in Commodore Barry Park along the football field, and in Fort Greene Park along the Brooklyn Hospital fence.
Jasmin Chang is a Brooklyn-based artist, designer and producer who works in the mediums of connection and conversation. Her projects connect people who may not otherwise be connected through conversation, collaboration and curation. She experiments with ways to build communities, whether it’s bringing together a network of artists through a collaborative project or weaving together an archive of portraits through interviews. Her projects build platforms for others to bring their own stories and ideas.