Resident art workshop at fulton houses
Updated: Feb 6, 2019
By Laila Stevens
Journalism and Media Arts Major, Benjamin N. Cardozo High School
Volunteer, Art Connects New York
On January 28th, the Robert Fulton Houses Art Committee invited residents of their community, alongside artist Laura Nova and journalist Alec Appelbaum, to brainstorm the kind of art they want to see throughout the Robert Fulton Houses campus. The open discussion enabled residents to explore different mediums and artistic techniques that could be used to activate the walls, interiors and greenspaces surrounding community buildings.
By splitting the residents into small groups to complete detailed worksheets, new ideas came to light in collaboration with visions for the future. Colored pencils in hand, residents elaborated on the ideas they manifested mentally with verbs, symbols and objects. Some of the questions posed in the worksheets required more analysis than others, while some included art making itself. The community practiced drawing without intimidation, and was open to all of the possibilities related to the creation of temporary and permanent public art installations and experiences.
The intention behind the workshop grew from Nova and Appelbaum’s prompt to define the question, “who are we?” and “who do we think we are?” The project is the duo’s first collaboration. Both have years of experience teaching: Nova works in communities throughout NYC to establish collaborative art projects and Appelbaum teaches writing that helps communities thrive. Using their individual skills, Nova and Appelbaum facilitated residents in telling their own stories and defining their visions through physical creation.
For first time attendees such as Elaine Williams-Bethea and her grandson, the workshop was an opportunity to contribute their ideas. Connecting to the project was easy, as Williams-Bethea recalls, “I’m an artist myself… I’ve been here almost twenty years and I’m always doing something to help the community.” Many others wanted to lend a helping hand, and offered a supportive voice in the production of the project. They felt accounted for and held a sense of invigoration in relation to their family histories and the importance of visibility.
The residents’ ideas ranged from digital projections, to the installment of inspirational paintings with uplifting words to engage passersby. To find an appropriate layout, groups used maps as a source of visual planning. Robert Fulton Houses is approximately 6.2 acres, located between West 16th and 19th Streets and has specific areas for creative opportunities. A resounding response from community members was the need to preserve the culture of the neighborhood. As everything else seems to be shifting, they hope the artwork they help generate will remain a part of Fulton Houses history for many years to come.