APR 13
Spring 2019 Assembly

Update: As of Friday April 5, the Spring 2019 Assembly is sold out. Thank you for your interest! Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop about future A Blade of Grass programs and the next Assembly in Fall 2019.

A Blade of Grass Assembly is a biannual day-long learning exchange and magazine launch for creative changemakers to investigate the methods, ethics, challenges, and joys of practicing art that advances social justice.

Rooted in the themes of Issue #2 of A Blade of Grass Magazine, the Spring 2019 Assembly will be co-presented by FABnyc and explore the diverse partnerships that make social change through art possible. Socially engaged art projects frequently bring together a unique ecosystem of community members, city agencies, business owners, and community-based organizations, among other stakeholders. What can we learn together about creating thriving and sustainable project ecosystems that positively impact communities?

Unlike conferences or panel discussions, the Assembly is structured to be intimate and dialogical rather than presentational. After introductory remarks and a keynote by magazine contributor Robert Sember, the afternoon will be devoted to a series of site visits to Lower East Side arts and culture organizations followed by small group discussion and reflection. We’ll focus on questions like:

  • How do artists and curators listen to, understand, and respond to their collaborators’ opinions, creativity, labor, and leadership in the project?
  • How can artists navigate power differentials and misunderstandings or conflicts when working with communities outside of their own?
  • How do artists manage partners or participants’ expectations of project outcomes or political/social impact?
  • How have commissioning/host organizations learned from their past experiences to restructure artist residencies or commissions to enable more equitable, transparent, and successful partnerships?

Assembly attendees will be able to choose amongst six experiences specially curated by the following host sites: Abrons Arts CenterFABnyc & Downtown ArtLoisaida CenterMagnum FoundationUniversity Settlement, and a tour of Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani of the Layered SPURA Project. Each of these intimate site visits will provide an in-depth look at how artists, cultural organizations, and community members have developed successful working relationships. See the day’s schedule below, and scroll down to read more about each of the site visit offerings.

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TICKETS : $35 — Sold out!

The program ticket cost covers breakfast, coffee throughout the day, a closing reception, and a copy of Issue 2 of A Blade of Grass Magazine for each attendee. If you’ve purchased a ticket and have questions or need assistance, contact us at info@abladeofgrass.org


Bringing Our Narratives to the Table with Perfect City
Host: Abrons Arts Center
The Social Practice Residency at the Abrons Arts Center is a two-year program offered by invitation to artists for the development of politically and socially engaged research and creative programmatic initiatives, in collaboration with Henry Street Settlement/Lower East Side communities. In 2016, Social Practice Resident and theater artist Aaron Landsman instigated the collective Perfect City. Now run with young adults, Perfect City works at the intersection of art and activism to address gentrification, including policy, assumptions, aesthetics, and rhetoric. Its ongoing research includes mapping, walking tours, roundtable performances, and The Catcalling Project, which takes a critical look at the overlapping rhetoric of street harassment, real estate development, and colonialism. Join us for conversation, an Urban Observer Walk in the Lower East Side, and an avoidance mapping exercise. We will gain glimpses into how we learn to avoid in order to belong, and how the history of policy informs how we navigate the city. Join us in our research into how we can make a more equitable city together.

> Learn more about Abrons Arts Center and Perfect City

Organizing to Build Collective Power
FABnyc was founded by a coalition of cultural and community nonprofits on East 4th Street to fight displacement from their long-time homes. On this walk led by FABnyc and Downtown Art Executive Director Ryan Gilliam, we’ll tour East 4th Street and hear how a campaign led by local artists and organizers secured buildings which they had homesteaded for decades for $1 each, with deed restrictions for nonprofit, cultural use in perpetuity.  The tour will also profile two current FABnyc projects that reflect the organization’s various ways of working locally in partnership with residents and organizers to address community issues. We will head to Sara D Roosevelt Park to speak with Stanton Building Task Force partners about our shared collaboration and cultural organizing to reclaim a public building for community use and visit a small business owner participating in artist Hatuey Ramos Fermín’s project “Messages To Go,” part of FABnyc’s ongoing work to address small business displacement.
> Learn more about FABnyc and read facilitator bios

Mobilizing the Loisaida Resident
Host: The Loisaida Center
The Loisaida Center’s Artistic Residency Program is a platform for artists and cultural producers to develop and present new work and provide the Loisaida community access to the  contemporary art world’s independent creators. Reflecting the immigrant ethos of adaptability and diasporic history of the Lower East Side, the Artistic Residency Program’s selection criteria favors projects that examine the challenges and diversity of the neighborhood, explore or reflect Latino/a/x sensibility, or incorporate Spanish or multi-lingual aspects. Past and present residents Alva Mooses, Antonio Serna, Aresh Javadi, Daniela Fabrizi, and Jeca Rodríguez-Colón will present their residency projects on a panel moderated by Program and Outreach Manager Andrea Gordillo and supported by Loisaida Director and Chief Curator Libertad Guerra. We will also learn about sustainable practices in nurturing productive relationships between The Loisaida Center’s core community of artists, cultural organizers, local residents, and researchers to inspire conversation and innovation throughout the city.
> Learn more about Loisaida Center and read facilitator bios

Models for Collaboration in Documentary Photography
Host: Magnum Foundation
Visual storytelling is filled with possibility to speak across difference and connect with our shared humanity. At the Magnum Foundation, we believe that the images we see—and who makes them—shapes our understanding of the world and each other. We will bring together Cinthya Santos Briones, Mengwen Cao, and Groana Melendez, three Magnum Foundation fellows who have explored collectivity, participation, and collaboration in their creative practice. They will be joined by collaborators from recent projects to present their work and engage in a conversation about what it means for an imagemaker to partner with the individuals in front of their lens. We’ll delve into the challenges of collaborative practice and the components that are integral to its success to ask about tensions in representation, how to build and maintain trust, and what authorship looks like in a collaborative space. Attendees will be encouraged to contribute to the conversation and offer lessons from their own experiences for a dynamic exchange of knowledge and ethical frameworks that we can all learn from together.
> Learn more about Magnum Foundation and read facilitator bios

Making Space for Dialogue Amidst Urban Renewal
Host: Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani of Layered SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area)
For forty years, Lower East Side residents lived with a wound at the heart of the neighborhood, a series of vacant lots known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). Efforts to keep out affordable housing sparked deep-rooted enmity and stalled development, making SPURA a dramatic example of failed urban renewal. Now Essex Crossing, one of the city’s largest developments, is rising on this site. Ten years ago, artist and urbanist Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani was invited to enter this tense community to support a new approach to planning through collaboration, public history, and social practice. Created in a multi-year collaboration with community activists GOLES and SPARC, along with her students at the New School, the exhibitions and performative guided tours of her “Layered SPURA” project provided new opportunities for dialogue about the past, present, and future of the neighborhood. Join a Layered SPURA tour to hear stories of community and activism, bridging art, history, and imagined futures. Special guests from SPURA’s activist community will join the tour, and the event will culminate with a conversation about collaboration, practice, and pedagogy.
> Learn more about the facilitators

Cultivating Communities of Social Practice at University Settlement
Host: University Settlement
“What we practice at the small scale sets the pattern for the world system”
   – adrienne maree brown, Emergent Strategy
In the grand tradition of the Settlement House Movement, The Performance Project at University Settlement is a home for the next generation of citizen artists. The architecture of The Performance Project provides structure to the reciprocity of creative ideas, skills, and resources between local young artists, Settlement staff, and professional emerging artists. Alison Fleminger, the founding Artistic Director of The Performance Project, along with four intergenerational members of The Performance Project’s practicing cohorts, will facilitate a workshop that will build our ability to collaborate and investigate our questions about or visions for our communities.  We will be experientially asking: What are the patterns that can bring us towards greater collaboration, sharing, and caring? How can we strengthen our imagination muscles to move to more equitable and sustainable results? And in what ways do we want or need to leverage our stories, talents, and lives to bring about the organizational change that systematic change requires?
> Learn more about University Settlement, The Performance Project, and read facilitator bios

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