Innovative approach to creating public safety through community-created public art installations earns recommendation for Our Town grant by the National Endowment for the Arts
NEW YORK— The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the Bronx Documentary Center (BDC) today announced Claremont Illuminated, an 18-month partnership with Bronx-based photographers, artists and community organizations to promote community safety and connections through a series of specially designed nighttime artworks and programming. The community is kicking off the partnership with a photography festival to pilot arts installations that will revitalize and create opportunities for neighbors to engage in public space.
“Tonight’s festival is an exciting kickoff to display the incredible talent of these Bronx photographers, artists and community organizations. The festival is just the beginning of a year and a half-long partnership. The City is glad to be part of this effort that uses art to create safe, vibrant and thriving neighborhoods,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
“Collaborations among city agencies, cultural organizations, and community members can create powerful, exciting new ways to address civic concerns. Bronx Documentary Center and the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice came together for our CreateNYC Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact, working with local artists and residents to bring an underutilized public space to life. We are thrilled that our colleagues at the National Endowment for the Arts have also recognized the potential of this incredible work and have invested their funding to help expand the pilot,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl.
This pilot is the first in a series of media projects aimed at engaging and providing leadership opportunities to South Bronx youth and artists, whose multimedia work will generate community interaction in previously underutilized public space. The 169th Step Street will be illuminated with photos by the BDC’s Bronx Photo League photographers and youth from the Claremont Neighborhood Center; they are part of a collaboration with Claremont residents exploring the diverse lives and stories of the community.
“The Claremont Illuminated evening photography festival will be a powerful and unique use of documentary photography. The photos are by Bronx photographers taken in their Bronx community and being shown in six screen projection in that same community—all to create positive change. In my three decades working as a photographer, I’ve seen nothing like this.” Michael Kamber, photographer and BDC Founder and Director.
The festival will take place June 22-23 from 7-11 p.m. on the 169th Step Street between Webster and Clay Ave., on the edge of the South Bronx’s Claremont Village. The event will also include several community performances, including music from the Hodson Senior Choir of The Hodson Senior Center, America’s oldest senior center, in celebration of its 75th anniversary. The Webster Neighborhood Center’s step team, made up of teenage residents of Claremont, will also perform.
“I applaud the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice for this innovative arts installation, which will repurpose the underutilized space near the E. 169 Step Street for community-created arts programming. Reclaiming vacant spaces and providing community-based activities for young people is a critical aspect of our violence prevention efforts, and I thank the administration for helping to bring this arts opportunity to the Claremont community,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recently announced that Claremont Illuminated was recommended for a $125,000 award through the NEA’s Our Town program. Following the pilot activation, the community team, including BDC, youth, artists, residents and agency partners will identify locations for additional activations and create a plan to bring their creative visions to life.
“While working on this project, I spent nights and weekends walking around Claremont, engaging with the community. All I needed to do was listen and the stories began to flow. Claremont Village is full of strength and tenacity and it is important that their stories are shared,” said Ed Alvarez, Bronx Photo League Photographer.
The pilot for Claremont Illuminated was supported by the Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact (MGCI). Launched in 2018 as an outgrowth of the CreateNYC cultural plan, MGCI supports partnerships between City agencies and cultural organizations that enhance vital public services through cultural and creative programming. These partnerships build on the unique benefits of arts and culture to help address pressing civic issues including public health and safety, domestic violence, literacy, planning, immigration, and criminal justice.
This project was made possible by community partners, including Claremont Healthy Village Initiative, Bronx Lebanon Hospital, Directions for Our Youth, the Claremont Neighborhood Community Center, Claremont Village NYCHA Resident Associations, and the William Hodson Senior Center. The pilot for Claremont Illuminated was also supported by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the New York State Regional Economic Development Corporation.