I Heart East New York
- Describe your creative piece – what is it and what has it been used for, and why is it innovative?
- “I Heart East New York” is a multimedia storybook record created through a collaboration between the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and 15 students from the Brooklyn College Community Partnership afterschool program at Wingate High School. The piece is both a product (a teaching tool) and a process (a teaching method). The students who created the book wanted to know how new houses in their community would change their neighborhood. To find answers, they conducted site visits and interviewed stakeholders, uncovering a surprising model of community development in one of the city’s poorest areas. They worked as a collaborative design team, creating an innovative teaching tool to capture and share their findings. Working with a teaching artist and using Adobe CS4, students used their drawings, photos and music to tell a story about homeownership, financing, and community organizing in a way that made seemingly boring, but economically critical, issues interesting and accessible.
- What issue or problem were you working to address with this piece?
- East New York is a highly stigmatized low-income community in Brooklyn. The area used to be a landfill and known dumping ground for organized crime, and it has the New York City record for most homicides in a year (126 in 1993). Many of the students participating in the afterschool program were from this neighborhood. The students harbored negative opinions of their neighborhood and were disengaged from traditional classroom education. As one student noted, “I just joined for the credits, but after a while, I started to see it was more of an educational experience.” With this piece, CUP set out to help students to realize that they can ask questions, figure out how things work, engage in their community, and understand community-based systems for change. By creating a teaching tool to share with others, the goal was for students to use their individual strengths as learners as well as teachers, artists, and journalists to become future stewards for their community.
- How has your submission successfully impacted your organization’s ability to solve this issue/problem?
- CUP uses art and design, and visual culture to improve the quality of public participation in urban planning and design. “I Heart East New York” shows how CUP activates youth to become citizens in their own communities. Through this project, students gained access to decision-makers and made connections between things they see every day and invisible social and political structures in the city. They learned about a visionary development model for low- and middle-income communities; actively engaged in their own education; creatively communicated their ideas through graphic design; and used design as a teaching tool. Their storybook record found real audiences and impact in the community. On July 23, 2009, students presented their book to an audience of artists, architects, and advocates at the Sculpture Center in New York City. Students also shared their experience and played their soundtrack on an East Village Radio Show during the “Performa 2009” festival of performance art.