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  1. Now on view: Ugly Beauties by Curry J. Hackett

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    Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil New Public Art Installation by Curry J. Hackett

    Ugly Beauties features AI-generated images of Black people immersed in wild flora, designed to reimagine abundant urban futures that center Black communities

    View and download images
    CONTACT: Emma Brownstein | emma@risaheller.com | 718-838-8328
    Alisha Kim Levin | press@vanalen.org

    BROOKLYN (March 11, 2024) — Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and Van Alen Institute unveiled Ugly Beauties, a new public art installation by artist Curry J. Hackett at The Plaza at 300 Ashland. Commissioned by DBP with support from Two Trees Management Co, Ugly Beauties features a panoramic display of AI-generated images of Black people juxtaposed with the various native and invasive plant species — so-called “weeds” — that flourish in New York City, prompting viewers to consider society’s perception of beauty and belonging. Ugly Beauties will be on view until May 2, 2024.

    Ugly Beauties expands on Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s commitment to activating its shared spaces with art installations that enliven the public realm and capture the spirit of the neighborhood,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “With residents, shoppers, workers, diners, and other visitors rushing around the neighborhood, we hope this piece will impart a moment of reflection and help Brooklynites to realize the beauty all around them. Thank you to Curry, Van Alen, and Two Trees for working with us to bring Ugly Beauties to the Plaza.”

    Ugly Beauties features construction netting printed with AI-generated images draping a steel scaffolding. Upon approaching the structure, viewers are presented with scenes depicting Black individuals in city landscapes surrounded by various urban growth, commonly known as weeds. Much of the vegetation that emerges in urban settings is spontaneous, often appearing between sidewalk cracks and labeled as invasive when not planted with municipal ordinance. Many gardeners and ecologists often try to banish unwanted plant growth from meticulously planned landscapes, but Ugly Beauties challenges this notion.

    Through Hackett’s lens, the piece depicts Black individuals among the weeds, highlighting a metaphorical connection between society’s perception of these species and its treatment of Black people. The AI-generated images urge the viewer to look beyond the conventional definition of pretty flowers, such as tulips, roses and daffodils, and ponder the idea that weeds should also be appreciated for their beauty, cultural importance, and ecological value. In posing this idea, Ugly Beauties champions Black resilience, celebrating the belonging of both Black people and spontaneous plant growth in urban environments.

    Ugly Beauties brings together so many of the topics I embody and think about often: Southern Black culture, land, food, and plants,” said Curry J. Hackett. “Many of our cities bear difficult histories that have made it harder for us to develop relationships with land and food. I see this project as both a reminder of what Brooklyn’s landscapes can offer us, and a charge for us to dream wildly of what is possible in our streets, yards, and gardens.

    “Curry J. Hackett’s Ugly Beauties is an ingenious use of AI to activate one of Brooklyn’s most visible crossroads. It’s an elegant call for a future that centers inclusive joy in shared spaces,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “We’re honored for this ongoing opportunity to surface work of emerging designers, and we thank Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Two Trees for their partnership in bringing Curry’s vision to life.”

    “Curry Hackett’s recent projects prompting AI to create alternative urban landscapes celebrating Black culture challenge us to expand our capacity to imagine more just futures. We’re thrilled to host Ugly Beauties at the Plaza at 300 Ashland and support Hackett’s provocation to envision a bold, abundant future for New York City,” said Kate Gavriel, Cultural Affairs Director of Two Trees Management Co.

    Ugly Beauties is Curry J. Hackett’s latest project to employ AI as a tool to imagine alternate realities and explore urban landscapes through a Black lens. A multidisciplinary artist and architect, Hackett uses machine learning to create vignettes of urban landscapes in which mundane Black traditions are recast in new and uncanny settings.

    Ugly Beauties is part of Van Alen Institute’s Common Build program, intended to surface the work of emerging designers and test new strategies to bring people together in public space.

    For more information, please visit downtownbrooklyn.com and vanalen.org.

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    About Curry J. Hackett
    Curry J. Hackett is a transdisciplinary designer, public artist, and educator. His practice, Wayside, looks to undertold histories to inspire meaningful art and critical research. Recently, Curry has been experimenting with artificial intelligence tools, with which he braids Black aesthetics, kinships with nature, and pop culture to imagine surreal scenes of Black joy. This work has been featured widely, most notably in Bloomberg and Architect Magazine. His ongoing research project, titled Drylongso, explores relationships between Blackness, geography, and land. This project has received funding the Graham Foundation, Journal of Architectural Education, and Washington Project for the Arts. Curry earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Howard University, and is currently completing his Master of Architecture in Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

    About Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
    The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential, and retail destination. Managing three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) that cover Downtown Brooklyn — the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall ImprovementAssociation, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID — the Partnership’s diverse activities include attracting new businesses and improving the environment for existing companies, facilitating the construction of public spaces and streetscapes that promote an active and cohesive community, supporting and promoting Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural assets, and encouraging a sense of place and an engaged civic community.

    About Van Alen Institute
    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through community-led inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities. For 130 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, community organizing, preservation, and public policy. See all work at vanalen.org.

    About The Plaza at 300 Ashland
    The Plaza at 300 Ashland sits at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, adjacent to the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. Managed, programmed, and maintained by DBP, the public plaza features a robust calendar of events presented in partnership with premier Brooklyn arts organizations such as BAM, BRIC, Brooklyn Public Library, Mark Morris Dance Group, MoCADA, 651 Arts, and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), offering free, high-quality programming for everyone. With ample stepped seating, bistro tables and chairs, and capacity for 2,000, the 15,000-sf plaza has regularly hosted large-scale festivals, markets, and community events since its opening in 2017. Programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland is made possible by support from Two Trees Management Co.

  2. Bed-Stuy Gateway BID Winter Wonderland

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    Bed-Stuy Gateway BID Winter Wonderland:
    A Holiday Experience Presented by Wells Fargo

    (November 06, 2023, Brooklyn, NY) — The weather outside may be frightful. However, thanks to Bed Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District (BID), the streets along its business corridor are about to be quite delightful, as it celebrates Small Business Saturday with the launch of its annual Winter Wonderland Popup Holiday Marketplace and Open Streets. Presented by Wells Fargo with support from Van Alen Institute, this festive fresh air holiday shopping experience showcases the diverse and vibrant businesses that make the neighborhood a great place to live, work and shop.

    The festive holiday marketplace kicks off Shop Small, Shop Local Saturday, November 25, and will run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays 12 noon to 6:00 PM, through December 23 at Marcy Plaza, Marcy Avenue at Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY. An official Ribbon Cutting ceremony is scheduled to take place at 2:00 PM on Saturday, November 25, in celebration of Small Business Saturday. In addition to a festive open space marketplace, complete with environmentally safe greenhouses, a dedicated trolley will travel throughout the shopping corridor providing plenty of opportunities for visitors to shop locally. For additional information, please visit us at www.ww-bk.com.

    “It’s truly an honor to once again uplift and celebrate the Bedford-Stuyvesant community this holiday season,” shared Dale Charles, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID’s Executive Director. “Our gratitude extends to our sponsor Wells Fargo, partners, and supporters who continue to support in making Winter Wonderland a treasured affair for generations to come.”

    Winter Wonderland was founded in collaboration with Neighborhoods Now, the 2020-22 initiative from the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute. Supporting partners include Con Edison, TD Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Van Alen Institute, Urban Design Forum, Buro Happold, Dash Marshall, Moody Nolan, Fried Frank, Gretel, Block by Block, New York City Department of Transportation, NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS).

    “As the Bank of Doing, we truly believe that small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities – here in Brooklyn and nationwide,” said Krissy Moore, Senior Vice President – Community Relations Northeast Region at Wells Fargo. “The Bed-Stuy Gateway BID’s Winter Wonderland open-air holiday market has given local small business owners and entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to showcase and promote their brands and products to a larger base of customers right here in the heart of the Bed-Stuy community. Wells Fargo is proud to continue our support of Winter Wonderland for the third year in a row.”

    Bed-Stuy Gateway BID annually shares its platform with local community stakeholders. Programming this year will include Community Thursdays, dedicated to non-profit and community organizations, and Caroling in the Plaza on Fridays featuring yule-tide sing-alongs with local houses of worship. Seasonal highlighted, activities will include a Holiday Lighting Ceremony 5:00 PM, Thursday, November 30, a winter fashion showcase featuring the latest creations from Brooklyn-based, iconic designer Moshood, Saturday, December 2, along with family friendly activities that include pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, live music, gift giveaways, and much more.

    “Winter Wonderland celebrates the very best of Bed-Stuy,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “Showcasing the neighborhood’s exuberant creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and deep communal roots, the festival has quickly become a beloved annual tradition. Van Alen is honored to continue our partnership with Bed-Stuy Gateway BID and Wells Fargo to bring this community-led festival to life each holiday season.”

    “The highlight of my holiday season is always Bed-Stuy’s Winter Wonderland,” said Daniel McPhee, Executive Director of the Urban Design Forum. “Dale Charles and the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID team have rallied some extraordinarily small businesses to sell unique gifts this year. We were honored to help make the market possible with our partners at Van Alen Institute and are excited to come back for the best year yet.”

    Additional supporters include NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Senator Jabari Brisport, New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie, City Councilman Chi Osse, Brooklyn District Attorney Gonzalez.

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through community-led inclusive design. We partner with leaders of historically disinvested communities to support their immediate needs and long-term visions with our network, knowledge, and resources. We shape diverse interdisciplinary teams, build cross-sector public/private coalitions, and invest our own funds to support neighborhood priorities. By centering community in everything we do, our inclusive design method responds to the urgent need for social justice in citymaking. For 129 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, community organizing, preservation, and public policy. See all work at vanalen.org.

    About Wells Fargo

    Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is the leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management.

    Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories. Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.

    About the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

    Centrally located in Brooklyn, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID has proudly stood as one of the borough’s most prominent commercial and cultural focal points. Since 2009, the agency has partnered with local neighbors, and stakeholders to enrich its community through economic development while promoting its rich history of cultural diversity. Through a wide array of programs and services, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID is committed to seeing the community thrive and blossom into the popular destination for all things Brooklyn.

    Press Contacts

    Bed-Stuy Gateway BID: Keith L. Forest, keithlforest@gmail.com

    Van Alen Institute: Alisha Kim Levin, press@vanalen.org

    Wells Fargo:  Jacqueline Hlavenka-Sansone, jacqueline.hlavenka-sansone@wellsfargo.com

  3. Deborah Marton Named President of NYC Public Design Commission

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    Deborah Marton Named President of Public Design Commission, NYC’s Design Review Agency

    Marton will lead a team of 11 members to advocate for equitable design for public spaces throughout New York City

    NEW YORK (July 11, 2023) — Deborah Marton, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute, has been elected as President of New York City’s Public Design Commission (PDC). Marton has served as a PDC Commissioner since 2020 and was elected as President in a unanimous vote by her fellow commissioners. As part of her role as President, she will work closely with the members of the commission to review designs for City-owned property, including permanent structures, landscape architecture, and public art, while upholding the PDC’s mission to advocate for the innovative, sustainable, and equitable design of public spaces and civic structures across the five boroughs.

    In her role as Executive Director of Van Alen Institute, Marton has led Van Alen’s evolved mission to create equitable cities through inclusive design, developing major public realm initiatives that center community interests. She guided the creation of Neighborhoods Now, an initiative with the Urban Design Forum that connected New York-based designers and interdisciplinary professionals with community-driven organizations for pandemic recovery strategies; and the expansion of Van Alen’s Public Realm R+D program, which invites emerging designers to create temporary installations that test new approaches to bring people together in public space. In addition, Marton oversaw Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge, an international design competition with the New York City Council to envision the iconic Brooklyn Bridge walkway as a center of equity, accessibility, and sustainability in 2019.

    As President of the PDC, Marton will build on the legacy of Signe Nielsen, the former President, while helping to make New York City an equitable city through design.

    “Design excellence is about more than what — what material or color or form. It’s about the who — who are we designing for, and did they have meaningful opportunities to contribute their perspective?” said PDC President Deborah Marton. “The PDC is committed to ensuring public buildings and civic spaces welcome and serve every New Yorker.”

    About Deborah Marton

    Deborah Marton is the Executive Director of Van Alen Institute, an independent non-profit working to create equitable cities through inclusive design. A leading voice on the intersection of environmental and social justice, she was previously Executive Director of New York Restoration Project, where she completed fulfillment of the private sector commitment to plant a million trees as part of New York City’s MillionTreesNYC initiative and lead creation and/or renovation of more than 50 community garden spaces throughout New York City’s most under resourced communities. In her previous role as Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space, Deborah launched the Taxi 07 program, resulting in a new purpose-built NYC taxi. As project director at James Corner Field Operations, she led the original Fresh Kills Master Plan team. Deborah was a program director for the New York City Dept. of Parks Natural Resources Group, and has lectured broadly, including as adjunct professor at the Univ. of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design. Early in her career, Deborah was an associate with the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Deborah holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, a J.D. from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

    About the Public Design Commission

    As New York City’s design review agency, the Public Design Commission (PDC) has jurisdiction over permanent structures, landscape architecture, and art proposed on or over City-owned property. The mission of the PDC is to advocate for innovative, sustainable, and equitable design of public spaces and civic structures, with a goal of improving the public realm and therefore related services for all New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs.

    The PDC comprises 11 members, who serve pro bono and meet once per month, including an architect, landscape architect, painter, sculptor, and three lay members, as well as representatives of the Brooklyn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library, and the Mayor.

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through community-led inclusive design. We partner with leaders of historically disinvested communities to support their immediate needs and long term visions with our network, knowledge, and resources. We shape diverse interdisciplinary teams, build cross-sector public/private coalitions, and invest our own funds to support neighborhood priorities. By centering community in everything we do, our inclusive design method responds to the urgent need for social justice in citymaking.

    For 129 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, community organizing, preservation, and public policy.

    See all work at vanalen.org.

    Media Contacts
    Alisha Kim Levin, Director of Communications, press@vanalen.org
    Elisa Smilovitz, elisa@elisasmilovitz.com

  4. From Think!Chinatown: Commercial District Needs Assessment + Roundtable Discussion, April 24

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    New Report Viewed as Step for Self-Determination by Manhattan’s Close-Knit Chinatown Community

    Amidst challenges of gentrification, Covid 19 and anti-Asian crime, Chinatown finds strength in intergenerational connections and history of entrepreneurship

    On April 24, Think!Chinatown, with the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, will host roundtable talk and discuss next steps for neighborhood planning

    Contact: programs@thinkchinatown.org

    (April 12, 2023—New York, NY)—The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), in partnership with Think!Chinatown and the Chinatown BID, recently issued a Commercial District Needs Assessment for Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. Commissioned by SBS, Think!Chinatown and the Chinatown BID conducted interviews, surveys, focus groups, on-the-ground observations, and deep-rooted research from November 2021 to June 2022 to create this comprehensive neighborhood report. The report identifies the many strengths, challenges, and opportunities to optimize Chinatown’s potential, and will help prioritize SBS-supported local investments.

    “More than just a report, we see this publication as a step towards self-representation within the process of city-making — a process in which the Chinatown community has historically lacked autonomy,” said Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown. “As a community-based organization working outside of established power structures, Think!Chinatown will continue to fight to be heard and to amplify increasingly diverse voices of Chinatown.”

    KEY FINDINGS

    • Chinatown is home to 1,803 storefronts, with 76% of businesses catering specifically to the Asian American community
    • Younger generations are stepping into leadership at family-run businesses, continuing Chinatown’s legacy of intergenerational connection
    • A majority of business owners are committed to the neighborhood, with 76% of merchants intending to maintain or expand in Chinatown
    • Despite these strengths, 59% of merchants and 70% of street vendors reported a loss in business over the past year
    • Language and cultural barriers inhibit merchants’ and residents’ access to resources such as legal services, access to financing, and marketing support
    • Inadequate wayfinding, street furniture, and pedestrian space can cause transportation nodes to overcrowd

    The Chinatown Commercial District Needs Assessment also identifies a number of opportunities, including enhanced connectivity between Chinatown’s historic core and surrounding neighborhoods; the creation of a cultural center that brings people to Chinatown; and new marketing and placekeeping strategies to promote Chinatown’s unique clusters of retail and professional businesses.

    View the full report (PDF) here.

    ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION, APRIL 24

    On Monday, April 24 at 6 pm, Think!Chinatown will host Planning Chinatown: Our Needs, Our Futures, a roundtable discussion at their studio at 1 Pike Street. The report and its key findings will be presented by Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown, followed by a roundtable discussion with city officials and local leadership. The event will be an opportunity for urbanists, community activists, city agencies, and community development organizations to engage directly with one another to advance neighborhood-centered change.

    Panelists include:

    • Jan Lee, 3rd generation Chinatown resident and property manager
    • Alice Liu, Owner, Grand Tea & Imports; SBS AveNYC Program Manager + Community Outreach Lead, Think!Chinatown
    • Andrew Marcus, Director of Neighborhood Planning, NYC Department of Small Business Services
    • Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute
    • Emily Weidenhof, Director of Public Space, NYC Department of Transportation

    This event is organized in partnership with the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, and with support from the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

    For full event information and RSVP, visit thinkchinatown.org/happenings.

    About Think!Chinatown

    Think!Chinatown is a place-based intergenerational non-profit in Manhattan’s Chinatown, working at the intersection of storytelling, arts and neighborhood engagement. We believe the process of listening, reflecting and celebrating develops the community cohesion and trust necessary to work on larger neighborhood issues. By building strength from within our neighborhood, we can shape better policies and programs that define our public spaces, celebrate our cultural heritage and innovate how our collective memories are represented.

  5. Now on view: COMMON GROUND by Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong

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    Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Interactive Public Sculpture by Artist Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong in Downtown Brooklyn

    COMMON GROUND creates a colorful, vibrant outdoor gathering space to bring community together

    View and download images
    Contact: Elisa Smilovitz | 551-486-3273 | elisa@elisasmilovitz.com

    BROOKLYN (March 1, 2023) – Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and Van Alen Institute today unveiled a new interactive public art installation: COMMON GROUND, by Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong, with lighting design and programming by Xena Petkanas and Christoph Gisel of Arup. Presented with support from Two Trees Management Co., the installation will be on view from March 1 to May 1, 2023, at The Plaza at 300 Ashland, in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District in Downtown Brooklyn.

    The community pavilion is a site-specific, interactive public artwork comprised of a colorful seating landscape and floor motifs that dance across the plaza. Drawing inspiration from the geometry of shrines and sacred spaces and referencing the terraces of the site, this architectural intervention transforms the plaza into an oasis for sitting, socializing and gathering by day and by night. COMMON GROUND creates a bold, joyous space, and offers a playable topography to embrace the here and now. As a community hub, COMMON GROUND aspires to cultivate togetherness and resilience, while encouraging moments of pause, reflection and play.

    During the evening, COMMON GROUND creates a shared synesthetic experience. The pavilion is illuminated with color-changing lighting and sensors that register environmental audio. Light animations shimmer across the sculpture in response to nearby sounds — the movements of passersby, footsteps on the structure, voices, the hum of traffic. These dynamic colored lights blend with the vibrant hues of the topography, playing with our perception of color. Here, COMMON GROUND is a place of joy and light, celebrating inclusion, diversity, and togetherness.

    “With its bold colors and interactive light display, COMMON GROUND transforms one of Downtown Brooklyn’s signature public spaces into a work of art that will engage visitors while also injecting color and life into our streetscape,” said Downtown Brooklyn President Regina Myer. “We are excited to once again partner with Van Alen Institute and Two Trees on a project that invites everyone to pause, reflect, and come together in this unique immersive installation.”

    “Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong’s COMMON GROUND ignites downtown Brooklyn with sound, color, and motion, playfully inviting neighbors and passersby to interact,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “COMMON GROUND’s welcoming presence exemplifies Van Alen Institute’s commitment to inclusive shared joy in public spaces. It’s the perfect spot to welcome in spring, and we thank Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Two Trees for their partnership in bringing this installation to life.”

    “COMMON GROUND creates this playful interruption on the plaza, one of Downtown Brooklyn’s everyday spaces, to bring a new community pavilion to the area,” said Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong. “By night, it becomes a large-scale instrument of sorts, responding to environmental audio — you’re encouraged to come sit, sing, play, linger and experience the art.”

    Performances are scheduled to activate the space, with the opening night on Wednesday, March 1 at 6 pm featuring the NuTribe Dance Company and Mark Morris Dance Group teaching artists CocoMotion and Luffy with an improvisational performance in the art of Waacking and Krumping.

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland has served as a hub for the arts since its unveiling in 2017, even amid the pandemic. Most recently, it was the site of Soft-Firm’s Drive-Thru art installation. Managed, programmed, and maintained by DBP, the plaza also features a year-round calendar of programming including film screenings, concerts, theater performances, dance and fitness classes, readings, community gatherings, and more — all free and open to the public.

    COMMON GROUND is part of Van Alen Institute’s Public Realm R+D program, intended to surface the work of emerging designers and test new strategies to bring people together in public space.

    COMMON GROUND Performance Lineup:
    • March 1 — NuTribe Dance Company and MMDG teaching artists CocoMotion and Luffy present an improvisational performance in the art of Waacking and Krumping.
    • April 6 — Peniel Guerrier and Kriye Bode will bring Haitian Rara to the plaza with an enchanting performance that calls all to rejoice in the energy of life as a community.
    • April 13 — Dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist Kendra J. Ross will give a glimpse into her latest work in progress.
    • April 20 — Soles of Duende, the all-female multicultural trio, will present a spirited collaboration across disciplines in celebration of Tap, Flamenco and Kathak dance.
    • April 22 — Pratt Institute’s fashion department will close out their academic year with JUNIOR THESIS, a fashion performance featuring selected works.

    Visiting COMMON GROUND:
    The installation in on view daily, with interactive lighting displayed from 5 pm–12 am. The Plaza at 300 Ashland is located at the intersection of Lafayette and Flatbush Avenues, a short walk from the B, Q, 2/3, and 4/5 subway lines at Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, the G train at Fulton St, and the C train at Lafayette Ave., as well as numerous bus lines. There is also paid parking close by.

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    About Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong
    Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong is a New York-based artist and trained architect working at the intersection of art, architecture and the public realm. Wong’s work investigates the transformation of space over time and seeks to challenge social and political boundaries through sculpture, installation, performance, and site-specific architectural interventions. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Cheryl received her B.A. in Art and Italian at the University of California at Berkeley, studied sculpture at Brera Academy in Milan, Italy and earned her Master of Architecture from Columbia University GSAPP. She has completed public art commissions with various institutions to activate underused public spaces, including: New York State Thruway Authority, New York City Parks, Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, City of Calgary, City of Inglewood and Washington DC Public Schools.

    About Downtown Brooklyn Partnership:
    The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential, and retail destination. Managing three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) that cover Downtown Brooklyn — the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID — the Partnership’s diverse activities include attracting new businesses and improving the environment for existing companies, facilitating the construction of public spaces and streetscapes that promote an active and cohesive community, supporting and promoting Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural assets, and encouraging a sense of place and an engaged civic community.

    About Van Alen Institute:
    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through community-led inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities. For 129 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, community organizing, preservation, and public policy.

    About The Plaza at 300 Ashland:
    The Plaza at 300 Ashland sits at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, adjacent to the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. Managed, programmed, and maintained by DBP, the public plaza features a robust calendar of events presented in partnership with premier Brooklyn arts organizations such as BAM, BRIC, Brooklyn Public Library, Mark Morris Dance Group, MoCADA, 651 Arts, and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), offering free, high-quality programming for everyone. With ample stepped seating, bistro tables and chairs, and capacity for 2,000, the 15,000-sf plaza has regularly hosted large-scale festivals, markets, and community events since its opening in 2017. Programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland is made possible by support from Two Trees Management Co.

  6. Launching Neighborhoods Now: Forward

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    Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute Launch New Cycle of Neighborhoods Now, Pandemic Recovery Initiative

    Supported by a grant from Wells Fargo, seven community-based teams will lead long-term recovery at the neighborhood scale

    Contact: Alisha Kim Levin, Director of Communications, press@vanalen.org

    (New York City—March 17, 2022) — The Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute announce a new cycle of Neighborhoods Now, their initiative launched in spring 2020 to support local NYC organizations leading their communities’ pandemic recovery. Under the heading Neighborhoods Now: Forward, the initiative will extend through the end of 2022 and transition from rapid, tactical responses to long-term recovery strategies on a wider scale. Led by community organizations, seven interdisciplinary teams will enliven and program public space, provide technical support to small businesses, and strengthen cultural activities.

    Across four boroughs, teams are led by the 82nd Street Partnership; Asian Americans for Equality and Think!Chinatown; Bed-Stuy Gateway BID; Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation; Community League of the Heights; FABnyc; and the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition. Building on the lasting partnerships forged over the past two years, these community partners will collaborate with architecture, design, economic development, legal, and planning firms. 14 firms are continuing their engagement with the initiative; firms new to the initiative include Barretto Consulting, Beyer Blinder Belle, BJH Advisors, Dash Marshall, HLW Architects, Gehl Studio, MA’AM, NHDM, Smart Design, and The Working Assembly.

    Neighborhoods Now: Forward is made possible through a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund. With yearlong funding in place, each team is developing projects to build long-term resiliency in neighborhood economies. To strengthen learnings across communities, teams will also meet up throughout the year to exchange their experiences and spark creativity.

    Neighborhoods Now started as a design sprint, and it’s evolved — beyond our wildest expectations — into a platform for enduring partnerships and collective activism,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “We’re immensely grateful to Wells Fargo for making this level of strategic planning possible by recognizing that communities need to drive their own recovery and futures.”

    “Collaborating with our brilliant community partners has reassured me that the future of New York City is bright,” said Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum. “We are delighted that our members are continuing to help small businesses and cultural organizations recover from the pandemic and thrive.”

    “Working with Neighborhoods Now and the Wells Fargo team has been a great support and opportunity for Bed-Stuy Gateway BID,” said Ms. Dale Charles, Executive Director, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID. “These relationships have allowed us to engage, support, and give opportunities to the small businesses of our commercial corridors struggling because of COVID-19. This process has brought the community together in so many ways, culminating in our annual Winter Wonderland holiday market.”

    “Last year, through the process of developing our Vision Plan with the Neighborhoods Now team, FABnyc was able to think deeply about how we could bring together three goals — supporting local cultural organizations, activating public spaces, and advancing cultural equity — into a single vision,” said Ryan Gilliam, Executive Director, FABnyc. “I’m very excited this year to be creating tools with our team to move that plan forward, building our capacity to activate public space, collaborate with community partners, and engage local artists and cultural organizations.”

    “We are excited to embark on a new phase of Neighborhoods Now to build upon our Chinatown Nights festival to make it into a sustained cultural night market for Chinatown and beyond,” said Thomas Yu, Executive Director, Asian Americans for Equality.

    Added Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown, “Working together with neighboring organizations and designers has catalyzed rooted change that can be seen in our free cultural programming. The spirit of Neighborhoods Now shines at Chinatown Nights.”

    “New York’s small businesses and cultural organizations have been hit especially hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and neighborhoods where many business owners, entrepreneurs and employees live and work have been severely affected,” said Catherine Domenech, Senior Social Impact & Sustainability Specialist at Wells Fargo. “Now more than ever, we are actively investing in the communities we serve and providing meaningful support and resources for the places that need it the most. Wells Fargo is proud to partner with the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute on the Neighborhoods Now initiative, which will help many New Yorkers get back on their feet and accelerate their communities’ pandemic recovery.”

    Neighborhoods Now: Forward Teams and Projects

    JACKSON HEIGHTS, QUEENS

    Community lead: 82nd Street Partnership

    Team: n-architects; SO-IL; MA’AM; NHDM

    The Jackson Heights team will create a roadmap for the 82nd Street commercial corridor to rebuild from the pandemic. Jackson Heights’ Dunningham Triangle is at the center of this goal, envisioned as a safer, welcoming space for children and families that encourages foot traffic to nearby small businesses.

    CHINATOWN, MANHATTAN

    Community leads: Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and Think!Chinatown (T!C)

    Team: Joseph J. Barretto, Barretto Consulting; di Domenico + Partners; Leroy Street Studio; The Working Assembly

    The Chinatown team will expand the night market Chinatown Nights — launched at Forsyth Plaza in 2021 with support of Neighborhoods Now — through new community outreach and a redesign to accommodate a wider array of food and arts vendors. They will also work with designers to transform a vacant storefront owned by AAFE into a cultural workshop space for T!C’s ongoing public programming, gathering and organizing work for the Chinatown community.

    BED-STUY, BROOKLYN

    Community lead: Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

    Team: Moody Nolan; Dash Marshall

    The Gateway BID team will build on Winter Wonderland, an open-air holiday market supporting local small businesses launched through Neighborhoods Now. After two successful pilot markets in 2020 and 2021, the BID hopes to build this event into a hallmark of holiday activities in Central Brooklyn that strengthens Bed-Stuy’s social cohesion.

    Community lead: Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration)

    Team: Farzana Gandhi Design Studio; James Corner Field Operations; KPF

    The Restoration team will develop new financial and spatial resources for the Brooklyn Business Center (BBC) at Restoration, in order to support small businesses in Brooklyn and build BBC’s capacity to share compelling success stories that inspire other local entrepreneurs.

    KINGSBRIDGE, BRONX

    Community lead: Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC)

    Team: Dattner Architects; Scalar Architecture

    The Kingsbridge team aims to complete a neighborhood assessment to understand the current challenges and long-term opportunities for small businesses and tenants along Kingsbridge Avenue & Jerome Avenue. The assessment will lead into an action plan to support the community and avoid displacement, centering the community at each phase of the process.

    LOWER EAST SIDE, MANHATTAN

    Community lead: FABnyc

    Team: DLR Group, Marvel, Smart Design

    Having completed FABnyc’s 20/20 Vision Plan through Neighborhoods Now, the Lower East Side team aims to strengthen existing and new sites for cultural activity. They aim to build on existing Open Streets programming, expand the Open Arts Lower East Side event to build sustainability, and create long-term strategic plans for new sites and platforms.

    WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, MANHATTAN

    Community lead: Community League of the Heights (CLOTH)

    Team: Beyer Blinder Belle, BJH Advisors, HLW

    The Washington Heights team will conduct a needs assessment of businesses to help create a thriving and vibrant commercial corridor. The team will also provide technical support for small businesses who need to update their facades and improve their interior layouts.

    WRAPAROUND EXPERTISE

    As needs arise, legal firm Fried Frank, community development and research firm Gehl Studio, and graphic design studio Pentagram will support each team.

    About Urban Design Forum

    Urban Design Forum mobilizes civic leaders to confront the defining issues facing New York City’s built environment. We are an independent membership organization that empowers professionals of diverse backgrounds, industries and perspectives to shape a better future for all New Yorkers. We investigate complex challenges in the built environment, study alternative approaches from cities around the world, and advance progressive strategies to build a more dynamic and democratic city.

    See all work at urbandesignforum.org.

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    See all work at vanalen.org.

  7. Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm

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    Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm, Outdoor Theater at the Plaza at 300 Ashland

    “Drive-Thru” reimagines the classic drive-in movie experience with rotating media selections from local artists and cultural organizations

    Download images of Drive-Thru by Soft-Firm

    Contact: Alisha Kim Levin, Director of Communications, press@vanalen.org

    BROOKLYN (February 18, 2022) – Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and Van Alen Institute, in partnership with Two Trees Management, today announced its annual public art installation, Soft-Firm’s Drive-Thru at the Plaza at 300 Ashland. A reconfigurable outdoor theater, Drive-Thru will feature a series of videos and performances by Brooklyn artists, filmmakers, and cultural organizations. Drive-Thru will be on view from February 17 to April 14 of 2022.

    Inspired by the classic drive-in movie experience, Drive-Thru reimagines how shared public spaces can be activated during the winter months to connect communities. By incorporating light through rear projection, Drive-Thru serves as a cinema for pedestrians and is visible from the highly utilized intersection of Flatbush and Lafayette Avenues. The design, fabricated by Datum Zed, echoes surrounding urban infrastructure, such as the rotating Brooklyn Academy of Music sign, billboards, and construction scaffolding — incorporating landmarks signature to the Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood. 

    Drive-Thru will showcase film and video by eight Brooklyn-based artists and filmmakers that highlight Brooklyn communities, explore themes of urban life, and connect to Black History Month and Women’s History Month. Live performances will be held to complement a selection of the featured films, starting with a Black History Month celebration event on February 23. 

    “Our latest public art installation, Drive-Thru, builds on DBP’s mission to connect people through the power of shared spaces, storytelling and public art,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Supporting local artists is at the core of our vision for the Plaza and by bringing diverse voices and perspectives to the forefront of the public realm, Drive-Thru exemplifies how individual experiences can become shared when viewed as a community. We invite all New Yorkers to visit Drive-Thru and enjoy the unique work that Soft-Firm has created and the Brooklyn-inspired videos it is providing a stage for.”

    Drive-Thru provides a democratic platform that celebrates neighborhood voices,” said Talitha Liu, Co-Founder of Soft-Firm. “After another year of distance and uncertainty, the installation projects a portal into the rich cultural fabric of Brooklyn.”

    “Soft-Firm is passionate about seeding interventions that come to life with public engagement,” said Lexi Tsien, Co-Founder of Soft-Firm. “We’re excited to create an armature that doubles as canvas and backdrop, animated by Brooklyn artists.”

    “Public spaces are most alive when they’re sites of storytelling,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “To create equitable cities, Van Alen Institute works to center communities in designing shared spaces. With this elegant portal into Brooklyn’s voices, cultures, and histories, Soft-Firm’s installation Drive-Thru shows the human connections that become possible in the spaces where our shared lives unfold. We applaud the generous civic vision of DBP and Two Trees in making this happen.”

    “We are thrilled to have Drive-Thru at the Plaza and to see Brooklyn’s artists and cultural organizations collaborate to maximize this space’s potential as a venue and gathering space,” said Kate Gavriel, Cultural Affairs Director at Two Trees Management Co. “The Plaza at 300 Ashland was designed as a space for the community to come together and celebrate Brooklyn and the people in it—a role that has never been more important than during the pandemic.”

    Drive-Thru projects video on two 13.5’ x 7.5’ screens that rotate around a pivot at the center of a 30’ circular wooden platform. These screens also act as outer walls of two wedge-shaped open-air spaces. On the interior of the installation, the pivot allows varying configurations of space while on the exterior, the screens can be oriented towards major view corridors at the site, visible from Lafayette Ave. and Flatbush Ave., and the stepped seating of the Plaza. 

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland has served as a hub for the arts since its unveiling in 2017, hosting events year-round, including film screenings, concerts, theater performances, dance and fitness classes, readings, community gatherings, and more – all free and open to the public as a part of DBP’s ongoing series Downtown Brooklyn Presents

    Video & Live Performance Schedule 

    February 17–23 

    Ali Santana, Community: Rhythm / Movement / Joy (2022)

    • Filmed on Lafayette Ave in 2012, this scene captures the rhythm, movement, joy and community tradition of BAM’s Dance Africa Street Bazaar. 

    February 23 | 5:30–6:30 pm

    LIVE PERFORMANCE

    Launch of Drive-Thru honoring Black History Month: Senegalese Taneber Sunu Birr (Drum and Dance Circle)

    • Mirroring the electrifying Senegalese drum and dance in the opening film, artist Babacar Top will lead a Sabar dance instruction followed by a Taneber, an open drum and dance circle “sunu birr” (Wolof for “between us”) that celebrates the power and culture of Senegalese tradition, honors African descendants who fought for freedom and liberation, and community.

    February 24–March 2 

    Nicholas Fraser, Follow/Unfollow (2016)

    • Nicholas Fraser’s Follow/Unfollow captures New Yorkers as they travel the city’s ever-changing streetscape. As their paths cross in frame, a single person grows to two, two form a trio, the trio morphs into a crowd, stopping, shifting, and changing direction to a hypnotic effect. 

    March 2–8 

    Simon Benjamin, Errantry (2021)

    • Named after Édouard Glissant’s theory, Simon Benjamin’s Errantry is centered on the polyphonic rhythms of coastal space, the Caribbean sea, and the life sustained by it in a non-linear narrative that raises questions about time, labor, environmental degradation and the ongoingness of colonialism. 

    March 9–15

    Luna X Moya, What the Pier Gave Us (2021)

    • In Luna X Moya’s What the Pier Gave Us, a fisherman’s ordinary day at an undisclosed New York City pier becomes a visual metaphor for the immigrant experience in the United States. This short film is part of an upcoming feature-length documentary.

    March 16–23 

    Olalekan Jeyifous, The Frozen Neighborhoods (Fly-through) (2021)

    • Olalekan Jeyifous’s The Frozen Neighborhoods (Fly-through) depicts a speculative future where poor and marginalized communities are cut off from travel,  forcing them to develop advanced ecological technologies This deceptively dystopian vision imagines the potential of community-focused innovation, creating a sustainable and self-contained world in Brooklyn.

    March 25–30

    Tanika I. Williams, (construct)Clearing (2021) and Sanctuary (2021)

    • As a meditation on quiet care, intention, intergenerational movement, and labor, (construct)Clearing seeks to understand how we wear and repeat family patterns of silence and separation. Sanctuary illustrates the aftermath of African-Caribbean mothers leaving their daughters to immigrate to the United States, combining academic research, autobiographical expression, and archival interviews.

    March 31–April 5 

    Series of shorts by Ezra Wube: Flatbushtopia (2017), Bridge Street (2015), At the Same Moment (2013), Words of Wisdom (2016)

    • This series of shorts by Ezra Wube offer snapshots of life across New York. These stop-motion animations, often developed with community input and participation, depict scenes in Flatbush, DUMBO, Jamaica, and on the subway. 

    April 6–13 

     Aisha Amin, Choir (2020) and Friday (2019)

    • Aisha Amin’s film Choir explores the world within one of New York’s most competitive youth choirs, while Friday is a portrait of the community within a historically black Brooklyn mosque as it fights gentrification

    Additional events honoring Women’s History Month and the closing of Drive-Thru will be announced soon.

    Visiting Drive-Thru

    Drive-Thru is best viewed starting at dusk.

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland is conveniently situated in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, at the intersection of Lafayette Ave and Flatbush Ave. The plaza is easily accessible – located only a short walk from the B, Q, 2/3 and 4/5 subway lines at Atlantic Barclays, the G train at Fulton St, and the C train at Lafayette Ave, as well as a number of bus stops. There is also paid parking along the surrounding streets.

    ###

    About Downtown Brooklyn Partnership: 

    The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential, and retail destination. Managing three Business Improvement Districts 

    (BIDs) that cover Downtown Brooklyn – the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID – the Partnership’s diverse activities include attracting new businesses and improving the environment for existing companies, facilitating the construction of public spaces and streetscapes that promote an active and cohesive community, supporting and promoting Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural assets, and encouraging a sense of place and an engaged civic community. 

    About Van Alen Institute:

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm.

    For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.

    See all work at vanalen.org.

    ​​About The Plaza at 300 Ashland:

    The Plaza at 300 Ashland is a 15,000-square-foot public space located at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, adjacent to the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. Since its opening in 2017, DBP has partnered with premier Brooklyn arts organizations such as BAM, BRIC, Brooklyn Public Library, Mark Morris Dance Group, MoCADA, 651 Arts, and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) to offer free, high-quality programming for everyone. Programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland is made possible by support from Two Trees Management.

    About Soft-Firm: 

    Soft-Firm is an interdisciplinary practice and flexible platform off which to expand design hunches into architectural ideas, spaces, and artifacts.  Soft-Firm is speculative and concrete: taking a playful and lo-fi approach to visual perception, elemental forms, and material contrast.  Using design as a tool of activism, Soft-Firm engages collaborative and progressive programs to promote equity in institutions and the architectural practice as a whole. The practice has designed interactive exhibitions and installations, residential and commercial projects, and published work in design magazines and academic journals. Soft-Firm project team includes Lexi Tsien and Talitha Liu with fabrication by Jono Isbell from Datum Zed.

  8. On View: Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

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    Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Winner of 8th Annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition:

    Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

    View photographs of Interwoven.

    For questions or interview requests, email press@vanalen.org.

    (New York City—November 24, 2021) — On Monday, November 22, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute unveiled the winner of the eighth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition: Interwoven, an interactive installation by design firm Atelier Cho Thompson. Interwoven is on view through January 2, 2022 in the Flatiron North Public Plaza on Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, creating a highly visible landmark in the heart of Manhattan throughout the holidays.

    Since 2014, this annual competition has brought people together in public space through innovative design installations. Now, at the end of another year marked by isolation, the Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute seek to strengthen community bonds with Interwoven. Inspired by New York’s tapestry of cultures and people, Interwoven celebrates the joys of reconnecting in public space. Its interactive archways are activated by color-coded sensors; when two or more people pass through sensors of the same color, Interwoven responds with corresponding lights and musical compositions by local artists inspired by the installation’s themes.

    The installation’s interactive story wall, made of backlit papers hung on a grid, invites visitors to share responses to the prompt: “I dream of a world where together we can…” The resulting narratives will become a patchwork of voices documenting this challenging yet hopeful moment. The prompt was selected by Youth Fellows from the People’s Bus NYC, a community-led, intergenerational initiative focused on engaging people in New York City’s civic life through beauty and joy.

    “One of our key tenets as a firm is that we can build community around design,” said Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, Co-Founders of Atelier Cho Thompson. “Interwoven highlights our fundamental desires to connect with each other through shared experiences and to celebrate our differences. Interwoven offers a platform for stories and dreams of our future.”

    “Located at one of New York City’s most iconic intersections, the Flatiron North Plaza is the perfect setting for Interwoven, an installation that provides a powerful, yet playful reminder that human interaction is essential,” said James Mettham, Executive Director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. “As we welcome New Yorkers and visitors to explore Interwoven this holiday season, we are proud to once again collaborate with Van Alen Institute on our tradition of presenting thought-provoking public art in Flatiron.”

    Interwoven‘s playful design unites us through joy,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “As part of Van Alen’s Public Realm R&D initiative — which celebrates the serendipity of connection and power of shared stories — we’re honored to collaborate again with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership to test new ways to bring people together in one of NYC’s most iconic public spaces.”

    Inspired by the dynamic geometry of intersections that form the Flatiron Building, Interwoven’s archways, hammock, and benches are constructed with a steel framing, netting, resin panels, and high-density cork. As a firm committed to sustainable design, Atelier Cho Thompson carefully selected Interwoven’s materials including its rapidly renewable cork and steel, a material made of mostly recycled content.

    The project team includes in-kind sponsors MHA Engineering, Lam Partners, Indistinguishable from Magic, Hunter Douglas and 3form, LLI Architectural Lighting, EcoSupply, Fusion Optix, and Cadwell Signs. Grant funding was made possible by Stand with Asian Americans / Asian Pacific Fund and an anonymous donor. Fabrication and site installation will be completed by Smart Department Fabrication, Inc. After debuting Interwoven on the Flatiron North Public Plaza, the firm will partner with community organizations in New Haven, CT to bring the installation to a local public park.

    Since its inception, the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition has been a platform for the Partnership and Van Alen Institute to deepen their connections with emerging designers, bring people together, and support inventive visions for an iconic urban plaza. Atelier Cho Thompson was selected by the Partnership and Van Alen Institute from a shortlist of three firms, each recommended by design experts in Van Alen’s network. The other shortlisted firms were AD-WO and Isometric Studio.

    Nominations for the shortlisted firms were provided by Nina Cooke John, Founder and Principal of Studio Cooke John; Justin Garrett Moore, Program Officer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Mark Gardner, Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects; and Ashley Mendelsohn, Architecture Curator and Educator.

    The installation is presented in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program and will be open to the public daily, weather permitting. The Partnership is encouraging visitors to use #InterwovenFlatiron on Twitter and Instagram to share images of the installation.

    About the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership

    The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, formed in 2006, is a nonprofit organization and Business Improvement District whose mission is to enhance the reputation of Flatiron and NoMad as two of New York’s most vital and exciting neighborhoods. This is accomplished by maintaining a clean and safe environment for the district’s businesses, residents and visitors; by spearheading area improvement projects; and by marketing the diverse business and retail options in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

    FlatironDistrict.nyc
    info@flatirondistrict.nyc
    Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: @FlatironNY

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities.

    For 127 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, civic advocacy, community engagement, preservation, and public policy.

    vanalen.org
    Instagram, Twitter: @van_alen
    Facebook: @vanaleninstitute

    About the NYC DOT Art Program

    The New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art) partners with community-based, nonprofit organizations and professional artists to present temporary public art on NYC DOT property throughout the five boroughs for up to eleven months. Artists transform streets with colorful murals, dynamic projections and eye-catching sculptures. Sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, public plazas and pedestrianized spaces serve as canvases and foundations for temporary art. Over the past 12 years, DOT Art has produced over 300 temporary artworks citywide.

    nyc.gov/dotart
    Instagram: @nyc_DOTArt
    Facebook: @NYCDOT
    Twitter: @nyc_DOT

    About Atelier Cho Thompson

    Atelier Cho Thompson is a bi-coastal design and concept firm, working between the disciplines of architecture, interiors, graphics and design strategy. Founded seven years ago by Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, the firm has embarked on a number of ambitious goals: to design beautiful and functional projects around the globe, to deeply engage our community around design, to promote equity in architecture and beyond. For more information, visit chothompson.com.

  9. Neighborhoods Now: Bed-Stuy Winter Wonderland 2.0

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    Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, Neighborhoods Now, and Wells Fargo Present Winter Wonderland 2.0, A Holiday Experience

    (November 19, 2021—Brooklyn, NY) — Following its success last holiday season, the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District (BID) is bringing Winter Wonderland 2.0 to the village of Bedford-Stuyvesant. An open-air holiday market supporting local Bed-Stuy small businesses, Winter Wonderland 2.0 is a collaboration between the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID; the Neighborhoods Now program organized by Van Alen Institute and the Urban Design Forum; and Wells Fargo’s “Hope, USA” initiative. The effort is being supported by Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.

    In celebration of Small Business Saturday, this family-friendly, fresh air affair launches on Saturday, November 27 with a ribbon cutting at Restoration West Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY. Winter Wonderland 2.0 operates from 11 am to 6 pm every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    “We are truly thankful to Neighborhoods Now and Wells Fargo for providing a safe, sound space for our merchants and community to come together to shop, explore, and celebrate the holiday season,” said Lynette Battle, Deputy Director, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID.

    “With this generous support from Wells Fargo, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID brings its beautiful and strategic vision for community gathering to life,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “Small business health and community wellbeing are one and the same, especially in a community like Bed-Stuy where most local business owners live right here.”

    “We can’t wait to be back in Bed-Stuy to shop and spend time with family and friends at Winter Wonderland 2.0,” said Daniel McPhee, Executive Director, Urban Design Forum. “New York’s small businesses need our support more than ever this year, so we’re glad to partner with Bed-Stuy Gateway BID and Wells Fargo to bring the holiday market back and make it better than ever.”

    “Small businesses have been through so much over the past two years due to the pandemic and other hardships,” said Krissy Moore, Senior Vice President, Northeast Community Relations for Wells Fargo. “That’s why this holiday season – and year-round – Wells Fargo is involved in initiatives that support and provide hope to business owners to assist them during these difficult times. The additional funding for Winter Wonderland will provide local residents with the opportunity to shop local from businesses in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood.”

    This holiday season, through its “Hope, USA” campaign, Wells Fargo is beautifying business districts in 16 cities across the country, including Brooklyn, and encouraging everyone to join in giving hope a hand by supporting small businesses and shopping locally this holiday season. In Bed-Stuy, the “Hope, USA” support will allow Winter Wonderland 2.0 to double vendor space from last year, create an outdoor dining experience, and provide a safe staging area for families to meet, greet, and take photos with Santa.

    Wells Fargo volunteers will help to prepare Restoration Plaza and Marcy Plaza for the Winter Wonderland 2.0 by participating in graffiti removal and engaging in some holiday beautification efforts. Architecture firm Moody Nolan created this updated design of Winter Wonderland 2.0; Moody Nolan has been collaborating with the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID since last year as part of Neighborhoods Now.

    “Not only are we able to bring a world-class holiday tradition to our community,” said Dale Charles, Bed-Stuy Gateway BID’s new Executive Director. “Merchants within our business corridor are getting the support they need to build back better.”

    This moment also highlights Wells Fargo’s commitment to Neighborhoods Now. Launched in May 2020 by the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, Neighborhoods Now partners with local organizations leading their communities’ recovery by building coalitions of architects, designers, and engineers. With a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, Neighborhoods Now will continue throughout 2022 in Bed-Stuy, Chinatown, Jackson Heights, Kingsbridge, the Lower East Side, and Washington Heights.

    About the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID

    Centrally located in Brooklyn, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID has proudly stood as one of the borough’s most prominent commercial and cultural focal points. Since 2009, the agency has partnered with local neighbors, and stakeholders to enrich its community through economic development while promoting its rich history of cultural diversity. Through a wide array of programs and services, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID is committed to seeing the community thrive and blossom into the popular destination for all things Brooklyn.

    About Neighborhoods Now

    A collaboration between the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, Neighborhoods Now connects New York City neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with design firms in our collective network. Since May 2020, Neighborhoods Now has mobilized more than 85 firms to support hundreds of restaurants, small businesses, and cultural organizations across New York. Nearly all of the initiative’s neighborhood-based teams continue to collaborate and are advancing plans for recovery on a wider community scale. For more information, visit vanalen.org and urbandesignforum.org.

    About Wells Fargo

    Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is the leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories. Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com | Twitter: @WellsFargo.

    Press Contacts

    Bed-Stuy Gateway BID: Keith Forest, keithlforest@gmail.com
    Urban Design Forum: Janrey Serapio, janrey@urbandesignforum.org
    Van Alen Institute: Alisha Kim Levin, press@vanalen.org
    Wells Fargo: Kevin Friedlander, Kevin.Friedlander@wellsfargo.com

  10. Flatiron 2021: Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

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    Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute Unveil Winner of 8th Annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition:

    Interwoven by Atelier Cho Thompson

    View renderings of Interwoven and shortlisted proposals.

    For questions or interview requests, email press@vanalen.org.

    (New York City—October 27, 2021) — The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute today unveiled the winner of the eighth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition: Interwoven, an interactive installation by design firm Atelier Cho Thompson. Interwoven will be on view November 22, 2021–January 2, 2022 in the Flatiron North Public Plaza on Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and 23rd Street, creating a highly visible landmark in the heart of Manhattan throughout the holidays.

    Since 2014, this annual competition has brought people together in public space through innovative design installations. Now, at the end of another year marked by isolation, the Flatiron Partnership and Van Alen Institute seek to strengthen community bonds with Interwoven. Inspired by New York’s tapestry of cultures and people, Interwoven celebrates the joys of reconnecting in public space. Its interactive archways are activated by color-coded sensors; when two or more people pass through sensors of the same color, Interwoven responds with corresponding lights and musical compositions by local artists inspired by the installation’s themes.

    The installation’s interactive story wall, made of backlit papers hung on a grid, invites visitors to share responses to the prompt: “I dream of a world where together we can…” The resulting narratives will become a patchwork of voices documenting this challenging yet hopeful moment. The prompt was selected by Youth Fellows from the People’s Bus NYC, a community-led, intergenerational initiative focused on engaging people in New York City’s civic life through beauty and joy.

    “One of our key tenets as a firm is that we can build community around design,” said Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, Co-Founders of Atelier Cho Thompson. “Interwoven highlights our fundamental desires to connect with each other through shared experiences and to celebrate our differences. Interwoven offers a platform for stories and dreams of our future.”

    “Located at one of New York City’s most iconic intersections, the Flatiron North Plaza is the perfect setting for Interwoven, an installation that provides a powerful, yet playful reminder that human interaction is essential,” said James Mettham, Executive Director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership. “As we welcome New Yorkers and visitors to explore Interwoven this holiday season, we are proud to once again collaborate with Van Alen Institute on our tradition of presenting thought-provoking public art in Flatiron.”

    Interwoven‘s playful design unites us through joy,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute. “As part of Van Alen’s Public Realm R&D initiative — which celebrates the serendipity of connection and power of shared stories — we’re honored to collaborate again with the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership to test new ways to bring people together in one of NYC’s most iconic public spaces.”

    Inspired by the dynamic geometry of intersections that form the Flatiron Building, Interwoven’s archways, hammock, and benches are constructed with a steel framing, netting, resin panels, and high-density cork. As a firm committed to sustainable design, Atelier Cho Thompson carefully selected Interwoven’s materials including its rapidly renewable cork and steel, a material made of mostly recycled content.

    The project team includes in-kind sponsors MHA Engineering, Lam Partners, Indistinguishable from Magic, Hunter Douglas and 3form, LLI Architectural Lighting, EcoSupply, Fusion Optix, and Cadwell Signs. Grant funding was made possible by Stand with Asian Americans / Asian Pacific Fund and an anonymous donor. Fabrication and site installation will be completed by Smart Department Fabrication, Inc. After debuting Interwoven on the Flatiron North Public Plaza, the firm will partner with community organizations in New Haven, CT to bring the installation to a local public park.

    Since its inception, the Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition has been a platform for the Partnership and Van Alen Institute to deepen their connections with emerging designers, bring people together, and support inventive visions for an iconic urban plaza. Atelier Cho Thompson was selected by the Partnership and Van Alen Institute from a shortlist of three firms, each recommended by design experts in Van Alen’s network. The other shortlisted firms were AD-WO and Isometric Studio.

    Nominations for the shortlisted firms were provided by Nina Cooke John, Founder and Principal of Studio Cooke John; Justin Garrett Moore, Program Officer, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Mark Gardner, Principal, Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects; and Ashley Mendelsohn, Architecture Curator and Educator.

    The installation is presented in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation’s Temporary Art Program and will be open to the public daily, weather permitting. The Partnership is encouraging visitors to use #InterwovenFlatiron on Twitter and Instagram to share images of the installation.

    About the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership

    The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership, formed in 2006, is a nonprofit organization and Business Improvement District whose mission is to enhance the reputation of Flatiron and NoMad as two of New York’s most vital and exciting neighborhoods. This is accomplished by maintaining a clean and safe environment for the district’s businesses, residents and visitors; by spearheading area improvement projects; and by marketing the diverse business and retail options in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.

    FlatironDistrict.nyc
    info@flatirondistrict.nyc
    Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: @FlatironNY

    About Van Alen Institute

    Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities.

    For 127 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, civic advocacy, community engagement, preservation, and public policy.

    vanalen.org
    Instagram, Twitter: @van_alen
    Facebook: @vanaleninstitute

    About the NYC DOT Art Program

    The New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art) partners with community-based, nonprofit organizations and professional artists to present temporary public art on NYC DOT property throughout the five boroughs for up to eleven months. Artists transform streets with colorful murals, dynamic projections and eye-catching sculptures. Sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, public plazas and pedestrianized spaces serve as canvases and foundations for temporary art. Over the past 12 years, DOT Art has produced over 300 temporary artworks citywide.

    nyc.gov/dotart
    Instagram: @nyc_DOTArt
    Facebook: @NYCDOT
    Twitter: @nyc_DOT

    About Atelier Cho Thompson

    Atelier Cho Thompson is a bi-coastal design and concept firm, working between the disciplines of architecture, interiors, graphics and design strategy. Founded seven years ago by Ming Thompson and Christina Cho Yoo, the firm has embarked on a number of ambitious goals: to design beautiful and functional projects around the globe, to deeply engage our community around design, to promote equity in architecture and beyond. For more information, visit chothompson.com.