Documentary center installs Claremont Village art showcase

July 2017. Claremont Housing Projects. Bronx, NY Images of Bronx Photo League members photographing at the Claremont Houses.
Photo by Adi Talwar/Bronx Photo League

A new art installation will be coming to the south Bronx.

The Bronx Documentary Center, along with the six other organizations in the city, was selected as the new recipient of the Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact.

“The organization will receive $50,000 in cash from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and an additional $25,000 match award from the partnering agency,” according to a statement released by DCA.

Partnering with the BDC will be the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, but the project in mind? A series of nighttime-focused art works to light up the night in Claremont Village.

“There’s a lot of outdoor space in Claremont and most of it doesn’t get used and there’s a need to use art to make these places friendly and more welcoming,” said Michael Kamber, founder of the BDC.

“We’re hoping that by making these installations we’ll make Claremont Village a more welcoming space and help to bring people out basically to help create community to share experiences.”

The BDC’s 18 homegrown, Bronx native photographers have been working on projects within the south Bronx similar to the one planned, according to Kamber.

In fact, the successful art installation BDC launched at the Mitchel Houses, which was a photography project worked on by the BDC and seniors living in the housing complex, proved the plausibility of having a larger scale project like the one planned for Claremont Village.

“We printed out the photos [taken by the seniors] on big vinyl banners and put them in the courtyard,” recalled Kamber. “People loved [the photos] so much, that when they were damaged in a storm the community actually came out, rebuilt them and put them back up.”

The project planned for Claremont Village will serve about 10,000 residents, one of the largest public housing communities in the country, with artwork reflecting the everyday lives and struggles of the south Bronx community.

“It makes me really feel hopeful that the city wants to invest in telling this story,” said Soundview native, Rhynna M. Santos, one of the photographers working on the project with BDC.

“It really makes residents in this area, anybody in the Bronx, any low-income people, anybody the United States, that feel ignored or unimportant, makes them feel important.”

As the projects are being planned with the purpose of being shown during the evening, organizers said the installations will incorporate light and sound, as well as visual aspects.

“Things like this don’t happen to people like us in the Bronx and it’s literally a dream come true,” Santos continued.

“I would love for this project to encourage other people to look at areas and populations that are not really being talked about, especially low-income communities of color, and that this project will inspire other artists to do something similar.”

The projects are expected to be installed in June 2018, according to Kamber.

The BDC will also work with other members of Claremont Village and the south Bronx community for the project.

The project is also part of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety to help reduce crime and strengthen neighborhoods.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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