Ever feel like it might be time to get out of your apartment, and you know, do something? Everyone knows that summer in Brooklyn is like an endless carnival of film festivals, readings, street fairs, and concerts…if you’re willing to travel to the right place. But what about opportunities for arts and music that are literally right in your backyard, or in this case, on your front stoop? For residents of Bed Stuy this Sunday, this fantasy is turning into a reality, thanks to the STooPS project, which is geared up and ready to bring Brooklyn artists right to your front door. Literally.
STooPs is coming around the block this Sunday, June 23 thanks to the industrious creativity of Kendra Ross, a dancer, teaching artist, and community worker who lives in Bed Stuy by way of Detroit, and who spoke to us about the exhibit, its inspiration and becoming a part of your community.
The project is a neighborhood-wide outdoor art exhibit, taking Brooklyn-bred and -based artists and putting their work on an iconic facet of the borough’s architecture: the stoop. The displays, which will be scattered throughout Bed Stuy and eventually culminating at the Freebrook Mansion, will include all kinds of work, including (but not limited to) visual artists, sneaker artists, theater groups, a string ensemble, vocalists, and number of dance performances.
It’s an afternoon affair, beginning at 2pm, when participants can stop by Freebrook to purchase their Sightseer guide for $10, which will direct you to the art and performance locations. While you could just walk around Bed Stuy aimlessly waiting for art to happen, like when I wandered into a Ghostface Killah concert last summer, my bet is that it’s worth shelling out the $10 since the culminating performance at 5 features Les Nubians, and you can only get in if you’ve bought a guide.
Inspired by The Stoop, a similar project put on by FOKUS, STooPs aims to manifest the already-present neighborly aspect of Bed Stuy living. “It’s a neighborhood that has a very strong sense of community,” Ross told us. “There are block competitions and block associations. People plant flowers outside on their stoops. People say ‘Good morning’ to you, which was actually surprising.”
Ross’s afterthoughts speak to a very real difficulty that a lot of Brooklyn newcomers face: getting themselves settled into a new neighborhood without being a weirdo loner outcast like you were throughout most of high school. But if Ross’ success is making you feel bad about instantly fitting in, know that it didn’t come easy. She began her project by looking for stoop-venues throughout the neighborhood, through the usual routes: calling home- and business-owners, but she also took to stopping random people in the street and asking if she could put art in front of their homes. Was everyone receptive?
“No,” answered Ross. “I think it’s because it’s something new…I didn’t have a website or anything, and I was just this random chick with a piece of paper talking about ideas.”
Looking at Ross’s work and process, you see that turning ideas into a full-blown summer event takes a little common sense and some commitment to being an active part of the neighborhoods we live in, which, as it turns out, is only slightly easier said than done. When it comes to forming closer ties with local communities, Ross offers three suggestions:
1. Go to community board meetings. Says Ross, “Community board is the shit [sic].” No matter where you live in Brooklyn, you can find out where and when your community board meets right here, which is surprisingly easy.
2. Go to block association meetings. Apparently every block has one. That’s a lot of blocks. You can find out about yours through your Community Board.
3. Support local businesses. They’re often tied to community leaders, organizers, and organizations, and according to Ross, owners of these businesses are usually around and willing to talk about local happenings. We also like local happenings, so there’s a starting point.
Pretty simple, right? Next time you walk down the street, you might even get that “hello” you weren’t expecting.
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