This past Sunday, November 17, BAC hosted its first affordable art sale, AccessArt at Tabla Rasa Gallery in Sunset Park. The benefit raised vital funds to support BAC’s programs and services for Brooklyn’s visual artists, including grants, exhibition opportunities, professional development and more.
We welcomed over 175 guests to the event, which featured the works of over 60 Brooklyn-based artists. We were fortunate enough to have a delicious reception sponsored by BAC Board member Jack Esterson and featuring desserts courtesy of LadyBird Bakery and chocolates courtesy of Li-Lac Chocolates. A special treat was the raffle of a 14-pound chocolate turkey, the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!
We are especially grateful to the many artists who donated their work to BAC. You can check out their work here. We asked participating artists to tell us why they donated artwork to AccessArt. Here’s what a few of them had to say:
As a lifelong Brooklyn resident and artist I am happy to witness a surge of creative energy that is emerging from the various neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I like the informality and the originality of vision that comes from many Brooklyn artists.The arts council has been important in exhibiting this work and adding to Brooklyn’s mystique. – Stephen Basso
Brooklyn Arts Council is the most important supporter of the arts in our borough and the arts are changing the face of Brooklyn dramatically, making it one of the coolest places on our planet to live creatively. – Vladimir Davidenko
BAC’s programming is vital to the borough’s art community. Supporting their efforts helps to keep our vibrant and thriving culture growing. – Scott Fitzgerald
Thoughts like these bolster our spirits and inspire all of us at BAC to keep working hard for Brooklyn’s growing arts community. To the many donors who supported AccessArt, we extend a big thank you for believing in this important work, and to the generous artists who participated in this endeavor, thank you for making Brooklyn such a wonderfully vibrant cultural center!
For the month of November, the featured artist from BAC’s Registry is Brooklyn-based performance artist Kilusan Bautista. Kilusan’s work includes theater, spoken word, poetry and multimedia. He is also the Founding Director and Performer of UNiVERSALself. We sat down and asked him a few questions about his practice.
Kilusan Bautista strives to build cross-cultural unity & personal empowerment through the performance arts.
Where are you from? How long have you lived in Brooklyn?
I was born in Long Beach, California and raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. I moved to Brooklyn on 8-8-2008, so 5 years and loving it! I’ve lived in Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights and now Downtown Brooklyn.
How long have you been a practicing artist?
For over 14 years I’ve dedicated my life to sharing my art with the world. At the age of 19 I was fortunate to begin touring the country as a spoken word artist with an Asian Pacific American group known as 8th Wonder. My debut as a playwright was in 2002 where I wrote about my Father’s story in overcoming drug addiction entitled “A Tuyo In The Sun.” And my current work, “UNiVERSALself,” is a solo multimedia production that explores my personal/cultural identity in Urban America. UNiVERSALself has taken me around the world, performing in over 60 venues and reaching over 20,000 diverse audience members.
Who or what influenced your decision to become an artist?
As far as I can remember my mother loved watching Broadway musical videos especially Westside Story & Grease. I saw the power in those shows because my mother would always end up crying and as a child I wanted to have that ability one day.
In elementary school, my older brother and his friends taught me how to BBOY in my grandmother’s garage which introduced me to Hip Hop culture. But it wasn’t until I was blown away by Denzel Washington’s performance in Spike Lee’s film on Malcolm X which inspired me to begin developing my voice, my speaking abilities and acting skills.
And lastly, John Leguizamo’s one man show “Freak” was the inspiration for my development as a solo performer, sharing my lived experiences with the world.
What do/did your parents do for a living and were they supportive of you becoming an artist?
My mother, Thelma Bautista, is a Sales Associate and she has always supported my development as an artist. I could count on my mother being present at my shows and in encouraging me to do my best.
My father, Anthony Bautista, was a former drug counselor and as part of his own drug rehabilitation he allowed me to conduct oral histories interviews with him which was used to create my first play “A Tuyo In the Sun.”
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz. I majored in American Studies with a concentration in Ethnic Studies and performance art.
What inspires you artistically?
I am inspired by the wonders of storytelling both onstage and offstage. I am inspired by the greats such as Shakespeare and Lorraine Hansberry. I am inspired by the stories told to me by my grandmother, my elders, by people who have endured struggle in life and have lived to testify the lessons learned. I am inspired by the collective human spirit.
Which other artists inspire you?
Joe Bataan, the King of Latin Soul, the Afro Filipino who is just an Ordinary Guy from Spanish Harlem inspires me to remain diligent in expressing myself and working hard everyday.
Lemon Anderson, Creator of County of Kings, a native son of Brooklyn, inspires my poetic sensibilities and daily hustle.
Dulcinea Detwah, the Coolest Kid of all Eastsides in the world, inspires me with her musical process and open heartedness that attracts collaborations from a broad range of artists.
What is your favorite place in Brooklyn to visit for inspiration?
I love running around Cadman Plaza Park. I laugh, I cry, I scream, I imagine the infinite here. There is a massive memorial in the middle of the park dedicated to veterans of World War II. It reminds me of my great grandfathers who served in The Philippine Army during WWII and they are the reason why my family was able to immigrate to America in the 1950’s.
Do you make a living from your art? If not, do you have a day job?
Yes, I am very fortunate to make a living as a freelance performance artist. I organize my own performance tours throughout the country especially in colleges/universities. I also conduct arts education workshops that concentrate on racial identity, race relations, creative writing and theater. I am an independent contractor with the NYC Department of Education, using UNiVERSALself as a literacy model for GED students in Brooklyn.
How did you get started presenting your work publicly?
In college the spoken word poetry scene experienced a great resurgence. Artists such as Saul Williams were taking the world by storm and I wanted to be a part of that world. So I began performing at open mics throughout the country such as the Nuyorican Poets Café in the late 1990’s. This led to my development as a playwright and producing my own work by any means necessary. As a result, my current work UNiVERSALself was premiered at the former Rebel Diaz Arts Collective in the South Bronx in 2010. But my vision for UNiVERSALself is to be produced on a Broadway stage as a pioneering production about contemporary Asian Pacific Americans in urban America.
For the month of November, the featured group from BAC’s Directory of Brooklyn Arts Organizations is two time BAC Grant recipient Haiti Cultural Exchange. Here we interview Executive Director, Régine M. Roumain who gives us some insight on what its like to run this nonprofit arts organization.
Why and when was your arts group founded and by whom?
Led by Co-Founder and current Executive Director, Régine M. Roumain, Haiti Cultural Exchange was established in 2009 by seven Haitian-American women in response to a dearth of opportunities for Haitians to explore their culture and for Haitian artists and those in the Diaspora to share their work with new and diverse audiences.
Where in Brooklyn are you located?
We are located in Crown Heights.
Who is your primary audience?
Haitians and Haitian-Americans.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of running an arts organization in Brooklyn?
As a small, under-resourced arts organization, our staff has to wear many hats. We struggle with finding the right balance between doing the work that is core to our mission — providing high quality and engaging community arts programming — and all of the other elements that are required to effectively run a nonprofit: finding support for the organization within a limited pool of institutional donors, reaching diverse audiences in Brooklyn, hiring qualified staff etc.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of running an arts organization in Brooklyn?
Brooklyn is the home of so many Haitians – first, second and third generation immigrants; so many of whom are artists. The vibrancy of the arts scene in Brooklyn and the community networks that we have built over the years makes this work very rewarding.
What do you see as the biggest issues facing the arts community today?
Remaining relevant and responsive to our respective communities. Coping with the difficult economic situation facing New Yorkers. Events in Haiti that have a direct impact on our communities.
Do you have any major events, projects or expansions on the horizon?
HCX plans many events and programs throughout the year and we strive to be a dynamic arts organization that provides our constituency with multiple ways to become engaged in HCX programs. In the spring of 2014 we are planning a two-month long festival celebrating Haitian culture – SELEBRASYON! will showcase a diverse array of artists in the performing, visual and literary arts in venues all across Brooklyn. STAY TUNED!
This year’s “Scene: Brooklyn” screening series commemorating the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy was a huge success, with 36 films and media projects screening over four nights at three terrific venues. The series was curated by BAC Film Program Coordinator Nick Shimkin, with help from Film Program Assistant Nelson Lassiter.
We would like to extend a special thanks to our partner venues: Made in NY Media Center by IFP, UnionDocs, and Galapagos Art Space as well as Angela Hardenburg and Endless Picnic for tech and DVD mastering and Erik Fuller and Sam Cornwall for photography. Take a look at the event photos!
At our “Shorts Slam” on Monday October 28 – our sole night dedicated to impressive non-Sandy narrative and animated work – the short drama “A Wedding Day,” directed by Anthony Nicolau/ written by Sara Gozalo, was voted the Audience Choice Award winner.
The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) generously donated a year-long Individual Membership for the winner. BAC is grateful to IFP for their support of local filmmakers, as well as for providing us with an incredible opening night venue: their brand new “Made in NY Media Center”
IFP is in the midst of their 2013 Member Drive, and we encourage you to join their community of filmmakers and storytellers.
Join IFP at 20% Off to Receive New Member Benefits & 30+ Spirit Award Screenings!
In conjunction with the launch of the new Made in NY Media Center by IFP, the nation’s oldest and largest community for independent storytellers has announced a host of new signature series and benefits for members. Join IFP by 11/15 with code MEMB13 to receive 20% off annual Individual Membership — now with more benefits than ever, including invites to screenings, discussions, case studies, meetups, a subscription to Filmmaker Magazine, and more. See a complete list of member benefits, and to join today.