Storytelling Fellow Destinee Forbes interviewed Gina Goico during the last month of her 2019 Kelly Street Residency. They talked about what she learned working with the Kelly Street community, the impact that the youth perspective has had on her art practice, practicing time management, and how she is more intentional about dedicating space specifically for her to create.
Destinee: Hello, hello! How are you? Really good to see you again in this space!
D: I am pretty sure the last time I saw you was in December of 2018 during a studio visit – so I’m sure so much has changed. Also, congrats on your residency with Smack Mellon, that is amazing!
G: Yes, yes. (laughter) I’m excited. It’s going to be a fun summer. And you know I don’t visit the Republic of Brooklyn that often. (laughter)
D: So in your first interview with us, you mentioned that you were excited to have a space that could host your creative ideas. What have you been able to accomplish in the Kelly Street space that has surprised you?
G: This year was my first year teaching full-time with the Department of Education and because of my limited free time it became more apparent that it was really important for me to have a studio space where I can create work that was dedicated solely to my art. The days I didn’t come to the studio I went directly home, and didn’t create. But setting aside time to come here was great because I was able to realize my ideas. I finally had the space where I could sit down and write a good proposal for the project to happen. The studio space gave me the space to sit down and think.
D: You must have been exhausted. How did you manage your time with that schedule?
G: Right now, I’m running on fumes. (laughter) With time management, I had to organize my schedule and prioritize to not over — cómo se dice — over
G: Overextend, yes. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be hosting workshops five times a month. (laughter) Maybe I shouldn’t be saying yes to everything that comes my way. So I learned my lesson, but it was good to see that I could do it, but I don’t think it was a healthy choice.
D: So, your work is based in social practice and community engagement. What did the incorporation of Kelly Street/LP events with your art practice teach you about the community?
G: Okay. It’s funny. When you do social practice, something that I’ve learned is that you do the planning and a lot of the things that you plan for don’t come to fruition. When you’re thinking about an art activity, sometimes it doesn’t happen, and it’s being able to be open to those things and being able to adapt and just ride the wave. I had this project about the documentation of the families in the area and something that I’ve really quickly realized is that it’s difficult in this community to have consistently the same people — like, if I do a workshop one day, having the same people come the next week is not consistent. That’s part of the community, and, you know, it’s understanding and catering to those needs. Also, a lot of the events that I thought of at the beginning were for mature audiences – not young kids. Also, I quickly realized right away that the kids are the ones that run this place.
D: Yes they do. (laughter)
G: Yes. And you need to serve them. Some days, they’re willing to do whatever I have in mind. Other days, they’re like, “I’m bored. I don’t want to do this.” And you’re like, “Let’s draw, then.” Because drawing always wins. Even when I would come to the space after school or even the weekends, it was sometimes just, like, talking and hanging, and that’s fine. That’s also part of the work, right? It’s not necessarily creating objects or creating and documenting things. It’s just connecting to people.
D: How did the youth perspective impact your work?
G: If anything, it affirmed my desire to be an educator, especially for younger kids. It makes me ask questions like, “How can I make my practice more holistic so that I can engage kids for longer. It forced me to think of ways to add to the experience of my work. This work is something that makes you humble. It’s like, “You know, whatever big ideas I have: sure, they can work in a short span, but engaging them in a community for such a long time? It’s a whole different thing.” So you need to innovate and keep those kids entertained. (laughter)
D: How does teaching inform or impact your practice or vice versa?
G: I teach high school – 9th and 10th grade. My students are mostly immigrants of color. I feel that with the 9th and 10th graders, I can be a little bit more real and direct. I can be, “Hey guys, you need to advocate for yourself because unfortunately society is not there for you right now. It’s not there, and we need to advocate for ourselves, and change stuff that we want to change. So, I’ve been trying to connect to them. Like, how can I make my teaching my activism. I’m from the Dominican Republic, and I was really privileged to go to private school in the D.R., and I know the problems with the education system in the D.R., but then I come here, and you see how clear-cut the districts work and how clearly the Department of Education is not thinking or serving them. Knowing and seeing that informs how I make work with the kids – still teaching them required content, but I’m interested in finding ways to support them, empower them beyond the required curriculum. Now I’m thinking about ways my art practice can serve that.
D: What has been a memorable moment for you during your residency here?
G: There have been a lot of things, and I’m thinking — with the tile workshop, “Unity in Abundance,” for example, it was nice seeing how such a simple activity brought people such joy. The workshop allowed for conversations about who we are and community. It was so simple and so great; everyone was painting. Then some people started doing some abstract — cómo se dice — shapes — and colors. I think at the end we had 10 people participating in the two workshops in total, 10 or 12. And I had 50 tiles.
D: So, when you first started doing the workshops, what did it feel like knowing that what you had planned was not going to actually go as planned? What did that feel like? Is there a moment of stress?
G: Part of being a teacher is understanding that you have control, but not really, and you need to know how to improvise and not take it personal. I remember one day I did experience one of those moments and I couldn’t instruct. I was just like, “This class is going to end. It’s okay. I’ll ride it out.” You know? “I’ve been teaching for six years; it’s okay.” Everything comes to an end, and if it doesn’t go according to plan, you just need to know how to improvise. That’s where painting and drawing always comes in. (laughter)
D: Do you have any ideas of what you envision next for your practice– or where you want your practice to go?
G: The cool thing about the summer off is I’m going to spend, like, eight hours at the studio every day just revising ideas. A year from now, I would like to have a more cohesive practice that is equal parts educational, activist, and artistic. I don’t know what that looks like yet.