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Kelly Street Collaborative: 5 Years of Community Building

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In 2014, The Laundromat Project collaborated with Workforce Housing Group, Kelly Street Garden, and Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association to transform a two-bedroom apartment on Kelly Street in the South Bronx’s Longwood neighborhood into a thriving creative community hub. Through artist studios, arts programming, and community partnerships, Kelly Street Collaborative was a physical and cultural space that helped The LP to be accountable to an anchor community. In December 2019, The LP transitioned out of our Kelly Street space. To honor these five years of relationship building and community art making, we organized a retrospective art exhibition at KSC, which is now available digitally here. Thank you Kelly Street!

Gina’s pelliza workshop, June 2019.

This place is an area off of the streets where my kid can come be a part of a collective that is positive. He can forget what’s going on in the streets; he can do arts and garden. It’s like a safe haven.

Kelly Street Community Member

When artists and communities collaborate towards a collective vision, creative community building is catalyzed, bringing about meaningful transformation and wellbeing. For the past five years, the Kelly Street Collaborative has served as a unique model that exemplifies the power which community organizing, creativity, and access to urban farming hold in building lasting community power.

The Kelly Street Collaborative has shaped a community in which members are interconnected and feel empowered to influence their neighborhood in creative and effective ways through art, culture and environmental stewardship, fostering community resilience and self determination.

The exhibition, Kelly Street Collaborative: 5 Years of Community Building, features selections from The Laundromat Project’s archive of photographs and objects. In addition, the exhibition contextualizes core values and contributions of the Kelly Street Collaborative through related printed and mix media materials. 

The exhibition guides us through pillars of creative community building on Kelly Street through the lens of The Laundromat Project. Offering insight into the processes of creative empowerment, embodied neighborliness, and an introduction to some of the many neighbors, partners and leaders who have made the experience of the Kelly Street Collaborative a warm and welcoming place that invites us to reimagine how community change occurs. 

Artist Sharon de la Cruz, Field Day 2016. Photo: Osjua A. Newton

Community Attunement

Community attunement and cross collaboration have been key elements that fuel creative community change. We recognize that the only way to ultimately build the world we want is through mutual support and collaboration. The Kelly Street Collaborative is a symbiotic net of relationships that are responsive to community rhythms, concerns, and growth. Together, we have  collaborated on numerous initiatives and programs from hyperlocal block parties and seasonal celebrations, to annual festivals that celebrate the resiliency of the South Bronx.

Supporting local initiatives and building relationships and networks throughout the neighborhood has been crucial in addressing community challenges and creating pathways for new visions to manifest. Through the years, these new visions have materialized in various forms of creative expression that activate essential interlocking parts: neighbors, relationships, and location.

Together, artists educators, and community members have organized around common dreams and issues to create a new vision for positive change.

Nikomeh at the water slide, Kelly Street Block Party, August 2017. Photo: Osjua A. Newton
Anyana Yankunu rehearsing, Kelly Street Block Party, August 2019. Photo: Abigaíl Montes
DJ Sunny, Sonya, Spud, and Robert dancing. Kelly Street Block Party, August 2019. Photo: Abigaíl Montes
DJ Sunny, Sonya, Spud, and Robert dancing. Kelly Street Block Party, August 2019. Photo: Abigaíl Montes

Life on the Block + The Value of Place

Community building and interconnectedness happens when the legacies and histories of people are valued. At The LP, we prioritize meeting people where they are and life at Kelly Street begins on the block, through the rich stoop culture that brings families, youth, and friends alike to build and co-create the culture of the neighborhood.

The block has become a platform for conversations, artmaking, performances, cooking demos, and movement building. And all of these activities have taken place with the help of elders, partners, legacy builders, community leaders, and mostly importantly, neighbors.

Similarly, the most meaningful interactions between neighbors, artists, and educators alike has happened by being rooted at street level and by working together to unleash the power of creativity to transform their surroundings. Through co-creation, we are able to generate, strengthen, and shape our communities.

The LP gave me a sense of pride of the Bronx and an opportunity to work in the Bronx. The LP allowed me to see myself within my community.

Kelly Street Artist-in-Residence
Tiana and youth dancing, Field Day 2014. Photo: Melissa Salas
Ayana Evans with youth, Field Day 2017. Photo: Osjua A. Newton
Patrick and his uncle Alberto, Field Day 2014. Photo: Melissa Salas

Creative Empowerment

In knowing that our creative visions, ideas, and actions can fuel new ways of making positive change in the world, the Kelly Street Collaborative has served as an incubator at the intersection of arts, wellness, and community organizing. Here at Kelly Street, each element is   intertwined with a determined intentionality that propels creative social change and transformation.

Through an abundance point of view, we know that we are many, we are more than enough, and that our communities encompass everything we need to work towards an equitable future. Much of the magic at the Kelly Street Collaborative has happened through gathering and supporting local Bronx-based artists, educators, and leaders by providing space and resources to co-create. 

Through the years, multiple Artists-in-Residence and Fellows of The LP’s Create Change program, as well as local Bronx-based artists, have helped shift strangers into a community of strong and resilient neighbors through art making. From creating statement jackets to immersive installations, to weaving collective community pellizas, each creative interpretation has helped to bring the community together and shape ever expanding paths for creative empowerment.

Gina’s pelliza workshop, South Bronx Culture Trail, June 2019
Installation, Ahmed Tijay Mohammed, 2017 Kelly Street Artist in Residence, August 2017
Sajata Epps, Natural Knitting Project Workshop, Field Day 2016. Photo: Osjua A. Newton

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