Markita Miler is our 2016-17 teaching artist for Youth POWER (Power Organizing for Winning Explorations of Resistance) Lab, The Laundromat Project’s after-school program at Brooklyn Community Arts & Media High School (BCAM). this opportunity is structured to equip young people with the creative tools, civic engagement skills, and confidence necessary to envision and take action in service of a better world.
What is your bio in one sentence?
I am a designer and creative thinker who approaches all things with passion, and studied fashion design and footwear at Pratt
Can you tell us about your relationship with your neighborhood (or a neighborhood), and how it may have shifted over the years?
I have resided in Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy for 12 years, in the same apartment for 8 years. I used to design footwear in corporate America, and I decided to leave since I realized that I’m here for more than just designing footwear. I wanted to give back to the community that I live in, so I started teaching art and design in an afterschool program in my neighborhood. I’ve been working directly with students now for about 4 years and my students always give me a breath of fresh air and a new perspective. My shift toward working with my community inspired me to start my own company called Kí-netics Art, through which I teach art in my community.
How did you get connected with The Laundromat Project as our YPL teaching artist?
Through James O’Brien, principal of BCAM. We met each other through mutual friends, and immediately connected on all things art and design and a month later he reached out to have me interview for this opportunity. He felt I would be a perfect fit for the model materials students, who are working on this project.
What most inspires your creative practice as a fashion designer and as an artist?
Exploring, traveling around the world, and going on adventures and getting lost. When you travel to a new place you see new things and it forces you to pay attention to detail simply because it is not your normal practice and daily experiences. It is through those details I am inspired to create.
I work with the masses on a daily basis through my work as a creative thinker and I consider myself more a footwear designer though I also studied apparel design in school.
Much of your work is around footwear design. What is the most interesting or a favorite project you’ve worked on?
I used to travel to China all the time. It was a second home to me and I stayed out there for a month at a time. During one of my one-month trips, I was able to lock down three major design accounts and put an entire design plan together during that time. I was back and forth between Shanghai and Dongguan, working closely with the factories doing prototyping and pattern corrections, and was able to see my creative thoughts come to life all in one month. While in Shanghai, I also met an amazing friend who now visits me in New York, so I made a new friend there as well.
What has been a highlight so far from your experience working with the students at BCAM?
The students and I have been working around the subjects of the Black Lives Matter Movement and gentrification within Brooklyn, and what it looks like to the residents who have been there for a while and the newer ones moving in. For one of our assignments, we went on a blindfolded guided tour and the students had to focus on sounds, smell, and touch. Bed-stuy is where their school is situated, and some of students are from the area, so they had an opportunity to experience the neighborhood in a completely different way. Their senses besides sight were heightened and they were able to make a lot of comparisons between their neighborhood and others despite being blindfolded. For example, the students went into a bodega that was gentrified and noticed that it wasn’t the typical Brooklyn bodega they were familiar with, and they instantly felt a disconnect despite not having their sense of sight. The students feel that Bed-Stuy isn’t considered part of the “real Brooklyn” anymore, and it was interesting to hear their perspectives through this exercise.
What is your favorite book, film, and / or album about NYC?
“Do the Right the Thing” by Spike Lee. The film is centered in the heart of Bed-Stuy and I live one block away from where it was filmed. The storyline is still very much relevant to today’s issues and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Free-association—tell us the first word that comes to mind:
A Safe Space