I have settled back in New York City and jumped right in with Mateo, the organizer at Make the Road New York who is hosting my screenprinting project. I worked with Mateo last year to build a screenprinting shop in the basement of the Queens office of the organization. One of the most exciting and challenging elements of this years project is that we are planning to expand across the boroughs to teach screenprinting workshops to the Youth Power Project participants in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island as well as Queens. Screenprinting is not the most typically the most mobile art practice so this will be an exciting endeavor.
In addition to the Youth Power Projects we have plans to print with Make the Road’s adult leadership school and to do an outdoor print event at Bushwick pride.
So far I have spent my time working from Queens connecting with the various youth leaders to help them develop designs with the youth at the various locations. The biggest challenge has been scheduling with so many different people in different places. I imagine as the project develops we will end up taking different approaches depending on the the number of youth at each location and the amount of time they can spare.
One of the highlights of this week was attending the 7th Annual TransLatinx march hosted by Make the Road. Last year I did a screenprinting workshop with the TransLatinx group that meets at the office so it was great to see familiar faces and feel the energy of that powerful community. Many of the Youth Power Project members also attended the march and it was a good space to talk to them about the designs they are working on for our project.
As designs slowly come together Mateo passes them along to me so I can prepare them for printing. For example this image was made in pencil by the Adult Leadership school. In order for us to eventually expose it to a screen before our printing day with them in two weeks I opened the image in photoshop to make it grayscale, to bolden the lines, capitalize the “D” at Mateo’s suggestion and space the words apart a little. I have been doing a lot of similar work the past few days.
I am looking forward to next week when I will begin preparing the silkscreens in the basement printshop. This will require stretching new mesh around the frames with a staple gun and coating them with photo-emulsion. Depending on the availability of the Queens youth, those who are especially interested in learning the complete process of screenprinting will join me to stretch and coat screens.
Alright! I’ve officially settled into this fellowship for the summer. I would say that the “honeymoon phase” of the summer has finished, which comes with some perks, a couple learning lessons, and, as always, some shiny examples of my latest projects!
I feel like this period is defined by consistency. I’ve established a consistent schedule, and become comfortable enough with my supervisors and coworkers to tweak what times I can come in and leave the office. I’m really thankful that this type of flexible scheduling exists at the city level, and speaks a lot to the progressive nature of this department.
Part of this flexibility has come out of my most recent project – fieldwork in the major commercial corridors of the city, identifying possible locations for bike racks.
Feeling very official with my city-provided clipboard. The second map shows all the places I have gotten to survey. Doing this all by bike has been a really good workout and a really good way to explore the city.
This project has taken me all over Providence, allowing me to see wards, streets, and communities that I never knew existed! RISD is a prestigious and innovative institution, but this often times mean its community can be a bubble. Because of this, I’m really thankful that I have gotten the opportunity to explore Providence in this way, at this stage of the fellowship, to build a broader mental map of the city I am designing for.
I personally believe that experiencing the breadth of your city firsthand is fundamental to good urbanism, for civic professionals and citizens alike. I also believe that cars are actively detrimental to those experiences; Making neighborhoods blend together to the drivers while compromising the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists who seek those experiences. One of my biggest takeaways from this project has been the awful impact that automobility has on our cities. Cars blow past me, honking at me for inconveniencing them from reaching speeds that can kill. But by no means is this the driver’s fault! Vital businesses like clinics, grocery stores, pharmacies, and discount stores are far away from where people live and work, yet often grouped together, two or three to the same block.
I’ve gotten into the habit of taking pictures on my phone during this project. Cities designed around cars have a lot of places that no one would choose to go. However, I wanted to highlight places that I thought had interesting colors or configurations that with some small interventions might be more inviting and useful to humans.
My last and longest term project has been the traffic education campaign that I mentioned in the last post. I am now just putting on the final touches and integrating the Spanish translations, and then we will be getting ready to build a landing page on the Providence site and begin sharing on social media.
I’m really happy with how these turned out. I think the visual language is both eye-catching and referential to traffic signs / signals, and I’ve really enjoyed thinking about multilingual design (something that’s really important for city-distributed resources like these!)
I think I’m still struggling to think about how to distribute these beyond the social media follower base of the city. The difficulty here is a lack of budget for the project, meaning I have to stay digital with it (printing can get expensive fast!). Let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas for further reaching digital distribution!
That’s all the project news I’ve got for you. On a personal note though, today is my 21st birthday! It’s a perfect day for it. Friday the 13th is actually an auspicious day for lots of Pagan belief systems (its unlucky connotations are patriarchal and Christian dogma). Not only that but its also just a Friday! Definitely lucky that my first foray into drinking culture falls on a day where I don’t work tomorrow 😉
I’ll post pics from tonight when I have them!
Thanks for reading! Until next time.
// micah epstein //
Landing in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, I was both nervous and excited about my upcoming internship with Karam Foundation. I had never been to Turkey and was curious about the culture and environment. Istanbul turned out to be a bigger city than I had imagined, spread across the Bosphorus with an Asian side and a European side. The Karam offices are located on the European side, quite a commute from touristic areas and the Asian side. Overall Istanbul has over 15 million inhabitants and I could certainly feel them around me at all times. The amount of people is truly overwhelming, and I say that having grown up in a dense and crowded city.
Karam Foundation is a non-profit organization based in the US and operating internationally. One of their many projects is Karam House, a STEAM based workspace for refugee kids. There is a Karam House in Reyhanli, Turkey and the organization is soon going to launch Karam House Istanbul as part of a larger plan to expand to Jordan and Lebanon too. Before my arrival, the team had already located a building to be transformed into Karam House Istanbul. The building is a four story house that is classified as a historic building, meaning modifications are limited to the existing structure and spaces. I have been helping design the space and prep it for the upcoming launch. The internship started out by visiting the building with the team to assess the space. Going room by room, we allocated the required functions within the spaces and discussed where some construction is needed. During the course of the first couple of weeks, we met with the landlord and lawyer to get approval on the changes that were to be done. We also visited furniture stores to get an idea of prices and manage the budget and our expectations appropriately. Simultaneously, I worked on developing the drawings of the building and organizing the spaces. Interviews were also being conducted for staff positions as well as construction staff, in which I participated at times. It has been exciting to be a part of the team that works on different aspects of Karam House at once. The pressure has been significant with the launch scheduled in September, however the people and the city are both inspiring.
For the time being, I work out of the office with the team. They are mostly Syrians that have been living in Turkey for the past few years. They work in a positive atmosphere despite the pressures of adapting to a new culture and the stress of constant work. They have been very welcoming and helped me fit right in, even offering tips and suggestions on important places to visit in the city and how to navigate it efficiently. Over the weekend, I took some time to visit some architectural landmarks. I visited the Blue Mosque as well as the Haghia Sophia. As an architect, I was fascinated with the structure and the attention to detail during the design of these mosques. I also spent some time walking the busy streets and the famous Istiklal Street, where I found plenty of inspiration for both Karam House and my ongoing work at RISD.
I have been in Philly for 11 days now acclimating very fast. Everyone along the way has been extraordinarily kind and helpful; as I was navigating the subway here, I accidentally left the station at the wrong stop and the transit employee let me back in for free. 🙂
My project has had a few changes which was predicted, however the shape is something completely foreign to me. I had originally proposed to host an art exhibition and now I am in charge of a symposium for 4 artists here in Philly. I really think this is the best thing that could have happened (right now anyways) because I now am forced to learn a new format in which to give the ideas of my art practice to an audience. Along the way though, I have met many arts organizers and artists who have given me resources and encouraging words to not only make my symposium happen at the end of august, but my original proposal for an art exhibition as well.
The NGO I’m working with, Women’s Campaign International, has been very supportive of my project, but one struggle I have is that in their nonstop dedication and effort to their various missions around the globe, I am taking on some of the office work to meet deadlines. The problem isn’t that I have to be doing the extra work, but I want to help them so badly because their causes seem so much more important than what I’m doing!!! For example; They are working with Bill Siemering (who helped start NPR, and All Things Considered), in Tanzania to set up a radio network that is all female operated and all female broadcasters. 80% of farm workers in Tanzania are female, and this would be content for these women BY these women, giving them technological skills they can build off of and use for whatever they like in the future.
I Currently have 2 Philly based women identifying artists who have agreed to be on the panel:
I have met with them both and they are <3 absolute S2 dumplings <3 🙂
They have deep roots in art institutions so for balance I am currently working on finding some craft/outsider artists, or women who have never been to an art institution/are less established.
For now its a whirlwind of tasks and research that seems endless, but Something kindof beautiful happened yesterday that made me feel really good: I had just gotten back from NY by bus, and upon arriving back to Philadelphia, I was greeted with a gospel choir singing on the Independence Hall Lawn. I got off the bus and walked 20 feet to the concert where I sat and enjoyed the music (and honestly cried a little because music just really moves me and I was exhausted from NY). The experience left me even more in love with Philadelphia then before, and feeling so happy fortunate to be where I am and doing what I’m doing.
To further the conversation of Afrofuturism and the Afrofuture, I traveled to Charles Town Jamaica to attend and present at the Tenth Annual Charles Town International Maroon Conference, Maroons and Indigenous Peoples: Towards a Sustainable Future.
The Maroons, much like the Exodusters were some of the first Afrofuturists. The Jamaican Maroons are descendants of maroons, Africans who escaped from slavery to establish free communities in the hills of the eastern parishes of Jamaica. The maroons escaped strategically and unapologetically to return to their roots and way of life. Their traditions remain in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica.
In the coming days I will host the first of a series of Afrofuture workshops with the community with the African Alliance of Rhode Island. This workshop series will engage with members of the community young and old on their visions of the future through the lens of people of African heritage. My journey to a Maroon Village served as both a precursor to these workshops and also an opportunity to gain more information to share with others in regards to the visions of our ancestors. One of my goals working with the African Alliance of Rhode Island is to broaden the conversation amongst all people of African heritage on what the Afrofuture can be. This conference helped me make strides toward this vision.
The Maroon Conference was an enriching experience that I was eager to share with others. Being amongst a community with such longevity based on their defiance against the oppressive control that plagued them once before was the most compelling experience I have had thus far. From the music, spirituality, food and people, the Maroon people showed me how the norms of African heritage can exist in a community. Each day was more exciting than the next and I learned a great deal about the people who designed and built their environment for themselves. I was encouraged, inspired and grateful to have had such an amazing time. After my time here, I hope to spread the word about the goodness of this festival and the kindness of the people in this village.
We can all learn from the Maroon people. Though they had an uphill battle, through perseverance and self-determination they were able to carve out a path to an autonomous life, a life built around their design, their governance and their surveillance.