Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Community Feels Pride at Arts to End Violence Gallery Opening

Youth artist Dylan Quow with artist Ron Taylor, who donated use of his gallery for
Arts to End Violence. Photo by Andrew Hinderaker.

Over 150 proud people enjoyed 52 pieces of art that were displayed at the third annual Arts to End Violence festival at the Ron Taylor Gallery on St. Johns Place between Kingston and Albany. Community residents, guests and artists mingled in the gallery, on the sidewalk, and in the Greater Restoration Baptist Church, where anti-violence advocate Pastor Ken Bogan sang with his jazz band.  Youth Organizers from our YO S.O.S. program, who helped promote and solicit art for the contest, welcomed guests at the gallery.

The art on display was a selection of the 102 pieces of art that were submitted to the Mediation Center by young people, adults, professionals, and novices for the contest. Youth art was judged by distinguished
Youth Organizers & YO S.O.S. Staff Photo by Isamar Valette
community leaders based on creativity and aesthetics, messaging, and personal statements. The winners will be announced by June 3rd, 2013, via Facebook and Twitter. All are encouraged to visit the gallery during the open hours through June 7th (see below). After the exhibit closes, some pieces will be hung in local businesses, such as barber shops, nail salons, and laundromats in order to keep the conversation about ending violence flowing.
Youth artist Kassandra DeJesus with her painting               

Arts to End Violence is an initiative of the Mediation Center and includes multiple events designed to use the arts to engage artists in the growing anti-violence movement in Central Brooklyn. The events are designed to create fun and creative opportunities for young people to express themselves and to use art to stimulate meaningful conversations about the impact of violence in the neighborhood, the causes of the violence, and the appreciation residents have for the positive aspects of the neighborhood. The next Arts to End Violence event will be a spoken word event, “Speak Your Peace,” held on June 5th at the Greater Restoration Baptist Church, 1156 St. Johns Place, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Mediation Center Director Amy Ellenbogen with youth
artist Armando Rodriguez. Photo by Isamar Valette
Mediation Center Director Amy Ellenbogen said, "It was a real pleasure to see the faces of pride and happiness that the guests and artists had during the gallery opening. There is so much talent here in the neighborhood that needs to get more attention. As we work with our neighbors to bring attention to the shootings and killings, we also shine the light on the abundant talent and gifts of the residents."

The exhibit will be open through the end of next week. All are invited to come see it during the following times:

Thursday, May 30: 2-6 p.m.
Friday, May 31: 2-6 p.m.
Saturday, June 1: Closed
Sunday, June 2: 1-5 p.m.
Monday, June 3: 4-8 p.m.
Tuesday, June 4: 4-8 p.m.
Wednesday, June 5: 2-6 p.m.
Thursday, June 6: 2-6 p.m.
Friday, June 7: 2-6 p.m.

If you would like to be involved in Arts to End Violence 2014, email us at

For more pictures of the event, see our facebook page!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Arts to End Violence Gallery Opening

The Arts to End Violence Gallery Opening has arrived! Come to the Ron Taylor Gallery at 1160 St. Johns Place (between Kingston and Albany avenues) tomorrow from 6:30 to 9pm to view beautiful anti-violence artwork submitted by adult and youth artists. Refreshments will be served, photo portraits  will be taken, and live music will be played.This free event will run rain or shine, and ALL ARE WELCOME! If you are not able to attend, the gallery will be open at select times until June 7th.

For a preview of the some of art in the gallery, click here to see our tumblr.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Neighbors Brave Rain to Celebrate and Play

Photo by Molly Cichy
Photo by Molly Cichy

Music. Barbeque. Dance. Dog shows. Puppet-making. Stilt-walking. Life-sized chess. Glitter and paint and bubbles galore. Over 500 community members were greeted by these exciting activities, and many more, at the Kingston Avenue Festival last Saturday. The day celebrated and brought together a neighborhood has now gone 83 days without a shooting. Despite the gray-skies, the festival-goers, including neighborhood residents, service-oriented organizations, youth groups, all engaged with the many activities and resources at the block party.

Activities and resources at the fair included over 15 arts & crafts interactive tables, over 40 resource agencies, several workshops, a free manicure station, and 25 performances. Jason Das, a Crown Heights artist, painted a live mural of the space, which had people on the street lining up for portraits. Lines also formed by the barbeque, where the S.O.S. team and volunteers grilled and distributed over 300 burgers and hotdogs to hungry festival-goers.

Photo by Andrew Hinderaker
Photo by Andrew Hinderaker

The soundtrack to the festival included steel pan from the Pan Sonatas, a drum circle led by Sam Bathrick, R&B performances from young, local talent like Tayahna Walcott who rapped, “Stop Bullying,” and DJing from BBox Radio. S.O.S. Outreach Worker Derick Scott emceed the event, saying into the loudspeaker, “Let’s put the neighbor back into the hood.”

Hosted in partnership with The Kingston Avenue Merchants Association (KAMA), the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the NYC Department of Transportation, this initiative illustrated the multiple, continued efforts to create and nurture safe spaces within Crown Heights. Joyce Robinson, owner of Better Choice Funding, and head of KAMA, stated, “We want people to see how merchants care for the community and its safety.”

As smiling and slightly soggy festival goers prepared to return home that evening, the BBox Radio DJ played closing songs like, “Cha Cha slide” and “Cupid Shuffle,” and a dance party broke out in the street. Marlon Peterson, associate director of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center surveyed the scene and said, “This event highlighted the goodness of this neighborhood. It brought everyone together, the merchants, young people, and showed how positive people here can be. It really brought a great vibe to these streets.”

This wonderful event would not have been possible without the cooperation of so many organizations, merchants, and volunteers. We owe many thanks to our partners in this event, and want to express our sincere gratitude to the volunteers who helped set up and clean up the event, take photos, hand out food, make arts and crafts, and everyone who contributed such a positive atmosphere.

To view more pictures from the festival, click here!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Kingston Avenue Festival is on SATURDAY!

The Kingston Ave Festival is this Saturday, May 18th, from 12-5pm. The Festival will be on Kingston Ave between Pacific and Bergen.

The Festival promises to be a day of excitement, featuring live music, dance, and arts activities, a life sized chess set, skateboarding, resource tables, a pie-eating contest, the Brower Park dog parade, an anti-violence art display, facepainting, and MUCH MORE! It will be a great event for children, teens and adults. There will be something for everyone! The Festival is a partnership of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, the Kingston Avenue Merchants Association, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the Department of Transportation. We hope to see you there!

If you are interested in volunteering to help with set-up, clean-up, or anything in between, please contact Ariana Siegel ar or 718-773-6886.

Friday, May 10, 2013

"We Can't Let Fear Rule Our Lives"

"We Can't Let Fear Rule Our Lives"

Second Community Conversation Examines Neighborhood Interactions Around Violence

More than 30 Community members came out to participate in a second S.O.S. “Community Conversation” on Wednesday, May 8th at Bethany Methodist Church. The event was second of three gatherings to discuss causes, effects and antidotes to urban violence. Wednesday night's conversation focused on analyzing common reactions to instances of high-level and low-level violence.

To examine these reactions, participants engaged in a role plays portraying two scenarios. The first was set in a grocery-store scene in which one shopper was profanely insulted by another shopper. The second scenario, set in an apartment building, involved one resident attempting to engage another in conversation about a shooting in front of the building the night before, and the second neighbor dismissively refuses to engage. Lively discussion followed, in which the entire group examined the interactions depicted in the role plays and shared insights.

Participants noted the many, complex barriers to community building in Crown Heights; yet several still emphasized the importance of simple, positive interaction. “We have to relate to each other as humans,” Tiffany Murray, an S.O.S. volunteer and faith-based leader, said. “We must be courageous, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We can’t let fear rule our lives.”

The conversation concluded with an examination of the benefits of direct short term action, as well as action that can transform the neighborhood's social culture to reduce the tendency toward violence.  Rabbi Bob Kaplan, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, commented, “It reminds me of the lessons of Smoky the Bear; it’s easier to prevent fires than to put them out.”

The third Community Conversation of this series will be held in June, with details to be determined. Click here to learn more about upcoming CHCMC/S.O.S. events in May, including our Arts to End Violence block party on May 18th and gallery opening on May 23rd.