Local art collective Republic will be hosting a fundraising event at Le Grand Dakar this Friday! Proceeds will go to the Gisimba orphanage in Rwanda, which sees that its children attend school and become prepared to lead independent lives. Info is below, as well as an interview with Jason Voegel of Republic!
As the first in our ongoing REACHING OUT program of recurring charitable fundraising projects, REPUBLIC and CREATE FOR A CAUSE are working together to involve our local communities and New York City at large in a campaign to keep Gisimba Memorial Center equipped with the basic necessities it requires to stay in operation and to help provide the children who live there with basic healthcare, food and education. The proceeds from the campaign will also be distributed through the Memorial Center to support sustainable revenue generating projects within the Kigali community.
Friday, May 29th at Le Grand Dakar Restaurant in Clinton Hill Brooklyn, REPUBLIC will be hosting an extraordinary evening of celebration and fundraising with dance performance, music by Indoda Entsha percussion ensemble, food by master chef Pierre Thaim and drinks with a silent auction and exhibition of photography by contemporary Rwandan artists.
1. Jason, how long have you lived in the neighborhood?
I’ve been in this neighborhood with infrequent absence since 1991.
2. What brought you to Clinton Hill?
I went to high school overseas in Taiwan. The President of Pratt Institute at that time went on a tour of the international school systems in south east Asia and because I had already been very dedicated to making a run at a career in the arts and my dream was to move to NYC, he invited me to come to Clinton Hill and pursue my interests at Pratt. Until the day I moved here I had never been to New York City. So Clinton Hill was my introduction to NYC as a whole.
3. What has been the biggest change you've seen since moving here? Has it been a good change or a bad one?
Well obviously the standard of living has increased tenfold. Back in 91 there were very few social gathering points in the neighborhood outside of the school. Most people I knew spent their free time in the emerging Williamsburg community or in Manhattan. Over the years as the neighborhood grew, all of the community staples began to pop up. Places like Tillies and 5 Spot set in motion the big boom in restaurants and bars and coffee shops that lured people back to our neighborhood. Good community politics were at work too, getting rid of the crack dealers, reinvesting in the community school systems, fixing up streetlights and finding investors to fix up all the beautiful homes on Washington and Clinton were all huge steps in progress that were undeniably good.
4. You were once involved in Artspace NYC, based in the neighborhood. What was that organization about?
ArtSpace was conceived by Lauren Culbreth, Sean Mcloughlin and myself in late 2006 at 20 Grand Avenue between Flushing and Park. It was a great opportunity to experiment with a traditional gallery space in creative and inventive new ways. We produced about 23 or so exhibitions and events during our time there. Sean left the group in early 2008. Almost all of our exhibitions were in conjunction with local and national charitable organizations such as the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation or the Brooklyn Center Against Domestic Violence. The purpose was to try and engage our community through a marriage of our creative talents and the common concerns and passions of our fellow Brooklynites. We wanted to infuse our community with the same energy that turned DUMBO and Williamsburg in to models of the art world experience but do it in a different way. Our audience was diverse and became an unlikely opportunity for various individuals and social groups to come together on a regular basis when there would be no reason for them to meet otherwise. The quality of the exhibitions was the first priority. Once we managed to control that we really began to reach out and participate in the re-emerging art community in an exciting way. Through ArtSpace, Lauren and I produced film festivals, a young curator program, mixed media exhibitions and really cut our chops on production in those years. Eventually we gave up our gallery space and began to develop relationships with other venues and organizations to execute our projects at various locations throughout the city. Our collaborations with the Brooklyn Art Collective and several other very talented groups really helped to bring shape and form to the tranformation that turned ArtSpace into Republic.
Very quickly we realized that if we built a strong diverse team we could tackle multiple projects simultaneously and produce projects that we never could have done on our own. One by one the perfect people walked in to the picture at the right time and Republic was born.
5. The group has relaunched itself as Republic Brooklyn. How many people are involved, and what are the goals of the organization?
Well, the official name of the organization is Republic Worldwide with subdivisions in various locations. It is through the founding group, Republic Brooklyn that we drafted our mission and developed the formulas for our various projects. Republic AU based out of Sydney, Australia will be following up Republic Brooklyn very shortly when the go live in the fall. We are also working with a team in Manchester, England to launch Republic UK. The original founding members were Drew Kassl, Samantha Katz, Aubrey Almond, Lauren Culbreth, Konah Weisel, Ian McGivellry, Tyler Wriston, Jason Isch, Charles Merritt and myself. There are many other members that are active within the group in various other capacities. Specifically Marissa Forbes and Douglas Antonio are involved daily.
Republic was conceived as an assembly of individual artists, designers, entrepreneurs and representatives from autonomous art organizations, who have come together to produce exhibitions and events that transcend the sum of their unique parts. The principles of Republic fundamentally reflect the same ethical charter, dedication, and standard of quality that creative and critically thinking fraternities have organized themselves around for eons. We want to inspire like-minded people in varied communities through high caliber artistic programs, community service and creative curatorial projects. Our personal goals are to strengthen the character of our individual members by providing meaningful opportunities for fellowship, charity, creativity and leadership. We are trying to build something new so - much like Clinton Hill, we are constantly evolving and adapting new ideas.
6. How can local artists get involved with the organization?
Come and find out about all of the interesting things we do and find information about all of our members and collaborators at www.republicbrooklyn.com.
We are on all of the usual networking sites as well. Submissions for specific projects or collaborative ideas should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Come meet us this Friday May 29th at Le Grand Dakar on Grand Avenue between Lafayette and Clifton Place for our fund raiser collaboration with Create For A Cause. Dance, Music and Art with a silent auction to benefit the Gisimba Memorial Center Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda
7. Is Clinton Hill a good neighborhood for artists to live and make a living? Why or why not?
Well as someone who spent the majority of his time in Clinton Hill as a struggling artist, the neighborhood has always been a melting pot of creative energy. However, for the longest time everyone I knew worked in the city (Manhattan) and lived in Clinton Hill. It’s really great to see so many new neighborhood based businesses and organizations emerge over the last several years. When ArtSpace NYC was operating our gallery out of 20 Grand we were amazed at the diversity and numbers of the other creative productions blooming all around us. I think there is a sense now among all of the Clinton Hill community that something has changed for the better. It’s a feeling that the community is getting stronger by working together.
8. What's your favorite local hangout?
Although the germ for Republic has been tossing around in my head for years it was at Vesper Bar & Lounge on Myrtle Avenue that open conversation about forming the group and the induction of the various members of the board occurred. So that place rocks. I’ll tell you what though, Le Grand Dakar and Brooklyn Public house are my new two summertime favorites.
9. Would you change anything about the neighborhood if you could? If so, what?
You know I really think this neighborhood is in a constant state of evolution. It’s really a shining example of a neighborhood getting it’s act together over a long patient time. I think we are on the right track and any things I could ever want to change about Clinton Hill could easily be achieved through continued collaboration and partnerships among the people in our community.
10. If you were a flavor of ice cream, what would you be and why?
I would be the cone. Somebody has to be.
Seriously though pistachio is my game. I think I was asked this question once in a job interview.