When I reflect on the presence of Art in my life, I can only say it was always there. My mother is an artist and my father is a scientist who loves art. Our vacation consisted of always visiting old historic european places and museums. We appreciated art as a family.
Growing up, everyone always encouraged me to use my imagination and participated in my crazy inventions, theatre productions, ballet choreographies and costume making projects. They encouraged the development of my imagination and creativity by empowering me.
My community involvement began at fourteen. As a student in high school, I spent an entire summer of environmental volunteering, riding bikes through my hometown in Spain, trying to stop uneducated farmers from starting fires that would burn the forest, and identifying illegal spills. Later, I went on to France to work on a project where we built a recreation park out of an old castle and restored a historical washing place at a little lost town in the middle of Normandy. When I look back, I realize I’ve always been involved in some kind of community-advocacy roll.
Living life is a traumatic experience for most of human beings. If you find the way to channel frustration, ideas, creativity, imagination, fears, instead of burying them in the depths of your soul, you can overcome everything.
Whatever kind of Art form that attracts you, that’s the one is going to save you from being angry, frustrated, or incomplete.
I landed in New York eight years ago and never imagined that I could be a part of something like BxArts Factory, a project that brings together both of my passions, Art and Community. I believe Art means nothing without Community and vice versa.
By bringing art to Bronx households, I hope that everyone we work with feels as empowered and free as I felt growing up.
I’m proud to sit on the Advisory Board for the BxArts Factory, because the arts have played such a major role in my life.
I grew up in a place, and at a time where segregation in schooling was a reality. The elementary school I attended was a mix of mainly black, Native American, and Mexican American, with a few lower income whites. The teachers were all white, and most seemed much more concerned with disciplining children, rather than teaching them. Students were often yelled at and even beaten.
I had a hard time reading, which I found out later was the result of dyslexia. This often led to embarrassment in class, which I tried to cover up, like most kids, by being a class clown. My teachers didn’t see that I was struggling, but chalked it up to me being 'stupid' and undisciplined. So, I was yelled at, and at times beaten.
By the time I reached Junior High, my self-esteem was very low, and I wanted to drop out of school. I got in fights, and even joined a gang for short time. But then something amazing happened, I took my first art class, and my teacher saw real talent in the pictures I drew, and painted. They were often of bleak winter scenes, and people with arms and legs balled up and confused. She found something very expressive in them, and would ask me about what they meant. Eventually, she inspired me to paint happier pictures. I even ended up making a green, red poke-a-dot, paper mache' dragon, that she put on display.
Art gave me a voice that I didn’t have before; It opened a door inside me that I didn’t even know existed. For the first time, I had a teacher who believed in my voice.
Not long after this, I taught myself to read. In high school, I went from hovering around the bottom of the class, to hovering around the top, which landed me an acceptance into a good college.
Art, and a good teacher of art, changed my life.
So, now I do what can to share the arts with others, whether it is the visual arts, or literary arts. The BxArts Factory is all about doing this, and that is why I’m involved with them. I’m proud to sit on the Advisory Board for the BxArts Factory, because the arts have played such a major role in my life.
Art was recording music from the radio to later write the lyrics on pause and play mode in my composition book of rhymes. Art was laying on the bed for hours staring into the ceiling wondering "what is life" and my purpose as I naively scavenged through pages of the Word searching for understanding, the answer. Art was Bob Ross's happy little trees and admiring my name done in my dads signature graffiti. Art was the depth of my mothers thoughts hand written between layers of loose leaf --Art is my Life-Art became me... A kid who grew up Bronx, filled with beauty, edge and tenacity during the great 90's.
BxArts Factory began with a vision in mind. That vision is the collection of the experiences of an amazing group of people, including me. I have seen how art and community made a difference in my life as I made The Bronx my new home in 1997. I wrote, and served and that connected me to this new community. It helped me cope with the new world and language around me. Art was familiar, it was a language that I knew how to speak, it was a recognizable force that drove me closer to achieving my dreams. I saw myself in art, in a time when I didn’t belong any place or any time. Art help me remain sane, navigate my soul, my mind and my feelings as I suffered prejudice, was misguided, taken advantage off, or made fun off. I knew where to go to feel safe. Art took me back to that moment when I wrote my first poem and I loved it, took me back to the sounds of waves, of the wind, the smells of fresh brewed coffee, took me back to my mother and father’s voices, art took me back where I belong, now.
My father was a teacher, a farmer and an artist. My mother created beautiful dresses, arts and craft projects, macramé, baking goods and work as a case worker. Both my parents surrounded us with creativity. I created many memories with them. I watched my father work the clay that he collected from the banks of the river in Maunabo, and made beautiful vases. I saw how my mother turned a piece of fabric into beautiful master pieces. The patience and the love will forever stay with me. I will always remember that my parents wanted us to learn and create with them. My siblings and I became little apprentices. We worked with clay, we painted, we baked, we cut fabric, we went to collect materials to create art to the beach or country side. We were all a creative family. That was part of my upbringing. I just can’t imagine a life without art.
BxArts Factory is born out of that understanding. We know first-hand the power that art has in the lives of the misplaced. Art does make a difference in the lives of those that create it and in the lives of those that need to experience it. No one should be denied the right to create.
We had an amazing year thanks to so many supporting artists and community members! We thought it would be great to remember 2015 with some of the best moments! So read up as we count down the #Bestof2015
10 - Our Launch Party! We had a blast at our launch event and here we are with the winner of our online contest! It was a time to remember and the beginning of a great year for BxArts Factory!
9 - Our next memory is from our art exhibition Innuendos. 10 Bronxites, that happened to be amazing women, presented their art work during this month long exhibition that included panels and performances. This photo was taken during our closing event at the Andrew Freedman Home!
8 - Our 1st Fundraising and 12x12 art exhibition at the Gun Hill Brewery was a blast! This was absolutely one of the best moments this year!
7 - Our second 12x12 fundraiser at the BronxArtSpace! We always love working with Linda at her gallery!
6 - Our Summer Mural Match with amazing artists KayLove and Giannina! It was great to engage so many children in art activities while these 2 ladies work on their murals, live!
5 - El Barrio Pinta came to the Bronx! We had a blast at the Bronx Beer Hall in Arthur Ave. Thanks to Junior and Gia for the fun night!
4 - Another awesome summer event, Art at the Bar! Artists painted live models and enjoyed cold beer at the Gun Hill Brewery!
3 - In August we were part of the amazing Boogie on the Boulevard! Grand Concourse was closed for pedestrian enjoyment! We had about 12 artists painting decks, live, as we turned the BxArts Factory block into an outdoor gallery and studio!
2- Film Screening of Umbrella House and Journey at the Lincoln Hospital!
1 - We were thrilled to work with WHEDco and BMHCLab in creating the murals on 163rd and Melrose! Here the amazing artists Ralph Serrano, Karen KayLove Pedrosa, Vanezza Cruz and Laura Alvarez.
Extra Moment: Even though we said 10 moments, we couldn't leave out our awesome anniversary event! Our Auction/Anniversary dinner was a great time with friends and supporters!
We at BxArts Factory would like to thank everyone that lend it a hand and resources to make this year happen. It is a blessing to say that we were able to survive our 1st year (hahahah) We know that you will help us cheer to many more, as we welcome 2016! Happy New Year to all!
Today we are featuring the story of how two artists met via our Newsletter! At BxArts Factory we love when we hear stories of collaboration and new relationships formed as a result of the artists meeting through us!
We have heard many awesome stories like this and we thank Ijeoma and Gia for letting us share theirs!
I live a stressful life. As everyone reading this knows - behind every struggling artist, is a stressful day job! I also live a blessed life as I am actually able to make use of the degree I am still paying for! This summer those two adjectives - stressful and blessed - collided in my backyard. I'll back up a bit. As part of the blessed part of my life, in my mid-twenties, I was able to survive on Top Ramen for a year to save up to purchase my home. Since then, I have been ever so slowly renovating my 115+ year home. This summer I finally landed on decorating my back yard. After endless trips to Ikea, and bleeding on said Ikea furniture, as I put it all together myself, I finally got to the point where I needed to address the huge concrete patio. Being a child of the 90’s I of course wanted to do some old school graffiti! Why not tag my backyard?! I reached out to all of the Bronx based graffiti artists I could Google. Unfortunately, they did not reach back. So I was left staring at this concrete patio that was staring back, daring me to make it something beautiful.
A few stressful days later I am checking my email and stumble upon the BxArts Factory newsletter. Of course I scroll through to see what I have missed while bleeding over my Ikea furniture, and there it is! It was the love child of Francis Bacon and Georgia O’Keefe. It was a picture of a mural painted by Giannina Gutierrez! I found my artist, now if I could only convince her to take on my small project. Out goes the slightly frantic email asking her to consider the project. Thankfully, it only took the 748th refreshing of my email for me to see Gia’s reply that she was interested in coming to see the patio. If she thought I was both a bit weird and the size of the patio (roughly 20’ long x 9’ wide) was a bit much, she played it off well. She was interested in flexing her creativity on more than just a vertical canvas. We settled on the price of the commission (pay your artists people, even if it means living on box macaroni and cheese for six weeks!) and the time table to create the piece. I made a sure to have the space prepared ahead of her begin date. Working nights and weekends, armed with industrial strength bug repellent, she made art where there was once only concrete. With dogged determination and unceasing creativity Gia created the beautiful piece that I am now once again blessed to live with every day. You never know what amazing opportunities will arise from the BxArts Factory newsletters!
Ijeoma D. Iheanacho
As we approach our art exhibition opening for Innuendos, we asked the artists participating in the show, about the women in history that had inspired them. This series of Facebook informational posts strives to honor the women that so diligently and bravely lived and worked before us to bring knowledge, freedom, wisdom, awareness, justice, creativity, strength and a river of inspiration to the women today.
The Bronxite women participating in this exhibit wanted to honor these women as we celebrate Women History Month in March. These women represent different races, times in history, languages and geographical spaces but a significant part of the women that inspired us further more pursue the attainment of the Civil Rights and Justice for all members of this world.
Among the names mentioned by our artists we have: Ida B. Wells, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Catlett, Julia De Burgos, Olympia De Gouges, Louise Bourgeois, Minerva Mirabal and Simone de Beauvior!
To learn more about these women visit our Facebook Page or click on the resource links below:
Bringing Art to Every Household.