2022: What we did & why we did it

Dear friends, neighbors, and colleagues,

FAB was founded 21 years ago by artists and cultural organizations to fight their own displacement from the Lower East Side. We’ve never lost our sense of kinship to those who feel threatened or marginalized by neighborhood change.

In the community we dream of everyone has multiple opportunities to fully participate in arts and culture, our neighborhood is a home to a diversity of thriving cultural organizations, the many cultural legacies of LES peoples are honored and shared, and the arts are an integral part of our everyday lives.

To have this kind of inclusive and vibrant community, we must move towards greater cultural equity.

FAB’s vision to advance cultural equity in the Lower East Side is focused on four core strategies…

1. Create new and strengthen existing opportunities for inclusive cultural participation
2. Expand community access to and use of open space
3. Nurture and sustain local engagement, collaboration and stewardship
4. Honor the multiple histories and cultures of the LES

We are holding ourselves accountable to this vision. As 2022 closes, we want to share how we’ve been working to put these values into practice.

We hope you’ll find something you want to cheer on with a donation, join in on, apply to, commit to, or come out for next year!

With joy and gratitude for your friendship and support,

Core Strategy #1: How we created new and strengthened existing opportunities for cultural participation in 2022

We activated two neighborhood Open Streets (Avenue B at Tompkins Square Park and East 4th Street between Second Ave & Bowery) from April to October. Every week we offered free live music – from salsa to jazz to original composers & beyond – and hands-on arts activities such as collage, sun printing, and mural painting, as well as pop-up programs by local cultural organizations.

We led the second year of the LES Young Artists of Color Fellowship in partnership with Downtown Art. Ten fellows, ages 18-26, convened for four months, meeting with established POC artists, building themselves a network of support, and organizing a public exhibit of their work in June 2022. Many fellows have gone on to work with FAB as production assistants, art workshop leaders, and commissioned artists.

We presented an active ‘reading room’ for the Staying Power project by artist Ariana Faye Allensworth as a culmination of her FAB commission. Over several months, Ariana collected stories and photos from LES NYCHA tenants as part of her ongoing initiative to build a print and online publishing platform dedicated to amplifying a people’s history of public housing.

We continued our work with immigrant elders at University Settlement, working towards a public storytelling, mapping, and walking tour of the LES created by seniors. Mapping and project design is by artist Jaclyn Reyes, and artist/oral historian Antígona González has been leading the interview and story collection.

We dreamed up and finally built the ‘FABmobile’ – giving it its first preview at Family Day at Baruch Houses. A mobile arts station built on an electric cargo trike to resemble a festive caravan, the FABmobile features commissioned artwork from Coco Lin (a young LES artist and former Fellow) and will be fully activated in 2023.

Core Strategy #2: How we expanded community access to and use of open space Core Strategy #3: How we nurtured and sustained local engagement, collaboration, and stewardship

We worked with local partners to activate and create safety in SDR Park through weekly summer arts activities for children the ROAR Festival and we advocated with neighbors for new city investment and restoration of the Stanton Building as a community center.

We organized the LES Arts Open House weekend as part of Open House NY in October.  20+ local arts and culture organizations by opening their doors, holding free workshops and tours, offering art exhibits and performances — welcoming many first time visitors into their spaces.

We piloted a new arts market on the Avenue B Open Street inviting local artists and artisans to share and vend their work.

We continued to support FAB Member organizations, 45+ local arts and culture organizations, by bringing folks together to connect with elected officials, boosting their visibility, and supporting their community engagement efforts in the LES.

We provided 1000+ hours of affordable and subsidized workspace to artists and arts organizations for rehearsal and performance through partnerships with Downtown Art, IATI, Teatro Circulo, and Rod Rodgers Dance Company.

FAB has made its home at Downtown Art, which is currently going through significant renovations on the upper two floors, and we are excited to take on managing the new studio, theater, and office (with working kitchen) upon its launch in 2023.

We produced the 2nd LES Community Culture Day on Avenue B, curated by the members of the Lower East Side Community Culture Council, and featuring dance, music, spoken word, and art installations by dozens of local artists.

Core Strategy #4: How we honored the multiple histories and cultures of the Lower East Side in 2022

We organized the 9th year of LES History Month in May. Over 75 cultural and community groups and small businesses hosted a variety of public events, exhibits, tours, and learning opportunities. Celebrations proudly featured Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other community histories of the LES.

We held the LES Community Hero Awards to recognize community members whose contributions have been deeply meaningful and yet are often the ‘unsung’ heroes of the neighborhood. The awards were presented at the Clemente Center and nominations came from local organizations and residents.

We redesigned the People’s LES website with artist Jacyln Reyes. The People’s LES website, which we first launched in 2017, is a growing archive highlighting a ‘people’s history’ of the Lower East Side.

We launched a new commission for the unmarked African Burial Ground at Chrystie Street with M’Finda Kalunga Garden, home to the longest running Juenteenth celebration in the LES, because the history and presence of Black communities in the Lower East Side are mostly hidden or unacknowledged and require new and creative methods for being shared with the general public.