Many arts organizations understandably seek press coverage in high-profile news outlets and art publications. But to cultivate a broader audience—especially one that may not have access to the internet—other channels may be more effective. Instead of printing show cards, Blanka Amezkua, who runs an apartment gallery in the South Bronx called AAA3A, posts notices about her exhibitions on the neighborhood’s light poles, which serve as informal community boards.
Years ago, the Bronx Filmmakers, a local group who met weekly at the BDC, gave a studio interview on WBLS, a black adult contemporary radio station. Within an hour, a number of people stopped in the gallery after having heard about it on the radio. This was an outlet the BDC would have never thought to approach. Although it’s been fortunate to receive coverage in places like NPR or Hyperallergic, the BDC has also made it a practice to pursue coverage by local TV and community newspapers.
Between segregation, political polarization, and technology that filters different information to different people, it can sometimes feel impossible to find common ground. Throughout my time in New York, I’ve witnessed fractious divisions, xenophobia, and outright prejudice of all kinds: Latinos decrying refugees; blacks decrying Mexicans; anti-black racism from Hondurans, Dominicans, and Chinese. I’ve seen class-based anxieties, too-well-meaning professionals and their patronizing assumptions of poor people, and the working-class activists who denounce the middle class. Nonetheless, I am optimistic that, with thoughtful planning and an expansive outlook, art spaces can be beacons of inclusion.
Here is one example, from early on in the BDC’s lifespan. In the summer of 2011, the Bronx Documentary Center hosted “Movies at Sundown,” a summer film series designed to introduce the newly formed organization to the neighborhood. Neighbors welcomed us with their recollections of the building, recalling its past lives as a candy shop, a record store, or the seedy nightclub where, one evening, a car crashed into the façade, prompting the owner to abandon the building completely.
People said it sat derelict for nearly 20 years. The surrounding neighborhood was just three subway stops from Manhattan, yet psychologically isolated from the rest of city. But on this warm August night, a local pastor gazed into the storefront window at a screening of an Oscar-winning documentary film. “You’re bringing the world to the Bronx, and the Bronx to the world,” he said.