Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens: Jennifer McGregor

A group of people looking up at the camera

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Kate Dodd, E. J. McAdams & Jennifer McGregor enjoy haiku installed in the ceiling lamps by E.J. and Jimbo Blachly as part of Kate’s Bay Ridge Tree Collection at the Bay Ridge Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Photo courtesy of E. J. McAdams.

Bay Ridge through an Ecological Lens is a multi-faceted public art exhibition hosted by Stand4 Gallery and presented in collaboration with ecoartspace

This interactive, public, community arts exhibition is curated by Jennifer McGregor, featuring artists  Rebecca AllanAaron AsisChris CostanKate Dodd,  Peter EdlundKristin Reiber-HarrisEllen Coleman-IzzoSergey Jivetin,  Nathan KensingerRita LeducChristopher LinNikki LindtE.J. McAdamsJimbo Blachly Nancy Nowacek in collaboration with Carla Kihlstedt and Carlos Alomar,  Benjamin Swett and filmmakers:  Aaron Assis, Nate DorrSean Hanley, Nathan Kensinger, Nikki Lindt, Emily Packer and Lesley Steele, and Kristin Reiber-Harris

It consists of nature walks and community interventions in the gallery and various locations throughout the Bay Ridge community from April 15 through June 17, 2023. Art Spiel will feature a series of interviews related to this project throughout its duration, here with curator Jennifer McGregor.

How did this project start and how has it evolved?

Ample time, enthusiastic artists and strong neighborhood ties are key to this collaboration. In late 2021 Patricia Watts founder/curator of ecoartspace (a platform for artists addressing environmental issues) invited me to curate an exhibition with members for Stand4 Gallery in Brooklyn. After meeting with Jeannine Bardo, founder and artistic director, we envisioned the gallery as a hub to present interactive artworks connecting people to the nature and ecology in the greater Bay Ridge community.

After researching ecoartspace members, in spring 2022 Jeannine and I met with a short list of artists via Zoom to discuss how they might extend their practice to Bay Ridge by creating a new work. Then we held group and individual site visits in the fall for people to solidify their ideas. Over the winter they kept in touch as they created their projects.

We found multiple ways to involve the community. To enlist support, Jeannine and Elizabeth Polly shared the project by tabling at street fairs, meeting individuals and groups, applying for grants and approaching local businesses for support. Artists connected with residents to make their work. For instance, many people contributed to Kate Dodd’s Bay Ridge Tree Collection at the Bay Ridge Library and Ellen Coleman-Izzo’s Tree Stand: Bay Ridge Branch(es) a flag at the gallery doorstep. Ultimately, the range of artworks, programs and film series has exceeded our original expectations.

Tell us about your curatorial vision for this project.

As a curator who works at the intersection of people, place and ecology, the prospect of getting to know an unfamiliar neighborhood and work with new artists has been inspiring. During my first visit to Stand4 Gallery and Community Space I recognized that by working with the gallery and surroundings we could create a hub for artists to engage their ecological concerns on a neighborhood scale.

Stand4 is well positioned to deploy artists to help people see the neighborhood through an ecological lens. Part of the intention is to build on the neighborhood’s distinctive features such as the Verrazano Narrows, Shore Park, Owls Head Park, and the Narrows Botanical Garden, and to make the commonplace extraordinary such as the 199 species of street trees. Encouraging people to observe the nature around us is a first step toward taking action to address climate issues.

Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens has opened avenues for dialogue by bringing together expertise from artists, residents, city agencies and scientists. Whether researching street trees, making a tree print, or learning about the unique qualities of the Narrows, many voices have contributed to this effort and hopefully many more will continue to engage and observe.

About the curator: Curator and arts planner Jennifer McGregor collaborates with organizations to activate public spaces and create opportunities for artists to engage diverse audiences. Her place-based curating focuses on ecological, historical, and cultural concerns. In addition to Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens, she curated Shared Dialogue, Shared Space a day of interactive projects in her neighborhood park with Korea Art Forum last year. She is working with En Foco to make photography archives accessible online through the Nueva Luz Study Center. Previously she created visual and performing arts programming addressing nature, culture, and site at Wave Hill in the Bronx. Perched above the Hudson River, overlooking the Palisades the public garden offered a flexible platform to reflect on our interdependence with nature in an urban setting.

Bay Ridge Through an Ecological Lens April 15 – June 17, 2023 A Public Art Exhibition Curated by: Jennifer McGregor