This week's takeover is by Sloan Leo. Sloan is the CEO & founder of Flox Studio, a community design and strategy studio, a thesis advisor at SVA, a Design Trust board member, an artist.
I've know Sloan since college when they were a young prodigy (they were only 16!!!) We bonded over theater, poetry, and art. We kept in touch for many years and then reconnected a few years ago over this very newsletter which lead to them inviting me to be part of a FLOX event when I was really pregnant.
They've taken over the entire newsletter this week and this week, they are thinking about community. Enjoy!
In 2018 I became the Chief of Staff for the Trust for Public Land. It was a dreamy opportunity. I traveled nearly every week to a different state to see a local park. I met amazing people, staff, community members and supporters and they all shared that while they appreciated WHAT the Trust for Public Land did, what was most meaningful - was the opportunity to advocate for, steward and build relationships as a community. Public Space - or as I think of it - Community Space has been an obsession of mine since I was a college student volunteer at my local women’s building in Albany, NY. Community Design is my everything. It is OUR everything.
And -- for the first time in my life - community has gone mainstream. It is what has emerged in this pandemic era -- in this climate change era - in this era of extreme social, cultural and political inequity as the true G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time).
But -- what is community? Community exists at many scales and in many locations. I think of community as an ecosystem of people with a shared aspiration. Community is dynamic, organic and ever evolving. It is a universe that contains infinite possibilities. It is abundant. It is equal parts magic and striving.
My own experience of building community -- began with a social justice icon - Barbara Smith who taught me that there’s a role for all of us. It continued with Rev. Leonard Comither, the minister from Macedonia Baptist Church who shepherded my spiritual journey for the first 13 years of my life. At the end of church every Sunday, he would remind all of us, “There are no little YOUs and no big Is”. He taught me that being in good relationship - in community - requires humility.
The values and political perspective that I developed through those experiences have guided most of my life, work and creative practice.
Community is a teacher. It reflects us. And as a “marginalized” person it protects us. Community is our only way to a future where we can all flourish.
This week in reading. . .
Collaboration is building community as an act of love - an interview with Blackspace Urbanist Collective Co-Founder, Emma Osore. Her words and understanding of community design, leave me in awe of how deeply they resonate with me.
Emergent Strategy - This was the first Adrienne Maree Brown book that I read, and the one that I find myself revisiting frequently. Part poem, part manifesto part strategy and management book - the concepts are rooted in the idea that great ideas, solutions and insights emerge. They are organic and biomimetic.
Deem Journal - Deem is a biannual print journal and online platform focused on design as social practice. Co-founded by Nu Goteh and Alice Grandoit Deem is the first major publication dedicated to community design that I’ve been able to find in the five years. The layout - delish, the content - riveting and the insights - critical and we as a species muddle our way through the dystopian future we find ourselves in at this point.
This week in cultural experiences . .
As the pandemic does whatever it’s doing, I’ve been venturing out often to spend time with friends - and it has been the sweetest experience. I’ve been noting what it is that has felt worth the risk of going out - or rather going in, since getting vaccinated. Art, culture and community.
I went to the Blue Note Jazz Club in the New York City’s Lower East Side. Despite the touristy crowd, I found myself mesmerized by way James Carter, a saxophone virtuoso, played his horns. It was his first time back on the Blue Note stage since the pandemic shuttered them for 15 months. James wasn’t there to play for us -- you could tell in his gestures, his facial recognition and movement that he was deep in a flow state.
The Whitney Museum hosted an opening for David Hammon’s Days End - a new permanent public installation next to Little Island (so cute...I guess haha) and across from the museum. The work is an ode to a Gordon Matta-Clark, a queer artist and activist in the 1970’s who created the first Day’s End - where he literally shed light on the spirit of the space - a space for rest, a space for shadows and a space for the soul.
Playing on repeat on my Spotify rotation. . .
Don’t Let Get You Down - Wajatta
Hello - Avel Boman
All 4 Love (featuring Tasty Lopez) - Mark Knight
This week in a gif. . .
This week in a quote. . .
This week in artsy stuff and photo things. . .
Art Is by Lorraine O’Grady (on show right now at The Brooklyn Museum)
Finally picked up the work by Tionna McLodden that I purchased at Frieze - it’s a fundraiser for printed matter in addition to be an incredibly powerful piece of art.
The Pyer Moss couture show was brilliant - the camp and genius didn’t hit me right away but I cannot stop thinking about it!
- Sloan Leo
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