On Thursday evening, the Brooklyn Historical Society had an opening reception for two new exhibits now on view at the Society, located at Clinton and Pierrepont Streets. Among the dignitaries present was City Council Member Albert Vann (photo).
One of these exhibits is titled "Up From Flames," and chronicles the literal rise from ashes of the once thriving, later arson-ravaged and now revitalized community of Bushwick. The exhibit consists of reproductions of news stories, maps and photos that narrate and illustrate first the community's decline in the late 1970s to the point where some City officials were ready to write it off by cutting essential services and encouraging people to move out, through the beginnings of revitalization in the '80s, when community activists challenged city policies and bank "redlining," to the present-day renaissance, which presents the challenge of creating a community that is both welcoming to the artists and more affluent young people who are moving in and supportive of the long-term residents who have done so much to hold it together and create the conditions for its recovery. [That was a really long sentence – Ed. Yeah. I'd really hate to have to diagram it – C.S.] The exhibit was highlighted by the multimedia compositions of artist and teacher Meryl Meisler.
"Up From Flames" will be on view at the Society until August 26.
The other new exhibit is the first in a series that will be planned, curated and executed by teams of students drawn from three neighborhood secondary schools: Brooklyn Tech, Packer and St. Ann's. In this program, called "Exhibition Laboratory" (or "Ex Lab," as the speakers at the reception kept calling it, making it sound perhaps too much like a product once made on Atlantic Avenue), the students choose a topic, then work with BHS staff to select items from the Society's collection and to produce their own graphics to illustrate and explain the topic. The first of these exhibits is called "The Secret Lives of Streets," and explains the origins of many of the Borough's street names. Among the items on exhibit are many documents and maps from the Pierrepont family, the Remsen coat of arms, and portraits of two elegant women named Sarah, Bergen and Middagh, respectively. The latter is the one believed to have mischievously taken the names of real estate developers off of posts marking several new streets in the Heights and replaced them with botanical names (Cranberry, Orange, Pineapple, Poplar and Willow) more to her liking, while preserving her own family's name on one street. "The Secret Lives of Streets" will be at the Society through September 2.