Distinction Street Banner Art Winners Celebrate

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PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS/FLATBUSH – Zombie House was lit up Wednesday night by the official launch of the Distinction Street Banner Art Campaign. Launched in September 2018, the goal of the campaign is to engage Flatbush Avenue BID businesses and the community to celebrate the district through artwork displayed on street lamps.

L-R: Natilee Reid, mother of 12-year-old artist Megan Summer McSween (Shades of Blue), and Megan’s brother. Megan’s work is displayed above the family. (Photo: Nathan Thompson)

The program attracted professional and emerging artists from across Brooklyn, the U.S., and the Caribbean. Through a grant from the NYC Department of Small Business Services, Natasha Joseph, a Neighborhood 360 Fellow, worked with the Flatbush Avenue BID to produce and manage the art competition from beginning to end.

Thirty-three artworks were submitted in several formats—painting, digital art, collage, photography—which were narrowed down to 15 finalists by a volunteer panel of art experts. Eleven of the finalists were ultimately selected to be reproduced as banners celebrating the character that makes Flatbush special. Some of the featured artists include a collaborative group of high school students from the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Erasmus, a 12-year-old who hand draws anime-style creatures, and professional artists who hail from Ditmas Park to as far away as Oregon.

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L-R: Lauren Collins Executive Director of Flatbush and Church Ave BIDs with Amelia Calsi, Manager of Mural Operations and Artist Initiatives at Groundswell and one of the Distinction judges (Photo: Nathan Thompson)

“I’d been wanting to do something new with the Flatbush Ave. BID’s banners,” BID Director Lauren Collins explained. “A few things fell into place at the same time: our interest in doing more to celebrate the cultural background of many of Flatbush’s business owners, DOT’s Vision Zero banners for Church Avenue which were designed by kids from Ditmas IS 62 in 2016, and the Church Avenue BID’s mural program…the Distinction Art Competition was the perfect fit.”

If you have shopped on Flatbush over the last few months, you may have seen one of the program’s pop-up galleries in Style Eyes Optical, FIB Tattoo Bar, Globe Electronics, Lola’s Hair, Affinity Health Plan, Three Stars Unisex Salon, Diva Lingerie, and McDonald’s.

L-R: Shelley Worrell, Founder and Chief Curator of CaribBeing and one of the Distinction judges with Sarah Weiss, Director of Marketing at Kings Theatre, a campaign sponsor (Photo: Nathan Thompson)

A panel of local judges from a wide range of backgrounds narrowed down the 33 entries before presenting 15 finalists to the community for voting. The judges were:

  • Amelia Calsi, Groundswell
  • Amy Andrieux, MoCADA
  • Ayoka Wiles-Abel, Brooklyn Arts Council
  • Justin Aversano, Save Art Space
  • Naomi Hersson-Ringskog, No Longer Empty
  • Nathan Thompson, McCann Erickson Worldwide
  • Shelley Worrell, CaribBeing
  • Sheryll Durrant, Kelly Street Garden

Council Member Mathieu Eugene dropped by Wednesday’s event to congratulate the winners and thank the organizers for highlighting the talents of the young contestants in particular. Collins also thanked the organizations that supported the program and made the installations possible, including ModernMD Urgent Care, Kings Theatre, Flatbush Caton Market on Clarendon, Little Caribbean powered by CaribBeing, the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CACCI), and the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA)

Council Member Mathieu Eugene speaking to crowd (Photo: Nathan Thompson)

The banners will hang from lampposts along Flatbush Avenue from Parkside to Cortelyou Road. The 11 varied designs will be displayed for about one year. Last night was a night when the richness and range of Flatbush’s character shined.

Click here for the Artist Catalog to see the winning designs along with an explanation of each artists’ personal motivation. Some of their stories are political while some are intensely personal, but all capture a piece of our colorful neighborhood.

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