A new festival of Brooklyn’s artistic creativity all began because of one little girl.
“IAmArt was started primarily because my daughter loves to draw, and the school she was going to wasn’t really feeding that,” says organizer Earl Silas. His 5-year-old daughter, Taylor, goes to a Mandarin immersion elementary school that focuses on STEM classes in Bed-Stuy’s District 16. “And I’m a techie guy, so I couldn’t reinforce it.”
Silas, who’s been coordinating events for 15 years, began reaching out to local artists and the Department of Education last March to create his vision of a festival where young people, whose schools have often defunded arts-related programs, could be involved.
IAmArt NYC, which takes place at Industry City on Oct. 1-2, ended up going well beyond art classes to include food and music, all from talented chefs and musicians drawn from the borough. The gallery focuses on street and urban art, including artists famous (Bushwick-based BK the Artist, whose fans include Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony) and up-and-coming drawn from the borough, with 2-D, 3-D and installations. “I made it intentional that my artists couldn’t be found in traditional galleries,” says Silas.
At the heart of the exhibition hall is a wall of 20 drawings created by K-6 students from District 16 for the prompt of “What does art mean to you?” Four of them will receive the Young Picasso Award, which comes with a spot in an NYU digital art program next summer.
Silas hopes anyone who comes to IAmArt will be inspired in one way or another. When that inspiration strikes, there will be a kids pavilion with arts supplies and sessions on everything from sketching to sponge painting. The exhibited artists will also be working during the festival with live mural paintings daily, and culinary demonstrations will show home cooks how to take five ingredients and create an artful plate.
Art education is being cut for budget and other reasons, and Silas wants attendees to realize its importance and find ways to bring it back into schools. Having young people see that art can be profitable as a career is part of it, and Silas is planning to leverage the connections he’s made through the festival to create a committee, raise funds and find ways to provide after-school or weekend art instruction.
“Art is becoming cool, but it hasn’t always been,” he says. “And when it’s still becoming cool, you have to convince people.”