For many residents, Brooklyn’s changing demographic has boiled down to two things: high rises and high rents.
But another evolution is happening, and it’s in Brooklyn’s arts and culture scene. The changes are most evident at the long-standing arts institutions: A few executive changes here, more diverse programming there, a shot of adrenalin in the marketing arm here and there, and boom! What was once old becomes new again!
Take BRIC, for example: It’s like that quiet younger sibling who’s always been around but never begged for too much attention… Until one day after poking around in their bedroom you discover in their closet they’ve secretly built a functioning replica of the Apollo Space Shuttle! Yes, you’re shocked a genius lives amongst you. But more than anything, you’re baffled at how you could have missed the entire process.
That’s BRIC: low-key, doing big things. And whether you’ve yet to engage with the media arts center or not, its latest transformation hopes to make you notice them for sure and for good.
The first big change came in August 2018, when BRIC’s president of the last 13 years, Leslie Griesbach Schultz, stepped down and was replaced by Kristina Newman-Scott, BRIC’s first woman of color and first immigrant to serve in that role. Born and raised in Jamaica, Newman-Scott began her career as a painter and television and radio producer. She immigrated to Connecticut as an adult, where she began working as the marketing events and cultural affairs director for the City of Hartford followed by an appointment as Director of Culture and State Historic Preservation for the State of Connecticut.
“When I came to the states it was very much informed by the fact that I understood artists, their craft– I spoke art, so to speak,” said Newman-Scott. “So it wasn’t just theory, it was understanding the angst and the support that they needed. I understood the investments needed to make and keep them sustainable.”
Then, earlier this month, BRIC announced a new board chair, Michael Liburd, also the board’s first African-American, to replace Hilary Ackerman who served in as the chair since 2013. During Ackerman’s tenure, BRIC opened its multifaceted headquarters, BRIC House, featuring television studios and editing facilities, performing arts space, an art gallery, studio space for artists and classrooms for media and arts education.
Liburd, a native New Yorker and BRIC board member for nine years, hopes to continually build upon Ackerman’s work.
Liburd runs Griffin Ward, LLC, a partnership that advises companies in management, marketing, live events and content distribution. Before becoming an entrepreneur, he contributed to the success of iconic consumer brands and media properties, such as Viacom’s Showtime Networks and Kraft General Foods, through positions in live television programming, marketing, sales and promotions. He’s also a trustee of the Brooklyn Public Library and Poly Prep Country Day School.
“So, we have two people that are Black in senior leadership for a seasoned arts organization, and that sends a very strong message,” said Newman-Scott.
But Newman-Scott is also quick to add, even more important than the message it sends around BRIC’s commitment to diversity is the fact they were chosen because of their qualifications.
“Even though we are both setting precedents, they hired me and Michael because we’re the best for the job,” she said. “I think that says a lot about the way we hope to lead by example, as far as reflecting the communities that we serve.”
Also, along with Liburd’s appointment are four new board members representing a broad cross-section of industries in the city, including entertainment and media, finance and real estate: Susan Jurevics, general manager of Audible Escape; Jin Kang, a co-leader of Aon Special Opportunities Group; award-winning songwriter and activist Martha Redbone; and Kim Soule, a real estate broker for Compass Real and a former film producer. (For a full list of board members go here.)
“When we think about diversity, it’s not just about race; we think about diversity in gender, ability and skill sets… bringing more voices to the table that represent the disciplines that our residents deserve,” said Newman-Scott. “I’m excited about the diversity of their expertise, and it’s going to add so much value to our already strong and vibrant board.”
“As a highly respected musician, Martha brings this expertise that is so important; she’s somebody who understands our work and someone who is very noted in the field,” said Newman-Scott.
“Then we have rockstars like Susan, one of the senior leaders of the Audible brand; it’s fantastic to gain her insight as someone who is a seasoned marketing executive strategist. And Jin Kang just understands how investments work, and that’s really important for a non-profit to gain that expertise. And Kim is able to lead the change in how Brooklyn is centered. So we really lucky to have the makeup of the board that we do.”
With all of the changes happening at BRIC currently– not only in its leadership but, also throughout the organization– they are still working out a few more details around new programs and BRIC’s new strategic vision, which they will announce in the fall.
In the meantime, residents can look forward to the 2019 BRIC Jazz Fest, with a stellar lineup. In addition, look forward to BRIC opening a new, dedicated media residency space at Rockwell Place in September, a sort of new-fangled incubator for the next generation of talent making content.
“We’re really going to lean into the investment into media artist, because what I’m hearing from people is that authenticity is important to [Brooklyn’s residents], which includes making sure that as we see the ever-evolving Brooklyn of today, we never forget who we are and where we come from,” said Newman-Scott.
“We firmly believe Brooklyn is about more than a brand; Brooklyn is about the people. We not only believe that, but it shows up in how we work.”
This fall, get ready to witness what BRIC’s been building. No, it won’t be a space shuttle but something as equally impressive: authentic Brooklyn art.
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