On Thursday, Dec. 22, The Flatbush Nostrand Junction Business Improvement District hosted a reveal and lighting of this year’s upcycle holiday tree at Hillel Plaza. The event followed a several-month-long contest that gave Brooklyn artists a chance to envision a sustainable and environmentally conscious design. This year’s winner is “Tower” by Sari Nordman, an interdisciplinary artist from Crown Heights.

BID's President Kenneth Mbonu and artist Sari Nordman photographed together by the holiday tree.
BID’s President Kenneth Mbonu and artist Sari Nordman photographed together by the holiday tree. Photo Credit: Shaun Walsh.

This event marks the second year of the BID’s community initiative to “highlight the importance of the environment and the importance of keeping it in a state where our children and children’s children can benefit from too,” according to BID’s President and Executive Director Kenneth Mbonu.

“And because we’re a diverse community, we don’t call it a Christmas tree,” said Mbonu. “We call it a holiday tree to encompass people from different neighborhoods and our community as a whole.”

So, standing humbly amid the festive sounds of the band last Thursday night was a four-tier tower with plastic sheets served as projection screens. Artist Nordman projected on the rectangular white sheets videos of people from all over the world sharing their experience with climate change.

“I’ve traveled to Greece a lot, and I love history,” said Nordman. “I visited lots of archeological sites and then I was contemplating climate change and all the plastic waste. And all of a sudden, I had this idea of a falling tower.”

Sari Nordman’s film on her newest installation, Tower. Video Credit: Sari Nordman.

“I could build a fallen tower, I had to build a tower,” the artist said with definitive excitement under her breath. Before the interview with BK Reader, Nordman was switching out the clear plastic projection screens with the ones that have interviewees’ faces printed on them. It was not feasible to keep the projection outside, and Nordman exclaimed that her hands were numb as they tried and failed and tried again to anchor the thin sheets to the welded structure.

“So far I’ve interviewed nearly about 60 people speaking in 35 different languages!” she said. And with winning this year’s competition and working with BID’s Kenneth Mbonu, Nordman is excited to have a chance to connect with more people in the Flatbush Junction neighborhood.

When asked what she would like to convey to Brooklynites during this holiday season, aside from wishing everyone a happy holiday season, Nordman suggested that people should buy services as gifts instead of stuff. “’Cause we all have lots of stuff, right? So how about buying services? How about a massage or going to a restaurant or a gym membership or museum membership? Things like that.”

The Upcycle Holiday Tree program started in 2021 where artists have a chance to come up with creative designs from repurposed materials that reflects on the environment.

The winner each year receives $4,000 for their creation.

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