Posts tagged with "Bronx"

Bronx Point event image via Credit: Sylvester Zawadzki for use by 360 Magazine

UNIVERSAL HIP HOP MUSEUM

MAYOR DE BLASIO, L+M DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS & TYPE A PROJECTS BREAK GROUND AT BRONX POINT AND THE UNIVERSAL HIP HOP MUSEUM 

Hip Hop legend Nas, LL Cool J, Fat Joe, Borough President Diaz, city agencies, and hip hop luminaries took part in a celebration of the $349 million South Bronx development along the Harlem River waterfront

BP Diaz delivered a $4.2 million grant to launch the Universal Hip Hop Museum’s capital campaign

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Hip Hop legends Nas, LL Cool J, Fat Joe, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, City Council Member Diana Ayala, numerous city agencies, and hip hop luminaries took part in the official groundbreaking event for the first phase of Bronx Point. The event took place on Thursday, May 20, at the future home of Bronx Point at 50 East 150th Street in The Bronx. We were on location to cover this monumental ceremony in the birthplace of hip hop, the Boogie Down Bronx, and are excited to see the project come to life.

The much-anticipated $349 million mixed-use project along the Harlem River waterfront in the South Bronx is being developed by L+M Development Partners and Type A Projects, who co-hosted the groundbreaking ceremony.

Bronx Point’s first phase will deliver 542 units of permanently affordable housing to the Lower Concourse neighborhood, along with approximately 2.8 acres of public open space. Additionally, the project will deliver an array of cultural and community-focused programming, including the permanent home of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, an early childhood space run by BronxWorks, and outdoor science programming run by the Billion Oyster Project. S9 Architecture led the design of the 22-story project, and the open space was designed by Marvel Architects in collaboration with Abel Bainnson Butz. Phase one of Bronx Point is expected to be completed by late 2023.

The event also served as the official launch of the Universal Hip Hop Museum’s capital campaign. The UHHM will celebrate and preserve the history of local and global Hip Hop music and culture past, present, and future, and is slated to open in Bronx Point in 2024. At the groundbreaking, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced that he would contribute $4.2 million from his office’s capital budget to support the Universal Hip Hop Museum’s capital campaign, which is one of the largest single funding allocations of the borough president’s tenure.

“New York City is building a recovery for all of us, and that starts with transformative projects like Bronx Point in the heart of the Bronx,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “From major investments in affordable housing to a permanent place to celebrate the music that has made the Bronx famous around the world, this project demonstrates what every real New Yorker already knows: there’s no stopping New York City.”

“Bronx Point is a complete reimagining of a dormant, underutilized piece of waterfront property that will create new affordable housing and long-anticipated amenities for the entire borough to enjoy, and I am proud to be a part of it,” said Ron Moelis, CEO and Co-Founder of L+M Development Partners. “The project will provide new open space with access to the Harlem River, a permanent home for the Universal Hip Hop Museum, and community programming with Bronxworks and the Billion Oyster Project. Bronx Point represents the best type of development a public-private partnership can offer our city, and I am thrilled that we have taken the first step towards enacting our vision for this project.”

“This groundbreaking at Bronx Point represents the culmination of deep partnerships and collaboration with the community, local elected officials, and city agencies,” said Ann Tirschwell, Partner at Type A Projects. “In particular, our work with the members and leadership of Community Board 4 has been uniquely formative.  After more than two years of programming discussions, design charrettes, and planning sessions we have started construction on a new purpose-built open space for the residents of the South Bronx.  With the delivery of this collaborative and award-winning design, we hope to provide more equitable access to the waterfront for all New Yorkers, regardless of zip code.” 

“The groundbreaking for the first phase of Bronx Point is a tremendous step forward for our borough. Not only will this project create much-needed affordable housing units, but it will also activate underutilized space, open up more waterfront to public access, create new public spaces and retail amenities for community use. This development will combine two of my favorite things, history, and hip hop, bringing the Universal Hip Hop Museum to its rightful location in the birthplace of hip hop, The Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Hip hop was born in The Bronx, and the inclusion of the Universal Hip Hop Museum as a part of this project will help showcase our role in the creation of that worldwide cultural movement for generations to come. That is why I was proud to announce that I am providing $4.2 million in capital funds to help make this project a reality.”

“Yesterday’s Bronx Point groundbreaking ceremony marks a win for the diverse, growing community of the Bronx,” said New York State Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie. “Upon its completion, Bronx Point will become a cultural hub, providing Bronxites with new affordable housing, wellness, and cultural activity opportunities that I know will enrich the lives of many. I am elated to be able to witness this amazing project and would like to thank L+M Development Partners, Type A Projects, BronxWorks, as well as all of the elected officials and community leaders that assisted in moving this project forward. Investments to neighborhoods in the Bronx are investments to the growth and future of our great city.”

“The Bronx is the birthplace of hip hop so it’s fitting that the borough will house a museum dedicated to this legendary music and movement,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “But Bronx Point will be so much more than a world-famous tourist destination, it will offer our city much-needed affordable housing as well as space for early childhood and science programming. The City Council proudly supports this project, which will add to the vibrancy of the Bronx while it is addressing long-standing housing needs.”

“Yesterday marked a major step towards advancing the administration’s key investments in the South Bronx,” said Rachel Loeb, President, and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation. “By bringing affordable housing, waterfront access, and a range of cultural facilities including the City’s first Hop Hop Museum, we are creating a more equitable New York. We are proud to break ground on the BronxPoint to bring these much-needed community benefits to the South Bronx.”

“Today we celebrate the start of a tremendous project that will change so many lives for the better. More than 500 households, including formerly homeless New Yorkers, will have safe, affordable homes to call their own, as well as access to amazing open space and high-quality cultural and educational programming,” said HPD Commissioner Louise Carroll. “Thanks to L+M, Type A, the Universal Hip Hop Museum, and all of our development partners for making this culturally significant development possible that will anchor the community for years to come.”

“I was delighted to participate in yesterday’s groundbreaking event for the first phase of the Bronx Point project.  Bronx Point will bring much-needed affordable housing and community space to the South Bronx, including waterfront access for a community that has for too long been cut off from the Harlem River and a permanent home for the Universal Hip Hop Museum”, saidCouncil Member Diana Ayala. “I am thrilled to see this mixed-used permanently affordable housing project finally getting started and congratulate L+M Development Partners, Type A projects and their partners as well as the Universal Hip Hop Museum on this transformative South Bronx project along the Harlem River waterfront.”

“New York State is proud to support the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx, the birthplace of the Hip Hop movement,” said ESD Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Eric Gertler. The museum’s modern, dynamic home will celebrate the artists and preserve the music that represented a new — and uniquely New York — sound that has become a cultural force across the globe and influenced generations of performers.  Once completed, this new museum, reflecting the diversity of New York, will no doubt be a draw for residents and visitors to the Bronx and also serve as a hub for educational and local economic growth.”

“Hip Hop music and culture has been a source of inspiration and innovation since its outset,” said Brad Smith, President of Microsoft. “We’re incredibly excited for the museum’s groundbreaking and look forward to using Microsoft technology to help document, preserve, and tell the story of Hip Hop when the doors officially open.”

“The heartbeat of Hip Hop culture will live at Bronx Point, the future home of the Universal Hip Hop Museum,” said Rocky Bucano, Executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum. “Documenting, preserving, and presenting the history of the culture for generations of Hip Hop lovers globally via exciting new tech innovations from Microsoft is thrilling. This partnership is truly a milestone for Hip Hop culture.”

“Bronx Point is a dynamic project that will serve its residents with permanently affordable housing, expansive cultural and community programming, and extensive outdoor green space,” said HDC President Eric Enderlin. “In addition to the 542 homes serving families across a wide range of incomes, including the formerly homeless, we also celebrate what will be the future home of the Universal Hip Hop Museum. I would like to extend my congratulations to all our partners for their efforts, which will benefit the Lower Concourse neighborhood for years to come.”

“Hip hop has become a global art form, but it could have only started right here in the Bronx,” said NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. “The diversity of New York City and the vitality of the communities of color in the South Bronx gave rise to Hip Hop, and made it into a powerful form of expression. It’s fitting that we honor that legacy here with the Universal Hip Hop Museum, which we’re proud to support as part of this major new development.”

“We are thrilled to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx, the birthplace of one of the most influential musical and cultural movements in the world,” said the NYC Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Anne del Castillo. “The museum will serve as an important reminder of the artists, community, and creativity that define our city as the creative capital of the world.”

“BronxWorks is proud to be a partner in the Bronx Point development, which represents an innovative and thoughtful approach to affordable housing in a community that needs it,” said Eileen Torres, Executive Director, BronxWorks. “As we look to improve economic stability in the neighborhood, especially after the crises created by the pandemic, the Bronx Point development offers a path forward for families, who will be able to afford their rent and access support services and childcare on site.”

“We are excited that Bronx Point will provide the community with welcoming spaces for a variety of activities, while also creating a waterfront landscape that prioritizes ecology and learning,” said Yadiel Rivera-Diaz PLA, ASLA, Partner at Marvel. “We engaged with various members of the community on more than 20 occasions to learn and better understand the needs of residents and businesses; their valuable feedback informed our design, which includes spaces for learning, areas for exercising and activity, a picnic section, and an area for children to play and explore. As shaped by public input, Bronx Point creates a strong link between the community and waterfront.”

“S9 Architecture tapped into the rhythm and movement of the site and the street to make the Bronx Point project both an anchor and a gateway to the neighborhood,” said John Clifford, founding Principal, S9 Architecture. “Our design not only reflects the dynamic energy of the neighborhood and urban context, but it also provides vital housing, cultural, public waterfront park and commercial assets to the community.”

“As part of the Bronx Point project, brand new green space will be added for the enjoyment of the entire community, further complementing Mill Pond Park,” said NYC Parks Bronx Borough Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa. “I would like to thank all of our partners for this wonderful park expansion which will be a hub of rest, relaxation, and recreation for decades to come!”

“Wells Fargo is pleased to be part of this historic project which will revitalize the South Bronx neighborhood and address the affordable housing needs of its residents,” said Page W. Travelstead, Managing Director of Community Lending & Investment at Wells Fargo. “We are proud to work closely with L&M Development Partners and Type A Projects on financing Bronx Point and are excited to see how the new housing units, retail space, and Universal Hip Hop Museum will spark economic development in the Bronx Waterfront area.” 

“Yesterday we broke ground on a project that has the potential to transform the gateway to the South Bronx,” said Paul A. Philps, District Manager of Bronx Community Board #4. Bronx Point not only includes the activation of our waterfront with new affordable housing, expanded open space at Mill Pond Park, and the future home of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, but it represents hope and a bright future for area residents. We are excited to see this critical project move into the first phase of development.

Bronx Point is located on City-owned land and is being financed through a combination of public and private capital, including financing from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), Empire State Development, Wells Fargo, and additional private funding. The overall funding includes $323.5 million for the building, along with $27 million for the waterfront esplanade’s construction from the NYCEDC.

In Phase One, Bronx Point’s apartments will be available for families earning between 30 percent to 120 percent of Area Median Income, along with apartments for the formerly homeless. Apartments will include 135 studios, 192 one-bedrooms, 122 two-bedrooms, and 93 three-bedrooms. Tenant amenities will feature an outdoor terrace for residents, on-site laundry, a children’s room, community lounge, bike storage room, on-site fitness center, and around-the-clock front desk security. The project’s second phase is anticipated to include additional housing units along with additional retail and community space. When complete, Bronx Point will include up to 1,045 apartment units.

Public space is also a central feature of Bronx Point. A grand staircase, designed to be a civic gathering space for the borough, will lead from the building itself down to the waterfront. The open space, across from Bronx Terminal Market, will feature a playground and landscaped area adjacent to the existing Mill Pond Park and the Bronx Children’s Museum to the north. An esplanade along the Harlem River shoreline will include a landscaped public walkway and seating areas. The space will also feature lawns, waterfront lookouts, an extended BBQ area, fitness zones for adults, and publicly accessible bathrooms. Collectively, these open space improvements will advance the City and community’s long-standing goal of providing access to the Harlem River waterfront and increasing public open space in the South Bronx.

Bronx Point will also include several spaces for youth and community programming and education. Development partner BronxWorks, a venerable Bronx social service provider, will provide supportive services for tenants on the site and operate an early childhood center. At the same time, the Billion Oyster Project will run an outdoor education program that utilizes the Harlem River. In all, the 530,000 square foot-Bronx Point will include more than 56,000 square feet of educational and community space, along with more than 12,000 square feet of retail space. The Prusik Group, L+M’s partner on Essex Crossing on the Lower East Side and the new National Urban League Headquarters in Harlem, will serve as the project’s Retail Development Advisor.

Along with the Bronx Children’s Museum, Hostos Community College, and Bronx Terminal Market, Bronx Point is within walking distance of borough institutions like the Bronx Civic Center district and Yankee Stadium, along with subway stations for the 2, 4, 5, B, and D lines.

Bronx Point is a key component of a $194 million capital investment strategy for the Lower Concourse neighborhood, announced by the de Blasio Administration in 2015 and led by NYCEDC. For more than two years, the development team and NYCEDC engaged extensively with the local community, including hosting open space design workshops and additional working group sessions with an array of local stakeholders. In the end, community members were able to directly influence the design and programming of the project’s open space and provide a range of ongoing feedback as the project progressed.

About L+M Development Partners
Since its inception in 1984, L+M Development Partners Inc. has been an innovator in developing quality affordable, mixed-income, and market-rate housing, while improving the neighborhoods in which it works.  A full-service firm, L+M works from conception to completion, handling development, investment, construction, and management with creativity that leads the industry. L+M is responsible for approximately $10 billion in development and investment and has acquired, built, or preserved nearly 35,000 high-quality residential units in New York’s tri-state area, Washington, D.C., the West Coast, and Gulf Coast regions.  Community leaders, government officials, and institutional investors turn to L+M because of its consistent track record of excellence.

L+M is a double bottom line company, where its success is measured not only in financial returns but also by positive impacts.  L+M takes pride in its long-standing partnership with the communities it serves, demonstrated through an annual scholarship fund, workforce development programs, after-school programs, and substantial support for local nonprofits.  L+M brings a superior level of commitment to its investments in developments, and equally important, to its investment in people.  For more information, please visit this website.

About Type-A Projects
Type A Projects is a certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise dedicated to building affordable and inspiring places to live, work, learn and play.  Type A was formed in 2013 to capitalize on the decades of nonprofit, commercial, institutional, and mixed-use development experience of two women individually and collectively focused on creating vibrant and affordable communities that underpin the diverse fabric of NYC.

Building on past experience managing the development of over 1,000,000 square feet of public schools and community facilities, Type A remains committed to impactful, civic-based projects that support NYC’s neighborhoods and communities. In 2016, Type A expanded its focus to include mixed-use and mixed-income affordable, senior and supportive housing. Type A has recently completed its first multi-family project as lead developer with their 115-unit senior affordable project at 1490 Southern in the Bronx.  Within Type A’s portfolio are three joint venture developments including Bronx Point with its 542 units of affordable housing, 50-units of supportive housing for young adults aging out of foster care in Harlem with services provided by Homeward NYC, and an L+M/M-Squared project featuring 78 affordable rental apartments for low- and moderate-income households in Newark that will include a ground-floor clinic and hospital office space operated in partnership with University Hospital.

About the Universal Hip Hop Museum
Anchored in the birthplace of Hip Hop culture, the Universal Hip Hop Museum will break ground in the Bronx in 2021. Built as a space for audiences, artists, and technology to converge and create unparalleled educational and entertainment experiences, the museum is slated to open in Bronx Point in 2024. The UHHM will celebrate and preserve the history of local and global Hip Hop music and culture past, present, and future. 

About BronxWorks
With over 40 locations throughout the borough, BronxWorks has worked from the ground up in Bronx communities for over 48 years to help residents build healthy, stable futures for themselves and their neighborhoods. BronxWorks helps individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being. From toddlers to seniors, we feed, shelter, teach and support our neighbors to build a stronger community. For more information about BronxWorks, contact Gianna Dell’Olio, Director of Advancement and Communications at gdellolio@bronxworks.org, or visit this website.

Bronx Point Development renderings via S9 Architecture (building & aerial renderings) for use by 360 MagazineBill de Blasio image shot by Vaughn Lowery at Bronx Point and the Universal Hip Hop Museum South Bronx Development Project celebrationshovel image shot by Vaughn Lowery at Bronx Point and the Universal Hip Hop Museum South Bronx Development Project celebration

Oscar Stone illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Oscar Stone LTD

By: Emily Bunn x Vaughn Lowery

Oscar Stone LTD is a family-owned jewelry firm based in the Bronx, New York. Oscar Stone sells timeless jewelry, including customizable earrings, watches, bracelets, pendants, chains, and mouth grillz, which are all created from the beginning to the end internally. Oscar’s most popular article, baguette diamond earrings, dazzle his clients with their blinding beauty. Oscar Stone recognizes the value of using durable diamonds and jewelry from the Bronx community.

While lockdown created a lull for other companies, Oscar used the downtime to bolster his burgeoning business. His reach on social media via Instagram featured Oscar to many celebrity customers, including Jojo Simmons, Young Dirty Bastard, and Kid Capri, among others. Oscar Stone‘s jewelry exudes a true dedication to his craft, which is why his extensive list of clients keeps expanding.

The last authentic district of New York, the Bronx, houses the next largest jeweler in New York. Oscar Stone LTD stands apart from other jewelers such as Jacob the Jeweler, Greenwich Street Jewelers, and Martin Busch Jewelers because of its innovative approach to bespoke jewelry and sustainable practices and inspirational dedication to their craft. Oscar’s relentless pursuit of fine diamonds and customer satisfaction during the pandemic has allowed his business to flourish more than ever. Looking to the future, Oscar aims to continue creating custom designs for his customers and grow his business to become a familiar name.

We talked with Oscar about his background in gemology, his favorite custom orders, and his business expansion plans in the Bronx.

How did you get started in making jewelry and performing gemology for Oscar Stone?

I’m a G.I.A. accredited gemologist. Basically, growing up my whole life, [my] family– aunts, uncles, cousins– we all just did jewelry. So getting the jewelry was the easy part. It’s a family trade, really; it’s one of our best-kept secrets.

How did you build your clientele when you began in the jewelry business?

I knew about jewelry; gold wasn’t something crazy new to me. It’s like all your aunts and uncles own auto repair shops–you fix a couple of the tires, do a couple of oil changes, and you just kind of figure it out by yourself. When I had my own spot, building my clientele did really start from scratch. I didn’t have any celebrities or influencers, so I just had to open up shop and see what I could do. Before I did that, I actually did go to GIA (Gemological Institute of America) diamond school. I knew that GIA offered courses for this type of stuff. I spent a couple of months educating myself–[even] just [concerning] diamonds; there’s so many things about diamonds.

Once I finished the education, I decided to really bring in some clients. I was in business for about three years, and then I just started going heavy on social media. Once I started publishing my work on social media, the followers started coming. You know, not[hing] crazy yet, but I started getting a couple thousand [followers]. That’s when the business started taking off. I started hiring friends of mine and a lot of people, [and] my staff grew from four or five people to like twenty-five people. Business exploded when I started getting people who were verified on Instagram and had 300–400,000 followers. Once I started getting those clientele, the ball really started rolling. And that’s where we are now, about a year later.

What celebrities/notable clients have you done jewelry work for?

I would say the biggest guy that I’ve done work for would be, Jojo Simmons from RUN–D.M.C. I’ve done work for Young Dirty Bastard, who is the son of Old Dirty Bastard from the Wu Tang Clan. [Regarding] household names, I’ve done guys as big as Tonio Skits and Darius D.K. [Also,] I’ve done work for [Kid] Capri.

How do you source the best diamonds/gems for jeweling?

I don’t always get the same diamonds from the same supplier. The reason is, once you start working with somebody for diamonds and you guys get comfortable, then they start sending you lesser quality parcels. A parcel is basically like a bag of diamonds, [which come in] a lot of different sizes. They should all be the same clarity, and you sort through them to see that the quality is consistent.

I can buy 50 carats of diamonds this month [or] this week, and then I’ll run out by making all the jewelry. And so, I need to reorder. If the quality starts to become inconsistent with the price that I’m paying, I’ll switch over to another diamond supplier. Most of my diamond suppliers are in India, so I’ve had to fly out there a few times and look at some parcels, look at some factories, and see how they’re all doing it.

[Or, for example,] if I have to build a watch and do it three weeks, and [clients] don’t give me enough time, I have to get [diamonds] local[ly].

What is your favorite jewelry design you sell?

My favorite designs [are] always the custom pieces I make. I always love doing custom work, I just love like how intricate they are. I just did a piece for a client of mine–it’s this huge custom piece that spins when you spin it. I’ve had the most fun working on it, that’s my favorite piece right now. I’m working on another one that might top it, but we’re gonna keep it under wraps for now.

What is your jewelry specialty?

My signature I would say is the baguette earrings, that’s what most people know me for. Out of all my followers, I would say 20,000 of them might have been from the baguette earrings.

I do really, really good with the baguette diamond earrings that are on my website. I could sell as many as 20 pairs a day. A lot of people [who] are from out of state buy that. A lot of people [come] in store as well. The baguette diamonds are just such a popular thing for me right now. I have to make hundreds and hundreds of pairs just to keep up with demand.

What is the most popular order you receive from clients?

The baguette diamonds are just like something you really don’t see out of New York. And so, people love them. It’s also my bread and butter…It’s gonna go, it’s gonna sell, and sell classic.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to be moving to another location on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx–I’m true to the Bronx, I don’t wanna leave the Bronx. So, I’m moving to a store that is down the block from me. It has three times the retail space, and a basement attached to it. I’ll be able to really put a factory down there. As long as the people keep loving my jewelry and what I do, I’m going to keep delivering the best I can. To do that, and to give the best prices, you need to do things in-house. I’m going to have a 1500 sq ft basement where I’ll be able to put ten diamond setters down there and set diamonds all day. The second floor will be an office to do all the online [work]. On the floor-level will be retail and the showroom, so people who want to see things in-person, I can show them right there. That is my short-term goal in the next one or two years. Long term, I want to be a household name, but one thing at a time.

Photo Credit:  Anthony Duque

Oscar Stone LTD Baguette Diamond Earrings

CC Sabathia illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

CC Sabathia

Roots of Fight Celebrate CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia’s career with the New York Yankees played out like a Little Leaguer’s wildest dreams. The hardest thing to do is to pick a single moment from his legendary run in pinstripes.

How about October 12, 2012. Yankee Stadium. A crisp autumn night in the Bronx. Game 5 of the ALDS. CC on the mound after pitching a gem in Game 1. Team on his back, and him carrying that weight inning after inning. Pitches firing across the plate like promises — like declarations — that he’d never let them lose. Fist pump. Sit them down.

Complete game victory. New York wins 3-1.

When you zoom out from the kid who grew up in hardscrabble Vallejo, California, CC’s life becomes extraordinary. A six-time Major League All-Star, a World Series Champion, a Cy Young Winner and American League MVP. He was black kid who dreamed big, and a proud member of the Black Aces who won 21 games 2010 while endearing himself forever to New York. The youngest pitcher in the league when he debuted with Cleveland at 20 years old and sure-fire Hall of Famer when retired 19 years later a Yankee.

CC pitched his heart out every time he took the mound. An idol of the Bronx, and a fan favorite who never was anything other than who he was. Forever a son. Forever a father and a husband. Forever black. Forever North Bay, and more specifically forever “The Crest” neighborhood he grew up in. Forever a kid dreaming of the big leagues, who didn’t stop dreaming even as he made it all come true.

As part of Roots of Fight’s CC Sabathia series, we are paying tribute to the great pitcher and New York legend, CC Sabathia.

Shop CC x New York

Cardi B Illustration for 360 Mag

21 in 21

21 Afro-Latinxs to celebrate in 2021 and beyond! 

By: Javier Pedroza

It’s Black History Month, which gives the planet time to reflect on how African American achievements have contributed to US history and how African achievements have contributed to the world. Although, don’t forget it is important to highlight and celebrate Black accomplishments year around. Due to the current global climate, it’s important to become more knowledgeable and celebrate the Afro-Latinx population for its contributions to US history and the world.

After 2020, it is an especially important time to embolden the community to take part in the celebration of Black culture. This year, the Black History Month theme is “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” which explores the African diaspora and their contributions.

To really understand the African diaspora it is essential to acknowledge that there were more African slaves to Latin America than to the United States. “There were 11.2 million Africans who came to the New World in the slave trade and of that 11.2 million, only 450,000 came to the United States,” Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said in a discussion about his PBS documentary series Black In Latin America. He added, “The real black experience, in terms of numbers, is all throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.”

Today, Latinx should understand their roots, which have an undoubtedly long history of African heritage. Hispanics & Latinx identities are beautifully complex, multifaceted and multidimensional. A Pew Research Center survey of Latinx, adults shows that one-quarter of all U.S. Latinx self-identify as Afro-Latinx, Afro-Caribbean, or of African descent with roots in Latin America. This is the first time a nationally representative survey in the U.S. has asked the Latinx population directly whether they considered themselves Afro-Latinx.

Many Latinos identify with their ancestral countries of origin – Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Peru, the Dominican Republic, etc. Others may also identify with their Indigenous roots and all of these experiences made contributions to Black History. A goal to have moving forward is to celebrate global Black History and continue to recognize the contributions African-Americans have made to the world, including achievements made by Afro-Latinxs & Afro-Indigenous people. It’s imperative for Latinxs to acknowledge their African & Indigenous heritage given that history and cultures are inextricably linked to slave trade in the Americas, genocide and the African Diaspora. 

Here’s a growing list of amazing Afro-Latino (a,x) heroes and their contributions. 

1. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

(January 24, 1874 – June 10, 1938)

Place of birth: Santurce, Puerto Rico 

Contributions: Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, born to a Black mother and father of German descent, was a historian. Mr. Schomburg is considered to be one of the Fathers of Black History & a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Schomburg’s lifework consisted of research and preservation—work that would lead him to become one of the world’s premier collectors of Black literature, slave narratives, artwork, and diasporic materials. 

2. Dr. Marta Moreno-Vega 

(January 3, 1942)

Place of birth: East Harlem, New York

Contributions: Dr. Marta Moreno-Vega is an Afro-Boricua who established the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI). Dr. Moreno Vega has been an advocate for cultural equity, cultural studies and education. As the second director of El Museo del Barrio, one of the founders of the Association of Hispanic Arts, Network of Centers of Color and the Roundtable of Institutions of Color, Dr. Moreno Vega has contributed to assuring that the contributions of African and African descendants are integral to the lives of civil society in the Americas. 

3. Celia Cruz 

(October 21, 1925 – July 16, 2003)

Place of birth: Havana, Cuba

Contributions: Celia Cruz was a singer & recording artist born and raised in Havana, Cuba. She was one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century. Her many honors included three Grammy Awards and four Latin Grammys for recordings such as Ritmo en el corazón (1988; with Ray Barretto) and Siempre viviré (2000).

4. Dr. José Celso Barbosa 

(July 27, 1857 – September 21, 1921)

Place of birth: Bayamón, Puerto Rico 

Contributions: Dr. José Celso Barbosa was a Physician, Sociologist and Politician.  Known as the father of the Statehood for Puerto Rico movement, Barbosa was the first Puerto Rican, and one of the first persons of African descent to earn a medical degree in the United States.

5. Ruth Fernández (Ruth Noemi Fernández Cortada) 

(May 23, 1919 – January 9, 2012)

Place of birth: Ponce, Puerto Rico

Contributions: Ruth Fernández, “El Alma de Puerto Rico Hecha Canción” (“The Soul of Puerto Rico Turned Song”) was a Puerto Rican contralto, actress, and a member of the Puerto Rican Senate. She was the first and only singer ever elected to the Senate of Puerto Rico. She was considered by many to be the Rosa Parks of Puerto Rico when she refused to enter the Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan through its back entrance because she was a woman of color. The owners of the hotel stated that blacks had to enter through the rear of the building, but during one evening where she was set to perform at the hotel’s ballroom, she marched into the hotel via its front entrance. After this event, the hotel changed its policy.

6. Cardi B (Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar)

(October 11, 1992)

Place of birth: Manhattan, New York

Contributions: Afro-Latina Cardi B is a Dominican & Trinidadian rapper, songwriter, and actress raised in the Bronx, New York. Recognized by Forbes as one of the most influential female rappers of all time, Cardi B is known for her aggressive flow and candid lyrics, which have received widespread media coverage. She is the highest certified female rapper of all time on the RIAA’s Top Artists (Digital Singles) ranking, also appearing among the ten highest-certified female artists and having the two top-certified songs by a female rap artist.

She is the only female rapper with multiple billion-streams on Spotify and became the first artist to top the inaugural Billboard Global 200. Her accolades include a Grammy Award, eight Billboard Music Awards, five Guinness World Records, five American Music Awards, eleven BET Hip Hop Awards and two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year awards. In 2018 Time magazine included her on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, and in 2020, Billboard honored her as Woman of the Year. 

7. Rosa Alicia Clemente 

(April 18, 1972)

Place of birth: Bronx, New York

Contributions: Afro-Boricua Rosa Alicia Clemente is the 2008 United States Vice-Presidential Candidate, Producer, Journalist, Political Commentator & Scholar-Activist. Rosa is a graduate of the University of Albany and Cornell University. She is currently a doctoral student in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies of University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

8. Congressman Ritchie John Torres 

(March 12, 1988)

Place of birth: Bronx, New York

Contributions: Ritchie Torres is an Afro-Boricua politician who is a member of the Democratic party. He is the US representative for New York’s 15th congressional district. Torres was the first openly gay candidate to be elected to legislative office in the Bronx, and the youngest member of the city council. Torres won the November 2020 general election and assumed office on January 3, 2021. This makes him one of the first openly gay Black men elected to Congress (along with Mondaire Jones). This also made Torres the first openly gay Afro Latino elected to Congress. As such, he is one of the nine co-chairs of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus in the 117th United States Congress. 

9. Zoe Saldana (Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario) *Trending Now

(June 19, 1978)

Place of birth: Passaic, New Jersey

Contributions: Zoe Saldaña is of mixed ethnic heritage, with her mother being of Puerto Rican descent and her father hailing from the Dominican Republic. Zoe is the only performer to get star billing in more than one movie that grossed over $2 billion worldwide with Avatar and Avengers: Infinity War. 

10. Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos 

(September 12, 1891 – April 21, 1965)

Place of birth: Ponce, Puerto Rico 

Contributions: Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was a Puerto Rican attorney, social activist, nationalist and the son of a mixed-race mother who was the daughter of slaves and a Basque father from a farming and landowning family. The latter not only provided no financial support but also did not legally recognize his son until he was 19, and Albizu Campos grew up in poverty. In 1912 he was awarded a scholarship to study chemistry and engineering at the University of Vermont. He transferred a year later to Harvard University, majoring in chemistry and literature and becoming the first Puerto Rican Harvard graduate. Many people in Puerto Rico consider Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos the father of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. 

11. Carmelo Kyam Anthony

(May 29, 1984)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: Carmelo Anthony is an Afro-Latino professional basketball player. He has been named an NBA All-Star ten times and an All-NBA Team member six-time Anthony also played in the 2016 Olympic Games, his fourth straight stint in the Olympics, which was a record for a US male basketball player, breaking the old record of having played in three Olympiads he shared with James and Robinson. He has celebrated his roots by giving back to Puerto Rico, remodeling basketball courts in a poor neighborhood 3 years in a row now. 

12. La La Anthony (Alani Nicole Vázquez) 

(June 25, 1981)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: La La Anthony is an Afro-Puerto Rican actress, host, producer and New York Times best-selling author. La La Anthony has supported charities such as the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Gabrielle’s, Angel Foundation, GLAAD and Voto Latino. 

13. Rosie Perez (Rosa María Perez) 

(September 6, 1964)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: Rosie Perez is an Afro-Latina actress, choreographer and community activist. Rosie was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS by President Barack Obama in 2010. Among many honors, Rosie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Fearless as well as three Emmy Awards for her work as a choreographer on In Living Color (1990–1994).

Perez has also performed in stage plays on Broadway, such as The Ritz, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, and Fish in the Dark. In addition, she was a co-host on the ABC talk show The View during the series’ 18th season. 

14. MJ Rodriguez (Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez) 

(January 7, 1991)

Place of birth: Newark, New Jersey

Contributions: MJ Rodriguez is an African American and Puerto Rican actress who is among the largest cast of transgender actresses on the show Pose. MJ made history by becoming the first Trans woman to ever sign a beauty deal with Olay Body. MJ was awarded the Hispanic Heritage Special Trailblazer Award at the 31st Hispanic Heritage Awards in Washington D.C. 

15. Ramon E. Contreras 

(22-years-old)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York

Contributions: Ramon Contreras is a young political activist, advisor and filmmaker who is changing the nature of civic engagement by championing and encouraging minorities to participate in politics. Ramon is a fierce gun control enthusiast and founded YouthOverGuns, a platform advocating for change in underserved communities of color. He led a protest of thousands across the Brooklyn Bridge and is the National Strategist for the nation-wide organization, March for Our Lives. 

16. Laith Ashley De La Cruz 

(July 6, 1989)

Place of birth: Harlem, New York

Contributions:  Laith Ashley is a model, actor, singer-songwriter and entertainer of Dominican descent. He was the first transgender man to be featured in a Diesel campaign. Laith has been on the cover of countless magazines and has had featured stories published on countless others all around the world; ie, British GQ.

Laith was on the cast of the reality TV series, “Strut,” executive produced by Whoopi Goldberg, and raised the heart rates of viewers in his appearance on hit series, “Pose,” on FX. Ashley is also an activist, particularly in transgender issues. He worked with FLUX, a division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to trans and gender-nonconforming people. 

17. Dianne Morales 

(June 21, 1967)

Place of birth: Brooklyn, New York 

Contributions: Double Ivy League graduate Dianne Morales is an Afro-Boricua with degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University. Dianne is the former CEO of several multi-million dollar social service nonprofits and is also the first Latina / Afro-Latina candidate for New York City Mayor. 

18. Johnny Pacheco 

(March 25, 1935 – February 15, 2021)

Place of birth: Santiago De Los Caballeros, Dominican Republic

Contributions: Johnny Pacheco was one of the most influential artists of Latin music. He was one of the creators of The Fania All-Stars and Fania Record (#latinmotown), the most successful record label in the history of Latin music. 

19. Aida Rodriguez (Aida Margarita Parada Rodriguez) 

(August 29, 1977)

Place of birth: Boston, Massachusetts

Contributions: Aida Rodriguez is a comedian, host, producer, actress and the first Latina / Afro-Latina (Puerto Rican & Dominican) to appear in two comedy specials airing in one month on both HBO and Showtime. Aida’s latest comedy special premiered on Netflix as part of the “They Ready” series hosted by Tiffany Haddish. Rodriguez has also appeared on Comedy Central’s This Week at the Comedy Cellar, The Nightly Show, five-time host of the PBS Imagen Awards, NBC Last Comic Standing’s finals, TRUtv’s Laff Tracks and is also a regular contributor for The Young Turks. 

20. Indya Moore 

(January 17, 1995)

Place of birth: Bronx, New York

Contributions: Indya Moore is of Haitian, Puerto Rican, and Dominican ancestry. They are an actor among the largest cast of transgender on the show Pose. Moore does not identify as a Latinx, and instead identifies as Afro-Taíno. In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named them among the fifty heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people.” 

21. Gina Torres 

(April 25th, 1969)

Place of birth: Manhattan, New York 

Contributions: Gina Torres is an actress and the first Afro-Latina to create, produce and star in her own show, ‘Pearson’. Torres won the ALMA Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Syndicated Drama Series for her role in Cleopatra 2525. Gina also received the Best Supporting Actress award by The Imagen Foundation (Spanish for “image”) Awards, the only premier Latino entertainment awards program dedicated to honoring the positive portrayal and creative excellence of Latinos and Latino cultures on screen. 

Fact Check: We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact us!

NYBG KUSAMA PRESENTATION

360 Magazine is live at the NYBG KUSAMA Cosmic Nature Media Preview featuring Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The KUSAMA Garden and Gallery Pass include access to all of the outdoor and indoor installations (1-9), Haupt Conservatory, Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, Tram Tour, and Garden grounds. The installations include:

  • Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity
  • Flower Obsession
  • Mertz Library Building Gallery
    • Paintings, collages, early sketches, other works
  • Walking Piece
  • Haupt Conservatory Galleries
    • Horticultural displays, tropical and desert collections
    • Hymn of Life – Tulips
    • My Soul Blooms Forever

KUSAMA Garden Pass includes access to all outdoor installations (6-9), Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, and Garden grounds:

  • I Want to Fly to the Universe
  • Narcissus Garden
  • Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees
  • Dancing Pumpkin

In addition, Infinity Mirrored Room – Illusion Inside the Heart: Exterior now on view to all ticket holders; interior access planned to begin this summer; separate timed-entry ticket required for interior access. More information is available on the NYBG website.

Garden Navigator – Explore the one million plants across NYBG’s 250 acres and find what you want to see. Visit the website for the navigation tool.

Forest Bathing: A meditative audio experience – Be fully present on this self-guided tour. Bathe your senses in the sights, smells, sounds, and sensations of the Thain Forest.

Audio Tours – Look for signs with instructions at stops throughout the Garden to learn about specific plants, gardens, and collections.

My Day At The Garden: Family Guide – Embark on an adventure with their kids and family activity guide, available at any ticket window or on the website.

Spring For Nature – 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Kids of all ages can take a closer look at the wonders of plants and animals across the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden.

Bloomberg Connect App – Featuring audio tours, detailed plant images, and more; there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Free download available here.

Tickets Go on Sale to the Public on March 16, 2021, for The New York Botanical Garden’s Exclusive Presentation of KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature Featuring New Work by Celebrated Artist Yayoi Kusama

The exhibition, related programs, and accompanying publication reveal Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the natural world and its countless manifestations beginning in her childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family’s seed nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. The exhibition includes works from throughout Kusama’s prolific career and multifaceted practice. By integrating seasonal horticultural displays, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature further illuminates the power of nature that pervades the artist’s practice and dynamic body of work.

Multiple outdoor installations, including monumental sculptures of flora transform the Garden’s 250-acre landscape and the visitor experience. Her signature polka-dotted organic forms and mesmerizing paintings of plants and flowers are also represented. Recent vivid observations of nature, shown alongside earlier works that have never been publicly exhibited and those that are presented for the first time in the United States, trace Kusama’s connection to the natural world throughout her career.

Among the works created for and debuting in the exhibition are:

  • Flower Obsession (2017/2021), Kusama’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse.
  • Dancing Pumpkin (2020), a monumental sculpture presented on the Haupt Conservatory Lawn.
  • I Want to Fly to the Universe (2020), a 13-foot-high biomorphic form presented in the Visitor Center; and,
  • Infinity Mirrored Room Illusion Inside the Heart(2020), an outdoor installation reflecting its environs.

Spectacular seasonal displays complement the artworks on view, making each visit unique as new plantings, textures, and palettes are introduced. Glorious outdoor displays of tulips and irises in spring give way to dahlias and sunflowers in summer, and masses of pumpkins and autumnal flowers in fall. In and around the Conservatory, Kusama’s plant-inspired polka-dotted sculptures are nestled among meadow grasses, bellflowers, water lilies, and other plantings. Stunning floral presentations bring to life one of Kusama’s paintings on view in the Mertz Library Building through a seasonal progression of violas, salvias, zinnias, and other colorful annuals. In fall, displays of meticulously trained kiku (Japanese for chrysanthemum), one of that country’s most heralded fall-flowering plants) will create a dramatic finale for the Conservatory displays.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature guest curator Mika Yoshitake, Ph.D., said, Kusama, cosmic nature is a life force that integrates the terrestrial and celestial orders of the universe from both the micro- and macrocosmic perspectives she investigates in her practice. Her explorations evoke meanings that are both personal and universal. Nature is not only a central source of inspiration, but also integral to the visceral effects of Kusama’s artistic language in which organic growth and the proliferation of life are made ever-present.

In the Garden

On the Conservatory Lawn, visitors encounter the monumental Dancing Pumpkin, a 16-foot-high bronze sculpture painted in black and yellow. Both playful and powerful, it is sited in an immersive landscape of river birches, flowering plants, grasses, and ferns. The setting is inspired by the sculpture itself and the birch forests near Kusama’s childhood home.

Visitors can marvel at the bright, purple-tentacled floral form with a vivid yellow primordial face of I Want to Fly to the Universe in the Visitor Center Reflecting Pool, and then behold Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees (2002/2021), where soaring trees adorned in vibrant red with white polka dots pop in the landscape along Garden Way.

Narcissus Garden (1966/2021), 1,400 stainless steel spheres each nearly 12 inches in diameter, is installed in the 230-foot-long water feature of the Native Plant Garden. The reflective orbs float on the water’s surface, moved by wind and currents, each mirroring the environment around them to captivating effect.

With interior access planned to begin this summer, Kusama’s new Infinity Mirrored Room will operate per New York State and City guidelines for social distancing and visitor safety. The installation, Infinity Mirrored Room Illusion Inside the Heart (2020), responds to natural light through colored glass throughout the day and seasons. Reflecting the seasonality of NYBGߣs landscape, the exterior will be on view with the opening of the exhibition. A separate timed-entry ticket will be required for limited-capacity access.

In the Galleries

In Flower Obsession, visitors may apply coral-colored floral stickers to the furniture and household objects. Over the course of the exhibition, the accumulating stickers will transform the greenhouse. Through works like this, Kusama employs the repeating patterns and forms of flowers to represent the concepts of obliteration, infinity, and eternity.

Three galleries in the Conservatory feature a horticultural celebration of Kusama’s self-proclaimed biophilia. My Soul Blooms Forever (2019), colossal polka-dotted flowers made of stainless steel and painted in dramatic colors, greet visitors under the recently restored dome of the Palms of the World Gallery.

In the Seasonal Exhibition Galleries, the pink-and-gold mosaic Starry Pumpkin (2015) is featured in a woodland garden of foliage and flowers chosen to harmonize with the sculpture’s pink polka dots. Using Kusama’s vibrant painting Alone, Buried in a Flower Garden (2014) as inspiration, NYBG horticulturists have designed a living work of art to mimic the painting’s bold shapes and colors, with plantings changed seasonally. The patchwork of shapes in the painting reads as garden beds seen from above.

In the Conservatory Courtyard Hardy Pool, the exuberantly colored and patterned sculpture Hymn of Life Tulips (2007) depicting outsized, fiberglass flowers are positioned among water lilies and other seasonal aquatic plantings. The Courtyard also features plantings including an array of tulips in spring and colorful annuals in summer that complement the dynamic sculpture on display.

Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity (2017) comprises a glass cube reflecting an infinity of glowing polka-dotted pumpkins within it. The work, one of Kusama’s signature mirrored environments, is installed in the Visitor Center Gallery. Viewed from the outside, the installation changes over time as pumpkins illuminate and then fade to darkness in a meditative choreography. Kusama has said of pumpkins, My pumpkins, beloved of all the plants in the world. When I see pumpkins, I cannot efface the joy of them being my everything, nor the awe I hold them in.

On display in the Library Building, Kusama’s 1945 sketchbook reveals the 16-year-old artist’s keen eye for detail in some 50 drawings capturing the bloom cycle of tree peonies. This work is an early product of a lifelong connection with the natural world that has inspired her practice across mediums. It also portends avant-garde ideas she developed while living in New York City between 1958 and 1973, as a contemporary of Joseph Cornell, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Claes Oldenburg, and continues to explore rigorously today.

The Library Building presentation also features examples of her botanical drawings, works on paper, biomorphic collages, assemblage boxes, sculptures, and paintings on canvas depicting flora and its limitless variety of patterns.

Kusama’s considerable body of performance works is represented in the Ross Gallery by a projection of Walking Piece (ca. 1966/2021), a performance in which Kusama walked the streets of New York City wearing a bright-pink floral kimono and carrying an umbrella decorated with artificial flowers. Art historians have analyzed Walking Piece as a carefully calculated representation of the artist’s ethnicity and gender, one that was intended to demand attention.

From monumental polka-dotted pumpkin sculptures to abstract paintings that resemble cells magnified thousands of times, Kusama’s works suggest the patterns that can be observed all around us. The self-guided Patterns in Nature Tour, featured on the Bloomberg Connects mobile app, examines the visible and microscopic patterns found in nature. Visitors will discover what the patterns of leaf placement, flower petals, and magnified laboratory specimens reveal about what makes species unique as well as how all living things are connected at the genomic level.

Karen Daubmann, Vice President for Exhibitions and Audience Engagement at the Garden, said, “We are delighted to mount this very special exhibition this year, having postponed it in 2020 due to the pandemic. Yayoi Kusama kindly shared a message with us. On March 6, 2021, she wrote, in part, Dancing through our universe are noble souls whose magnificent forms are saturated with mystery. I invite you to explore the endlessly expanding ode to the beauty of love that is my art. We look forward to sharing her singular vision at the nexus of art, nature, and the cosmos at the Garden site uniquely suited for this once-in-a-lifetime presentation.

Programs and Publication

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is accompanied by a roster of public programs for all ages, including pop-up performances by musicians, jugglers, and puppeteers; self-guided Kids Get Cosmic; activities in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden; and more. Signature exhibition merchandise is available for purchase at NYBG Shop.

Coming in summer 2021, a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue, co-published with Rizzoli Electa, will include essays by KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature guest curator Mika Yoshitake, art historian Jenni Sorkin, curator Alexandra Munroe, and other contributors, including curators and a scientist from NYBG. The publication will focus on Kusama’s lifelong engagement with nature and the ways her interest in nature and plants has formed her career-long investigation of themes of the cosmos and the interconnectedness of all living things. Images of works displayed in The New York Botanical Garden landscape will be featured.

Ticketing

Since reopening July 28, 2020, the Garden has incorporated safety measures based on best practices and guidelines from health authorities and government agencies. Admission to the Garden is currently available through the advance purchase of timed tickets. Visit the website for more information.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature has a new, limited, timed-entry ticketing system to stagger visitors arrivals and promote social distancing. Advance purchase of timed tickets is required and will be confirmed by e-mail with the option to print or download a mobile ticket.

The following options are available:

  • KUSAMA Garden & Gallery Pass includes access to all KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature outdoor installations across the grounds and access to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, installations in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building and Ross Gallery, as well as interior access to Flower Obsession and Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity in the Visitor Center Gallery, plus the Tram Tour and Garden features including the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and outdoor collections.
  • KUSAMA Garden Pass (Non-NYC Residents) includes access to all KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature outdoor installations across the grounds, plus Garden features including the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and outdoor collections.
  • KUSAMA Garden Pass (NYC Residents) includes access to all KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature outdoor installations across the grounds, plus Garden features including the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and outdoor collections.

A separate timed-entry ticket will be required to access the interior of Infinity Mirrored Room Illusion Inside the Heart. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

NYBG welcomes Bronx Health Care Heroes and Bronx Neighbors to KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature with complimentary tickets. Communities in the Bronx are among the most severely impacted by COVID-19 in New York City. Through these community access initiatives, the Garden seeks to acknowledge, with gratitude, the dedication, strength, and resilience of Bronx frontline health care workers and residents. Additional information about these initiatives is available at this website.

Visit NYBG for additional ticketing information and pricing and to sign up for e-mail alerts about the exhibition.

Exhibition on view April 10—October 31, 2021. Tickets available at nybg.org/kusama  

Advance, timed tickets go on sale to the public on March 16 for The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) 2021 exhibition KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, featuring work by internationally celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. NYBG is the exclusive venue for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature. On view April 10 through October 31, 2021, the exhibition will be installed across the Garden’s 250-acre landscape, in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building. Highlights include new works made especially for NYBG. Spectacular seasonal horticultural displays will complement the artworks and an array of programs and activities will make each visit unique. Pictured above, Hymn of Life-Tulips, 2007, will be displayed in the Conservatory Courtyard Hardy Pool.

Visit this website for additional ticketing information and information about NYBG’s offerings.

About The New York Botanical Garden

Founded in 1891, The New York Botanical Garden is the most comprehensive botanical garden in the world and an integral part of the cultural fabric of New York City, anchored in the Bronx. Visitors come to the Garden to connect with nature for joy, beauty, and respite, and for renowned plant-based exhibitions, music and dance, and poetry and lectures. Innovative children’s education programs promote environmental sustainability and nutrition awareness, graduate programs educate the next generation of botanists, while engaging classes inspire adults to remain lifelong learners. The 250-acre verdant landscape—which includes a 50-acre, old-growth forest—and the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory support living collections of more than one million plants. Unparalleled resources are also held in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, the world’s most important botanical and horticultural library with 11 million archival items spanning ten centuries, and William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere with 7.8 million plant and fungal specimens. Committed to protecting the planet’s biodiversity and natural resources, Garden scientists work on-site in cutting-edge molecular labs and in areas worldwide where biodiversity is most at risk.

The New York Botanical Garden Announces Updates on Major Exhibition

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, Featuring New Work by Renowned Artist Yayoi Kusama

New block of advance, timed tickets and separate, limited-capacity tickets to Infinity Mirrored Room Illusion Inside the Heart for August 3–October 31 go on sale June 24

New richly illustrated catalogue documents landmark exhibition KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature on view exclusively at The New York Botanical Garden through October 31

The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) announces its release of a new block of timed tickets beginning on June 24 for admission to KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature from August 3 through October 31, 2021. The acclaimed exhibition features work by internationally celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, including four new sculptures and mirrored environments created especially for this presentation. The exhibition showcasing the artist’s lifelong fascination with the natural world is installed across the Botanical Garden’s landscape, in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building and includes seasonal horticultural displays. NYBG is the exclusive venue for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, which is on view through October 31, 2021. Advance, timed, limited-capacity tickets for the landmark presentation are required and are on sale at this website.

The exterior of Kusama’s new Infinity Mirrored Room Illusion Inside the Heart (2020) has been on view since the opening of the exhibition, reflecting the seasonality of NYBG’s landscape. Interior access will begin on August 3, with separate limited-capacity tickets that will also go on sale on June 24. The immersive experience responds to varying natural light through colored glass throughout the day and seasons.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature Catalogue

The hardbound, 176-page catalogue, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature–published by Rizzoli Electa in association with The New York Botanical Garden–features essays, little-known work by Yayoi Kusama, archival images, and installation photography. It will be available at NYBG Shop beginning June 15, 2021. Edited by the exhibition’s guest curator Mika Yoshitake and Joanna L. Groarke, Director of Public Engagement and Library Exhibitions Curator, NYBG, contributors include Barbara Ambrose, Director of Laboratory Research and Associate Curator of Plant Genomics, NYBG; Karen Daubmann, Vice President for Exhibitions and Audience Engagement, NYBG; Alex A. Jones, writer and independent scholar; Alexandra Munroe, Senior Curator, Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Jenni Sorkin, Associate Professor, History of Art & Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara.

La Grande Dame by Veuve Clicquot Partnership

NYBG announces its partnership with Veuve Clicquot, the French champagne house with which Yayoi Kusama has previously collaborated. In September 2020, Veuve Clicquot unveiled the results of their latest collaboration Kusama’s exceptional reinterpretation of the newly released La Grande Dame 2012 vintage champagne with her signature polka dot and floral motifs. The floral creation was reprised in My Heart That Blooms in The Darkness of The Night, a sculpture inspired by La Grande Dame champagne honoring Madame Clicquot, an industry visionary. Images of the collaboration are available here.

Following its presentation at NYBG’s annual Spring Gala on June 3, a large-scale version of My Heart That Blooms in The Darkness of The Night will be on view to diners in NYBG’s Hudson Garden Grill through the close of the exhibition on October 31. Veuve Clicquot’s La Grande Dame and Yellow Label champagne will be available for purchase.

“We are excited to offer special champagne and food pairings at the Hudson Garden Grill featuring Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame as part of the champagne house’s collaboration with Yayoi Kusama,”said Nelson Siavichay, Chef de Cuisine. “The vintage pairs beautifully with our farm-to-table cuisine and NYBG’s current exhibition showcasing works by Kusama.”

About The New York Botanical Garden

Founded in 1891, The New York Botanical Garden is the most comprehensive botanical garden in the world and an integral part of the cultural fabric of New York City, anchored in the Bronx. Visitors come to the Garden to connect with nature for joy, beauty, and respite, and for renowned plant-based exhibitions, music and dance, and poetry and lectures. Innovative children’s education programs promote environmental sustainability and nutrition awareness, graduate programs educate the next generation of botanists, while engaging classes inspire adults to remain lifelong learners. The 250-acre verdant landscape which includes a 50-acre, old-growth forest and the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory support living collections of more than one million plants. Unparalleled resources are also held in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, the world’s most important botanical and horticultural library with 11 million archival items spanning ten centuries, and William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere with 7.8 million plant and fungal specimens. Committed to protecting the planet’s biodiversity and natural resources, Garden scientists work on-site in cutting-edge molecular labs and in areas worldwide where biodiversity is most at risk.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is presented by:

Major Sponsors: Tom and Janet Montag; MetLife Foundation; and La Grande Dame by Veuve Clicquot

Generous support provided by: Citi and Delta Air Lines

Digital experience provided by: Bloomberg Philanthropies

Additional support provided by: E.H.A. Foundation, Inc.;

Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation; and the Japan Foundation

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts; and

The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature

Exhibitions in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory are made possible by the Estate of Enid A. Haupt.

Exhibitions in the Arthur and Janet Ross Gallery are made possible by the Arthur and Janet Ross Fund.

LuESTHER T. MERTZ CHARITABLE TRUST:

Providing leadership support for year-round programming at NYBG

The New York Botanical Garden is located at 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10458. For more information, visit this website. The New York Botanical Garden is located on property owned in full by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. A portion of the Garden’s general operating funds is provided by The New York City Council and The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The Bronx Borough President and Bronx elected representatives in the City Council and State Legislature provide leadership funding.

Photo Credit: Vaughn Lowery
Photo Credit: Vaughn Lowery
Photo Credit: Vaughn Lowery
Photo Credit: Vaughn Lowery
Bronx Point Renderings by John DeSio (Risa Heller Comms) for use by 360 Magazine

TIME 2 BUILD CAMPAIGN

Campaign To Build the Universal Hip Hop Museum Begins

February 24, 2021 marks the official virtual announcement of the $100 Million global capital campaign, “Time 2 Build” for the permanent home of the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the South Bronx, the cradle of Hip Hop culture. As we enter Phase 2, after raising $23M during Phase 1 for initial construction, The UHHM is launching its capital campaign to support the museum’s “Fit Out” of its interiors. The future home of the Universal Hip Hop Museum is poised to become the premier cultural institution founded to preserve, protect, and present the historic cultural influence of Hip Hop worldwide. This soft launch is designed to engage, excite, and drive donations from Hip Hop lovers locally and globally. With a targeted opening date of 2023 that coincides with the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, the UHHM will rise with the support and generosity of generations of “Hip Hop Heads” and their passion for the culture.

At 2:00 pm EST veteran radio host on the SoundChat Radio network, Barbara “Roxie” Delaleu, will be joined by Rocky Bucano, Founder and Executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, with remarks offered by Civil Rights icon, Dr. Benjamin Chavis of Black Press USA. Joining them will be DJ Spark of iHeart Radio, and MC Lyte’s Hip Hop Sister’s Network, and Monalisa, host of Dublab’s Paths of Rhythm. Former New York State Assembly Member and Chair of the Capital Campaign and UHHM Chief Strategist, Michael Blake, and more will join this event to share why donating to build the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the birthplace of Hip Hop, as the “Official Record of Hip Hop,” is so vital culturally. Register in advance for the Universal Hip Hop Museum’s Time 2 Build Capital Campaign fund by visiting this website.

Viewers will be led on a dynamic 3D virtual tour of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, by the UHHM’s Director of Design, architect Michael Ford, founder of the Hip Hop Architecture Camp. He’ll preview the museum’s design within Bronx Point–the award-winning mixed-use, waterfront. 1 million square foot, affordable housing development project in partnership with the New York Economic Development Corp. (EDC), Empire State Development (ESD), and L & M Development Partners. The Universal Hip Hop Museum is the New York City Council’s designated cultural anchor at Bronx Point. And the “Award for Excellence in Design,” has been awarded by the New York City Design Commission to L&M Development Partners for Bronx Point, the future home of Hip Hop culture.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz said “Bronx Point is a tremendous step forward for our borough. Inclusion of the Universal Hip Hop Museum as part of this project will help showcase our role in the creation of that worldwide cultural movement for generations to come.”

Rocky Bucano, Executive Director states, “It is a pivotal time now more than ever that we bring this museum to life. It is a cultural timestamp that will bridge the Hip Hop and Bronx community with a permanent place to call home, but we can not do it without your support. This capital campaign is a call to action to ensure we preserve the culture.”

Michael Blake said as the Chair of the UHHM Capital Campaign, Chief Strategist and former Assembly Member (79th District, The Bronx), “The time for Hip Hop to have its home has come. Now, it’s Time 2 Build. Our $100 Capital Campaign, which is in five phases to signify the five elements of Hip Hop, will ensure that the Official Record of Hip Hop is cemented where it should be, in the South Bronx, the South-South Bronx!”

About The Universal Hip Hop Museum
Anchored in the birthplace of Hip Hop culture, the Universal Hip Hop Museum will break ground in the Bronx in 2020. Built as a space for audiences, artists, and technology to converge and create unparalleled educational and entertainment experiences, the museum is slated to open in Bronx Point in 2023.  The UHHM will celebrate and preserve the history of local and global Hip Hop music and culture past, present, and future.

Bronx Point Renderings by John DeSio (Risa Heller Comms) for use by 360 Magazine

Bronx Point Renderings by John DeSio (Risa Heller Comms) for use by 360 Magazine

Kusama with Pumpkin, 2010 for 360 Magazine, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, David Zwirner, Victoria Miro

NYBG Newest Installation

The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) has announced the dates for its expansive 2021 exhibition, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, featuring work by internationally celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition will include four experiences that will debut at the Botanical Garden. NYBG is the exclusive venue for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature. On view April 10 through October 31, 2021, the exhibition will be installed across the Garden’s landscape, in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building. Advance, timed, limited-capacity tickets for the landmark presentation go on sale to the public March 16, 2021.

The exhibition, related programs, and accompanying publication will reveal Kusama’s lifelong fascination with the natural world and its countless manifestations, beginning in her childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family’s seed nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. The exhibition will include works from throughout Kusama’s prolific career and multifaceted practice. By integrating seasonal horticultural displays, KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will further illuminate the power of nature that pervades the artist’s practice and dynamic body of work.

Multiple outdoor installations will be on view, including monumental sculptures of flora that will transform the Garden’s 250-acre landscape and visitor experience. Her signature polka-dotted organic forms and mesmerizing paintings of plants and flowers will also be presented. These vivid observations of biodiversity will be shown along with archival material that has never been publicly exhibited, and more that will be on view for the first time in the United States.

Among the works created for and debuting in the exhibition are:

  • Flower Obsession(2017/2021), Kusama’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse;
  • Dancing Pumpkin(2020), a monumental sculpture presented on the Haupt Conservatory Lawn;
  • I Want to Fly to the Universe(2020), a 13-foot-high biomorphic form presented in the Visitor Center; and
  • Infinity Mirrored Room–Illusion Inside the Heart(2020), an outdoor installation reflecting its environs.

Spectacular seasonal displays will complement the artworks on view, making each visit unique as new plantings, textures, and palettes are introduced. Glorious outdoor displays of tulips and irises in spring give way to dahlias and sweet peas in summer, and masses of pumpkins and autumnal flowers in fall. In and around the Conservatory, Kusama’s plant-inspired polka-dotted sculptures will be nestled among meadow grasses, bellflowers, water lilies, and other plantings. Stunning floral presentations will bring to life one of Kusama’s paintings on view in the Library Building through a seasonal progression of violas, salvias, zinnias, and other colorful annuals. In fall, displays of meticulously trained kiku (Japanese for chrysanthemum, one of that country’s most heralded fall-flowering plants) will create a dramatic finale for the Conservatory displays.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature guest curator Mika Yoshitake, Ph.D., said, “For Kusama, cosmic nature is a life force that integrates the terrestrial and celestial orders of the universe from both the micro- and macrocosmic perspectives she investigates in her practice. Her explorations evoke meanings that are both personal and universal. Nature is not only a central source of inspiration, but also integral to the visceral effects of Kusama’s artistic language in which organic growth and the proliferation of life are made ever-present.”

In the Garden

On the Conservatory Lawn, visitors will encounter the monumental Dancing Pumpkin, a 16-foot-high bronze sculpture in black and yellow. Both playful and powerful, it will be sited in an immersive landscape of river birches, flowering plants, grasses, and ferns. The setting is inspired by the sculpture itself and the plants native to Kusama’s childhood home.

Visitors can marvel at the bright, purple-tentacled floral form with a vivid yellow primordial face of I Want to Fly to the Universe in the Visitor Center Reflecting Pool, and then behold Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees (2002/2021), where soaring trees adorned in vibrant red with white polka dots will pop in the landscape along Garden Way.

Narcissus Garden (1966/2021), 1,400 stainless steel spheres each nearly 12 inches in diameter, will be installed in the 230-foot-long water feature of the Native Plant Garden. The reflective spheres will float on the water’s surface, moved by wind and currents, each mirroring the environment around them to captivating effect.

The exterior of Infinity Mirrored Room–Illusion Inside the Heart, a cube-shaped structure with a reflective surface, will be on view, revealing and repeating the changing landscape throughout the seasons. Interior access to the installation, which responds to natural light through colored glass throughout the day, is planned to begin in summer, per New York State and New York City guidelines for COVID-19. A timed-entry ticket will be required for limited-capacity access.

In the Galleries

In Flower Obsession, visitors may opt to apply coral-colored floral stickers to the glass-paned walls and interior objects. Over the course of the exhibition, the stickers will transform the greenhouse. Through works like this, Kusama employs the repeating patterns and forms of flowers to represent the concepts of obliteration, infinity, and eternity.

Three galleries in the Conservatory will be transformed into a horticultural celebration of Kusama’s self-proclaimed biophilia. My Soul Blooms Forever(2019), colossal polka-dotted flowers made of stainless steel and painted in dramatic colors, will greet visitors under the newly restored dome of the Palms of the World Gallery.

In the Seasonal Exhibition Galleries, Starry Pumpkin (2015), adorned with pink and gold mosaic, will be featured in a woodland garden of foliage and flowers chosen to harmonize with the sculpture’s pink polka dots. Using Kusama’s vibrant painting Alone, Buried in a Flower Garden (2014) as inspiration, NYBG horticulturists have designed a living work of art to mimic the painting’s bold shapes and colors, with plantings that will change seasonally. The patchwork of shapes in the painting reads as garden beds seen from above.

In the Conservatory Courtyard Hardy Pool, the exuberantly colored and patterned sculpture Hymn of Life:Tulips (2007) featuring outsized, fiberglass flowers will be bordered by water lilies and other seasonal plantings. The buoyant flowers echo the stunning horticultural displays in the Conservatory.

Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity (2017) comprises a glass cube with two-way mirrors reflecting an infinity of glowing polka-dotted pumpkins within it. The work, one of Kusama’s signature mirrored environments, will be installed in the Visitor Center Gallery. Viewed from the outside, the installation is accompanied by a statement by the artist that reads, in part, “My pumpkins, beloved of all the plants in the world. When I see pumpkins, I cannot efface the joy of them being my everything, nor the awe I hold them in.”

On display in the Mertz Library Building, Kusama’s 1945 sketchbook reveals the 16-year-old artist’s keen eye for detail in some 50 drawings capturing the bloom cycle of tree peonies. This early work is the product of a lifelong connection with the natural world that has inspired her practice across mediums, and also portends the avant-garde ideas she developed while living in New York City between 1958 and 1973 as a contemporary of Joseph Cornell, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Claes Oldenburg, and continues to explore rigorously today.

The Library Building presentation will feature examples of her botanical sketches, works on paper, biomorphic collages, assemblage boxes, and recent soft sculpture and paintings on canvas depicting flora and its limitless variety of patterns.

Kusama’s considerable body of performance works is represented in the exhibition by projected photographs of Walking Piece (ca. 1966), a performance in which Kusama walked the streets of New York wearing a bright-pink floral kimono and carrying an umbrella decorated with artificial flowers. Art historians have analyzed Walking Piece as a carefully calculated representation of the artist’s ethnicity and gender, one that was intended to demand attention. Interpretation will provide further context for the artist’s performance works.

From monumental polka-dotted pumpkin sculptures to abstract paintings that suggest cells magnified thousands of times, Kusama’s works suggest the patterns that can be observed all around us. In Patterns in Nature: Science Walk, a self-guided walking tour bringing together living plants and images of magnified laboratory specimens, visitors will explore the visible and microscopic patterns that can be found in nature, and how they reveal what makes species unique, as well as how all living things are connected at the genomic level.

Lauren Turchio, NYBG Vice President for Garden Experience, said, “When the exhibition had to be postponed last spring, Yayoi Kusama shared a moving message that read, in part: ‘The passion that I and those at The New York Botanical Garden have poured into this exhibition is still burning. Everyone, I hope you will wait.’ We are so grateful to our visitors for waiting for this once-in-a-lifetime presentation.”

Programs and Publication

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will be accompanied by a roster of public programs for all ages, including pop-up performances by musicians, jugglers, and puppeteers; self-guided “Kids Get Cosmic” activities in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden; and more. Signature exhibition merchandise will be available for purchase at NYBG Shop.

Coming in summer 2021, a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue, co-published with Rizzoli Electa, will include essays by KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature guest curator Mika Yoshitake, art historian Jenni Sorkin, curator Alexandra Munroe, and NYBG curators and scientists that focus on Kusama’s lifelong engagement with nature and the ways in which her interest in nature and plants has formed her career-long investigation of themes of the cosmos and the interconnectedness of all living things. Images of works displayed at The New York Botanical Garden will be featured.

Ticketing

Since reopening July 28, 2020, the Garden has incorporated safety measures based on best practices and guidelines from health authorities and government agencies. Admission to the Garden is currently available through the advance purchase of timed tickets.

KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature tickets go on sale for NYBG Patrons beginning on March 9, 2021, Members on March 11, 2021, and the general public on March 16, 2021. The new, limited, timed-entry ticketing system staggers visitors’ arrivals and promotes social distancing. Advance purchase of timed tickets is required and will be confirmed by e-mail with the option to print or download a mobile ticket.

The following options will be available:

  • KUSAMA Garden & Gallery Passincludes access to all KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature outdoor installations across the grounds and access to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, installations in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building and Ross Gallery, as well as interior access to Flower Obsession and Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity in the Visitor Center Gallery, plus the Tram Tour and Garden features including the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and outdoor collections.
  • KUSAMA Garden Pass (Non-NYC Residents)includes access to all KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature outdoor installations across the grounds, plus Garden features including the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and outdoor collections.
  • KUSAMA Garden Pass (NYC Residents) includes access to all KUSAMA: Cosmic Natureoutdoor installations across the grounds, plus Garden features including the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and outdoor collections.
  • A timed-entry ticket will be required to access the interior of Infinity Mirrored Room–Illusion Inside the Heart. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

NYBG will welcome Bronx Health Care Heroes and Bronx Neighbors to KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature with complimentary tickets. Communities in the Bronx are among the most severely impacted by COVID-19 in New York City. Through these community access initiatives, the Garden seeks to acknowledge, with gratitude, the dedication, strength, and resilience of Bronx frontline health care workers and residents. Additional information about these initiatives will be available in the coming weeks.

About The New York Botanical Garden

Founded in 1891, The New York Botanical Garden is the most comprehensive botanical garden in the world and an integral part of the cultural fabric of New York City, anchored in the Bronx. Visitors come to the Garden to connect with nature for joy, beauty, and respite, and for renowned plant-based exhibitions, music and dance, and poetry and lectures. Innovative children’s education programs promote environmental sustainability and nutrition awareness, graduate programs educate the next generation of botanists, while engaging classes inspire adults to remain lifelong learners. The 250-acre verdant landscape, which includes a 50-acre, old-growth forest and the landmark Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, support living collections of more than one million plants. Unparalleled resources are also held in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, the world’s most important botanical and horticultural library with 11 million archival items spanning ten centuries, and William and Lynda Steere Herbarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere with 7.8 million plant and fungal specimens. Committed to protecting the planet’s biodiversity and natural resources, Garden scientists work on-site in cutting-edge molecular labs and in areas worldwide where biodiversity is most at risk.

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KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature is presented by:

Major Sponsors: Tom and Janet Montag and MetLife Foundation

Generous support provided by: Citi and Delta Air Lines

Digital experience provided by: Bloomberg Philanthropies

Additional support provided by: Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts; and The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Exhibitions in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory are made possible by the Estate of Enid A. Haupt.

LUESTHER T. MERTZ CHARITABLE TRUST: Providing leadership support for year-round programming at NYBG

The New York Botanical Garden is located at 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, New York 10458. For more information, visit their website.

Kaelen Felix illustrates Ritchie Torres for 360 Magazine

TRAILBLAZER: CONGRESSMAN RITCHIE TORRES

By Elle Grant

January 3rd marked the commencement of the 117th Congress and the swearing of its newest members. For many, it marked the beginning of a new dawn. One that will be followed by the inauguration of TIME’s People of the Year, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. They will replace President Trump on Inauguration Day on January 20th. Yet several other remarkable individuals were elected this year and sworn in a bit earlier, solidifying the 117th Congress as the most diverse in American history. One of these representatives is a freshly elected Ritchie Torres, a 32-year-old politician serving the 15th congressional district in the Bronx, New York. Torres is the first openly gay Afro-Latino man elected to Congress, and one of two gay Black men that will serve in the 117th Congress, a distinction he shares with fellow New Yorker Mondaire Jones. 360 Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Torres to discuss the story of his life, the issues he considers vital, as well as pick his brain for his thoughts on current events.

“I am a product of the Bronx,” Torres says of his childhood, “I spent most of my life in poverty.” Ritchie Torres was raised by a single mother, one of three children, in the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the East Bronx. He recalls the difficulty his mother had raising a family on minimum wage in the 1990s, as well as the awful conditions of the public housing he grew up in. Torres recollects these experiences with the soft yet fluid countenance that marked his speech throughout 360’s conversation with him. He floats between topics and memories with ease.

He recalls, with a rich sense of irony, the construction of Trump Golf Links as a child. “My life is something of a metaphor. I grew up right across the street of what became Trump golf course and actually something funny, is when the golf course was undergoing construction, it unleashed a skunk infestation. So, I often tell people I’ve been smelling the stench of Donald Trump long before he became President.” His own situation, compared with the government subsidized construction of the Trump Golf Links, deeply unsettled Torres’ image of society. He says collectively of his youth, “Those experiences shape not only who I am as a person, but as a public official.”

Such injustices prompted Torres to seek to become “The change that you wish the see in the world,” he says, quoting Mahatma Gandhi. He named public figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Ted Kennedy as role models. He got his start as a housing organizer and eventually took the leap of faith to run for public office, becoming New York’s youngest elected city official at age 25. He had “No ties to the machine. No ties to the dynasties of Bronx politics, but I was young and energetic. I knocked on thousands of doors,” he claims that kind of face-to-face contact won him that election. Torres then became the first LGBTQ+ official elected from the Bronx.

“I think it has several implications,” he says when asked what this early accomplishment meant to him. “I mean, first, we are all products of our identities and our lived experiences. Right? Who we are as people shapes what we do as policy makers. It is important to have LGBTQ policy makers in the room where decisions are being made. A wise person once said, ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, then you are probably on the menu.’” Referring to his 2020 election win, he says “My election means that LGBTQ people of color, in particular, will have a seat at one of the most powerful tables, the United States Congress.” He calls the reality of his election both empowering and normalizing. “I am a symbol of possibility.”

“I met Mondaire for the first time four years ago,” Torres says of Mondaire Jones, U.S. representative of New York’s 17th congressional district. “I remember when I met him for the first time, we had a conversation about the lack of LGBTQ representation of color in New York state politics. And I never imagined that four years later, he and I would become the first openly LGBTQ Black members of United States Congress.”

Congressmen Torres recognizes that his path, though marked with accomplishments, has not been one of only highs. Torres stands apart as a public official on the national stage who is open about the lows of his life and his struggles with mental health. When asked why he chooses to be so transparent, he says “I felt a deep sense of obligation to speak openly about my own struggles with depression in order to break the silence and shame and stigma that surrounds mental health.” He seeks to evolve, not perpetuate, the current ideas surrounding mental health. He hopes to show that “there is a way forward” out of difficult moments, which for him were struggles with substance abuse, the loss of a friend, and moments when he considered taking his own life. But seven years later, Torres was elected to city council. “I would not be alive today, much less a member of the United States Congress, were it not for mental health care which saved my life.” He aspires to send a message that “Recovery is possible. You can take an antidepressant, as I do every day, and find normalcy and stability” and achieve feats like being elected to Congress.

The 117th Congress is slated to be the most diverse in history. Torres says of this reality, “I think American is increasingly becoming a multi-racial, multi-ethnic inclusive democracy. We are witnessing the collapse of politics as an old voice network. I am part of a new generation of young leaders every bit as diverse as America itself. Congress is becoming what it always should have been, a miniaturization of America itself.”

Torres acknowledges the year 2020, monumental in many ways, as harrowing for his Bronx community. “COVID-19 has been a catastrophe for the city and the country, and the South Bronx has been the epicenter of COVID-19. The South Bronx had the highest rate of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality during the peak of the pandemic. And just as destructive as COVID-19 itself were the deeper inequalities that were brought to light.” He argued that the coronavirus exposed the deeper health inequalities, racial inequalities, and class inequalities laid bare by the pandemic.

These issues are at the forefront of Torres’ mind in thinking of his work as a legislator. When asked what he saw as the first step to rectifying the rampant racial injustice in the United States, he answered “the first thing is to bring greater accountability to policing in America,” an argument familiar to many Americans following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd and their ensuing protests. As the Black Lives Matter movement swept the nation with greater momentum than ever before, cries for justice and defunding the police became common across the country’s cities. “Where there is no accountability, there will never be an end to police brutality” Torres says, being especially critical of qualified immunity in the United States.

Torres heads to Congress as a man with a mission regarding many issues. He himself declares “My great passion is affordable housing,” reflecting a long journey working continually in the housing sphere. He seeks to secure far greater funding for public housing in New York City and to expand the Section 8 program. The Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, created by an act in 1978, provides assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income families to rent housing in the private market. Torres says, “For me the surest way to stimulate the economy is to put money in the pockets of struggling families.” In order to do that, he believes the solution is an expanded child tax credit, which he describes as the single largest tax expenditure in America, yet he finds fault with a system that is “so regressive that it excludes a third of American families. Particularly the poorest families in America.” Torres’ passion shines through when he discusses the subject, detailing how this solution could slash childhood poverty by 40% in the span of the year. He calls its potential an absolute “game changer.”

Without question, affordable housing and tax reform are the first issues Torres hopes to address after being sworn in to the 117th Congress on January 3rd, 2020. “For me, the central mission of my life is to fight poverty in America. Racially constructed poverty in America. The South Bronx is said to be the poorest district in America and if we can make progressive policies work in the South Bronx, we can make them work anywhere.”

360 Magazine also had the opportunity to discuss a variety of current issues with Congressman Torres, one of which being the then impending Senate run-offs in Georgia. Following races too close to call in November 2020, Republican incumbent David Perdue is facing a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff. Additionally, GOP appointee Kelly Loeffler is defending her seat against Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock. The election is vital because it will determine which party will control the Senate. “The stakes are supremely important,” Torres says of Georgia. “As long as Mitch McConnell refuses to bring critical bills to the floor for a vote, there is a limit to what we can accomplish. For me, Mitch McConnell is the single greatest obstruction on the path to progress. Winning those two seats in Georgia are essential.”

Regarding the impending mayoral race in his home of New York City, as well as early polls that display former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang as the frontrunner, Torres is coy. “The mayor’s race is wide open. Anyone who claims to have it figured out is lying.” He goes on to affirm “It is full of more than one credible candidate.”

“To be clear, I never announced that I wasn’t going to be in the squad.” Torres says, referring to ‘The Squad’ of United States Congress, composed of Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow New Yorker, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. With new young progressive politicians like Torres joining the fray, claims of expanding membership are common. Torres, along with the aforementioned Mondaire Jones, as well as Congresswoman Cori Bush, Congresswoman Marie Newman, and Congressman Jamaal Brown are commonly referred to as impending members.

Instead, Torres clarifies, “I would never issue an announcement that I would not be a part of something. That would be an odd thing to do. Whenever I’m asked about the squad, I simply state that I’m my own person and I prefer to be judged on the basis of my own story and my own record, on my own terms.” He goes on to assert he is willing to work with “anyone and everyone in the service of delivering to the people of the South Bronx. That is my highest priority.” Torres is clear in this declaration that he is willing to work with more conservative members of his own party or the Republican party in hopes of progress.

On a future in politics, Torres affirmed his intent to serve the people in the moment and to “let the dice fall where they may” regarding the future. When asked what wisdom he would impart to a younger generation, Congressman Torres says “We are all only as strong as the support we have in our lives and be grateful for the supporters you have. The friends and family. I would not be here today if not for the friendship of people who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Know who those people are and value them and be grateful for them.”

Update as of 1/14/21, Congressman Ritchie Torres has formally endorsed former presidential candidate Andrew Yang for mayor of New York City. This comes just a day after Andrew Yang announced his campaign in a video titled ‘Why I’m Running,’ which features Torres in it.

Frank Pena for 360 Magazine

Jonte’ Moaning × Brian Thomas

360 Magazine had the opportunity to collaborate with Jonte’ Moaning and Brian Thomas for an editorial fashion shoot that encompasses the new age of fashion. The incredibly talented duo worked together to produce a photoshoot that displays high fashion and uniqueness. The creative director of the shoot was Franklin Peña and the production was done by Brian Rubiano

This shoot features two exquisite looks which Moaning carries off flawlessly. The chained shirt, paired with leather shorts and unique, gladiator boots creates a modern-day, stylish armor. The second look features a silver overcoat with red and black dripping detail falling from the jacket’s shoulders. When paired with this statement red and grey hat, the look comes together effortlessly. 

Jonte’ Moaning has been a pioneer for the entertainment industry worldwide. He has influenced major pop artists with his unique discography. His work can recently be seen in the Black is King film which was directed, written and executively produced by Beyoncé. Jonte’ has been of major importance for the LGTBQ+ community and has broken down barriers for men to explore their gender expression. 

Jonte’ is best known for taking part in curating the iconic “Sasha Fierce” persona of BeyoncéAlthough, he has also worked closely with a number of other notable artists such as Janet Jackson, Cassie, Tamar Braxton, Blackpink and many more.

Jonte’ released his first solo single, “Bitch You Betta” in 2008 and has continued to release music from there. The artist has stated that he was inspired to work on his solo career while he was working alongside performing artists and felt that he “could do it better.”

As a performer, Jonte’ is known for his androgynous look and trademark high heels which challenge classic gender norms. He has worked into the elite status and continues to produce music that embodies all he represents. His music, along with his style makes waves within the entertainment industry and this editorial shoot is no different. 

You can read more about Jonte’s successful career on his website, HelloJonte.com.

The photographer for the shoot, Brian Thomas, is an astound choreographer and photographer who is best known for working with legend Michael Jackson. Throughout his career, he has gained a great deal of experience and works closely with a variety of performing artists. Thomas also owns Spinkick Pictures in New York City, which produces extraordinary films. 

Thomas has had major success in the directing industry and some of his credits include “Amy’s Victory Dance,” an award-winning documentary as well as, “Follow, Lead, Love” and “P.S. Love Robby,” two documentaries currently in production. He also directed the short film, “Dark Matter” which features dancer Desmond Richardson

Thomas has also won the GLAM award for various music videos including “Higher Love,” which stares Carishma. He has also worked as the Associate Director for the Cirque du Soleil  Flash mob Time Square performance. 

As well as being an accredited director, Thomas has choreographed for many notable stars. He has worked with stars such as Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Pink, Whitney Houston, Usher, Jason Durelo and Alicia Keys, all giant names within the music industry. He has also worked closely with stars like Destiny’s Child, Jamie Foxx, Mya, Brian McKnight, Deborah Cox, India Arie, Liza Minnelli, Gloria Gaynor and Marc Anthony to produce stellar choreography. 

Thomas has also choreographed for companies such as Sesame Street, The Electric Company, New York City Knicks Dancers, Brooklynettes, Optimum triple play, Are We There Yet, and numerous other TV and live stage events.

Thomas explained that his mission is to promote empathy through his work with Visual Art. He wants to further conversations about Equality, Representation, and Diversity which he certainly does with his films.   

Read more about Brian Thomas and his success on his website, http://brianthomasfilms.com/

The creative direction of the shoot was executed by Franklin Peña, a professional dancer and fashion model from New York City. He has always been heavily involved in the entertainment industry and in 2016 decided to make the move from the Bronx to Los Angeles. There, he appeared on E Network’s reality show, What Happens at The Abbey. This series takes a glance inside of The Abbey in West Hollywood, which is known as the “Best Gay Bar in the World.” The show follows the workers of the bar as they interact with celebrities and navigate love and drama. 

Pena was also tapped by 360 Magazine as a red carpet correspondent in 2017. He continues to grow his success working with a variety of other creatives in the industry. 

This shoot was produced by Brian Rubiano. As a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines, Brian Rubiano has gained success as an actor and producer. He also started “Humanize It,” his own Film Production and Brand Strategy consultation company. 

Rubiano has worked closely with Brian Thomas on many similar films for Spinkick Pictures. Rubiano worked as the Post-Production Producer for both the Award-Winning feature documentary “Amy’s Victory Dance” and the short film “Dark Matter,” both of which Thomas also worked on. 

Rubiano has a goal to use his platform, skills & knowledge in order to help artists and the creative community to expand their brand’s purpose. He aspires to be a vessel to the voiceless, marginalized & underrepresented by using film production as his medium.

You can keep up with Moaning, Thomas, Peña and Rubiano on their Instagrams. 

Model: Jonte’ Moaning 

Photographer: Brian Thomas 

Creative Direction: Franklin Peña

Producer: Brian Rubiano

Frank Pena for 360 Magazine

Frank Pena for 360 Magazine