Assembly Gallery Activation:
Operating from Recess’s satellite site in Downtown Brooklyn, Assembly is at once a public storefront gallery and an arts-based diversion program for court-involved youth. The diversion program is presented in partnership with Brooklyn Justice Initiatives and Shaun Leonardo. Brooklyn Justice Initiatives will recruit program participants at the court level, and workshops will be designed and led by Shaun Leonardo, the program’s lead teaching artist.
For the initial cycle of the program, from January–April, 2017, Shaun Leonardo’s own body of work will occupy the street-level, public storefront gallery at 370 Schermerhorn St. Similar to Recess’s seasoned Session program in Soho, which allows artists to pursue works in progress in a public setting, Assembly will grant Leonardo the opportunity to activate and add to the space cumulatively, working toward an evolving installation rather than a static exhibition. Leonardo’s videos, drawings, and documentation of his performance art will be present in the gallery and will also be used as a jumping off point for discussion during the educational diversion programs.
At the core of Shaun Leonardo’s project—as it unfolds both in the front gallery and during program sessions—will be a seamless treatment of artistic and educative practice. To this end, the formal layout of the adjacent classroom and gallery will be porous, and an ideology of alternative pedagogy will pervade the entirety of the space. Leonardo will have custom seating and storage fabricated to redefine the priorities of critical inquiry and to provide a counterpoint to furniture typically found in learning institutions; rather than connoting uniformity and institutional homogeneity, the furnishings and arrangement of the space will welcome a variety of subject positions and learning styles. Visitors to Assembly will therefore be encouraged to adapt new positions and language to describe the justice system in a way that rejects popular notions of criminality.
Assembly is invested in reframing the narrative around the justice system with and for court-involved participants, but in order to effect change in this pressing arena, there is a need to reframe the dominant story and language with everyone, regardless of one’s proximity to the system. As such, Leonardo’s project will include a series of public workshops using the same curriculum employed during diversion programs. Artists, educators, and members of the public are invited to participate in these sessions.
During the Assembly pilot, Melanie Crean will serve as the Assembly Research Artist. She will investigate issues that underlie the workshop curriculum—including the use of visual storytelling, and embodied learning and revisualization through media, to mitigate stress and promote agency. She will also work with Leonardo to prototype different methods during the program, while contributing to the larger curricular work that they are co-authoring as part of a collaborative project with Assembly Teaching Artist Sable Smith, entitled
Mirror / Echo / Tilt.
Open to the public Thursday – Saturday, 12-6pm.
About the Artist
Shaun Leonardo’s artwork negotiates societal expectations of gender and sex, along with its notions of achievement, collective identity, and the experience of failure. In his work as an educator, Leonardo promotes the political potential of attention, self-reflection, and discomfort as a means to create awareness, disrupt meaning, and shift perspective. He is currently Manager of School, Youth & Community Programs at the New Museum and has worked as an educator at the Fortune Society, Socrates Sculpture Park, Cooper Union’s Outreach program and The Point (Bronx). Leonardo is a Brooklyn-based artist from Queens, New York City. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and has received awards from Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; The New York Studio School; Lower Manhattan Cultural Council; Art Matters; New York Foundation for the Arts; McColl Center for Visual Art; Franklin Furnace; and The Jerome Foundation. His work has been presented in galleries and institutions, nationally and internationally, and was recently featured in the exhibitions Crossing Brooklyn at Brooklyn Museum, Radical Presence at Studio Museum in Harlem, and Between History and the Body at 8th Floor Gallery. Leonardo’s current collaborative work, Mirror / Echo / Tilt, is funded by Creative Capital.