Anna Bradley-Smith

[email protected]

A free art and storytelling event brought neighbors together to create, get to know each other, and enjoy nature at 50 Goodwin Place’s fruitful and colorful Good Life Garden on Saturday. 

Bushwick artist Allie Olson held A TELLING: NEIGHBOR to give her neighbors of all ages and backgrounds a place to get to know each other in a fun and comfortable setting, in an effort to create a closer community.

More than 70 people from around the neighborhood came to enjoy Olson’s one-on-one storytelling walks through the garden and explore their artistic side with paints, canvasses and brushes that were supplied.

Chyna Ayar receiving painting materials.

Steven Ayar, who has lived in Bushwick for almost 13 years, said he was spending the day with his daughter Chyna, 4, and son Cameron, 11 months-old, when they walked past the garden and Chyna wanted to investigate.

It was a relief for the parent how the kids could play and be active and not be in the house under a television all day long. 

“As a kid growing up in Brooklyn I always loved to go outside and explore the neighborhood and play with my friends,” Ayar said. “As I got older I noticed the more advanced technology became, the more my friends became less active and so did I honestly, so it warmed my heart to see something that reminded me of my childhood.”

Community art table at TELLING: NEIGHBOR.

He said Olson set the tone of the event with her openness and everyone in the garden was friendly and happy to help each other. 

“I cannot stress it enough, this neighborhood has culture written all over it.”

Oslon, who has lived on her block for almost 10 years, said she really wanted to create a safe place for people to gather, learn, create, and build connection. With donated art supplies she was able to give people the opportunity to make a piece of art to take home, something she said was valuable for those who don’t normally have the chance to express themselves creatively, such as the people living in the senior citizen’s building and women’s shelter nearby.

“It was incredible, there was so much heartwarming generosity and genuine harmony,” she said. “With the kids being able to have something new and different to do it was just so cool, everyone reacted positively and were very thankful, but I think we all made it happen together.”

Olsen and community patrons at the garden.

Olson said the vulnerability shared during the storytelling established openness and gave people a conversation starter as they created side by side, with the aim of the day being to create a more unified and empathic community.

After talking to parents and other community members at the event, she realized the need for art mentors and spaces for local kids to explore their creativity in Bushwick, something she plans to do more work on. 

Olson’s TELLING series addresses the societal impact of technological dependence on human connectedness. Her previous TELLINGS were performed in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Lexington, Kentucky. You can find out more on her Instagram.

A TELLING: NEIGHBOR was sponsored in part by the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC).

Photos courtesy of author.

For more news, sign up for Bushwick Daily’s newsletter.