By Scott Enman
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Since its inception, award-winning nonprofit arts and media organization BRIC has publicized and exposed the lesser-known issues affecting Brooklyn.
From fighting against segregation in schools to LGBTQ civil rights to the effects of gentrification, BRIC has provided a voice for those who often cannot be heard.
Founded in 1979, BRIC is the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn and one of the largest in New York City. The company received 19 nominations for the 60th Annual New York Emmy Awards this year.
Keeping its promise to present innovative content to Brooklynites, the company recently announced that it would be hosting its inaugural BRIC OPEN Festival, a weekend-long series of events featuring dance classes, groundbreaking community discussions and interactive performances.
The festival will take place from April 27 to April 30 in BRIC’s Fort Greene headquarters at 647 Fulton St. next to the BAM Harvey Theater.
The festival will “illuminate the power of inclusive, participatory arts and media,” while also “testing ideas about the creation and consumption of culture,” according to the BRIC website.
The opening event will feature a talk from co-founder of the Talking Heads David Byrne called "Reasons to be Cheerful.” He will articulate the many reasons to be happy, inspired and optimistic despite the current contentious political climate.
A dance party featuring DJ Geko Jones will follow the discussion, where attendees can converse over drinks.
"As the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, BRIC knows that access to arts and media requires much more than a low price point,” President of BRIC Leslie G. Schultz told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Active participation by the public in the arts being presented and developed takes accessibility to a whole new level.
“The BRIC OPEN Festival is programmed to make clear that both the meaning and the impact of art are greatly enriched by public participation.”
On April 28, BRIC will host a special #BHeard Town Hall called “The People, The Press and The President.” Speakers on the forum will attempt to answer how the American people can begin to bridge the divide between the public and the press while also keeping the government accountable.
It will be presented in partnership with Columbia Journalism Review and will be hosted by BRIC TV Senior Correspondent Brian Vines.
BRIC “#BHeard Town Halls” are gatherings where the network hosts local politicians, activists, journalists and community members to discuss important, often contentious, issues facing the borough. During these meetings, “no topic is off-limits, and no viewpoint is ignored.”
“At BRIC, we’ve made a commitment to truly opening our doors — to bold and courageous artists and to diverse audiences of all kinds — to come together for shared experiences and meaningful exchange,” said Deputy Director for Programming Initiatives of BRIC Emily Harney. “The BRIC OPEN Festival aims to bring our fundamental values to life.”
On April 29, attendees can take part in the “Dance = Freedom” series, where free dance classes will be offered to people of all ages and abilities to celebrate movement as a freedom of expression.
Companies participating in the dance series include Ronald K. Brown/Evidence with Annique Roberts, Ballez with Katy Pyle and Jules Skloot, Urban Bush Women and Arielle Rosales.
On April 30, festivalgoers can attend “Beyond Sacred,” an interview-based theatre production exploring the diverse experiences of Muslim Americans.
The five performers in “Beyond Sacred” vary greatly, but share the common experience of coming of age in a post-9/11 New York City where Islamophobia is more rampant than ever.
“The BRIC OPEN Festival will reflect the essence of BRIC, with works across performing arts, contemporary art and media that are simply not complete without creative input from the public, or that highlight the essential role that the public already plays in the development of creative and journalistic work,” said Schultz.
“It’s a unique twist on a festival and we are thrilled to add it to the rich landscape of New York City Festivals.”
To see a full schedule of the festival's events, go to bricartsmedia.org/events-performances/bric-open-festival