StreetFest offered a road map of ideas for future


By Bonnie Rosenstock

The Festival of Ideas for the New City StreetFest offered a lot to chew on that was edifying, entertaining and edible. The all-day outdoor festival, which took place on Sat., May 7, brought together more than 100 local grassroots organizations, small businesses and nonprofit groups that presented their innovative products, forward-thinking strategies and sustainability projects.

The thousands of visitors, who traversed the Bowery from East Houston St. to Rivington St. (with a loop around to Sara Delano Roosevelt Park), were treated to cooking demonstrations with urban farmers, rooftop gardening classes, oral history projects (StoryCore; teen roving reporters from City-As-School), neighborhood preservation (the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors), bike tours (Bike Box — an open source iPhone that lets you tag the city with audio graffiti while you ride your bike; Lower East Side/Chinatown Bicycling Coalition, led by local youth), free valet bicycle parking (courtesy of Transportation Alternatives), workshops, family activities, performances, installations and a rich variety of locally grown sustainable foods to sample and purchase.

The festival debuted an environmentally inspired hot pink-and-blue tent module, “The Worms,” commissioned for the event. It housed projects for public participation, including Hot Bread Kitchen (a demo on how to make and serve flatbreads); The Drawing Center (artist-led projects that encouraged social and cultural engagement); The Laundromat Project (a place to silkscreen a tote bag while listening to public artist in residence Bayeté Ross Smith’s tower of boom boxes); ArtHome (homebuyer training and foreclosure information); Lower East Side Ecology Center (fishing in the East River estuary); and Brooklyn Grange Farm (sustainable seedlings, D.I.Y. home-gardening kits and all-natural skin products), as well as outdoor living rooms and inflatable structures.

Kate Payne, author of  “the Hip Girl’s guide to Homemaking,” a “beginning-friendly guide,” demonstrated how quick and easy it is for both men and women, whether hip or not, to make fridge pickles with carrots.

“Extra veggies on hand work,” she said. “It’s a fun thing to learn and gratifying, and you don’t have to have a big kitchen, which is most people Downtown,” said the author, who recently moved from Brooklyn to the wide-open spaces of Texas.

Where to find those fresh veggies? Ask Jenna Krewson, a volunteer for GrowNYC, which operates farmers markets in 51 locations across the five boroughs.

“Think Global, Map Local” is the slogan of another group that was at the fest, Green Maps, an East Village-based organization that connects people to local green living.

“We are inviting people to recycle some of the maps and turn them into buttons with their own name tag to reduce waste, ” said Wendy Brawer.

Going global and bringing it local was what Long Island native Elizabeth Suta founded with Project peaceBOMB through the collaboration of Article 22. Suta traveled to Laos, one of Asia’s poorest countries, where people were making spoons out of bombs from the C.I.A.’s secret war during the Vietnam era, 1963 to 1974. The bracelets and spoons, made from these explosives and other scrap metal, support artisan households, village development and clearance of the remaining 30 percent of unexploded bombs.

A dazzling crochet installation by Olek featured objects and people enveloped in colorful yarn. The group was part of the mini Bushwick Art Park Project, curated by Ali Ha of Factory Fresh.

And, finally, what to do with all the garbage? If you are Edith Raw, you wear it. Raw created a stunning Kate Middleton-style wedding gown made out of recyclables that she collected within a half block of her Brooklyn neighborhood.

“It’s a heavy burden of toxicity we deal with on a daily basis,” explained Raw, who participates in Art in Odd Places, a festival that happens every October on the other side of the river.

The Festival of Ideas for the New City was founded by the New Museum, at 235 Bowery, in collaboration with 11 local organizing partners. Their mission is to imagine the future city and explore ideas to shape it. Symposia, lectures, demonstrations, exhibitions and performances took place in venues throughout the East Village and Lower East Side from May 4 to May 8.