Whether outdoor dining and pop-up jazz in the parks or small businesses stepping up to produce PPE, New York City has innovatively adapted to the health and safety needs of the pandemic.

Scenes from around Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, in November 2020 (all photos by Armon Burton)

Whether outdoor dining and pop-up jazz in the parks or small businesses stepping up to produce PPE, New York City has innovatively adapted to the health and safety needs of the pandemic. The Clinton Hill neighborhood where Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn campus is located embodies this creative resilience in how it has come together in a demanding time. Members of the Pratt community who live in the area or have spent time on campus this semester reflected on what life is like in Brooklyn, how being here has helped inform their work, and where they have found hope in a year of uncertainty: 

“New York is such an amazing condenser of activity and creative collaboration, and it’s been incredible to see this energy continuing to manifest throughout Brooklyn and especially in Clinton Hill during this unusual time,” said Pratt President Frances Bronet. “As I walk around the neighborhood and to and from campus, people everywhere are supporting one another. With the city closing streets for pedestrian space and restaurants repurposing parking spaces into outdoor dining, there is a real sense of respectful engagement and community. The social contract is alive and well around Pratt. ” 

Assistant Dean of the School of Design T. Camille Martin-Thomsen also discussed how the sense of community has been extraordinary: “It substantiates my belief that Brooklyn is one of the very best places in the world to be, even in a pandemic. The camaraderie that I’ve seen exhibited between my neighbors, from socially distanced stoop visits and food drop-offs to impromptu recitals and blasts of music everywhere, have all been remarkable. I can certainly say that my Clinton Hill neighborhood—and the friendship and joy I’ve exchanged with my neighbors—has helped me through this period.”

Rachel Pendleton, BArch ’22, described how her relationship to her Brooklyn neighborhood strengthened over the past few months: “Throughout the summer and during this semester, I have come to have a high level of familiarity with my immediate block—my neighbor across the street who sits out on the sidewalk to talk to me and other neighbors, people sitting outside of the cafe underneath my apartment, or the restaurant across the street.”

Miranda Fallon, MFA Interior Design ’23, also expressed appreciation for the energy of the local community: “I will say that I’ve absolutely been inspired by living in Pratt’s neighborhood. Despite the uncertain circumstances, it’s been really special to be on campus [for my hybrid classes] and in the studios near my peers. It’s my first year at Pratt, and it’s certainly a unique one, but I’ve found the working environment and conversations I’ve had with my fellow students have been that much more special. The vibrancy of Clinton Hill finds its way into my work every day, so I feel lucky to call this new place my home.”

Gabby Sibilska, MA Media Studies ’21, was working on her thesis when the pandemic disrupted her daily visits to the campus studios to work on stop-motion animation. Yet she said that the restrictions led her to learn more about digital animation as well as participate in a collaborative project involving artists around the world. She has been inspired by how even in this tumultuous year, people in the city continue to be engaged: “Brooklyn showed up for the George Floyd protests, showing that we may have been hidden indoors and separated for a long time, but as a community, we still hold the same values and are prepared to fight for justice, no matter what.” 

Sydney Ellison, BFA Photography ’22, who has been spending time on campus, considered how this has complemented hybrid and virtual learning: “While it has been difficult to have limited in-person critiques, I am really grateful to have the opportunity to safely access campus to print my work and see it—along with my classmates’ work—realized in physical space in a time where so much of what we’re viewing and interacting with is through a screen.”

Lara Copaescu, BArch ’22, shared the challenges and rewards of returning to a changed campus: “It is definitely weird but somehow it felt so good and exciting being back that it made the last few weeks of classes go by so fast and inspired me to push my projects to their final iterations. Things are different around Brooklyn nowadays, but every day you see more and more people learning how to live their lives and make the best out of them.”

Do you have your own stories of life in a vibrant and resilient Brooklyn? The editorial team would love to hear from you. Please share your stories by emailing editorial@pratt.edu