Pratt Manhattan Gallery will present “Design Jazz: Improvisations on the Urban Street,” a two-part exhibition inspired by Deb Johnson, Pratt’s Academic Director of Sustainability, that will document both theoretical and innovative approaches to the design and interpretation of the urban street from September 25 to November 7, 2009. The exhibition will be celebrated with a public reception on Friday, October 9 with live music by Brooklyn jazz trio Big Words at 6 p.m. The exhibition and event are free and open to the public.

This summer, the gallery space was transformed into a design studio where three invited guest artists met and discussed contemporary critical design theory and design for contemporary culture and sustaining communities. The cross-disciplinary trio consisted of Amy Guggenheim, an artist, writer, filmmaker, and Pratt adjunct associate professor; Mitchell Joachim, an architect, designer, and co-founder of the non-profit philanthropic design collaborative Terreform ONE; and Leon Reid IV, a Pratt alumnus and public works artist. Their work, in the form of sculptural and theoretical models and films, and video documentation of their discussions, will be on view as part of the exhibition.

The second part of the exhibition will chronicle the design process of nine young designers working to create street furniture for possible inclusion as part of the Sustainable South Bronx’s Greenway Project, a community-led plan for a bicycle/pedestrian greenway along the South Bronx waterfront on Lafayette Avenue in Hunts Point, one of New York City’s last remaining industrial areas. Sustainable South Bronx is a community organization dedicated to environmental justice solutions through innovative, economically sustainable projects that are informed by community needs.

The exhibition will showcase the designers’ process through a documentary film on the project and installations of their work. The film, which was completed by current Pratt students, captures the stories of the community and chronicles the designers’ ongoing dialogue and engagement with Hunts Point community members.

“Our goal is to engage Hunts Point community members and let them drive the decision making process,” said Johnson. “There was a lot of interest in the prospect of a design that residents could learn to fabricate
themselves so that has been the design team’s focus,” she added.

The designers’ work represents the beginning phase of the Greenway Project, which is slated to begin this fall. Pratt alumni George Estreich, Zachary Feltoon, Daniel Jeffries, Jason Pfaeffle, Emily Potter, and David Wright-along with three invited Canadian designers Paul Dolick, Paul Kawai, and Yen Trinh-will collaborate under the direction of project leader and Pratt professor Robert Langhorn and project manager and Pratt alumna Kristina Drury. They will work as part of the Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation, which is part of the Pratt Center for Sustainable Design Studies, headed by Johnson.

The project led by Johnson is in collaboration with Miquela Craytor, executive director, Sustainable South Bronx; Kellie Terry-Sepulveda, executive director, The Point Community Development Corporation; and Michael G. Cluer, landscape designer with Mathews Nielson Landscape Architecture, the firm responsible for the design of the Greenway.

Johnson, an alumna, is the Academic Director of Sustainability at Pratt and the director of Pratt’s Center for Sustainable Design Studies (CSDS). She is also the founder and director of the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation, which is part of CSDS and supports Pratt’s entrepreneurial alumni in starting businesses based in sustainable and social enterprise.

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