Ben Solomon and Jenner Furst are advocates of art’s potential to bring about social change. In 2008 they put together 'Captured', a documentary that traced the revolutionary roots of the Lower East Side’s creative community; in 2010 they made 'Dirty Old Town', a fictional narrative based on those cultural figureheads; and now, working with regular collaborators Daniel B. Levin and Julia Willoughby Nason, they’ve created 'Here Comes the Neighbourhood', a docu-series revolving around the latest generation of artists taking progressive and unorthodox approaches to revitalising urban communities.
Since meeting the renowned urban developer Tony Goldman during the shooting of 'Dirty Old Town', the team was inspired to dedicate the pilot season to his 'Wynwood Walls' project in Miami. Goldman’s initiative has brought together street artists, graffiti writers and muralists from around the world to transform the area’s drab expanse of rundown factories and disused warehouses into a vibrantly curated canvas for street art. Each episode of 'Here Comes the Neighbourhood' focuses on a different artist or aspect within the project, uploaded to their Vimeo page every Monday. The latest instalment looks at legendary graffiti photographer Martha Cooper’s involvement in the project, and can be streamed below exclusively at Dazed. We spoke to series director Jenner Furst and producer Ben Solomon about their plans for the series.
Dazed Digital: What’s the idea behind 'Here Comes the Neighbourhood'?
Jenner Furst: The idea behind the project was to document and explore the power of public art; to elevate the art and the artists themselves beyond the beauty of their work, or the superficial aspects of their commissions, into the roles of powerful change agents - uplifting downtrodden urban districts, and inspiring a positive transformation for the people who live there.
DD: How do you think public art helps communities?
Ben Solomon: The power of public art is that it’s right in front of you; it’s unavoidable, and it is evidence of someone else’s existence, their vision, and their determination to share that vision. So if you live on a dim block with no colour and no visual stimulation, and then one day an entire side of a building gets painted, you can’t choose to NOT see it. Out of that the conversation begins, and where that goes is reliant on the participants.
DD: What made you want to make a docu-series about the Wynwood Walls project in particular?
Ben Solomon: We have all been immersed in some form of the arts since we were children, and have been involved collectively and separately in different aspects of public art and graffiti over the years. With a project like the Wynwood Walls, it’s co-opting what’s already in the street and trying to harness it and focus it; what results it will yield remains to be seen, but the concept, the process, and all of the characters involved are captivating.
DD: What has the public reaction to the Wynwood Walls been like?
Jenner Furst: The politics of a community are complicated, and whenever a place experiences a dramatic change like Wynwood, there are bound to be people on the sidelines who have either been left out or haven't received the credit they feel is due. That being said, places have to change. If that change can be driven by artists, but protect the heart and soul of a neighbourhood without displacing its residents, then we can truly uplift our cities.
DD: What future episodes have you got in the works?
Jenner Furst: We have two great profiles in store, one on the artist Shie Moreno, who was one of the founding members of the multi-disciplinary arts collective Ink Heads, and another on Brandon Opalka, an up-and-coming artist from the MSG graffiti crew. We also have the season finale, which will bring the big ideas home and set the stage for the future of the Wynwood area and Here Comes The Neighbourhood itself.