Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute unveil Soft-Firm’s Drive-Thru at The Plaza at 300 Ashland
Drive-Thru reimagines the classic drive-in movie experience with rotating media selections from local artists and cultural organizations.
February 18, 2022
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP) and Van Alen Institute, in partnership with Two Trees Management, today announced its annual public art installation, Soft-Firm’s Drive-Thru at the Plaza at 300 Ashland. A reconfigurable outdoor theater, Drive-Thru will feature a series of videos and performances by Brooklyn artists, filmmakers, and cultural organizations. Drive-Thru will be on view from February 18 to April 14 of 2022.
Inspired by the classic drive-in movie experience, Drive-Thru reimagines how shared public spaces can be activated during the winter months to connect communities. By incorporating light through rear projection, Drive-Thru serves as a cinema for pedestrians and is visible from the highly utilized intersection of Flatbush and Lafayette Avenues. The design echoes surrounding urban infrastructure, such as the rotating Brooklyn Academy of Music sign, billboards, and construction scaffolding — incorporating landmarks signature to the Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood.
Drive-Thru will showcase film and video by eight Brooklyn-based artists and filmmakers that highlight Brooklyn communities, explore themes of urban life, and connect to Black History Month and Women’s History Month. Live performances will be held to complement a selection of the featured films, starting with a Black History Month celebration event on February 23.
“Our latest public art installation, Drive-Thru, builds on DBP’s mission to connect people through the power of shared spaces, storytelling and public art,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Supporting local artists is at the core of our vision for the Plaza and by bringing diverse voices and perspectives to the forefront of the public realm, Drive-Thru exemplifies how individual experiences can become shared when viewed as a community. We invite all New Yorkers to visit Drive-Thru and enjoy the unique work that Soft-Firm has created and the Brooklyn-inspired videos it is providing a stage for.”
“Drive-Thru provides a democratic platform that celebrates neighborhood voices,” said Talitha Liu, Co-Founder of Soft-Firm. “After another year of distance and uncertainty, the installation projects a portal into the rich cultural fabric of Brooklyn.”
“Soft-Firm is passionate about seeding interventions that come to life with public engagement,” said Lexi Tsien, Co-Founder of Soft-Firm. “We’re excited to create an armature that doubles as canvas and backdrop, animated by Brooklyn artists.”
“Public spaces are most alive when they’re sites of storytelling,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “To create equitable cities, Van Alen Institute works to center communities in designing shared spaces. With this elegant portal into Brooklyn’s voices, cultures, and histories, Soft-Firm’s installation Drive-Thru shows the human connections that become possible in the spaces where our shared lives unfold. We applaud the generous civic vision of DBP and Two Trees in making this happen.”
“We are thrilled to have Drive-Thru at the Plaza and to see Brooklyn’s artists and cultural organizations collaborate to maximize this space’s potential as a venue and gathering space,” said Kate Gavriel, Cultural Affairs Director at Two Trees Management Co. “The Plaza at 300 Ashland was designed as a space for the community to come together and celebrate Brooklyn and the people in it—a role that has never been more important than during the pandemic.”
Drive-Thru projects video on two 13.5’ x 7.5’ screens that rotate around a pivot at the center of a 30’ circular wooden platform. These screens also act as outer walls of two wedge-shaped open-air spaces. On the interior of the installation, the pivot allows varying configurations of space while on the exterior, the screens can be oriented towards major view corridors at the site, visible from Lafayette Ave. and Flatbush Ave., and the stepped seating of the Plaza.
The Plaza at 300 Ashland has served as a hub for the arts since its unveiling in 2017, hosting events year-round, including film screenings, concerts, theater performances, dance and fitness classes, readings, community gatherings, and more – all free and open to the public as a part of DBP’s ongoing series Downtown Brooklyn Presents.
VIDEO & LIVE PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE
February 17 - February 23
Ali Santana, Community: Rhythm / Movement / Joy (2022)
Filmed on Lafayette Ave in 2012, this scene captures the rhythm, movement, joy and community tradition of BAM’s Dance Africa Street Bazaar.
February 23 | 5:30-6:30PM
Launch of Drive-Thru honoring Black History Month: Senegalese Taneber Sunu Birr (Drum and Dance Circle)
Mirroring the electrifying Senegalese drum and dance in the opening film, artist Babacar Top will lead a Sabar dance instruction followed by a Taneber, an open drum and dance circle “sunu birr” (Wolof for “between us”) that celebrates the power and culture of Senegalese tradition, honors African descendants who fought for freedom and liberation, and community.
February 24 - March 2
Nicholas Fraser, Follow/Unfollow (2016)
Nicholas Fraser’s Follow/Unfollow captures New Yorkers as they travel the city’s ever-changing streetscape. As their paths cross in frame, a single person grows to two, two form a trio, the trio morphs into a crowd, stopping, shifting, and changing direction to a hypnotic effect.
March 2 - March 8
Simon Benjamin, Errantry (2021)
Named after Édouard Glissant’s theory, Simon Benjamin’s Errantry is centered on the polyphonic rhythms of coastal space, the Caribbean sea, and the life sustained by it in a non-linear narrative that raises questions about time, labor, environmental degradation and the ongoingness of colonialism.
March 9 - March 15
Luna X Moya, What the Pier Gave Us (2021)
A fisherman’s ordinary day at an undisclosed New York City pier becomes a visual metaphor for the immigrant experience in the United States. This short film is part of an upcoming feature-length documentary.
March 16 - March 23
Olalekan Jeyifous, The Frozen Neighborhoods (Fly-through) (2021)
Jeyifous’ work depicts a speculative future where poor and marginalized communities are cut off from travel, forcing them to develop advanced ecological technologies. This deceptively dystopian vision imagines the potential of community-focused innovation and creating a sustainable and self-contained world in Brooklyn.
March 25 - March 30
Tanika I. Williams, (construct)Clearing (2021) and Sanctuary (2021)
As a meditation on quiet care, intention, intergenerational movement and labor, (construct)Clearing seeks to understand how we wear and repeat family patterns of silence and separation. Sanctuary illustrates the aftermath of African-Caribbean mothers leaving their daughters to immigrate to the United States, combining academic research, autobiographical expression, and archival interviews.
March 31 - April 5
Ezra Wube: Flatbushtopia (2017), Bridge Street (2015), At the Same Moment (2013), Words of Wisdom (2016)
This series of shorts offers snapshots of life across New York. The stop-motion animations, often developed with community input and participation, depict scenes in Flatbush, DUMBO, Jamaica, and the NYC subway.
April 6 - April 13
Aisha Amin, Choir (2020) and Friday (2019)
Choir explores the world within one of New York’s most competitive youth choirs, while Friday is a portrait of the community within a historically black Brooklyn mosque as it fights gentrification.
Additional events honoring Women’s History Month and the closing of Drive-Thru will be announced soon.
Drive-Thru is best viewed starting at dusk.
The Plaza at 300 Ashland is conveniently situated in the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, at the intersection of Lafayette Ave and Flatbush Ave. The plaza is easily accessible – located only a short walk from the B, Q, 2/3 and 4/5 subway lines at Atlantic Barclays, the G train at Fulton St, and the C train at Lafayette Ave, as well as a number of bus stops. There is also paid parking along the surrounding streets.
About Downtown Brooklyn Partnership:
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential, and retail destination. Managing three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) that cover Downtown Brooklyn — the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID — the Partnership’s diverse activities include attracting new businesses and improving the environment for existing companies, facilitating the construction of public spaces and streetscapes that promote an active and cohesive community, supporting and promoting Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural assets, and encouraging a sense of place and an engaged civic community.
About Van Alen Institute:
Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through inclusive design. In an equitable city, every person is civically engaged, regardless of income or personal circumstances. To achieve that goal, inclusive design supports a community-driven public realm. For more than 125 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global interdisciplinary network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With a core belief in an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, urban planning, public health, civic advocacy, community engagement, and arts and culture.
See all work at www.vanalen.org.
About The Plaza at 300 Ashland:
The Plaza at 300 Ashland is a 15,000-square-foot public space located at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, adjacent to the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. Since its opening in 2017, DBP has partnered with premier Brooklyn arts organizations such as BAM, BRIC, Brooklyn Public Library, Mark Morris Dance Group, MoCADA, 651 Arts, and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) to offer free, high-quality programming for everyone. Programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland is made possible by support from Two Trees Management.
Soft-Firm is an interdisciplinary practice and flexible platform off which to expand design hunches into architectural ideas, spaces, and artifacts. Soft-Firm is speculative and concrete: taking a playful and lo-fi approach to visual perception, elemental forms, and material contrast. Using design as a tool of activism, Soft-Firm engages collaborative and progressive programs to promote equity in institutions and the architectural practice as a whole. The practice has designed interactive exhibitions and installations, residential and commercial projects, and published work in design magazines and academic journals. Soft-Firm project team includes Lexi Tsien and Talitha Liu with fabrication by Jono Isbell from Datum Zed.