'Our City' Exhibit Delves into NYC Neighborhood Ties

3/16/16 - By Diana Kim

Whether it's Park Slope, Williamsburg, the Upper West Side or Tribeca, we all identify with the unique NYC neighborhoods we call home.

New York City is comprised of numerous diverse neighborhoods each with its own characteristic buildings, vibe and mix of people. A new exhibit called Our City at the Brooklyn Children's Museum features six contemporary artists examining different aspects of neighborhoods and life in New York City.  

Check our NYC Museum Guide for more current art exhibits and tips like FREE times to visit or how to score discounts.


The exhibit offers several interactive elements, including a building station and a cloth "neighborhood" that kids are encouraged to walk through.

Through interactive exhibits, Our City invites children to take a close look at what makes a neighborhoodwhat its buildings look like and why; what a child's neighbors look like; how neighborhoods are changing; and what it means to be a good neighbor. Kids of all ages, parents and caregivers will get plenty from the exhibit. After all, what kid hasn't made his or her own city with Legos and blocks?  In one panel, kids do just that using recycled materials. 

Kids should especially enjoy the panel called Fragile City. The artist uses different fabric to create a mini-city landscape with buildings of different shapes and sizes. Kids touch, walk through and move in and out of the cloth buildings. As more people touch the "buildings," the edges of the cloth fray and become more worn. The idea is to make people think of buildings as organic entities that change over time, as do neighborhoods. 

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The diversity of the museum's neighborhood, Crown Heights, is on display with the Free Portrait Project.

In another exhibit, a local artist has painted portraits of Crown Heights residents of all ages, cultures and religions, and included their stories in a larger tale of the changing neighborhood, which can be listened to. Kids can try their own hands at painting a portrait. This is one of the most powerful exhibits, looking at a unique mix of cultures in a small community and celebrating New York City's diverse neighborhoods.  

A few panels are more abstract, appealing to older, school-aged kids. In one, Alphabet City, the artist uses the idea of a footprint to create the building footprints of a New York city housing project. In another, a fence is covered in fabric to create the message "See the Unseen." Viewers use the fabric tied to the fence to create their own message about an important issue in their neighborhoods. In the final panel, an artist traces nine streets that have been renamed Malcolm X throughout the country. She explores why the renaming is important and how the historic name affected her own community of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Our City runs through September 4. The public will have a chance to meet some of the local artists as part of the museum's public programs. While you're there, check out the Brooklyn Block Lab and Studio, the always popular Totally Tots, including its epic water table and the newly opened Morris Sandwich Shop at the cafe.

Top image: Kids can walk through and touch the Fragile City installation by artist Priscilla Stadler. All photos courtesy of the museum.

Places featured in this article:

The Brooklyn Children's Museum