Saturday, February 12, 2011

All the pieces to the puzzle are there

I’ve just about finished  and am back inside the church when Deacon James pops his head in. “Hey, you’re taking my job away,” he says with a smile. “Well, someone’s got to do it,” I say back, smiling too. I notice he’s wearing a  Steeler stocking cap. “Well at least you’ve got the right team,” I say. “They made it to the  Superbowl, still a good season,” he says. When I go to open the door for Bernardo and Jennifer from El Taller, I see James is out front, working on the edges.
El Taller is a Latin American cultural and education center further north on Broadway in what was once an “automat” restaurant. They share the building with Casa Puebla, a Mexican consulate for that state located here because  of the number of Poblanos that have moved into the neighborhood. (Doubling the number of  Catholics in the last ten years. Pastor  Heidi Neumark of Trinity Lutheran  has  also  done great outreach and somehow combined Mexican immigrants with runaway lgbt youth and others for a vibrant congregation.)
Bernardo is a large bear of a man with a husky Argentine accent. He’s the founder. Jennifer is an artist but also handles the business end of Taller. Several years ago, we did a concert series with El Taller that ran almost a year, every Friday and Saturday night. The best of contemporary Latin American music from Afro-Peruvian pop to Argentine fado to Puerto Rican punk to classic latin big band and Gipsy King style flamenco all filled the walls of West-Park with sound.Jennifer had staged an art exhibit in the balcony.  We took back control of the theatre to do this programming. We turned the stage into a space with small tables with tea light  candles and a wine bar. Some of the acts did very well, some not so well. Part of the issue was advertising. Another part? Not sure. The momentum, the synergy, we had hoped to create hadn’t happened. But this  series was another inspiration for the vision of The Centre we are working to create.
As we tour the building, they feel good to be back in it again. Bernardo shakes his head at the beauty of the acoustics. “You know,” he says, “the sound here is perfect. Rich and warm. You don’t find that everywhere. There are no more big studios in Manhattan. They’ve all gone to Jersey. You could do a whole recording business here. Even live concert recordings. Two groups actually did live concert recordings here and another singer did an album with the help of Reginaldo,” (Regi was my former Associate Pastor. He had done major work on the whole series.) “it could be great.” 
We walk through the building and over and over again they’re excited by the size, the beauty of  the space. Like other artists who’ve been through water damaged Mc Alpin Hall, Jennifer says, “I’d use it just as is.” We finish the tour, sit down to talk.
“Have you thought about going green?” asks Jennifer. And I smile. Talk about Amanda’s connection with the City’ s new head of sustainability. How he was here for an event in December. Our meeting with the City’s Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, author of Green Deen, a Muslim approach to the environment. How we’ve dreamed of this as a model green urban redevelopment project. And of the urban green special high school at Brandeis down the street.  The partnership possibilities. And Jennifer talks about their vision. Complete with drawings of what an urban space could  be. Photovoltaic panels, hydroponic possibilities. There are architects ready to volunteer to do this as a model. The issue is they don’t control their space. 
By the time we’ve finished talking about transformational work with immigrants , creative approaches to working with AIDS, Freirian-style  language education I know our visions match. Like other creative ventures, El Taller too has struggled with money. Especially in this economy. But they’ve also survived for 32 years. 
Deacon James pops in again. “While you’re busy talking I’ve been busy doing the 86th Street side.” “Good,” I say, “it’s been getting a little trashy. Someone had to do it.” I really enjoy that we do this together. “See you in church on Sunday,” he says.
Bernardo, Jennifer and I agree to meet two weeks from now for further discussions. This conversation reminds  me why I get excited. And anxious. All the pieces to the puzzle are there, lying on the floor. The issue is putting them all together. In time.

No comments:

Post a Comment