This year’s Photo Urbanism fellow, Barnabas Crosby, is documenting how small businesses are leveraging and using public spaces in new and innovative ways.

While the project will look at policy and design changes required to give small businesses easier access to public space, Barnabas will tell human, personal narratives about small businesses during this challenging time. The exhibition was showcased in Times Square Over New Year’s Eve 2022 on the NASDAQ building on Broadway and 43rd Street.

Holding Court is now on view at the Brooklyn Library Central Branch from May 1st until May 29th, 2022. Plan your visit to the exhibition here.

Barnabas Crosby (Fellow)

Barnabas Crosby is a Brooklyn-based educator, visual storyteller, and native of Cleveland. In 2010, Barnabas started Whiskey Boys Ent., a storytelling vehicle to share stories of Everyday Black Living through black and white stills and moving pictures. In 2015 while working alongside the BKLYN Combine and Humanities NY, Barnabas created the annual reading and conversation platform Baldwin + Friends. Trained as a playwright and dramaturg, Barnabas uses education, art, and media to teach young people how to craft their individual and cultural narratives.

Read Artist Statement

Holding Court

Barnabas Crosby

( Elevation )

Napolean Bond

Through My Lens

Elizabeth Michael

Welcome New World

Jadalynn Millington

Barnabas’ Artist Statement

I grew up in the Rustbelt. I walked alongside my family to the candy stores, the mom-and-pop dry cleaners, and the family-owned groceries. Before I graduated high school many of those businesses would disappear and the neighborhoods would begin to decline. As the businesses began to fail, so did the memory and stories the businesses facilitated. The few memories which did survive were old polaroids scotch-taped to the countertops and walls; sunbleached and discolored.

There are records of chocolate cities with thriving black businesses completely overtaken by corporations and urban renewal. Memories of the shop clerks feeding hungry kids, the short-order cook who knew your entire family would be bleached away by outdoor seating, coffee bars, and beer gardens. The pandemic has made me witness to the fragility and necessity of small businesses. Beyond goods and services, small businesses offer a central meeting place, a rally point, and a hub of connectedness. Without small business; the mortar of community, neighborhoods in which they occupy become only mountains of bricks with strangers living inside.

This project will capture portraits and stories of small business owners who use their establishments to support the softer aspects of the community: education and personal development, food injustice, and employment opportunities for youth and young people.
As a child who frequented and was nurtured by small businesses, I recognize the connection it has to youth impact. Through my work with the New York City Department of Education, NYC Men Teach, and BKLYN Combine, I have encouraged young people to craft their narratives using the written word, video production, and photography to tell their stories.

“In fall of 2012, I had contemplated leaving the Department of Education to pursue a career in the arts. I sat alone in my Flatbush apartment eating Trader Joes in the middle of Hurricane Sandy.

Meanwhile, down in Coney Island, nine-year-old Jadalynn Millington was stuck in her high-rise apartment where the lobby had flooded to the ceiling. I learned this as she took us from the boardwalk into the neighborhood where generators still vibrate the streets.

Growing up in the arts, I learned that everyone has a story. Each time I met up with the Neighborhood Narrative Fellows, I learned a new story or gained a new way to approach photography. One of the most important things I learned and was reminded of was seeing the world as a young artist.”

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