COCOON Bronx started here ... by Eric Etheridge

In 2011, Kathy Ortiz-Herscher (then assistant principal at IS 151) invited me to collaborate with 150 of her students on a artwork. I was between major projects and wanted to work near to home and specifically in the Bronx with a close community. We worked with the students for 6 plus months gathering materials around Morrisania Air Rights, Melrose and Jackson houses, making symbolic objects, recording stories and Eric taking portraits. We did everything but build the Cocoon -- although the students had lots of suggestions about where and where not to build it.  

If any of you have ever worked in the public school system you can imagine the incredible organization and heart it took on the part of Ms. Ortiz-Herscher to make this happen for her students -- in addition to the 24-7 work she was already doing at the IS 151 (a school that was at that time threatened with closure). The students, teachers and Kathy rocked my world. 

This work called, Little Cocoons for the South Bronx, was exhibited in the community space at Bronx Arts Museum. It was a way for students to come to the museum with family and experience the work -- to hear their own voices in a separate museum world. Kathy, the teachers, friends and I pooled our money to pay the community space fee. I hung all the symbolic object on a grid 2 feet apart and at the same height, the students stories were broadcast in the space and a selection of Eric's portraits hung on the wall. 

Thanks to SCAN and Lew Zuchman who donated their space in the Bronx we were able to show the exhibition again at the SCAN Mullalay Center and all IS 151 students were able to make trips across Franz Seigal Park to see the exhibition.

After two COCOONs one in Jackson, MS the other in Goutte d'Or, Paris, I wanted to come back to the IS 151 neighborhood and finish what Ms. Ortiz-Herscher and I had started 5 years before -- . In spring 2016 I began working closely with Chaney Yelverton and Danny Barber presidents of the tenant associations at Morrisania Air Rights and Jackson Houses. Since the spring of 2016, I've been working out of the MARs tenants association offices with a local team, I have recorded over 150 interviews with local people -- the sculpture will be built on the basketball court in spring 2018. 

The beginning was with the students, teachers and Ms. Ortiz-Herscher at IS 151 just across the street from MARs, Jackson and Melrose.

Ms. Holmes by Eric Etheridge

In June I interviewed Ms. Holmes about the loss of her son. She spoke about grief, her own and community grief. She talked about sitting outside her building at Morris 1 and crying together with neighbors who had also lost children to violence. No one else can possibly understand what it's like to lose a child unless you've lost one. Ms. Holmes is a woman of incredible strength.

A week later she spoke at a vigil for her 5 year old grandson, Jaheem Hunter, who was shot walking home with his Dad.

photo by Eric Etheridge 

Super Sweet Day @ COCOON Open House by Eric Etheridge

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Here with Luz Marie, Alejo and Rosa in front of Eric's growing photo portrait exhibition of local people @ MARs.

As Danny Barber (Pres. The Jacksons) says, "COCOON is about recording history through audio and photographs"

And Saturday we were talking history about:

  • Amazing grandparents raising amazing grand children.
  • Hardships of becoming a permanent US resident.
  • Good times at community barbecues on the basketball court when everybody brought a different dish and multiple nationalities were represented.
  • Family & Neighbors supporting each other.

These stories and others will be heard inside my COCOON a public space sculpture.

Many thanks to Alejandro and Eric. Special thanks to Rosa for bringing refreshments and to Luz Marie for recording her beautiful story.

Always awesome thanks to my hosts and partners Chaney Yelverton (Pres. MARs) and Danny Barber (Pres. The Jacksons).

Me, Danny & Chaney with the memory map. by Eric Etheridge

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Just finished hanging the neighborhood map with my incredibly supportive hosts and partners Presidents Danny Barber (The Jacksons) and Chaney Yelverton (MARs). Super great end of day.

This map is a collaboration between COCOON by Kate Browne, local people from Jackson, Melrose & Morrisania Air Rights and artist Alejandro Salgado Centales.

Always working toward the individual and community memory.

The awesome and beautiful. Amazing Jewels Marshall ... by Eric Etheridge

The awesome and beautiful. Amazing Jewels Marshall who has been organizing with me and the COCOON team since the spring 2016. She has literally knocked on thousands of doors with me in NYCHA Jackson and Morrisania Air Rights over the many months we have been organizing and will continue to organize for the artwork. She lives in Jackson houses and has spoken with clarity about the importance of recording your story, history, life in the neighborhood to be heard inside COCOON a public space sculpture.

COCOON would not be possible without Jewels and the team. The us and we is everything. 

What does your heart feel like when you lose your child to gun violence? by Eric Etheridge

A woman asked this question in a COCOON workshop and then made this object. 

Jewels Marshall, Eric Etheridge and I spent a remarkable evening with Dr. Pastor Henry's family support group at Lincoln Hospital Div Tauma in the Bronx recording memories and taking photo portraits. Thank you for inviting us, for being so welcoming and generous, and for your courage to speak about family lost to gun violence.

These voices will be heard inside COCOON Bronx.

Inner City Gun Violence Prevention Support Group is a support group for families who have lost children to gun violence that meets at Lincoln Hospital. If you would like to contact Pastor Henry directly she can be reached at 718-374-7487 and ehenry388@aol.com. Pastor Henry founded Inner City Gun Violence Prevention Support Group after she lost her son to gun violence.