Transform Braddock: Transformazium creates, reuses resources
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 22:04
Braddock is a changing borough, and with it are people who want to help shape it. One community group is broadening the borough’s horizons through creativity and alternative thinking to how to get things done.
Transformazium, a collaborative art practice of four founding members, Ruthie Stringer, Callie Curry, Leslie Stem and Dana Bishop-Root, moved to Braddock in late 2007 and early 2008, looking for a new place to live after attending school in New York.
“One of the mains goals [of Transformazium] is to challenge the way people think about assets in [their] neighborhood and create multiple ways of doing things,” said Bishop-Root, 30, originally of Richmond, Ind. “[It’s] almost like you’re at a buffet, instead of getting served one thing, create a buffet in a neighborhood with more than one option [of doing things].”
Transformazium, in partnership with Braddock’s Carnegie Library and Dipcraft Manufacturing in Braddock, runs a print shop from the top floor of the library. The print shop, which opened in 2009, prints eveything from flyers for local events to books by local writers. They also run a ceramic studio out of the library.
Transformazium also constructed a model of a Kondit shelter, an alternative architecture style of equator resistant domes, in the middle of Braddock to show residents what the group will be working on when they send member Curry to Haiti this summer.
“[It’s a] cool project to be able to build small buildings with your hands,” said Stem, 32, originally from Houston.
Transformazium is also helps artists born or from the Braddock area, including some who take up artist residencies in Braddock.
“[It’s a] really important process for us. A lot of artist residencies come from outside, and we focus on the resources in the community,” Stem said.
Their latest artist resident was Braddock citizen Jim Kidd, 73, who crafted a 54-page hand-written book that was filled with photos, sayings and even Kidd’s grocery lists.
Kidd, with the help of Stem, who has a background in graphic design, produced 50 copies of his book, which were sold on a sliding scale from $25-60 and raised more than $1,000 toward future Transformazium programming. They worked on for a year and wrapped up with a book reception March 16.
Kidd, who doesn’t consider himself an artist, but rather someone who does artistic things, has been painting and drawing for as long as he can remember and was encouraged by his grandmother to keep making art.
“You’ll do certain things in life, — climb a mountain, go to an exotic place. [A book is] one of those things I never thought would happen,” Kidd said. “It was really a project. It wasn’t an easy task.”
Bishop-Root emphasized the importance of Transformazium’s collaborations, such as the one between Stem and Kidd for his book.
“I think it [Transformazium] creates shared spaces, shared authorship,” Bishop-Root said. “I wouldn’t want to work independently. Awesome things can happen when people get together and share ideas.”
Kidd appreciates what Transformazium does as a collective and exploring creativity.
“They want people to work in the print shop and expose people to things they thought they could never do,” Kidd said.
The group also promotes the act of deconstruction, carefully demolishing a building to reuse as many resources as possible, which speaks a lot to their core values, according to Stem.
“For us, when we think of demolished buildings, we can see all the things that can be made out of them [with deconstruction],” Stem said. “[There’s] a lot of wealth we’re losing with demolition.”
The group met in New York, where Stringer, Curry and Stem attended Pratt University and Bishop-Root attended the School of Visual Arts.
“I loved living in New York, how dense it was,” Bishop-Root said. “So many people packed up against each other. You have to touch people even if you didn’t want to. Difference is the constant.”
The four worked together as the Toy Shop Collective in New York, which focused around the privatization of public space in New York that was hindering the ability to live after Sept. 11 and used street art and demonstrations to protest, according to Stem.
“New York was becoming increasingly expensive after 9/11, with a huge influx of people,” Stem said. “We were feeling really priced out with our lives and how we decided to live.”
So the group left the Big Apple and settled in Braddock, where they had visited and where Stem and Curry set up an installation exhibit in Spring 2007 in the first floor in of Braddock Mayor John Fetterman’s building.
“We were enamored by the space and buildings and affordability. We felt like a lot could happen here,” Stem said.