Open Sessions are a series of evenings curated and hosted at Storefront by an invited guest during the last week of each month. These informal gatherings will open a space for collective learning where critical issues surrounding the themes of Storefront’s yearly research are shared and discussed.


See below for details on each of the Open Sessions.




Open Session #1: Hosted by David L. Johnson 


Wednesday March 29, 2023, 7 – 9 pm


Top: From the Street, I Can See the Moon by David L. Johnson, 2014 

Bottom: C’est Vrai (One Hour) by Robert Frank, 1990


About Open Session #1

For the first in our Open Session series, artist David L. Johnson convened an evening of conversation and collective learning around his own video work and C’est Vrai! (One Hour), a single-take film photographer Robert Frank made in 1990 on the streets of SoHo and the Lower East Side. Johnson convened writers Nicholas Dawidoff, Geelia Ronkina, and special guests to converse around street performance, pedestrian perspectives, and how we choose to document New York as it continues to change. 


About the Artist

David L. Johnson (b. 1993, New York, NY) is an artist who lives and works in New York City. Johnson uses photography, video, found and stolen objects, and installation to engage the margins between public and private space. Focusing on loitering and property law, his recent work has been interested in the complex relationship urban development engenders between the built environment and its living and non-living subjects. Johnson received a BFA from The Cooper Union in 2015 and an MFA from The University of Pennsylvania in 2020. He is an alum of the Whitney Independent Study Program and a part-time lecturer at The New School. Recent exhibitions include: Life Between Buildings, MoMA PS1, New York, NY; Everything is Common, Artists Space, New York, NY; Revocable Consents, Theta, New York, NY; A Place to Live, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, Philadelphia, PA; Wants & Needs, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, New York, NY. Johnson’s work is in the public collection of The Studio Museum in Harlem.


About the Participants

Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of six books including the just-published The Other Side of Prospect: A Story of Violence, Injustice, And The American City. It’s a New Yorker book of the year and is a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award for excellence in journalism. His biographical memoir of his grandfather, The Fly Swatter: Portrait of an Exceptional Character, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His memoir, The Crowd Sounds Happy, won the Kenneth Johnson Book Award for outstanding literary writing about mental illness. He has been a Henry Luce Scholar, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Civitella Ranieri Fellow, a Berlin Prize fellow of the American Academy, an Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University, and an Art For Justice Fellow. His articles appear in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine including several pieces on the life and work of Robert Frank. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Wesleyan (University) Center for Prison Education and a member of the Honorary Council of the Board of Directors of the MacDowell artist’s residency program.


Geelia Ronkina is a writer.



Open Session #2: Hosted by Betty Yu 


Tuesday, April 25, 2023, 7 – 9 pm


Image: MOCA No Jail Protests, 2019. Courtesy of Betty Yu.


About Open Session #2

For our second Open Session, multimedia artist and co-founder of Chinatown Art Brigade, Betty Yu examines on the ground socially-engaged movements, in particular the growing grassroots movement in NYC calling for the abolition of prisons, the police state and the carceral system as a whole. Since 2017, the city has continued to push forward plans to build 4 borough based jails in the guise of closing Rikers Island, one of the worst prisons in the U.S. One of those jails is in the heart of NYC’s Chinatown in Lower Manhattan. It will be the tallest jailscraper in the world. The other jails are being proposed in Kew Gardens, Queens; Downtown Brooklyn, and in Mott Haven, Bronx. Meanwhile, prominent activists from the feminist and social justice movement are praising a new initiative to build a “Feminist” Jail in Harlem.


Yu has assembled a special group of activists and community leaders— attorney, abolitionist, researcher and political educator, Jindu Obiofuma, Denise Zhou from W.O.W. Project, Mon Mohapatra from Critical Resistance NY, No New Jails NYC, and Inside/Outside Organizing Collective NYC, and Anna Ozbek, member of Chinatown Art Brigade, for a roundtable discussion to highlight critical grassroots approaches to advancing the fight for abolition in immigrant, low-income and communities of color.


Additional resources shared and discussed during the open session available here.

To view a recording of the open session, see here.


About the Artist

Betty Yu is a multimedia artist, photographer, filmmaker and activist born and raised in New York City to Chinese immigrant parents. Yu integrates documentary film, new media platforms, and community-infused approaches into her practice, and she is a co-founder of Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural collective using art to advance anti-gentrification organizing. She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College/CUNY, and New Media Narratives program certificate from the International Center Photography.


Yu teaches video, social practice, art and activism at Pratt Institute, John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY, and The New School, in addition to over 20 years of community, media justice, and labor organizing work. Among various distinctions, she was a participant of After the Plaster Foundation, or, “Where Can We Live?” (Queens Museum, 2020-21). In Fall 2020, she curated Imagining De-Gentrified Futures at Apex Art in Tribeca, NYC.


About the Participants

Jindu Obiofuma is an attorney, abolitionist, researcher and political educator committed to redefining the experience of justice, healing and safety. She is a believer in abolition democracy and in the inevitability of Black liberation. She has worked on issues of pretrial policy, juvenile justice policy and Black liberatory policy at Harvard, Columbia, and Law for Black Lives. She plans to do this work for as long as she is able and hopes to continue building community along the way. 


Denise Zhou is a filmmaker and cultural worker based in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently collaborating with the W.O.W. Project, a youth arts and anti-gentrification organization in Chinatown, as part of the Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Program. 


Mon Mohapatra is an Indian abolitionist organizer, propagandist, and poet living on Lenni-Lenape / Canarsie land.  Her work uses play, collaborative art, and campaigning to push forward solidarity strategies to end anti-Black, casteist, ableist, anti-queer, and ecocidal state violence in the US and elsewhere, as expressed in systems of policing, imprisonment, coercion, family separation, and social control.


Anna Ozbek is a multimedia journalist, filmmaker, activist, and educator. She is a member of the cultural organizing collective Chinatown Art Brigade and the art-activist collective The Illuminator. Her work has appeared in CNN, NY1, National Geographic, Global Post, and Democracy Now!. She has an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College and is an Assistant Professor of Visual Journalism at Purchase College.




Open Session #3: Hosted by Viscose Journal


Tuesday, May 30, 2023, 7 – 9 pm


Image: Still from The Creators of Shopping Worlds, © Harun Faroki, 2001


About Open Session #3

For the third Open Session, Viscose Journal presents a screening of Harun Farocki’s 2001 film The Creators of Shopping Worlds. 


The Creators of Shopping Worlds is an analytical study and visual essay on mall design. Set at the start of the millennium, between architect offices in Germany and a tech-convention in Las Vegas, Farocki uncovers how malls and shopping spaces are constructed to not only control movement of shoppers but shape their actual behavior. Through a combination of interviews and behind-the-scenes meetings with different planners and stake-holders, Farocki makes visible the intentions and technologies that govern retail spaces, while laying bare the sheer absurdity of their architects. 


The screening launches research inquiries around the forthcoming issue of Viscose Journal on “Retail”, which will be published in partnership with Storefront in Autumn 2023. “Retail” will collect responses to sites of shopping and urban spatial politics, from histories of vitrines and visual merchandising, to strategies of building and overcoming loss prevention systems. With special thanks to Harun Farocki GbR, this screening of The Creators of Shopping Worlds will be introduced by Viscose Journal “Retail” issue co-editor Camila Palomino and will be followed by conversations, snacks, and wine. 


About the Artists

Viscose Journal is a new journal for fashion criticism. Launched between Copenhagen and New York in 2021, the periodical published critical writing and projects by a wide range of authors from the worlds of art, fashion, literature, and academia. Through specially edited thematic issues, Viscose gives space to projects that challenge and expand the possibilities of research, practice, and critique of fashion. The forthcoming issue of Viscose Journal, on the topic of retail, is slated for publication in partnership with the Storefront for Art and Architecture in Autumn 2023. It is co-edited by Viscose Founding Editor-in-Chief Jeppe Ugelvig and New York City-based curator and writer Camila Palomino.




Open Session #4: Hosted by AAU ANASTAS


Tuesday, June 27, 2023, 7 – 9 pm

Image: Amoud, 2019, salvaged stones from a 1950’s demolished building in Bethlehem being classified, analyzed, and scanned. Courtesy of AAU ANASTAS


About Open Session #4

For the fourth Open Session, Elias and Yousef Anastas from AAU ANASTAS and Radio alHara present an immersive performance of assembled images and videos, accompanied by a live sound piece. Their Bethlehem-based practices include architecture, sonic exploration, collaborative gathering, and fostering communities of cultural production, all which aim to connect the specific contextual conditions of place to global solidarity networks.


About the Artists

Elias and Yousef Anastas are partners at AAU ANASTAS architects, co-founders of Local Industries, co-founders of Radio alHara, and co-founders of the Wonder Cabinet. The studio focuses on tying links between crafts and architecture at scales that vary from furniture design to territorial explorations, and have been advocating for a contemporary use of structural stone in architecture in Palestine and elsewhere. They are particularly interested in the politics of stone use for low carbon footprint structures, more resilient cities and more responsible quarries’ exploitation. Elias and Yousef co-founded Radio alHara, a community based online radio that weaves unconventional nets of solidarities through sonic experiences. Most recently they have launched the Wonder Cabinet, a space-based initiative in Bethlehem for cultural productions that gathers a community of artisans and artists, technical and artistic realms in the aim of producing a culture of global provincialism.




Open Session #5: Hosted by Food Mahjong Club


Tuesday, August 29, 2023, 6 – 10 pm


Image: Food Mahjong Club 5, 2023. Courtesy of Food New York


About Open Session #5

For our fifth Open Session, Food Mahjong Club brings their seasonal mahjong tournament to Storefront’s gallery and sidewalk, inviting the public to reconsider the meaning of creating spaces through network building and shared activity. Started by the architectural design studio Food New York, this club explores a version of an on the ground community center with firm roots in the neighborhood of Chinatown and its nearby surroundings. Participants will learn the game, compete in an amateur-friendly tournament, socialize, and snack and drink with friends, old and new.


About the Artists
Food New York is an architectural design studio located in Chinatown, NY. Projects span across civic, cultural and commercial sectors including the world’s first water-filtering floating pool, a garden bathhouse in the Cayman Islands and flagship stores for Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and New York. The studio is directed by Dong-Ping Wong, with Bella Janssens, Ashely Kuo, Ryan Fierro, Daniel Kendra, Oluwabunmi Fayiga, Katty Cybulski and Ahzin Nam.



Open Session #6: Hosted by Benjamin Krusling


Tuesday, October 31, 2023, 7 – 9 pm


Image: Still from Crowd Facing Police by Benjamin Krusling, 2023



About Open Session #6

For the sixth Open Session, poet and artist Benjamin Krusling collapses video, text, and sound to explore structures of surveillance, dispossession, and the constitution of public space. Through new poetry and collaged audio, Krusling uses performance as a method to weave together violent textures of experience expressed through both humor and dread. Alongside this, presenting remixed stolen footage from the municipal archive of the NYPD, Krusling will convene guests to think about what it means to disturb and put into friction, the systems of domination that organize our city.


About the Artist

Benjamin Krusling is a poet and artist, the author of Glaring (Wendy’s Subway, 2020) and two chapbooks, most recently It got so dark (UDP, 2022).



Open Session #7: Hosted by Alex Strada


Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 6:30 – 8:30 pm



Image: Protest sign from Right to Shelter action in December, 2023. Photo by Alex Strada.



About Open Session #7

For our seventh Open Session, NYC Department of Homeless Services Public Artist-in-Residence Alex Strada, gathers Will Watts, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Coalition of the Homeless, and Henry Love, Vice President of Public Policy and Strategy at Women in Need (WIN) for a conversation at Storefront. The evening will focus on the history of New York’s unique Right to Shelter, which guarantees a bed to anyone who lacks a safe place to sleep. The law was fought by advocates in the 1979 lawsuit Callahan v. Carey, which paved the way for further legal victories to support adults and children experiencing homelessness. This discussion will unpack the Coalition for the Homeless and WIN’s work to uphold and protect the decree amidst the housing crisis, mass migration, and legal challenges.


About the Artist

Alex Strada is a multimedia artist and educator based in New York City. Through film/video, installation, sound and orality, performance, and public art, her socially engaged artworks explore collectivity, critical legal studies, and political transformation. Her projects often involve transdisciplinary collaboration with scholars, activists, organizations, artists, and students. Since 2022, she has served as the Public Artist in Residence with the New York City Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Cultural Affairs. Recent exhibitions include the Queens Museum in NYC; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; BIENALSUR in Buenos Aires; Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Italy; Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut; and Times Square Arts in NYC. Her work has been supported through fellowships from the Graham Foundation, Artadia, NYFA, NYSCA, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. She is an Assistant Professor of Art at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University and a 2023-2024 Workspace Artist in Residence at LMCC.


About the Participants

Dr. Henry Love is a developmental psychologist and vice president of policy and planning at Women in Need (WIN) Inc. Dr. Love holds a Master of Philosophy and Ph.D. in Psychology from the City University of New York Graduate Center. He has over ten years of experience in policy work in the public and social sectors. His technical expertise and research interest span various anti-poverty programs and policies, including addressing implicit racial bias, affordable housing, child and youth homelessness prevention, guaranteed income, and childhood adversity. Dr. Love has worked closely with Mayors for Guaranteed Income, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and HOMEworks/Trinity Wall Street to design, implement, and evaluate innovative guaranteed income-based interventions. His experiences as a survivor of intimate partner violence and growing up as an African American youth in Detroit—navigating the extreme levels of systemic racial inequity—ignited his passion for racial equity and poverty reduction.


Will Watts is the Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Coalition for the Homeless where he is responsible for overseeing the organization’s policy and litigation work as well as its monitoring of New York City’s shelters run by the Department of Homeless Services. Prior to joining the Coalition, Will practiced law in Los Angeles where he most recently served as the Director of Community & Economic Justice at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, advocating for justice on behalf of disenfranchised and low-income communities, including unhoused individuals, veterans, immigrants, domestic violence survivors, and formerly incarcerated individuals. Prior to Legal Aid, Will held a variety of positions including as a faculty member at UCLA School of Law, the Directing Attorney for the Homelessness Prevention Law Project at Public Counsel, and as a real estate partner at DLA Piper LLP.




Open Session #8: Hosted by Traci Hercher


Thursday, April 4, 2024, 7 – 8:30 pm


Image: Still from Wide in the Sun, 2022 by Traci Hercher. Courtesy of the artist.



About Open Session #8

For the eight in our Open Session series, filmmaker Traci Hercher presents her film-in-progress, Wide in the Sun, alongside PhD student of Anthropology, Nathaniel Cummings-Lambert’s film-in-progress, Women of the Stony Shore. Hercher’s project focuses on the efforts of City Island Oyster Reef, a community-based environmental organization in the Bronx, NY, whose goal is to restore oyster reefs to the Long Island Sound in order to protect shorelines, and improve water quality. Women of the Stony Shore follows the Shinnecock Kelp Farmers, a multi-generational Indigenous women led organization who have been growing sugar kelp to clean the ancestral waters, sustain cultural practices, and assert tribal sovereignty of the Shinnecock Nation within the Shinnecock Bay of Long Island, NY. Hercher invites Cummings-Lambert and the audience to engage in feedback of the films and to unpack their synergies, while they are both at critical junctures in their process.


About the Artist

Traci Hercher is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker whose essay films explore systems of power and belief through portraiture. In 2021, she received a MacDowell Fellowship and a Lightpress Grant. Her films have screened internationally at festivals, venues, and museums including the DocYard, Walker Art Center, and Poetics and Politics Documentary Research Symposium at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has been awarded an artist residency at MASS MoCA (2019), the Jane Geuting Camp Fellowship to VCCA (2019), and the Nonficture Shorts Prize from Northampton Film Festival (2018).


About the Participants

Nathaniel Cummings-Lambert is a PhD student in the Anthropology department and Culture and Media certificate program at New York University. He holds a BA in Religious Studies from Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts and an MFA in Art from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). He is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians located in Cherokee, North Carolina. He works in film, installation, and sculpture, Indigenous land rights, the contemporary legacy of colonialism, and the laws, barriers, and borders which Indigenous people must navigate guides and pervades his work.





Open Session #9: Hosted by East River Park Action


Tuesday, April 30, 2024, 6:30 – 8:30 pm


Image: Demolition site of the East River Amphitheater. Courtesy of East River Park Action. 



About Open Session #9

For the ninth in our Open Session series, Pat Arnow and Harriet Hirshorn from East River Park Action convene an evening of discussion around the question, “What can we do to stop the city from continued environmental and social destruction?” The workshop will be anchored by a screening of Hirshorn’s film-in-progress Greenwashed! What happened to East River Park which documents the efforts between 2018-2021 to save the East River Park from demolition. Following the film, Alicia Boyd from the anti-gentrification group Movement to Protect the People, will talk about the citywide zoning proposal called City of Yes that is actively planning to continue the destruction. This Open Session is an invitation for the audience to think through how the city has ravaged the environment of the Lower East Side neighborhood in order to supposedly protect the community from the ravages of climate change, and unpack the complexities and dangers of this approach.


About the Artists

East River Park Action seeks environmental justice for our park and the Lower East Side community it serves. Their mission is to stop the destruction of East River Park. They demand a truly resilient and comprehensive plan that provides flood control against the worst effects of the climate crisis and protects the health and well being of the community with minimal destruction of existing parkland and biodiversity. 


Pat Arnow is a Lower East Side resident and co-founder of East River Park Action. She has worked as a photographer for New York City labor unions and as a writer and editor for many publications.


Harriet Hirshorn is a bilingual (English/French) documentary filmmaker and editor whose award-winning documentaries focus on human rights and social justice issues. Her recently completed film, Nothing Without Us: The Women Who Will End AIDS premiered in November 2017 at DOCNYC and has screened nationally and internationally in 2018 with an educational release in 2019. She is a founding member of East RIver Park Action.


About the Participant

Alicia Boyd is a community activist, educator and Prose Litigant (non-attorney who files lawsuits). Her group the Movement to Protect the People “MTOPP” has been around for over a decade educating and fighting against oversized development. MTOPP was instrumental in protecting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden from the largest development project planned for Brooklyn. They also prevented a massive district-wide rezoning proposal. Boyd is a lifelong Brooklynite and her group members reside in Crown Heights/Flatbush.




Open Session #10: Hosted by Feifei Zhou


Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Note: This program has limited capacity and RSVP is required



Image: Skyscrapers of luxury residential developments, artificial sand mounds for land reclamation, and coastal kampungs in the Straits of Johor, 2023. Photo by Feifei Zhou

About Open Session #10

For the tenth installment of our Open Session series, artist and architect Feifei Zhou brings together a group of interlocutors as an expansion on her project Before There Was Land, There Were Mangroves. Commissioned for the 2024 Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale, Zhou’s collaborative project with Environmental Chemist Gonzalo Corrasco  involves a series of mapping analyses examining Singapore’s history of land reclamation and the chemical impacts of recent industrial and urban transformations along the Southern coastline. The next phase of Zhou’s research in the Southeast Asia region aims to delve deeper into the ecological significance of the interconnectedness between freshwater and seawater. Convening three guests from diverse disciplines—Don Riepe, Guardian of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge; Melody Stein, a landscape architect; and Sasha Wortzel, an artist and filmmaker—each participant will reflect on their practices in relation to water, swamps, and the possibilities of life within their work.


About the Artist

Feifei Zhou is a Chinese-born spatial and visual designer. Her work explores spatial, cultural, and ecological impacts of the industrialized built and natural environment. Using narrative-based spatial analysis, she collaborates intensively with social and natural scientists to translate empirical observations and scientific research into visual representations that aim to both clarify intricate more-than-human relations and open new questions. Zhou is the co-editor of the digital publication Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene (Stanford University Press, 2021), and the co-author of the upcoming book Field Guide to the Patchy Anthropocene: The New Nature (Stanford University Press, 2024). She currently teaches at Columbia GSAPP, and previously taught at Cornell AAP and Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.


About the Participants

Don Riepe has 30 years of experience as a naturalist and manager of the National Park System’s Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Don is highly knowledgeable about and a staunch defender of wildlife and habitat in the urban littoral zone. Don became the director of the Northeast Chapter of the Littoral Society in 2003. During his years as director he led the Society’s efforts to coordinate the annual International Coastal Cleanup for the state of New York, initiated the derelict boat removal program known as Jamaica Bay Clean Sweep, and coordinated countless community-based marsh restoration efforts in Jamaica Bay.


Don retired his role as director at the close of 2021, but still frequently leads domestic and international field trips for the Society. Don continues to hold the honorary title of Jamaica Bay Guardian on behalf of the Littoral Society, a role he assumed in 2004 due to his exceptional role in promoting the protection, conservation and understanding of the natural and cultural resources of the Jamaica Bay ecosystem.


Melody Stein is a landscape architect, writer, and artist. She is the founder of studio VISIT and a Visiting Assistant Professor in Landscape Architecture at Pratt Institute. In her career, Melody has worked with landscape architecture firms including Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, SWA Group, and Inside Outside on a variety of public and private projects across scales. She holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture with Distinction from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornell University. Melody is a licensed Landscape Architect in the State of Connecticut. Originally from rural Northern California, Melody’s love of land and place emerged from the rocky beaches of the Pacific Ocean, ancient redwood forests, and expansive agricultural landscapes of her hometown.


Sasha Wortzel uses video, installation, sculpture, sound, and performance to explore how this country’s past and present are inextricably linked through resonant spaces and their hauntings. Raised in South Florida (Miccosukee and Seminole lands) and based in New York City (Lenape lands), Wortzel specifically attends to sites and stories systematically erased or ignored from these regions’ histories.  Tangled dynamics of desire and loss layered in the landscape and reverberating across time form a through-line in her work.  


Wortzel’s films have screened at the Museum of Modern Art’s DocFortnight, CPH:DOX, True/False Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, DOC NYC, BAMcinemaFest, New Orleans Film Festival, Wexner Center for the Arts, and Smithsonian American Art Museum, among others. Solo exhibitions include Dreams of Unknown Islands at Cooley Memorial Art Gallery with Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Portland, OR (2022) . Her work has been exhibited in group exhibitions at the New Museum, Brooklyn Museum, The Kitchen, New York; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; and SALTS, Birsfelden.