An Interview with Artist Oasa DuVerney

February 25, 2021

BRIC and Prospect Park Alliance, in partnership with NYC Parks, have commissioned the collaborative duo Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine to create a public art project at the Prospect Park Bandshell, on view through May 2021. Titled, Inspired By “What Is Left,” the text-based installation quotes the late poet Lucille Clifton and offers the Brooklyn community a message of resilience and perseverance. 

Inspired By “What Is Left” is an extension of Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine’s ongoing project in Crown Heights which reimagines unoccupied public spaces with new alternative purposes. Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine was created in 2010 by artists Oasa DuVerney and Mildred Beltre. We spoke with DuVerney about this installation in Prospect Park and about Black History Month. 

PPA: Why is it meaningful to have your work—and this quote by Lucille Clifton—on display in Prospect Park?

ODV: I think it’s really important to remember to celebrate what may seem to some people like small victories but in fact are major triumphs when the whole of society is okay with you dying and complicit with your suffering. Lucille Clifton is a master of words, clear and to the point about the experiences of Black women.

PPA: Who are your biggest influences?

ODV: My biggest influences would Dick Gregory, my Kindergarten and 5th Grade teachers respectively Lavern Nimmons and Pam White from PS 127 in East Elmhurst Queens, and my kids Nzinga and Stokely. They are so full of life and wisdom and see and experience the world so different from me sometimes. As their parent it makes me want to try and mold them but what I’ve realized over the years is that they are also shaping me and who I am. 

PPA: What does a Black History Month mean to you?

ODV: Black History month means to me that y’all really did pick the shortest month with an option to opt out of celebrating or even acknowledging the contributions of Black people and culture in American society. 

PPA: What are your artistic goals for the future? 

ODV: More fence weavings, and more art making in the streets for the people.

PPA: What are your hopes for our community?

ODV: My hope for our community is the complete stop to the criminalization of Black and Brown people, a Universal Basic Income, a Universal Healthcare that leads to universal healing, and more public spaces to practice community with our neighbors.

View Inspired By “What Is Left,” at the Prospect Park Bandshell, on view through May 3, 2021.