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Paula Z. Segal — Stewdios/596 Acres Legal Café
-How long have you been living in Brooklyn?
596 Acres was born in Brooklyn in May 2011.
-What brought you here?
People who wanted to work together to change their neighborhoods and local food systems kept asking "Where is the land?"
-What do you find to be unique about the artistic community in Brooklyn?
People in Brooklyn - artists and other makers - are complete overachievers. It's impressive. It's also a fraught physical landscape of value and privilege in the face of real estate speculation and displacement, and people from all walks of life are not afraid to tackle that head on, in all forms of practice.
-What are some of your inspirations—both in your art/career and just in your everyday life?
-Do you see yourself staying in Brooklyn?
We're based here, but are actually doing a project with land access advocates in Philadelphia this winter and with a film that seeks to connect people nationwide with opportunities to get involved in shaping their urban foodscapes. It's exciting. But our core team lives here.
-What's a perfect Brooklyn day for you?
Locks cut, fences open, sunflowers blooming.
-What are the challenges inherent to being an artist in Brooklyn?
596 Acres grew out of an art project — posters that were installed directly onto chain link fences surrounding vacant city-owned lots and an email address for people who saw the posters and wanted to do something about them. We're not exactly an art project any more, though we incorporate art elements in our work — great design, a drawn documentary, a handmade book, murals, etc. One challenge is how media-saturated Brooklyn is: everyone is looking for something to write about. The exposure makes it seem like we are so huge and successful; in reality, this project is a labor of love. The two of us who are its backbone have been volunteering close to fulltime for a year and a half; we're just starting to get small monthly stipends. But the media makes it seem like we're a super established organization. That is exciting to play with but also a challenge when it comes to managing expectations. Like our "office" is simply some elevated floor in the South Garage, but some people really expect something different.