By Joshua Davis
A new collective, comprising local museums, historic sites, a salt marsh and a showboat barge, hit Brooklyn last week and organizers say their new group is ready to deliver a shot of energy, exposure and money to some of the borough’s lesser-known cultural institutions. The Brooklyn Cultural Circuit (BCC) announced their inception to the public at a coming-out party at Commerce Bank, 211 Montague Street. This upscale catered celebration was thrown by Commerce Bank in support of the new 10-organization collaboration. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a strong backer of the BCC, was on hand to share in the festivities. “It was the right time to put together all of our cultural institutions…that make up the beautiful tapestry of all the wonderful cultural offerings that our city of Brooklyn has,” said Markowitz to the crowd of BCC’s member organizations. “The truth of the matter is we are going through a renaissance…one of which we are all very excited about.” BCC organizers say they worked to unite groups with similar financial and publicity needs, as well groups with similar goals and missions. The Circuit is “a collaboration of museums, smaller museums, that offer one-of-a kind unique experiences unlike any place else in the city,” said BCC co-founder a Marlene Hochman, who is also the director of the Doll and Toy Museum of NYC, a member organization. “You’ve got a waterfront barge, you’ve got a doll museum,” she said. “It’s a really different thing. You can only get it here.” The BCC originated nearly two years ago, says Hochman, when she met co-founder Sean Sawyer, executive director of the Wycoff Farmhouse Museum, in a Department of Cultural Affairs elevator and discussed the needs for an alliance between smaller neighborhood organizations for the purpose of sharing resources. “We asked ourselves as small community-based organizations, ‘how can we increase our visibility,” said Sawyer. “It’s an important thing for us to do things as a group because we are much stronger that if we were one-on-one.” Hochman and Sawyer took their idea to Markowitz about two years ago and, says Hochman, Markowitz was immediately enthusiastic about their idea for a cultural alliance. “He and I discussed the fact that Brooklyn’s smaller organizations need their own alliance so that we can share resources,” said Hochman. “Once she puts her hand on you it’s very hard not to be captivated by her sensibility and her excitement and passion,” said Markowitz. “[Markowitz] was enthusiastic about [the BCC plan] and immediately put together some of the members of his staff to help us realize it to make it a reality,” said Hochman. It took about six months from the meeting with Markowitz, says Hochman, to assemble the collaboration of ten organizations and more afterwards to come together and organize as a group. The organizations involved are: Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Avenue; Doll and Toy Museum, 280 Cadman Plaza West; Micro Museum, 123 Smith Street; Museum of Contemporary African Diasporian Arts (Opening September 2005), 80 Hanson Place; New York Transit Museum, corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street; Old Stone House, J.J. Byrne Park at Third Street and Fifth Avenue; Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, 5816 Clarendon Road; The Weeksville Society, 1698 Bergen Street; New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Urban Park Rangers Salt Marsh Nature Center, 3302 Avenue U; and Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, 290 Conover Street. “It’s a big family now,” said Hochman. Members of BCC organizations are looking forward to advancing their individual objectives with the help of the Circuit’s diversity. “Each individual group has such uniqueness we thought we could accomplish our goals,” said Kathleen Laziza, executive director of the Micro Museum. “We are all seeking funding, representation and audiences.” “It’s a tremendous plus to be able to work with people with similar missions and goals,” said Kimberly Maier, executive director of the Old Stone House. “It’s strength in numbers.” Donna Alveranga, director of the Education Program at Wycoff Farmhouse Museum, said that she is looking forward to expanding her education programs to middle schools and high schools. “We have gotten teaching workshops, for teachers, to help them with analyzing African artifacts and including that in their curriculum,” she said. “So really [BCC] is about partnerships and more resources and for us it is getting information out about the African experience in New York, as free people and also as slaves.” Employees of the event’s main sponsor, Commerce Bank, said they were excited about their commitment to the local community. “We are extremely committed to the community,” said Peter Meyer, Commerce Bank Brooklyn and Queens regional vice president. “I know that sounds like a throw-away line, but it’s really not. We feel as though we are partners, especially with not-for-profit associations, in the community. Most the people that we have in our branches live in or around the branches that they work in.” The BCC is supported with funding and other support by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Tourism and Visitors Center and Con Edison.