Warehouse 508 has seen a spike in participation. They have the same number of events and the same facilities as always, but more and more youth are showing up. The difference may be Noah and Simon Kessler de St. Croix, two brothers who work hard to improve their community.
“We’re all struggling together,” says 22-year-old Noah. “There’s too much drug use and violence here. It’s easy to say you are aware, but really, putting it into your art is a way to bring it back. We can channel that, make people aware. We give them—through art—a safe space to express themselves: hip-hop arts, murals, DJing and music production and street arts. We’re invested in creating a bridge between street art, businesses and the community. We have a team of youth that creates murals and gets paid for it. We want to empower local artists.”
Noah’s 20-year-old brother Simon shares this sentiment. The brothers can presently be found working at Warehouse 508, a youth-oriented, youth-driven performance space on First Street and Roma. Noah teaches a few sessions—a term used for workshops—with Xpression Sessions, which offers a series of workshops from now through June 7. The classes offered are diverse: computer graphics, mural arts and capoeira, among others.
One surprising thing about Xpression is that it's attracted 30 to 40 youths per session. Prior to these sessions, workshop attendance averaged four to eight participants. This increase in participation is due in no small part to Noah and Simon; they reached out to homeless shelters and public and private schools and have seen the results of those outreach efforts. One reason for the high attendance may simply be that they're cool.
But being cool isn’t cool enough for these two. Noah is a student at UNM with an 18-hour credit load, and he also works 25 hours a week. On the side, he and Simon run an organization they call The Community Project, that contacts artists, skateboarders, poets and musicians and brings their talents together to enrich the cultural landscape of the community.
The goal of The Community Project is to facilitate events in parks and open spaces—even on street corners—as well as in institutions, says Noah, who's found many supporters: “UNM has empowered us a lot. They bought us 55 cans of spray paint.”
One example of The Community Project’s work can be experienced on Friday, May 3 at Ground Up, a temporary gallery housed within Warehouse 508. This one-night event is sponsored by The FUNd, Artisans, Big Blake, La Montanita Co-op and about two dozen other local companies.
Ground Up will host a one-on-one breakdance competition, a best trick skateboarding competition—each for a $150 prize—and live mural painting. Five DJs will show off their skills and 10 MCs will lay down lyrics. You can also learn to screenprint, and the Soo Bak food truck will be on hand to address hunger pangs with Korean Seoul food. And then there’s the art show. All this happens between 6 and 10 p.m., when The Community Project and Warehouse 508 team up to give birth to a giant, graffiti-camouflaged robot that spits rhymes, rocks turntables and rides a mean skateboard. For more info, visit: communityproject.me