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It ain’t Hollywood—Flux Factory and The Real City of Dreams: Colby Nelson-Betz ’22

Flux Factory is an artist residency located in Queens New York….It’s also I place that will forever have a very special place in my heart.

The people I worked with in the office were Flux artists Maya Suess, Rhonda Lowry, and Nat Roe, all of whom were extremely helpful and an absolute joy to work with. I learned how to use WordPress for updating Flux’s website, managing all social media, bookkeeping and many other things. In addition to social media work, I also worked extensively with artists and their galleries.

My first couple weeks I helped with cleaning the gallery space and de-install of a recent show, as well as run errands for Flux artists Nova Scott-James and Rory Fitzgerald Bledsoe’s events Certifying Reality and Sunday Painter.  I also helped with gallery sitting.

For a majority of my time at Flux I have been heavily involved with helping with this year’s first major gallery exhibit: TALK BACK. Talk Back showcases and celebrates the works of disabled artists from all around the country and was curated by Lexy Ho-Tai and moira williams. I volunteered to document the opening of the show, taking many photographs and video of the event. This included images of the artworks on display, wide shots of the gallery swarming with people, and some of the featured artists giving talks and q&a on their pieces and artistic visions.

One day I was asked to take photos of each individual art piece in the gallery. Using a DSLR and lights I took photos of each piece at many angles making sure the pieces were well lit and well represented. Halfway though taking the photos it was brought to my attention that I was taking these photos because the New York Times would be writing writing a short piece on the event and they needed at least one photo for the article! One of the photos was eventually published but I never got credit, but—hey, at least I got published in the Times!

While working on TALK BACK I was frequently tasked with running errands—usually picking up needed art supplies or electronics for the gallery. I always loved doing this because It meant I would have to go to Manhattan via the N train. This is a route I have become very familiar with. I have come to realize that I love riding the Subway even for small reasons. Its always such an adventure.

In addition to helping with events I also occasionally helped the artists with their own projects. I helped instrument builder and sound artist Daniel Fishkin build solar powered instruments. Most recently, I collaborated with Flux Artist Jevijoe Vitug and filmmaker Maureen Catbagan to make a music video in Harlem for his karaoke performance art project. The finished video will be available soon. I also helped document Jevijoe’s work a couple weeks later when he brought his karaoke machine to El Barrio Museum in East Harlem.

In addition to TALK BACK, the final even I helped with was Flux Factory’s 25th anniversary banquet. I learned how to install a full gallery of art pieces that were up for auction, made a 200-slide slideshow, helped prepare food, run errands, clean up and helped document the incredible event. There was a 9 layer cake that attendees were free to decorate with all manner of small candies and cookies that resembled human ears and flamingos. It was placed on a large silver seashell replica. Flux artist Tzu-An-Ko  helped with the cake area, presenting as their performance persona “perfect working robot.”  Jonathan Sims had geometric art light shows on full display throughout, and there was a party later that was Dj’ed by resident DJ Jess Dilday….and so much more incredible stuff. Overall the whole experience was an amazing way to end my time at Flux.

I lived a mile away from Flux Factory with former Flux Resident, community organizer, and urban farmer Gil Lopez and his housemates Dina and Raven. All of whom were very wonderful, hospitable and fantastic people to live with. I was  able to walk to work every day. I’d fuel up on coffee at a local cafe, cue up some Black Flag or NOFX on Spotify (always the go to music for waking myself up) and have a nice walk to work. Getting into this schedule really got me ready for the day, and it was so nice to be able to take a walk every morning.

The experience of exploring New York City was just as impactful and exciting for me as my internship. 14th Street/Union square is a frequent destination for me on my weekends. All my favorite places are there: the massive four-story bookshop, “Strand Books,” the famous punk rock clothing and accessory stores “Trash & Vaudeville,” and the wonderfully grimy “Search & Destroy,” a great burger place called “Shake Shack,” and so many other places. Canal street/Chinatown and Coney Island were also frequent destinations. I found a real joy in just taking the train to somewhere and wandering around doing nothing, aside from allowing the city to take me somewhere. There’s no way I can really do my full New York experience justice with one blog post and I know it will take me a long time to really process it all. There’s like 22 million more things I could mention. I am so grateful for my first co-op experience and I will be returning to this magical, grimy,  dreamy, strange, and wondrous city many times in the future.

Big thanks to all the wonderful people I met at Flux! I hope to see you all again very soon and please keep being awesome!!!

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