Thursday Spotlight: Christopher Carr Continues to Foster Community through Brooklyn Wildlife Summer Festival

The Brooklyn Wildlife Summer Festival is accepting of multiple art forms, diverse creators, and unique storytellers, but it has a few things it does not tolerate: hate speech, promotion of senseless or gratuitous violence, and — perhaps most importantly — exclusivity, entitlement or the expression of privilege.

That last element is probably the most abhorrent because it goes against everything Christopher Carr strives to foster: community. Carr is an artistic curator for the people; through his and Melissa Hunter Gurney’s GAMBA Forest Gallery, opportunities are more readily available than they might be in the artistic rat race that is New York. As Carr prepares for the sixth annual Brooklyn Wildlife Summer Festival — starting August 31 and running through September 9 around the nabe — he reflects on the inclusion he has nurtured and the art he looks forward to sharing. Tickets to the event are now on sale, and (per Carr’s wishes) they’re are economically accessible: a pass for all 10 days of the event is just $50. 

Greenpointers: So you and Melissa Hunter Gurney started GAMBA did you both found Brooklyn Wildlife as well?
Christopher Carr: Melissa and I started GAMBA but we did not start Brooklyn Wildlife. Brooklyn Wildlife is a creative services platform I started 8 or 9 years ago as a means for artists to connect, perform, and build community. Melissa and I started GAMBA Magazine about five years ago and out of that we then started doing events through GAMBA and eventually opened up an art space in Greenpoint over on Norman Avenue that we called GAMBA Forest. This past September we moved over to Division Place to the new GAMBA Forest that we call GAMBA Compound. So Brooklyn Wildlife is the creative services platform I started and maybe two years into it I wanted to throw a one-day event with over 50 live performers and the purpose was to get everyone in the same place. I had been doing a bunch of shows and the rappers would come to some shows, the punk metal artists would perform at some shows, the burlesque performers would be at some shows but I wanted to do an event where everyone was in the same place: 50 live acts, three stages, tw0 indoor/outdoor. So, at first it wasn’t a whole neighborhood of locations it was at The Paper Box and it was just us trying to see if we could actually do it — no sponsorship — all self-funded and to see if people responded, if it was really a great crowd. After the first year went so well we wanted to keep it going and it went from one day to three days to five days to seven days to nine days and now we are at 10 days over the past six years.

How has Brooklyn Wildlife grown in general over the years?
I started doing one or two shows per month, then two or three shows per month, and after five or six years it went to five shows a week. Literally running an art space with Melissa at the same time and doing events at GAMBA and the nights I wasn’t doing GAMBA events I was hosting discussions, live shows, workshops, meet and greets, parties, conferences, and so it expanded from just recording music and performing music to literally anything indie. We do event production, we do touring, booking, venue management, record artists, I do online content in terms of photo video and social media marketing — so it has expanded in so many facets at this point it is definitely not just music.

Where do you think you want to go with all of this moving forward?
I would love for it to get as big as possible without turning lame. I never want the community to be ostracized in terms of rights in the sense of the Brooklyn Wildlife Festival is so big that tickets would have to be $150 — that is not what we want. One of the things we are doing  this year is a decentralized element of it. So, 10 of the shows are at venues but then there will be another five or six shows spread out around Brooklyn, in different people’s apartments and houses and they are booking it — I am working in conjunction with them so we are coordinating but it s a way of saying hey if you can’t get all the way from Red Hook up to where the show is gonna be then you can organize a show in Red Hook and I’ll funnel you artists to have perform. This is something about this year’s festival that is new I am super excited about and in the future we may be able to do a lot more of this. a lot of this decentralized work is happening through artery.is which is all about allowing people to bring creative experiences to life within their own homes or unique spaces that you might not think of as artistic platforms.

What do you define as success with this festival?
If the artists have a great time performing and are able to meet other performers, artists, and creatives. If the people who attend are inspired by the art and creativity and are left feeling confident about the art and music, the creative scene in Brooklyn and exhilarated and moved by the emotions they experience at these events. I mean I want this to be memorable, I want this to be unique. I think definitionally this is the largest independent music festival in Brooklyn and I want it to stand out as such.

What sets the festival apart from others?
#1: It’s totally independent — no corporate involvement, no sponsors, no influence from outside the art and creative community. #2: The diversity of acts while still having a thread — the thread being art that is not determined by what is trendy or what is already popular and art that is authentic and actually represents the community from which it comes from. You don’t have the overwhelming amount of toxic masculinity and presentation of misogyny or disrespect of women you have this thread of people wanting to come together and experience life with people who may be different than them and you don’t have the overwhelming amount of consumerism like buy this and buy that it’s really about the art, about the community building about the reinvigoration and keeping the artistic community of Brooklyn galvanized and excited.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to say that supporting local is something important to me. I think it is very important for people to spend time with the artists in their communities, who speak for their communities and who reflect the lives of people that we are experiencing in our communities and this festival is the best way to access those communities — it is accessible in cost, it is diverse in the sense of some events are quiet, some are loud, some of them are over 100 people while some of them are 15, some events are early in the day, some in the afternoon, some late into the night. So it really is a weeklong opportunity to dive head first into the independent arts and creative scene in Brooklyn that includes people from all over the world.

About Billy McEntee

Billy McEntee has been fortunate to work for arts non-profits in Boston, Denver, Berkeley, and now New York. His writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Brooklyn Magazine, Indiewire, HowlRound, Eclectica Magazine, and others. He's usually getting wine at Dandelion or eating cookies at Archestratus.

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