Carmen Paulino is an artist based in East Harlem working in and around New York City within Hospital, Community Centres and amongst Low Income Families . She along with her fellow creators yarn bomb and crochet the city streets, adorning them with colour, warmth and a sense of optimism in environments where the value of such things can be overlooked
The following interview was conducted several days prior to the recent US elections
The first time I came across your work was through an interview that you did with Art Spiel, which focused on how artists were coping amidst the global pandemic of Covid 19. That was back in July. How are you doing now ?
Carmen: I am doing great. I am currently working on a few traveling projects.
You identify as a Community Artist .One of the things we discussed back then was running workshops and their benefits. One of my observations whilst running workshops online was the sense of calm during the moments of silence when people concentrated on their work. You however found that what was important was the gathering together of people and the communication throughout . Can you say a bit more about this?
Carmen: I found that everyone needed to minimize social interactions and stay at home for safety measures. Due to the lack of social activities that many of the people within our communities were not technologically savvy and had to learn quickly to adapt to this new way of life causing many to have little to no interactions at all. Thankfully there was tremendous amounts of support from various organizations and members of the community were able to work provide many seniors and low income families electronic devices and I was able to continue providing community classes where many of the aforementioned members of the community were able to join online and were able to socialize and interact with each other. This simple class that I was able to coordinate gave many seniors a way to socialize and they all expressed and stated how grateful they were to be able to have an outlet to socialize and interact with other people.
Throughout the pandemic you’ve been busy, one of your projects has been to create large scale crochet works and displayed on Coney Island . How did that come about and what has been the response?
Carmen: The Coney Island project is a collaborative project with my dearest fellow Artist and friend Alisha Soto whom is a tremendously talented Artist who helps motivate me in my endeavours. Together we wanted to uplift and help give a springboard of hope and fun through Yarn Bombing so began by making a peace sign and we were then contacted by Dino Family whom saw us on a locally broadcasted News interview and are owners of Wonder Wheel Amusement Park in Coney Island and they wanted us to create Yarn bombs for their Boardwalk. We then brainstormed and thought let’s make a heart too, then I made a rainbow & flowers, and to top off our ideas Alisha then created a huge butterfly. Immediately while installing the project we began receiving compliments and hundreds of people were taking pictures in front of the pieces and we have since received many shares and we continue to receive shares almost everyday.
It seems to me that during such times as this, that artists are providing the voice of reason and that art and being creative are vital to our well being . What are your thoughts on this.
Carmen: I believe that artists have unique talents and views of the world at large and are inspired to portray their truth. To Let their thoughts become a physical manifestation in order to inspire or spread awareness. This passion is not just for the self but vital to engage the mind which is a necessity for everyones wellbeing and especially for mental health.
What motivated inspired you to become a community artist?
Carmen: I was inspired by my humble upbringing here in New York City, and being a student of Public Education I saw the importance of Art programming and I saw first hand how it is the first to be affected by Political economical budgeting both local and federal which left many children without Art programming in school as well as After school programming which many families depended on as a vital necessity. This is what inspired me to be an advocate and hopefully to become a resource for the Arts for my community and beyond.
Knitting and crochet work are very much about getting into a rhythm. I can imagine working with other to create a shared piece of work must be like being in a band . How important is music to you ?
Carmen: I honestly think that music is essential to all creativity and thankfully through the vibrations of sounds coming out of my speakers I am able to rhythmically create a crochet piece, so basically I have my favourite playlist playing loudly and proudly while I’m crocheting.
During these difficult times what has up lifted , grounded, comforted you ?
Carmen: At the moment a lot of us are learning to adapt to changes in our lives on what seems like a daily basis .
Project wise what have you been up to?
Carmen: Honestly I have been a very busy Art bee and I have been pollenating my ideas into completed projects which I will be hanging up all around NYC and wherever I travel, some pieces are inspiring and others are fun and whimsical so I hope whenever they are seen that they bring joy and happiness to the viewers.
Looking to the future art wise . What’s on the horizon, what are you looking forward to?
Carmen: I am currently working on a few projects to display in different parts of the city and also different part of countries like in Europe and Puerto Rico. I look forward to beautifying all communities around the world with my art.
I have seen your work in various places. It is very inspirational and therapeutic. Thanks for bringing joy to different areas of the city.