Beam Ensemble

Engaging Artists Projects

Beam Ensemble

Beam Ensemble was a public art project by Sean Desiree, blending timber frame construction and music production, creating an outdoor orchestra with sections representing instruments from the African diaspora. The large-scale structure aimed to reconnect the public with the buried history of African American composers, providing a physical space for memorialization and an invitation for interpersonal connection, cooperation and collaboration among communities.
Artist
Sean Desiree
When

August 26 – October 26, 2021 (Bronx, NY)

August – September, 2022 (Hudson, NY)

Where

Crotona Park, Bronx, NY, and Basilica Hudson, Hudson, NY.

Events

Opening reception: August 26, 2021. 
ArtWalk led by Bronx Sole: October 16, 2021.
Beam Ensemble Performance: October 16, 2021.
Community drum circles: every Sunday, August – October, 2021.

Sean Desiree, Beam Ensemble, Crotona Park, Bronx, 2021. Photo by Shona Masarin-Hurst.
  • Project description
  • About the artist
Sean Desiree, Beam Ensemble, Crotona Park, Bronx, 2021. Photo by Shona Masarin-Hurst.

BEAM ENSEMBLE was a public art project by Sean Desiree that combined their understanding of timber frame construction and music production. It’s an association that is largely unprecedented, though it is a natural pairing. In brief, the installation was an outdoor orchestra. In a deeper sense, it created a space intended for the public to establish a connection with the buried history of African American composers. The architecture of the piece resembled that of an orchestra with four distinct sections, each representing a different instrument originating from the African diaspora. This ensemble included a kora, percussion, an amadinda, and a tongue drum. Constructed with a frame of hemlock timber beams, the large-scale structure was installed at two public sites—in the Bronx and Hudson in Upstate New York—and invited engagement with the public. The influence of Black musical traditions are indisputable in American culture, except for when it comes to classical music. Discriminatory practices within the genre have denied African Americans access to the resources, venues, and equipment needed to have a successful career. There is a buried history of a few African American composers—such as Nathaniel Dett, William Grant Still, and Florence Price—that deserves a physical space within New York City to be memorialized. The intention of BEAM ENSEMBLE was to give orchestral music back to the people by providing a resource for composition.

The significance of this structure runs deeper than the visual appeal of art in public spaces—it was an invitation for interpersonal and intercultural connection. It was an opportunity to compel communities to cooperate and collaborate, to practice both sympathy and empathy. Art that brings forth strategies to combat the increasing presence/ever-presence of racism, transphobia, xenophobia and ableism among other pressing human rights issues is essential. People who would not otherwise share the same space were given a shared destination to create an experience together and potentially forge new associations. Even if it was only for a few minutes, both friends and strangers become a part of an impromptu ensemble.

The Bronx iteration of BEAM ENSEMBLE was commissioned in 2021 by More Art through the Engaging Artists Residency program (now called the Engaging Artists Commission). The nine-month Residency provided an opportunity for NYC-based early career and underrepresented artists to gain a deeper understanding of the history of the field of public art, and is focused on the incubation and commissioning of a public art project. The Residency carried a $8000 award to realize the project.

The Hudson iteration of BEAM ENSEMBLE was commissioned in 2022 by More Art with support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

Sean Desiree

Sean Desiree is a self taught artist and furniture maker, born and raised in the Bronx. They use wood from found pallets, demolished buildings, and discarded scraps to create works that range from 2D pattern based pieces to 3D sculptures that put race, gender and safety at the forefront. Their most recent solo show LIFTED: Public Housing, an Aerial Perspective was a collection of two-dimensional works depicting aerial views of seven public housing units in Hudson, NY. Profits from the sales were used to give a grant to an artist/maker living in Hudson Public Housing. In the summer of 2019, they expanded their skills by learning timber framing. They were a co-facilitator in the Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) Builders Immersions at Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, NY, where they learned how to build shelters/homes. Through the craft of woodworking, they aim to design life-size structures and sculptures that act as sanctuaries, protectors, and symbols of empowerment for BIPOC queer, trans and nonbinary people. In 2020, they were an Engaging Artist Fellow at More Art and currently a 2021 Workspace Residency at Wave Hill in New York City.

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