I formed and played in bands such as Carpe Diem (1985-6), choke (1989-90), geek (1989-92), BOX (1990) and Department of Buildings (Vague Moon Records, 2004-2007). I recorded and produced music — launching a cassette tape label — Idiot Music Incorporated (1984-86). Later, I co-founded a music label dedicated to issuing 45 r.p.m. records, Simple Machines Records, in defiance against the rising prevalence of digital formats, like CDs.
I developed both company’s brand identities and many of their graphic designs. Around this time, I co-created and edited an alt-humor comic fanzine, LEG (1987-90) and I established a graffiti art collective, “M.A.G.E.N.T.A.”. Significantly, I also got my start as a curator — presenting small underground pop-up film festivals in NYC.
My art has always evolved in tandem with support for environmental and social justice movements. For instance, I helped organize benefit concerts and produced records that donated profits to social movement organizations. M.A.G.E.N.T.A. tags were accompanied by a gun control manifesto. My bands only played shows that permitted teenagers to attend.
After college, I began many years of work in various movement organizations: housing justice, elder legal rights, criminal sentencing reform, community development, social impact investing and sustainable business practices. I wanted to increase my effectiveness as an activist, so I obtained law degree. Although I do not currently practice law, my legal training has informed my efforts in support of social movements, cultural organizations, and impact entrepreneurs.
In 2002, I co-launched a community development company, Dwelling Research Corp, and my own related consulting company, Denckla Consulting, aiming to support social and cultural organizations. Eventually, we started our own development projects to create new and preserve existing spaces for the arts — often threatened by rapid residential real estate growth in Brooklyn, NY.
Our flagship initiative is GreenbeltBrooklyn, a mixed-use commercial-residential condominium designed around a ground-floor performance and exhibition space for emerging and established arts organizations, Center for Performance Research (CPR). The building was featured in AIA Center for Architecture exhibition, +Housing (2010), awarded the Building Brooklyn Award (2009) and certified as the first LEED Gold structure in Brooklyn, NY.
This ambitious project captured a great deal of public attention despite a relatively small footprint — including a piece in the NY Times. I was invited to speak to many forums about this project, such as “Green Buildings for the Arts” (Brooklyn Real Estate Roundtable, 2008), “Hybrid Cultural Spaces,” (AIA Center for Architecture, 2008), “Saving Our Cultural Capital (The New School, 2008).
In support of CPR’s launch in 2008, I continued to develop my curatorial practice — organizing and producing events, exhibitions and performances — greenhouse effect, Displacement, Open House NY Design Tour, and U.S. Premiere of I-Fang Lin / Christian Rizzo dance piece.
From 2002-2011, my companies also provided strategic planning and construction management to many diverse arts organizations such as Vanderbilt Artspace, Artopolis (now Artbuilt), Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts;, PDS Development, Center for Remembering and Sharing, Starting Artists, Galapagos Artspace, Williamsburg Arts NeXus (WAXworks), Coalition of Might Ensemble Theaters (COMET), Bromaco Art Gallery and Supreme Trading Gallery.
As part of my commitment to supporting the continued vitality of the arts in New York City, I have served on the Boards of several community arts organizations, including Groundswell Mural Projectand NurtureArt
In 2009, my work began to evolve in response to my participation in the Capital B grant with CPR partner, Chez Bushwick, received from Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The grant created a community partnership plan for area growth preserving cultural and economic diversity. I was tasked with exploring the business case for new urban farms as a potential use for the many vacant building lots in Bushwick — abandoned after the real estate market collapse in 2008. To track urban farm issues, I created a blog, thegreenest.net, maintained until 2012.
In my blog interviews, I was inspired by a dynamic group of artists whose practices aim to re-imagine our broken food system — linking art and advocacy. So, I successfully pitched the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) to hire me to commission food art and to produce a multi-part intervention, Farm City, a key part of Crossing the Line Festival (2010).
I embarked upon a year of related exhibits, talks, performances and events: “Urban Chatauqua” (New Museum, 2010); “Brooklyn Utopias” (The Old Stone House, 2012); “Art and Urban Agriculture” (Pratt, 2010); “Conversations about Art and Urban Gardening” (Arario Gallery, 2010); “Utopian Urban Planning” (Brooklyn Historical Society, 2009). And, I was honored to be part of a design team that was awarded the 2010 ONEPrize for proposing unique urban farming business solutions for elderly residents of public housing.
Throughout this year, I was intrigued by how many of the food artists were starting actual food businesses — creating products and utilizing practices which aimed to be more sustainable. I wanted to find a way to support these fledgling artist-led food companies and urban farms — matchmaking sources of investment capital and advisors sympathetic to their ecological visions.
In pursuit of this goal, I formed a “do-tank” organization, Slow Money NYC, affiliated with a national movement of the same name. This organization seeks to analyze and catalyze impact investment in sustainable food and farm businesses. From its founding in 2011 to 2016, I acted as Executive Director of this non-profit organization. Today, I remain on its Board of Directors.
I helped envision Slow Money’s mission and central programs, producing an annual conference, Food + Enterprise Summit, blogging regularly, speaking widely at related events and organizing monthly community gatherings, such as Good Food Spotlight. I also launched and managed Foodshed Investors NY, the first angel investor network dedicated to funding local and sustainable food.
I spoke all over country and region about impact investing in farms and sustainable food. And, I wrote about these matters in several articles published in Small Farms Quarterly and a think piece in a food arts book, “Slow Money” Farming the City (transcity, 2013). And, through my related consulting and strategic advisory services, I have been proud to be able help launch and assist many farms and businesses such as Egg Restaurant, Mouth.com, Brooklyn Food Works, Red Hook Community Farm, Local Farms Fund, Blue Marble Organic Ice Cream, Greenbelt Condos.
In 2014, I renamed my consulting practice, Denckla Projects, so that I could incorporate my own art projects as well as my business consulting work.