Co-founder, Red Hook Art Project
Jul 13, 2021
As the co-founder and managing director of the Red Hook Art Project, Tiffiney Davis has spent the past dozen years nurturing, counseling, fighting for and agitating on behalf of the neighborhood’s kids: At any given moment the Red Hook Art Project, or RHAP, provides 25 to 50 children from lower-income families free visual art and music lessons after school, homework help and stress-management techniques. It’s a sanctuary and a community that allows kids to be kids, and keeps them safe.
“Art is a human right,” she tells Brooklyn Magazine. “It allows you to be a part of the community.”
The Red Hook Art Project was born when local artist Deirdre Swords saw artistic potential in Davis’ son. She and Davis began working with him after school, helping him get a portfolio together and mentoring him—and ultimately his friends—to excel in high school and beyond. From there, Davis and Swords would fashion RHAP into a hub to keep Red Hook’s kids engaged and to help them to break through systemic barriers that kept them from excelling.
“What I’m trying to do is create that bridge and create a space where conversations can continue to happen,” says Davis. She could have used something like RHAP as a child: Raised in Bed-Stuy by a single mom who was an addict at the peak of the crack epidemic, Davis herself became a mother at just 14, and lived in a series of public housing and homeless shelters around the borough and in the Bronx.
When the pandemic shut down the city, Davis saw it as a crisis especially for families with fewer resources. So Davis and RHAP pivoted and literally began feeding the neighborhood. Over the course of the pandemic, they’ve given away more than $200,000 worth of hot meals, PPE gear, diapers and other essential items.
“Once I realized school was shutting down,” she says, “I knew that life was getting absolutely real.”