Artist’s Statement: “For the 23 years that I have lived in Inwood, the Inwood Hill Park and other surrounding parks have relatively been empty and quiet throughout the years. However, when spring comes and the warm weather hits Manhattan the Dominican people start to pour into the parks. To me, this is the unofficial start of summer, and this year I have started to document this gathering of my people to capture the energy and liveliness they bring to the parks. My goal is to document their time in that space, showing our warmth and spirit in a place where some Dominicans have to call New York their new home. “
Review of Weekend Visitors to Inwood Hill Park (The Dominican People) by Ricky Flores
A community park can serve many functions beyond that of a playground. For new immigrants to a community, it is a place to restore connections to a land and a culture left behind. It plays a central role in the social fabric of a community and for Arlette Landestoy a rediscovery of herself and a deepening understanding of what it means to be a young Dominican woman.
Landestoy was raised in the Inwood section of Manhattan where she attended school at I.S. 52 as a child. Public schools can be a frightening place for any child who is not accustomed to chaotic city life let alone for a child being introduced to an alien culture. For Landestoy it led to an estrangement that colored her views of what it meant to be a Dominican in New York. Surrounded by daily violence and what she saw as a lack of personal self-respect in her peers and the dangers of failing to succumb to the social norm, Landestoy choose a High School that took her away from the children and social culture of her youth.
Over time through conversations with new friends and acquaintances, her views of what it meant to a Dominicana changed through the voices of her friends and through the eyes of her camera. In her work “Weekend Visitors to Inwood Hill Park (The Dominican People,” she begins to reattach herself to the community she left behind. She reintroduces herself to a social experience that is not a by-product of an artificial environment but a typical one in any immigrant community where they can express themselves freely within the norms of ones culture. Landestoy revels in the playfulness of her people, exploring with a growing sense of pride who they are by documenting their social interactions. Through that process, she begins to reclaim what was lost in her youth. Landestoy, by focusing on children playing in the water fountain or watching young men play basketball begins to experience the “brotherhood and sisterhood,” that she didn’t see as a child. Where she once felt like an outsider as a child who didn’t want to conform to the crowd, in Inwood Park as a young woman she is welcomed with open arms and allowed to come closer with her camera at her people behest and to her delight.