Richard Elie and De’Brian Carson were born and raised in Central Brooklyn.
They know Brooklyn well and love everything about their home borough – well, almost everything.
What they don’t like is the violence they grew up around caused by what they believe is a lack of creative outlets available for young people to express themselves.
So when Elie had the chance to purchase an abandoned empty storefront in his neighborhood, the first thing he set out to do was transform it into an alternative space – a safe place – where young people could go to relax, relate and be creative.
Plugs Media Lounge, located at 901 Atlantic Avenue on the corner of St. James Place in Fort Greene, is a media arts center that opened a month ago, where area youth can go to read, paint, write, learn graphic design, video and photography, work on the computer or just… talk.
“I have a passion for helping young entrepreneurs and artists,” said Elie. “They don’t have many outlets to express themselves anymore. A lot of people are using the Internet and blogs to express themselves now.
“But they’re isolated, not connected and they’re not getting recognition. So this is for the upcoming artists to come together in one space and be recognized by the rest of the community.”
Elie brought along 17-year-old De’Brian Carson and made him Plugs Media’s chief operating officer. Carson is 17 going on 30, a high school student, artist and entrepreneur from the streets of Crown Heights, who has made a conscious decision to be a role model for his peers.
“I’m the COO, but my job title doesn’t really mean anything. I mean, I guess I’m kind of like the glue,” said Carson, who is a senior at Art and Design High School in Manhattan. “But I’m really happy I’m involved. In any situation where you’re a leader, you want to bring personality, originality and consistency.
“And that’s what I’ve been bringing, and it has slowly become my thing… [young] people seeing me here every time and knowing I will be here.”
Elie wanted the space to look totally different than what people in the neighborhood were used to seeing, while also feel reinforced that that “something different” could be a part of who they were as well.
The space is still in development. Part of its construction, he wants to come at the hands of the young people who will use it. He encourages them to help paint and design and create art for the inside, to build a sense of ownership.
But already, dozens of young people are making it home: They’ve held poetry readings, jam sessions, comedy nights and art classes, just to name a few.
Elie also is trying to teach the youth how to market and sell their talents through entrepreneurship. “We’re using the skills gained here to try to help small business to increase and upgrade their visual communication.”
“I’ve seen a lot of people hustle, hustle, hustle, just to get by,” said Carson. “So I’ve incorporated that hustle spirit and have been slowly learning, and I love what I do now. And I want other people in my age group to love what they do and appreciate where they come from.”
Elie says the space is for people 14 years and older, but they will accept anyone who comes through the door: “We had a 70-year-old jazz musician who saw the space and asked if he could perform here. We also have a yoga instructor who brings her yoga classes here.
“The space is for any and everyone who wants to be creative and showcase their talents.”
Plugs Media Lounge is open seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
The center’s official launch is August 1, 2012. For more information on Plugs Media Lounge, contact Richard Elie at 718-736-3160.