MOTT HAVEN — Star-shaped Christmas lights, classic Disney characters and wall-mounted skateboards are enough to make Esther Gonzalez's South Bronx apartment worthy of an appearance on "MTV Cribs," but for now, the 33-year-old mother will focus on featuring it in a more local version of the show: "South Bronx Cribs."
"We live in the projects. We don’t have to live like we live in the projects," said Gonzalez, who lives in the Mitchel Houses. "Like, my bedroom and my son’s bedroom look amazing."
ID Studio, a non-profit arts organization, will launch the project "South Bronx Cribs" in the fall, a series where Mott Haven residents will make and star in videos about their homes, families and histories shot in the style of "MTV Cribs," a hit series that showcases the homes of celebrities.
Although the project is not affiliated with MTV or "MTV Cribs," Project Director Lucia della Paolera said she thought the style of the famed television series would be a good model for "South Bronx Cribs."
"It’s a bit of a campy show, and it kind of seems to glorify material wealth," she said. "But at the same time, I think what people really liked about the show was that you’re getting an intimate look at how someone else lives and someone else’s history and priorities."
The project will officially launch with an orientation on Sept. 21 and be followed by workshops every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. through early December. Participants will then screen their films at ID Studio and Bronx ArtSpace, an organization that supports underrepresented and emerging artists, Paolera said.
She hopes the project will help Mott Haven residents learn technical video skills and gain a platform to share their stories, something she views as particularly significant now that the neighborhood is dealing with a wave of new development and concerns about gentrification.
"I think it's important to start giving priority to the voices of the people that live there now and the people that have lived there for a long time and the people whose voices really aren’t heard," she said, "and this is obviously a playful way to do that, but it’s a conversation starter."
The project is open to people aged 13 and older, and although Paolera said she assumes most of the interest will come from teenagers because of the educational nature of the program, she has gotten interest from people in their 20s and 30s as well.
Gonzalez is one of those people and is eager to both show off her apartment and learn more about the film industry.
"It’s been my dream to always learn how to direct anything, whether it’s a movie, TV show, whatever," she said.
ID Studio was founded in 2001 by its Artistic Director Germán Jaramillo, a Colombian actor and director, and the organization recently moved up to the South Bronx on E. 140th Street.
"South Bronx Cribs" has already received some funding from grants, but organizers are trying to raise an additional $18,706 by Sept. 9 on Kickstarter to help with expenses like equipment and stipends for participants. The campaign has raised $5,987 so far.
The project will happen regardless of whether or not it meets the Kickstarter target, but Paolera said the additional money would be extremely helpful.
"If it doesn’t work out, we would have to kind of reconfigure some things about the project," she said. "More shared cameras, more participants to one camera, less pay."
She hopes that "South Bronx Cribs" will give Mott Haven residents a chance to show what their neighborhood means to them, and Gonzalez hopes it will give her a chance to showcase how well she takes care of her home.
"People already look at us like we’re from the hood and we’re no good," Gonzalez said, "so to do something like that, to be able to treat your home with respect, it makes a big difference."