Brooklyn Community Fridges: Love Notes in the Form Paint
Morgan Smith, scenic painter, all-around badass, and a Cuber!
For three years, Morgan walked by the abandoned bodega on her block. As the mental health crisis initiated in COVID, Morgan wanted to lighten up her street in more ways than one.
“I wanted to paint this bodega as a love letter to my block.”
Her color palette, similar to her collaborator on this project, HugoGyrl, are these bright pastel colors that pop in contrast to the dreary skies of March. This bodega was an empty shell and it now brings a smile to this community and shows you can give back to it.
While HugoGyrl and Mogan worked on the bodega, a long time friend of HugoGyrl put him in touch with Pam Tietze who is a founder of the Friendly Fridge. Pam asked HugoGyrl to paint the area around the community fridge on Knickerbocker and then both he and Morgan ended up painting a few surrounding areas and the fridge itself.
You open the door and grab produce, just like home — because it is.
The two worked out the concept and made the first of now many goblin characters that greet Brooklyn. Since then, they’ve been splitting up the fridges, painting one after another. As HugoGyrl painted the fridge at the community art space called Public Assistants located at 711 Franklin Avenue. Zenat, the co-owner of the Playground Coffee Shop, called Morgan up to paint a few of her fridges.
Zenat and Morgan were warrior sisters during the protests. “I would text her every evening since I have the pickup truck — and it come in clutch for every march” They would fill up Morgan’s pickup truck with cases upon cases of water to hand out to protestors, they would paint signs and would hand them out at the front lines, they brought PPE and would volunteer 7 days a week.
Morgan dreamed up Zenat’s fridge gremlin to mimic the roll gates at Playground Coffee Shop that are painted with yellow clowns.
Morgan and HugoGyrl painted the first one together and didn’t want to directly copy the idea that was originally in his well-known style, so she gave him a ring. They agreed to each do their own styles with keeping the same theme which then created a greater Friendly Fridge Family with unique monster fridge characters that are obviously all related. His response was blunt, “We are literally working on the same project, but do yours in your style and it will be fucking awesome!”
Morgan remarked, “We genuinely want the best for each other period.” “We feel that the art component of the fridges not only helped amplify a strong community effort but also helped enabled the visibility of the fridges in real time.” “Before we painted the first fridge it looked like an abandoned piece of street furniture.”
Zenat received a tiny fridge so Morgan started painting it as a tiny purple baby — not realizing HugoGyrl was also painting a large purple fridge. They joke that they made a mommy and baby.
The clown yellow fridge is now in front of Sincerely, Tommy, since Zenat needed a larger fridge in front of Playground, the orange beast named Queen Quincy is there now.
Playground is a hub for the community and Zenat and her sister Rifat are great people doing the great work. Morgan described Zenat as someone who “does it from the fire that’s within her heart…. And she’s no new activist.” When the hurricane hit Porto Rico, Zenat reached out to her community, she made fundraiser BBQs and collects donations from the public. They’re beyond organized and making sure everyone is safe.
So far Morgan has painted three of her fridges and they have many more around Brooklyn. Morgan amongst Zenat and other Cubers like Kevin Cabello became Robin Hood’s contraband for the fridge donations.
A food pantry was getting rid of pallets of carrots and radishes and Morgan and Kevin pulled up on Briana and Paperboy Price, stockpiled over 2,000 lbs of product in the back of Morgan’s pickup, and filled all of the fridges late into the night. Kevin also likes to buy out the Knickerbocker Farmer’s Market at the end of their day on Saturdays and walk it down to the Friendly Fridge on 190 Knickerbocker. “We were tired at work [the next day] and thought ‘what the fuck’ and we were wondering ‘why did we do that,’ but we knew why we did that. We were hungover from the emotional high of it — it feels so good, it’s such satisfying work. It’s everything. It’s the best.”
Morgan’s big dream is to have our crafty overflow flood back into the community. We have so much excess food at the end of each day and imagine if we could donate it. When you volunteer you feel so connected to the community. I (Jess) volunteered and as I was loading the fridge a dad came over with his daughter and they were overjoyed that they showed up right as I was filling it up. It’s those little moments that make the world of difference.
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Below are the locations of the fridges, take what you need and bring produce if you can.
Fridges (in the order mentioned)
190 Knickerbocker, Brooklyn, NY
Public Assistants — 711 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Playground Coffee Shop — 1114 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11216
Sincerely, Tommy — 343 Tompkins Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Yafa cafe — 4415 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Melrose Love Letter (directly across the street from 258 Melrose St.) (Center of the block on Melrose between Central and Wilson)
Refuge Arts — 80 Vernon Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Public Assistants — 711 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
If you have paint or a fridge you’re getting rid of (even a mini fridge — tiny yet mighty!) we can connect you to Playground. You can also donate to Playground on their crowdfund or on venmo @playgroundyouth for them to buy more produce. Last, but not least, you can also volunteer at Playground! Playground (Website | Instagram)