Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute today unveiled Ugly Beauties, a new public art installation by artist Curry J. Hackett at The Plaza at 300 Ashland. Commissioned by DBP with support from Two Trees Management Co, Ugly Beauties features a panoramic display of AI-generated images of Black people juxtaposed with the various native and invasive plant species — so-called “weeds” — that flourish in New York City, prompting viewers to consider society’s perception of beauty and belonging. Ugly Beauties will be on view until April 24, 2024.

Ugly Beauties features construction netting printed with AI-generated images draping a steel scaffolding. Upon approaching the structure, viewers are presented with scenes depicting Black individuals in city landscapes surrounded by various urban growth, commonly known as weeds. Much of the vegetation that emerges in urban settings is spontaneous, often appearing between sidewalk cracks and labeled as invasive when not planted with municipal ordinance. Many gardeners and ecologists often try to banish unwanted plant growth from meticulously planned landscapes, but Ugly Beauties challenges this notion.

Through Hackett’s lens, the piece depicts Black individuals among the weeds, highlighting a metaphorical connection between society’s perception of these species and its treatment of Black people. The AI-generated images urge the viewer to look beyond the conventional definition of pretty flowers, such as tulips, roses and daffodils, and ponder the idea that weeds should also be appreciated for their beauty, cultural importance, and ecological value. In posing this idea, Ugly Beauties champions Black resilience, celebrating the belonging of both Black people and spontaneous plant growth in urban environments.

Ugly Beauties brings together so many of the topics I embody and think about often: Southern Black culture, land, food, and plants,” said Curry J. Hackett. “Many of our cities bear difficult histories that have made it harder for us to develop relationships with land and food. I see this project as both a reminder of what Brooklyn’s landscapes can offer us, and a charge for us to dream wildly of what is possible in our streets, yards, and gardens.

Ugly Beauties expands on Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s commitment to activating its shared spaces with art installations that enliven the public realm and capture the spirit of the neighborhood,” said Regina Myer, President of Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “With residents, shoppers, workers, diners, and other visitors rushing around the neighborhood, we hope this piece will impart a moment of reflection and help Brooklynites to realize the beauty all around them. Thank you to Curry, Van Alen, Two Trees for working with us to bring Ugly Beauties to the Plaza.”

“Curry J. Hackett’s Ugly Beauties is an ingenious use of AI to activate one of Brooklyn’s most visible crossroads. It’s an elegant call for a future that centers inclusive joy in shared spaces,” said Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute. “We’re honored for this ongoing opportunity to surface work of emerging designers, and we thank Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Two Trees for their partnership in bringing Curry’s vision to life.”

“Curry Hackett’s recent projects prompting AI to create alternative urban landscapes celebrating Black culture challenge us to expand our capacity to imagine more just futures. We’re thrilled to host Ugly Beauties at the Plaza at 300 Ashland and support Hackett’s provocation to envision a bold, abundant future for New York City,” said Kate Gavriel, Cultural Affairs Director of Two Trees Management Co.

Ugly Beauties is Curry J. Hackett’s latest project to employ AI as a tool to imagine alternate realities and explore urban landscapes through a Black lens. A multidisciplinary artist and architect, Hackett uses machine learning to create vignettes of urban landscapes in which mundane Black traditions are recast in new and uncanny settings.

About Curry J. Hackett

Curry J. Hackett is a transdisciplinary designer, public artist, and educator. His practice, Wayside, looks to undertold histories to inspire meaningful art and critical research. Recently, Curry has been experimenting with artificial intelligence tools, with which he braids Black aesthetics, kinships with nature, and pop culture to imagine surreal scenes of Black joy. This work has been featured widely, most notably in Bloomberg and Architect Magazine. His ongoing research project, titled Drylongso, explores relationships between Blackness, geography, and land. This project has received funding the Graham Foundation, Journal of Architectural Education, and Washington Project for the Arts. Curry earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Howard University, and is currently completing his Master of Architecture in Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

About Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is a not-for-profit local development corporation that serves as the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural,educational, residential, and retail destination. Managing three Business Improvement Districts(BIDs) that cover Downtown Brooklyn-the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall ImprovementAssociation, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID-the Partnership’s diverse activities include attracting new businesses and improving the environment for existing companies,facilitating the construction of public spaces and streetscapes that promote an active and cohesive community, supporting and promoting Downtown Brooklyn’s cultural assets, and encouraging a sense of place and an engaged civic community.

About Van Alen Institute

Van Alen Institute helps create equitable cities through community-led inclusive design. In an equitable city, communities are engaged in the conception and creation of their built environment, regardless of income or personal circumstances. Community-driven decision-making builds resilience, social infrastructure, and ultimately, more just cities. For 130 years, our purposeful community engagement, convening capacity, and global network have produced profound transformations in the public realm of New York City and beyond. With an interdisciplinary approach to design, the Van Alen team has backgrounds in architecture, arts and culture, community organizing, preservation, and public policy. See all work at

About The Plaza at 300 Ashland

The Plaza at 300 Ashland sits at the heart of the Brooklyn Cultural District, adjacent to the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, and Park Slope. Managed, programmed, and maintained by DBP, the public plaza features a robust calendar of events presented in partnership with premier Brooklyn arts organizations such as BAM, BRIC, Brooklyn Public Library, Mark Morris Dance Group, MoCADA, 651 Arts, and Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), offering free, high-quality programming for everyone. With ample stepped seating, bistro tables and chairs, and capacity for 2,000, the 15,000-sf plaza has regularly hosted large-scale festivals, markets, and community events since its opening in 2017. Programming at The Plaza at 300 Ashland is made possible by support from Two Trees Management Co.