Photo: Cameron Blaylock

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 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.

To celebrate the opening of Ugly Beauties, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and Van Alen Institute hosted a reception on March 8 at 6:00 PM at The Plaza at 300 Ashland. The celebration featured Palava!, the creative ensemble known for their fusion of classic Afrobeat music with blends of Rock, Jazz, and Afro-Cuban rhythms and Kriyol Dance! Collective, a Brooklyn-based action group working at the intersection of arts practices rooted in oral history and movement, public health, and community organizing. Set against the backdrop of Ugly Beauties, Palava! and Kriyol Dance! Collective created a harmonious interplay of sound and movement.

Ugly Beauties will be on view until May 2, 2024.


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.


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.


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


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.