A Littlefield in a Big World: Kristen Chang (‘14, ‘15) & Julie Kim (‘91, ‘92)

Written by Kristen Chang (‘14, ‘15)

We open in Brooklyn— or more like, reopen as I caught up with Julie Kim ’91, ’92 as she was in the middle of moving her business. Her venue, Littlefield, serves as an all-inclusive art and performance space. Her team is celebrating their eighth year in business, and embarking on their ninth year in a new location just around the corner on Sackett Street.

We carried our conversation as she gave me a tour of their “new Littlefield” and her sister restaurant, Parklife, which opened this year in June. I watched as Julie pointed out the reconstruction work they were doing— such as the foldable mural they installed that serves as a permanent collection of their art gallery, and converts to a coat room that is used in the wintertime. “I guess [this all] plays into the Camp value of building, because that’s what we do at camp— build things!” 

Kristen and Julie at Littlefield. 

Kristen and Julie at Littlefield. 

Julie ties her spark for the arts to her days at Camp Rising Sun. Growing up in an Asian-American family, she was encouraged to pursue science and math, but Camp was where she was first introduced to art and music. As she describes it, Camp planted the seeds of art in her. Before starting Littlefield, Julie revealed that she had a different career as an environmental engineer. But after spending nearly a decade on a 30-year environmental project, she felt unfulfilled, not knowing how impactful this work would be in the end. “When you come out of Camp, you want to make an impact on a big scale,” Julie explains, “…[but] I realized later that it's just as important to impact someone's life on a smaller scale.”  Since the beginning, she’s stressed inclusivity.  She emphasizes the importance of keeping Littlefield open to all kinds of performances and acts like Camp is open to all kinds of personalities and backgrounds.

Julie ’s engineering and Camp roots are apparent in her entrepreneurial ventures. It’s clear that sustainability remains an overarching ideal for her since her time at Camp. For instance, at the new Littlefield, construction workers were installing walls made of recycled truck tires, which make for great acoustics. Their restaurant, Parklife, was still pretty bare bones, save for some very special countertops and lamps. “We actually got this countertop from an old bowling alley!” Julie exclaims. As I point out what I call the apple-barrel chandelier (lit by LED lights, of course) Julie tells me about how the engineer in her ensures that these elements are not only sustainable and beautiful but also functional. “My thing is, don’t do things just for the aesthetic— they have to serve some purpose and be functional.”

The countertop, which was created from an old bowling alley.

The countertop, which was created from an old bowling alley.

I spent the day not only interviewing Julie but shadowing her. Our conversations were sandwiched between her seemingly-never-ending list of responsibilities. Julie juggled an interview, a tasting, and a health inspection all within an hour.

I noted the detail and thought placed in these decisions and how they reflected her vision for her venue.

The virtues of community and leadership that Camp nurtured, Julie executed in her creation of Littlefield.

Before we parted, I shared with Julie my own sustainability project, where I donate wedding flowers to hospitals and nursing homes. She beamed, “I love that idea. We’re going to be doing that from now on!”

While it’s been years since our Camp days, we still revel in acting as co-Sachems on new projects, and while we may not physically be taking a hammer to nail anymore, we’re still building things for our community.