NYCHA, NYC Department Of Cultural Affairs, and Artbridge Help Launch Artist Fellowship Series

Public art project repurposes construction fencing and scaffolding sheds at various NYCHA campuses in to visual art exhibitions under pilot City Canvas program.

By: Sep. 14, 2020
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Red Hook Houses is the first NYCHA campus to host a multi-part series of artist fellowships operated under the City Canvas pilot program, an initiative of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs that repurposes construction fencing and sidewalk sheds in to a wide range of large-scale photography, digital print works, murals, and mixed-media art installations.

The NYCHA iteration of the program - entitled "Bridging the Divide" - was coordinated in conjunction with the nonprofit organization ArtBridge as well as several city agencies and private partners. The selected art installations created by Alden Parkinson and Harumi Ori were voted on by residents of Red Hook Houses East and West, and the community-based themes were curated after eight months of extensive input and feedback from public housing residents.

"NYCHA is committed to realizing the potential of public art to transform underutilized resources like construction fencing and sidewalk sheds in a way that better connects our residents to each other," said NYCHA Chairman & CEO Greg Russ. "We are truly grateful to our partners from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors who have helped us improve our residents' quality of life through 'Bridging the Divide," while also enlisting them in the urban design process."

"More than $500 million dollars has been invested at Red Hook Houses to make this development stronger and more resilient in the face of climate change," noted Joy Sinderbrand, NYCHA's Vice President for Recovery and Resilience. "We are excited to partner with ArtBridge to take advantage of construction fencing as a canvas for art that reflects the resilience of the Red Hook community."

"We applaud NYCHA, Artbridge, and the residents of the Red Hook Houses for selecting these extraordinary artists for the inaugural Bridging the Divide installation," said NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals. "Public art has the power to bring communities together, which is why we launched City Canvas as a way to transform construction sheds from an eyesore into a platform for collaborative creative intervention. We look forward to expanding this exciting partnership to more NYCHA developments in the months ahead."

Jacob Riis Houses in the Lower East Side and Elliott-Chelsea Houses in Chelsea will debut their own art installations in mid-October, while Mitchel Houses in the South Bronx will unveil its installment later this winter. Each site was funded through different sources, with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) funding the Red Hook installment; the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) and DemocracyNYC (an initiative of the Mayor's Office) subsidizing the artwork at Riis Houses; and Facebook serving as a major sponsor of the Elliott-Chelsea Houses installment.

The artists and themes chosen for each project are selected through a months-long participatory design process, whereby community liaisons selected from the area NYCHA development facilitate conversations on the themes that public housing residents would like to see portrayed in the artwork. For Red Hook Houses, those themes centered on positive narratives of its residents.

Alden Parkinson, a youth mentor and local photographer who grew up in Red Hook Houses, will be staging a series called "Red Hook Look," which will be located at the intersection of Centre Mall and Columbia Street. The series captures the creativity, talent, and leadership of local residents in Red Hook Houses, offering outsiders a glimpse of what Red Hook looks like from their perspective.

Harumi's series, "I am Here @ Red Hook Houses," features time-stamped moments in the life of the neighborhood, carefully crafted by her signature orange mesh material and executed in large-scale digital print. Artworks created by residents during artist-led workshops are also featured in Harumi's series, in a piece titled "We are Here @ Red Hook Houses." Harumi's work can be viewed along Hicks Street between West 9th Street and Mill Street.

Several of the future installments of "Bridging the Divide" will feature the work of current or past NYCHA residents, including Lee Jimenez and Joalis Silva at Riis Houses - who will be showcasing a photo series and digital artwork respectively, and Maria Lupianez, a resident of Fulton Houses who will be displaying portraits of residents in collaboration with Hisham Baroocha - a former Facebook artist-in-residence who will be creating backgrounds inspired by the interests of residents. That installment will be displayed on 400 feet of sidewalk sheds surrounding the development.