Oh how excited we were to receive a press release announcing ArtCrawl Harlem’s inaugural artist residency program. Entitled Boundaries and Connection: The Other Side of Us, this residency commemorates the Centennial of the Harlem Renaissance, while the theme is dedicated to the memory of the two co-founders of the original ArtCrawl Harlem. We couldn’t help but notice that it was ten years ago that we went on one of the original ArtCrawl Harlem tours, founded by Jacqueline Orange of Taste Harlem and Evelyn Archer, owner, Canvas, Paper, and Stone Gallery. Picking up where they left off, let’s meet the three artists chosen for the inaugural residency.
For the 2020 season, The Trust for Governors Island (The Trust), Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) and 18 cultural organizations with space on Governors Island join forces to host free residency programs for approximately 115 artists and cultural practitioners that have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, helping to combat the devastating impact of the pandemic on the NYC cultural landscape.
The Governors Island Residency Initiative will reposition indoor spaces that were historically used for exhibitions and public programming as residencies or workspaces for artists and other members of the City’s cultural community from August to October this year. Open to artists, writers, cultural workers and creative practitioners living and working across the five boroughs, the initiative will provide free, temporary space to work in LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island and more than 20 historic houses in the Island’s Nolan Park and Colonels Row districts, overseen by a diverse group of cultural and educational nonprofits. After postponing all indoor public programs, organizations are pivoting their spaces to participate in this initiative and accommodate artists in need.
ArtCrawl Harlem Boundaries and Connections residency program recognizes the importance of artists having the freedom, space and resources to create as did the community of benefactors during the Harlem Renaissance era. Utilizing various artistic genres, the work of the artist will honor history, serve as signposts for where we are today, as well as imagine the future, hence the subtitle, The Other Side of Us. Ulysses Williams, ArtCrawl Harlem Executive Director states, “The impact of Black creatives during the Harlem Renaissance was evident throughout the City of New York and beyond. The talent and influence of the Harlem of that period and today was not confined to one geographical area. Harlem was and is a safe space for black Americans to be and to create with their experience in mind.”
The ArtCrawl Harlem Artists-in-Residence for 2020 include Ricky Day, painter, photographer and filmmaker; Lisa DuBois, multi-media artist and curator, and Demarcus McGaughey, painter.
Here are a few words from each:
Boundaries and Connection: The Other Side of Us (100 Years of Harlem) is a wonderful opportunity to dive deep into the people, history, myth, legend, reality and hope that is Harlem, NY.
Harlem is a victory in the midst of a perceived defeat. Harlem is an idea that became legend. Harlem is a dream that created a reality. Harlem is a microcosm of the lived experiences of an equal part oppressed and yet triumphant and transcendent people. I am an artist and human being who has personally experienced the place and the idea called Harlem from a unique perspective. I’ve experienced it as a transplant who arrived with a dream. I’ve experienced it as a resident who is committed to building and serving the community. Most of all I experience Harlem as the space that inspires and nourishes my call as an artist and a black king and fuels my vocation as a man of faith intent on living the life I was created to live.
I bring to the program a deep and abiding awareness of how Harlem has been perceived around the world and gratitude for the privilege of living in Harlem today. I’m humbled by the opportunity to be a part of the current chapter in its storied history, and the responsibility to be my authentic self while using my artistic gifts to create works that engage the viewer and inspire us all to embody the idea of service to humankind and to be conscious partners in the ongoing process that is creation.
I was born and raised in Harlem. As a child growing up in Harlem, I am reminded of what my community used to be like pre gentrification. Boundariesremind me of the invisible railroad track that separated Harlem from the rest of Manhattan. The Connections between neighbors were the deep, long lasting and strong relationships. Harlem was a place where everyone in my building knew each other by name. Early on I was acutely aware of the two different worlds when my mother would take me out of Harlem to go or to go shopping for clothes in Herald Square during holidays.
Black Harlem was born through a series of events, the most significant being the Great Northward Black Migration. This historic event was the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the Southern states to the North and Midwest. X slaves and descendants of slaves on the quest for freedom wanted to escape the grim memories of the South and many found themselves in Harlem in a segregated Manhattan, The lesser of 2 evils.
The shared struggles and complicated pasts drew people together to share music, poetry, dance literature and fashion. This period between the 1920s–1930s was the dawning of a new age is known as The Harlem Renaissance. This was a time when anything was possible in the minds and hearts of people which was the mindset needed to enter the civil rights era.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic and the collective consciousness of the world has changed. Art is our symbolism for this era. My artistic contribution to the Boundaries and Connection: The Other Side of Us (100 Years of Harlem) speaks to the truth that has emerged through a series of unexpected events in 2020.
I am a Black Southern Artist who migrated to New York on the hopes of living the Black American Dream. Growing up in Dallas, Texas there was something that always attracted me to New York. I used to read Jet and Ebony Magazine and see visuals of positive, affluent African Americans living in Harlem. On Saturday nights, I would sit with my family and we would watch Showtime at the Apollo. I would sit on the floor in amazement of black people taking the risk to go after their dreams to be famous and sharing their gifts with the world. This inspired me and I thought to myself I want to be an empowered, positive black man living in New York sharing my gifts as well. I have to experience this place for myself. If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere was my motto.
When I think of Boundaries and Connections: The Other Side of Us 100 Years of Harlem. I think about the celebration of The Harlem Renaissance, the celebration of blackness, history, politics, churches, fashion, beauty and freedom to be expressive and authentic. My personal definition of boundaries are guidelines an artist creates to identify ways to evoke expressions towards their art and how viewers will respond and it’s the artists’ duty to push them pass their limits. In other words, to create art that belongs, art that is part of the world we are living in.
Through creative narratives, it’s my intentions to create art that will connect people to the beauty, power and culture of Harlem and transcend across the world. Giving my viewers the experience to look deeply and think about their own dreams, their history, their friendships and family, their interpretation of their American Dream.
The ArtCrawl Harlem 2020 Residency will be hosted from August 15 to November 1, 2020. Artists receive a stipend and free daytime workspace on Governors Island in one of the historic houses in the Nolan Park districts. There, artists will have access to Governors Island’s expansive landscapes as a resource to retreat and reflect on their practices.
The Trust for Governors Island is providing space within the Island’s historical homes to eighteen nonprofit arts and education organizations this year.
Following ArtCrawl Harlem, supporting the rich visual arts in Harlem.