Artists on Artists, Studio Museum in Harlem Celebrates the Historic Smokehouse Associates ~ August 5, 2023





Neighborhood children and Smokehouse’s founding member William T. Williams are drawn to the completed mural site at Sylvan Place (now Harlem Art Park at E. 120th St. between Lexington and 3rd Aves.). Artwork created by Smokehouse Associates. Courtesy William T. Williams Archives

The Studio Museum in Harlem presents the culminating event in celebration of the Smokehouse Associates publication.

Join The Studio Museum in Harlem in Harlem Art Park, the site of one of the Smokehouse Associates’ first painted walls, for a multimedia program featuring sonia louise davis, David L. Johnson, and Shamel Pitts. Through participatory activities and insightful conversation, visitors will be guided through reflections on Smokehouse’s collaborative work and will explore their own connections to—and interpretations of—the collective’s ethos to “let the message be the change.”

Entrance to the East Harlem Art Park, home to the first Percent for Art installation (c.1985) ‘Growth’

sonia louise davis will lead a “tuning” breath exercise before reading an original text in homage to “Wellspring, Opus 341” from Harlem-born singer Jeanne Lee’s 1979 album Oasis, a duet with multi-instrumentalist Gunter Hampel. The track references local landmarks (all since shuttered) from the perspective of a flâneur “strollin’ down Seventh avenue.” David L. Johnson will reflect on communal access and stewardship of public space through a performative lecture and project that engages with the structure of Harlem Art Park’s public hours. Shamel Pitts will lead visitors in a Gaga.People workshop, a movement class charged with rich, descriptive imagery that stimulates imagination, activates the body and physical sensations, and encourages awareness of one’s thoughts and surroundings.

This program is free and open to all.

Harlem Art Park is accessible by wheelchair and other forms of mobility assistance.

About the Smokehouse Associates 

From 1968 to 1970, the Smokehouse Associates transformed Harlem with vibrant, community-oriented, abstract murals and sculptures. Established by William T. Williams with Melvin Edwards, Guy Ciarcia, and Billy Rose, Smokehouse grew to encompass a range of creative practitioners united around the revolutionary potential of public art. Though under-recognized today, Smokehouse was ambitious in its scale, community engagement, and interaction with the built environment. Published by the Studio Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, Smokehouse Associates provides the first critical examination of the group’s work, expanding the narrative of public art and social practice in the United States to include the contributions of artists of African descent.

Artists on Artists is an ongoing series that invites contemporary artists to respond to artwork and sites of creativity through the lens of their practices and experiences.

Artists on Artists: sonia louise davis, David L. Johnson and Shamel Pitts on Smokehouse Associates will be held on Saturday, August 5, 2023 at 4:00pm to 7:00pm. Harlem Art Park is located on East 120th Street and Sylvan Place between Lexington and Third Avenues, NYC.

Register for this free event Here


While you’re there, you will undoubtedly enjoy the parks current temporary installation by artists Kevin Quiles Bonilla and Zaq Landsberg entitled ‘For Centuries, and Still…’ and the parks permanent art installation, Growth by artist Jorge Luis Rodriguez, which was the very first Percent-For-Art installation, placed in the park in 1985. The park is also adjacent to the historic Harlem Courthouse.

Take a look back at Smokehouse Associates, a public art collective between 1968 and 1970, transforming Harlem with murals and sculptures.

Take a look back at events and installation in Harlem Art Park.

Are you a Member of Studio Museum in Harlem? If you are, be sure to take advantage of the new Harlem Neighborhood Discount Program!

Check out the progress on the Studio Museum in Harlem construction, with an anticipated opening in 2024.