City Lore Launches the Exhibition ‘What did it feel like to be there?: 12 Portraits from The Addresses Project’




Cassandra Grant photo: © Riya Lerner, 2020. Cassandra Grant at Home, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, NY. Archival pigment print, 16×20 in. Courtesy of the artist.

City Lore, a pioneer in Urban Folklore programming and an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is pleased to launch a new exhibition, What did it feel to be there?: 12 Portraits from The Addresses Project created by artists Gwen Shockey and Riya Lerner. The City Lore Gallery is located at 56 East 1st street in Manhattan and the exhibition will open on March 29 and be on view through June 30, 2024. Gallery hours are: Friday 2-6pm, and Saturday – Sunday 12-6pm. There will be an opening reception at the City Lore Gallery on March 29, 2024 from 6 pm – 8 pm.

Please RSVP for the reception: 

What did it feel like to be there?: 12 Portraits from The Addresses Project presents a selection of twelve portraits by photographer Riya Lerner, selected  from a larger multi-disciplinary project entitled the Addresses Project created by Gwen Shockey with Riya Lerner featuring lesbian and queer individuals who have dedicated their lives to creating and holding space in New York City from the 1950s to today. The individuals included in the series represent a diverse network of community builders engaged with social and political organizing, mental health advocacy, nightlife, music, journalism, visual art, literature, poetry, performance, research, safer sex and kink practices. Each portrait includes a photograph taken in a significant location for the sitter, along with segments from their oral history interview and selected ephemera from their life and work.

Lisa Menichino photo © Riya Lerner, 2022. Lisa Menichino at Cubbyhole, West Village, New York, NY. Archival pigment print, 16×20 in. Courtesy of the artist.

This iteration of the exhibition will include vinyl wallpaper designed by Gwen Shockey from scanned lesbian and queer party and bar flyers from the mid-1900s through the early 2000s. Also featured will be an immersive resource area with books about queer and lesbian gathering and history that were integral to the creation of the Addresses Map and Project. Framing and printing of portrait materials made possible by The Center’s Queer Womxn’s Series funded by Amy Ellis and Trudy Sanders Reece.

Imani Rashid photo © Riya Lerner, 2022. Imani Rashid at Home, Harlem, New York, NY. Archival pigment print, 16×20 in. Courtesy of the artist.

About The Addresses Project

The Addresses Project founded by artist Gwen Shockey, investigates lesbian and queer space and memory in New York City from the early 1900s to the present day through map-making, oral history interviews, ephemera and portraiture. The purpose of this project is to explore the history of the Gay Rights Movement (and its intersections with Civil Rights and Women’s Rights), shifts in identity building (and shedding) and the sociopolitical conditions of New York City from a lesbian and queer perspective. The mission of the Addresses Project is to offer lesbian and queer-identified individuals a multi-disciplinary platform through which to access a place-based heritage as well as intergenerational community building.

Artist and project founder, Gwen Shockey had this to say, “So many of the bars, community centers and sites of queer and lesbian activism that are listed in The Addresses Project were (and still are) located in the East Village. It is a dream to bring this exhibition to City Lore Gallery mere blocks away from the former locations of Meow Mix, Bluestockings, The Pink Pony and more. As Lisa Davis (featured in our exhibition) would say: the East village belonged to the girls honey.”

“The individuals, places, organizations, and events highlighted in this exhibition are community pioneers and community anchors, including our very own beloved board member–folklorist, scholar, and rockstar Dr. Kay Turner! People, place, memory, and creativity—the foundations of City Lore’s work—are the heart, soul, and fabric of this show, and resonate deeply with our core mission,” shared Molly Garfinkel, City Lore Co-Director. She went on to say, “We are so honored to host the stunning portraits, powerful oral histories, and distinctive ephemera that Gwen and Riya have included in What did it feel like to be there?: 12 Portraits from The Addresses Project, and to help amplify and celebrate the voices and contributions of trailblazers whose community organizing, advocacy, and vision have built networks, resources, and places that matter for current and future generations.”

Wanda Acosta photo © Riya Lerner, 2019. Wonda Acosta at the original location of Sundays at Café Tabac, East Village, New York, NY. Archival pigment print, 16×20 in. Courtesy of the artist.

About the Creators ~ Artists Gwen Shockey and Riya Lerner 

Gwen Shockey is a Brooklyn-based multi-disciplinary artist, activist and educator. She teaches drawing and painting and directs the Anne Reid ‘72 Gallery at Princeton Day School in New Jersey. She was a recipient of the 2018–2019 Leslie-Lohman Museum Queer Art Fellowship and was a consultant for the Stonewall 50 exhibition Letting Loose and Fighting Back: LGBTQ Nightlife Before and After Stonewall at the New-York Historical Society.  She is the founder of the Addresses Project, conducting the oral histories and creating the project map. For more information:

Riya Lerner is a Brooklyn-based photographer and artist currently pursuing her Master of Social Work (2024) from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service. Before attending Fordham, she accumulated over a decade of experience working in museums as a public art curator, focusing on the intersection between art, identity, and social justice. Both her work as an artist and her impending role as a therapist are grounded in underlying principles of empathy, observation, interpretation, and connection. Lerner’s fascination with identity and experiences in the construction of individuals’ narratives plays a significant role in all her works. She is a collaborating artist on the Addresses Project creating portraits of the featured participants.

About City Lore Gallery – The City Lore Gallery is a cultural hub that celebrates New York City’s vibrant cultural atmosphere and provides a platform for the myriad voices that comprise the city. The gallery presents exhibitions and events on all the things that make New York “New York.” From the golden age of graffiti, to endangered languages and activist comics, City Lore finds the art in everyday life. City Lore works in four cultural domains—urban folklore and history, preservation, arts education and grassroots poetry traditions—and is committed to the principles of cultural equity and democracy.

About City Lore – Founded in 1986, and now an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, City Lore’s mission is to foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs.  We document, present, and advocate for New York City’s grassroots cultures to ensure their living legacy in stories and histories, places and traditions.  We work in four cultural domains:  urban folklore and history; preservation; arts education; and grassroots poetry traditions. In each of these realms, we see ourselves as furthering cultural equity and modeling a better world with projects as dynamic and diverse as New York City itself.  For more info:

City Lore is made possible with generous support from: Institute of Museum and Library Services, New York State Council on the Arts. New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Sherman Foundation, Lily Auchincloss Foundation.
What did it feel like to be there?: 12 Portraits from the Addresses Project will be on view from March 29 through June 30, 2024 at City Lore Gallery, 56 East 1st Street, NYC. An Opening Reception will be held on March 29th from 6-8pm.