Saturday, April 11, 2009

Harlem Expressions: Made In Harlem (2008-09)

Harlem Expressions is a series of community-based art projects involving the youth organization TRUCE (The Renaissance University of Community Education) a division of Harlem Children’s Zone located in central Harlem, New York City. These projects were collaboratively designed with TRUCE’s students and staff, and reflect its mission to educate and empower youth. TRUCE aims to support youth in becoming agents of positive personal and social change through the arts, academics and activism. Each term the students and staff of TRUCE identifies a topic that becomes the thematic focus of their programming. That fall the theme was “Made in Harlem”, and intended to focus the youth on the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Harlem.

Through a series of biographical examinations focused on experiential reflections of themselves as Harlem residents, participants developed a life-sized “personal shape” that became the basis for further collective work.
These shapes were constructed from transparent acrylic sheets, available as surplus from Material For the Arts, a local public re-use center. Each participant incorporated on their constructed shape text, images, and textures that reflect aspects of having been “Made In Harlem”. Though discussion and research, participants identified a neighborhood site, and evolved a collective public sitework in response to that site, using their acrylic shapes. This work was subsequently reinstalled for an exhibition of this work at Macy Gallery, Teachers College, Columbia University in March, 2009.

Harlem Expressions aimed to utilize social, collective and material investigation strategies to reveal the way each of us shapes and is shaped by each other over time in our community.