The New-York Historical Society presents Art for change: the artist and the collaboration of the homeless, an exhibition that examines the history of modern homelessness in New York City through the lens of Artist & Homeless Collaborative (A&HC), a public art project founded in 1990 by multidisciplinary artist Hope Sandrow. The program, which connected women from the Park Avenue Armory Shelter for Homeless Women with artists, curators and activists, allowed women to tell their stories, work creatively and build relationships. Presented from December 3, 2021 to April 3, 2022 in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, the exhibition examines the transformative potential of art in public and private life through a selection of artistic projects directed by John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Ida Applebroog, the Guerrilla Girls, Hope Sandrow, Judith Shea, Kiki Smith, among others.
“Homelessness is a more urgent crisis than ever, as New Yorkers seek to stabilize their communities and support those in need through efforts big and small,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of New-York Historical. “Artists and arts groups continue to bring art to shelters, using it as a tool for people to tell their stories. We hope visitors will leave with a better understanding of those facing housing insecurity, how people have acted in the past, and perhaps be inspired to help solve today’s issues. using their own unique skills.
Art and activism came together in the 1980s and 1990s to shine a light on homelessness while helping women in the shelter system to creatively process their experience, gain confidence and skills, and speak directly to the public. Tucked behind a large facade, the Park Avenue Armory Shelter for Homeless Women, the city-run shelter on the upper floors of the Armory, served 120 women aged 40 and over, including many women of color, who often faced to issues of domestic violence, mental health, disability, HIV / AIDS, discrimination and social isolation, among others. Thanks to the joint work of artistic creation, the participants and the professional artists of the Artist & Homeless Collaborative forged relationships, engaged in self-reflection and personalized the space of the refuge with installations of their works. of art. Along with volunteers from the art world and activist groups such as the Guerrilla Girls, Women’s Action Coalition and Visual AIDS, residents have drawn attention to their experiences through exhibitions, published work, and project projects. activist posters.
During this period, the East Village has been the battleground of heated debates over homelessness and gentrification. Additionally, the AIDS crisis devastated New York City and its arts community, and artists used art to document their experiences, commemorate those lost to AIDS, and draw attention to the needs of people. living with HIV / AIDS. In the late 1980s, some artists turned to practices – now known as socially engaged art or social practice – that emphasized collaboration with individuals and communities, and often merged l art with activism. Three photographs of Sandrow in the exhibition—Self-control, back to the streets (made in 1984 with Peter Hujar), Portrait of Nicolas Moufarrege, Men of the Street (1982), and Portrait of Keith Haring, Men in the Street (1982) – portray friends she lost to AIDS-related causes. The sense of loss forced her to volunteer in shelters.
Art for change includes John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres Ernestine and three friends (1992) – a group of painted plaster busts of four shelter residents held in the New-York Historical collections. Examples of works created by participants and artists on display include self-portraits, photographs, mixed media, pin buttons, writings and other artistic expressions. In 1994, Artist & Homeless Collaborative began volunteering at the Lexington Avenue Armory Shelter, which served women between the ages of 20 and 45. Hope Sandrow and writer Michael Boodro envisioned a project that could combine photography with writing to help women tackle their often traumatic pasts and think creatively about their futures. Examples of this project, What I need / What I want, are visible in the exhibition.
In addition to work created through Artist & Homeless Collaborative, the exhibition features the work of advocates and artists who have been a direct response to the homeless crisis as it emerged in New York City at the late 1970s and into the 1980s. The exhibit coincides with the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Callahan Consent Decree that established the legal right to shelter in New York and includes the report Private lives / Public spaces (1981) by Ellen Baxter and Kim Hopper, who interviewed homeless New Yorkers for nearly two years and then published their findings, bringing the crisis to the attention of the general public for the first time. Baxter and Hopper would co-found the Coalition for the Homeless in 1981 with Robert Hayes, the young lawyer who two years earlier had brought the milestone Callahan vs. Carey case against city and state on behalf of homeless adult males, culminating in the signing of the Callahan Consent Order in 1981. The report is posted alongside ephemera, photographs and videos to contextualize the era.
The arts-based activism of the late ’80s and early’ 90s transformed over time. Some grassroots groups have disbanded, others have grown into larger organizations, and still others have stuck to their original vision. The Artist & Homeless Collaborative ended in 1995 with the closure of the Park Avenue Armory shelter. Artists and arts groups continue to bring art into shelters, using it as an opportunity to build relationships and as a way for people to tell their stories.
The number of people in New York City’s municipal shelter system has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. As of February 2020, 61,798 New Yorkers were sleeping in shelters every night, including 18,099 children. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a serious health threat to people living in collective shelters, limited the ability of many nonprofits to provide in-person services, and put pressure on city residents facing the crisis. housing insecurity due to loss of income. The exhibition features collaborative portraits of artist Francis Palazzolo and individuals from the BronxWorks Living Room Drop-in Center and Safe Haven. BronxWorks is a group dedicated to helping Bronxites improve their economic and social well-being with various programs that nurture, house, teach and support over 60,000 community members. Palazzolo, BronxWorks Artist-in-Residence and Recreation Coordinator who leads arts groups at four BronxWorks facilities, continued to work in person during the pandemic
A collaborative quilt made by young people to mark the 30th anniversary of Art Start, a non-profit arts organization co-founded by Scott Rosenberg, a homeless artist and collaborative volunteer since its inception, is also on display. The organization works with young people from historically marginalized communities (including young people and families in transitional housing) providing them with creative opportunities to share their visions as well as to reimagine and grow in current circumstances, developing skills life skills beyond the arts.
Multimedia artist and activist Betty Yu collaborated with Youth Leaders at the Door to create a special take-out poster reflecting homelessness among today’s youth. The Door has been providing comprehensive youth development services since 1972. Project participants interviewed young people receiving services through the Door’s Runaway and Homeless Youth program, which serves 1,600 young people per year, about their experiences in developing conception. enhanced augmented reality.
Art for change is curated by Rebecca Klassen, Associate Curator of Material Culture, and Laura Mogulescu, Curator of Women’s History Collections, with Tracey Johnson, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Center for Women’s History and curatorial intern Lisa Diaz Louis. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council, and the New York State Council for the Arts with support from the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.