Harlem’s Sculpture Partnerships: Where Artistry Meets Collective Brilliance

June 22, 2023

Harlem will host its first large-scale sculpture exhibition in Spring, 2024.

The historic parks Morningside, St. Nicholas, and Jackie Robinson have been selected to be the featured sites for these works. 

Harlem Sculpture Gardens will be led by the West Harlem Art Fund and New York Artist Equity Association. They will work collaboratively with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, local community boards, and neighborhood groups. 

“Harlem Sculpture Gardens will be an incredible celebration of Harlem’s rich history of sculpture, local artists of colors, and neighborhood parks, all while making art more accessible,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “I’m confident that this expansive, multimedia initiative will ignite Manhattanites’ passion for art and a commitment to stewarding Harlem’s parks. I can’t wait to visit the Gardens next spring and experience what the artists have created.”

The team will also partner with the online app STQRY (formerly OnCell) to realize online tours and sound walks. STQRY is a storytelling platform that helps visitors explore further, engage deeper, and discover more. Users can choose from a range of amazing features to create location-based tours, virtual tours, mobile, and web apps, audio guides, games, and online collections.

Artists of color from Harlem and neighboring areas can submit proposals as individuals or teams in an open call this June for public art, dance and sound art. With the assistance of an established Advisory Committee comprised of key art professionals, final recommendations will be made to the City this fall. 

According to Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director, of West Harlem Art Fund,“ Harlem has had many great sculptors who have lived here. From Charles Alston, Augusta Savage, Richmond Barthé to most recently Valerie Maynard who died in 2022. Harlem Sculpture Gardens helps to expand that tradition with new artists engaged in fresh thoughts and perspective.”

Michael Gormley, Executive Director of New York Artists Equity (NYAE) adds that “since 1947 NYAE  has supported the professional aspirations of emerging artists from underserved communities via exhibition opportunities, funding, and education.   NYAE’s public art practice, recently funded by NYSCA,  expands upon this tradition of diversifying access to the arts by staging projects in the community for the community hence re-positioning art and uniting makers and viewers as inclusive and collaborating change agents for the greater good.  

At the heart of Harlem Sculpture Gardens lies a park stewardship and mentorship component. Local groups will learn how to care for trees, soil rejuvenation, and maintenance planning. Local youths will work alongside established artists as assistants. Selection committees will be formed to allow the public to rank submitted proposals.

Calder Zwicky, Executive Director of Artistic Noise shared, “Artistic Noise is excited to connect our community of young artists to the upcoming Harlem Sculpture Walk. Working with system-impacted youth and their families, we recognize the need for visibility and believe that projects like these help give voice to everyone, no matter their specific economic, educational, or living situations.” 

Partnership Development & Internship Liaison Yule Adams also shared “exalt elevates expectations of personal success for youth ages 15-19 who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system. We inspire youth at a critical crossroads to believe in their worth, from the first steps in contemplation through the journey to create lasting behavioral change. At exalt, we empower youth to see a future filled with hope – and we provide the road map to get there.”

Organizing Committee (still in formation)

West Harlem Art Fund

NY Artist Equity Association

AHL Foundation

Advisory Committee (still in formation)

Nadema Agard – Artist
Cecilia Alemani – Curator
Chakaia Booker – Artist/Sculptor

Projjal Dutta – Architect/Gallerist
Eva Mayhabal Davis – Curator
Carl Fudge – Artist/Printmaker

Matthew William Goodheart – Musician/Composer/Sound Artist
Kendal Henry – Curator/Arts Administrator

Luis Pagan – Artist

Debra Priestly – Artist/Sculptor
Tiffany Rea-Fisher – Dancer/Choreographer 

Alec Rovensky – Architect
Ki Smith – Gallerist
Mame Diarra Speis – Dancer/Choreographer 

Local Partners (still in formation)

Office of the Manhattan Borough President 

Office of State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell 

Office of State Assemblyman Al Taylor
Office of Councilman Shaun Abreu 

Dorrence Brooks Historic District
West 135th Street ApartmentsTenant Association, Inc. 

Columbia University, Office of Governmental and Community Affairs

Youth Partners (still in formation) 

Artistic Noise

Street Corner Resources

The West Harlem Art Fund

The West Harlem Art Fund (WHAF) is a twenty-five-year-old, public art and new media organization. WHAF seek opportunities for artists and creative professionals throughout NYC and beyond wishing to showcase and share their talent. The West Harlem Art Fund presents art and culture in open and public spaces to add aesthetic interest; promote historical and cultural heritage; and support community involvement in local development. Our heritage symbol Afuntummireku-denkyemmtreku: is the double crocodile from West Africa Ghana which means unity in diversity. https://westharlem.art

New York Artist Equity Association

New York Artist Equity Association was founded in 1947 to promote opportunities for artists and address economic issues affecting American artists. More than 160 leading American artists of the 1940s founded the organization, including Will Barnet, Thomas Hart Benton, George Biddle, Paul Cadmus, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Leon Kroll, Jacob Lawrence, John Marin, Louise Nevelson, John Sloan and the first President Yasuo Kuniyoshi. These diverse artists were all clear on one point — they had to band together to establish and protect artists’ economic well-being. 

Today NYAE continues to support the professional aspirations of unrecognized and emerging artists, particularly those from underrepresented groups, by providing them with exhibition opportunities, educational programming, and a vibrant community of artists, collectors, curators, and art educators. www.nyartistsequity.org

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