West Harlem Art Fund, City College, And Artist Art Jones Share NY Slave History

May 19, 2023

In the 21st century, slavery continues to be the scourge it has been for the past 4,000 years, modern abolitionists say.

An estimated 27.6 million are currently victims of trafficking worldwide, and, sadly, many of them are often hidden right in front of us, according to the Office of the US Secretary of State.

The West Harlem Art Fund in partnership with City College’s DIAP Program and artist Art Jones looks at the history of slave trafficking in New York with the digital installation Traffic. This coincides with broader examination of modern abolition and its impact globally.

After the abolition of slavery in 1827, New York became a major force in the illegal slave trade, dealing with the American Southern states, Brazil, and Cuba. The city benefited much from this traffic in humans: southern cotton and sugar sailed to Europe from New York Harbor, which is the body of water surrounding Governors Island.

Major financial institutions including Aetna, JP Morgan Chase, and New York Life actively did business with slaveholders and slave ship owners, and traders and builders were responsible for outfitting and repairing slave ships.


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Traffic will explore this history through objects, images, and sounds. The installation will include a series of small sculptures derived from the sound of the waters of New York Harbor, and reproductions of woodcuts and illustrations from the period.

Placing a smartphone near the objects or images will reveal sounds of the harbor and a short video piece, providing an interactive experience of this hidden history.

Art Jones works with moving images, photography, sound, and objects. Jones often uses original and found media as raw material to be sampled and re-combined in order to examine implicit cultural meanings or suggest new ones.

Jones’ films and media art projects have been presented internationally at Chinatown Soup in New York City, Times Art Center Berlin, Roulette Intermedium, and Mana Contemporary Art.

The City College Digital and Interdisciplinary Art Program [DIAP] Program

The [DIAP] program is a 60 credit Fine Art MFA Program in which students engage with aspects related to digital media, movement and time-based disciplines, socio-cultural aspects.

The program’s central focus is a utilization and critical engagement of digital media that can lead into areas as diverse as interactive sculpture, photography, performance, movement-based arts, video, sound art, non-narrative motion graphics, online privacy, online/offline interventions, printing, spatial mapping, drawing, digital cultures or bio art and is supportive of different models of individual or collaborative art practice. (https://art.ccny.cuny.edu/main/mfa-diap/)

The West Harlem Art Fund

The West Harlem Art Fun (WHAF) is a twenty-five-year-old, public art and new media organization. Like explorers from the past, who searched for new lands and people, 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

Photo credit: Source.

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