If You Build ItJune 25, 2014 - August 10, 2014
On No Longer Empty’s five-year anniversary of presenting site-specific art, the exhibition If You Build It took root in Sugar Hill—the legendary epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance. The project was inspired by, and presented in partnership with, Broadway Housing Communities at their newest site at the time of the exhibition, designed by architect David Adjaye. Reflecting an integrated approach to housing and architecture, the project forged connections among art, architecture, community, and activism.
If You Build It featured installations, photography, and performances by more than 20 local, national, and international artists. The works in the exhibition addressed cycles of urban decay and regeneration; building community through shared heritage; immigration and displacement; the longing for home in all its senses; and the vast economic disparities that plague our cities.
The multi-floor exhibition led visitors from the ground floor to the ninth and back finally to the third floors where additional works, installations, and apartments were curated by invited neighborhood organizations.
The project incorporated multidisciplinary cultural events and the next editions of No Longer Empty’s signature education programs—the Y.Dot Youth Docent Program, Teens Curate Teens in partnership with ArtsConnection, and No Longer Bored Family Days.
If You Build It previewed the building and demonstrated Broadway Housing Communities commitment to the arts. Looking forward at the time of the exhibition, the site’s future as the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling was, and continues to be, a promising cultural anchor of the community. Setting forth a radical example of what can be achieved when art and architecture are united with goals for spatial and social justice, this project signified the desire not only to house, but to house with dignity and sustain community.
If You Build It Catalog available for purchase
Art in FLUX / ArtsConnection / The Classical Theatre of Harlem / Dominican York Proyecto GRAFICA / Harlem Arts Alliance / Institute for Public Architecture / LeRoy Neiman Art Center/ Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance / Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture / Sugar Hill Culture Club / Taste of Harlem / The New School Collaboratory
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This program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and with generous support from National Endowment for the Arts, Joan Mitchell Foundation, The Laurie M Tisch Illumination Fund, The Pinkerton Foundation, The Robert Lehman Foundation, The Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation, Northern Ireland Bureau, The Double R Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and The Tony Bennett Foundation/Exploring the Arts.
Image: Sketch of Sugar Hill Development, courtesy of David Adjaye Associates.