It has been our great joy and an incredible honor to work with so many amazing artists, colleagues, friends and the City of New York over the past twelve years. Together, we have created No Longer Empty’s innovative community-responsive exhibitions and programs deeply connected to issues of social justice. With you, we undertook a journey through every borough of the city, temporarily transforming empty spaces into vibrant community hubs, uncovering old and new narratives grounded in local realities while welcoming tens of thousands of visitors.
COVID-19 has profoundly affected all of us and underscored the power of solidarity and of taking care of each other. In the midst of these current social and cultural changes, we are currently re-evaluating our role as an organization. With this in mind, we are writing to inform you that as of June 30th, No Longer Empty will suspend its programming and focus on our legacy as well as the lessons to be learned and shared.
This is indeed a very challenging environment for art and educational programming and funding. It is also a time for cautious optimism that there will be a deep realignment of our society, elevating values of equity and justice. Now, more than ever, voices of marginalized communities that were amplified throughout our exhibitions and programs need alternative platforms and spaces for expression. We look forward to seeing how artists and curators, including those from the NLE Curatorial Lab and the many youth who went through our programs, will continue to find innovative ways for public engagement with the arts. We hope there will also be an environment for grassroots organizations that have been inspired by our model to thrive and create meaningful projects in their communities. Please know, we will always be there to support those efforts.
Along with an unprecedented pandemic that has radically changed our individual, social and creative lives, the most recent tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have laid bare the enduring brutal–and lethal–inequities in our society. In health care, the workplace, housing, education, and justice, we have seen broken systems deeply marred by racial bias. In the past several weeks thousands of people in the US (and around the world) have demonstrated in the streets for policy and legislative change.
And it is here, even in a state of suspension, that No Longer Empty plans to delve deep into our own legacy as an organization and examine, with the same radical transparency, where we have been and what our model can potentially become.
We invite the artists, partners, alumni from NLE Curatorial Lab, Young Exhibition Makers, Youth Action Council and students studying our archives, to join us in this conversation (please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org).
We will be reaching out to everyone again soon with more information on how to get involved, should you be interested. It is our belief that with your energy, insights and collaboration, the visions and aspirations of No Longer Empty can perhaps respond once more in a different form–in line with our changing realities.
Photo: Irish artists Brendan Jamison and Mark Revels used a quarter-million sugar cubes to create a fantastical city-scape New York Sugar Metropolis in Harlem’s Sugar Hill Development for NLE’s exhibition “If You Build It,” 2014.