The New Renaissance 

No Longer Empty celebrates its 5th anniversary with If You Build It, a site-specific installation by 22 artists in Broadway Housing Communities' newest building in culturally historic Sugar Hill. Designed by David Adjaye to provide affordable housing, education and art within the community, The Sugar Hill Project serves as a very fitting space for the exhibition, which features work influenced by the historical significance of Sugar Hill but also the contemporary issues faced in the neighborhood and in other large cities.

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Nari Ward, Sugar Hill Smiles, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York and Hong Kong. Image by Whitney Browne Photography for No Longer Empty: If You Build It at Broadway Housing Communities’ Sugar Hill Building.

Themes of urban life, community, race, immigration, displacement, economic disparity, and home are all touched upon by the installations spread throughout the building—still in the final stages of construction, the empty apartments, lobby, balcony, and gallery space provide a uniquely intimate setting for the diverse works. 

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Dread Scott, Stop, 2012. Courtesy of the artist. Image by Whitney Browne Photography for No Longer Empty: If You Build It at Broadway Housing Communities’ Sugar Hill Building.

Some highlights include Nari Ward’s collection of canned smiles from Sugar Hill residents (the cans are available for purchase to benefit BHC’s educational programs), Scherezade Garcia’s Cathedral/Catedral, a gold-painted altar with multi-lingual prayer cards on the building’s balcony, Dread Scott’s 2-channel video install, Stop, scrutinizing the Stop and Frisk policy and the racial profiling that often influences its enforcement, Hank Willis Thomas’ neon signs flashing split phrases that hint at shattered American dreams, and Brendan Jamison & Mark Revels collaborative project Sugar Metropolis, a small-scale city constructed from 250,000 sugar cubes.  Sonia Louise Davis has also organized weekly music events with young local talent, dubbed fittingly “new renaissance sessions.”

If You Build It is now open at 155th Street and Nicholas Avenue in Harlem, New York. Stop by Wednesday-Sunday through August 10, 2014.

-Kate Haveles

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