The East Harlem Sidewalk Gallery
Class of: 2023
Major: Product Design BFA
Faculty: Aviva Maya Shulem
Prompt: This was the final presentation of a long term ethnographic research project about a particular neighborhood in New York City. We were tasked to explore and get to know this neighborhood and eventually design something to help the local community.
East Harlem, Manhattan is changing rapidly, for better or for worse, and at this critical time, art and design can play a role in preserving the cultural integrity and social infrastructure of the neighborhood. Groups like the I, Too Art Collective and the Harlem Art Collective are already working to bring the community together through creativity. As a researcher, I want to study these groups as they pertain to the complex relationship between art production and gentrification, specifically in terms of resilience building. As a creator, I want to design something to further the momentum of these collectives. Next to the 125th St subway station is a huge abandoned building, featuring an in-set corner with a roof over it. I chose this spot as the site for my design concept. I want to design something to promote local artists, make art accessible to everyone, and help the Harlem Art Collective further their message, which, according to their Instagram bio, is to “use art as a tool to engage, educate, unite, inspire, and empower our community”. My design is a fully sustainable sidewalk art gallery and dispenser that combats the exclusivity and gentrification that comes with the development of private gallery spaces. The sidewalk gallery would be filled with art from local artists, collected and curated by the Harlem Art Collective, with prices set by each individual artist. With this machine, the collective could promote their vision, empower local artists, and bring high-quality art to the street, where any person can participate in the experience of the art, regardless of circumstance.