West Harlem Art Fund & WBAI Radio are Officially Cultural Partners

whaf logoThe West Harlem Art Fund (WHAF) has officially partnered with WBAI Radio, and the two organizations intend to produce and broadcast a number of live performances & public art events throughout the NYC area. Coupled with the radio show State of the Arts NYC, hosted by Savona Bailey-McClain, Executive Director & Chief Curator of the West Harlem Art Fund, new collaborations with creative professionals across ALL five boroughs can now be forged. This also furthers the organization’s desire to realize public art districts with such agencies as the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation and the NYC Department of Transportation. According to McClain, “By forming strategic relationships with key organizations, we can better support and encourage artists to cross neighborhood and borough lines that would truly bring more diversity and energy to NYC’S art scene.

WHAF will kick off these efforts with a dinner/cocktail fundraiser on Wednesday, February 10th 2016 in Rawspace followed by a thematic event series in Harlem called FUSION in early March. The organization will also work with neighborhood bloggers, wifi networks and the entertainment industry to build audiences.

To learn more about the Benefit Celebration for the West Harlem Art Fund, please visit.

Benefit Dinner for the West Harlem Art Fund

FUSION details and announcements will be made in early January 2016.

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Bentley Meeker’s New Public Art Project Will Put “The ‘H’ in Harlem”

Truss-3-NIGHT1What better to point eyes uptown than a giant, glowing public sculpture? From June 25 to September 25, Bentley Meeker’s new work “The ‘H’ in Harlem,” will hang from the viaduct at 12th Avenue and 125th Street. The project, which is meant to “celebrate the vitality and cultural strength of the area,” has been organized by Manhattan Community Board 9 (MCB9), the 125th Street Business Improvement District, the West Harlem Art Fund, and
 the New York City Department of Transportation. While the outward goal of Harlem-based artist Meeker’s public art project is to honor the neighborhood in which he has lived and worked for the past 15 years, the massive sculpture will also stealthily teach its viewers about their relationship to light. We called up Meeker to find out more about the piece and his theory on the kinds of light that please the soul.

The piece is pretty huge and it will be illuminated. From how far away will it be viewable?

I’m hoping you can see it from New Jersey. It will definitely be viewable from Morningisde all the way over to 12th avenue and then from the tops of buildings and whatnot.

You call it a “city-wide beacon.” Are you hoping the work will point people uptown?

I’ve lived in Harlem since ’99 and it’s had such a profound impact on my adult life. You don’t hear of a lot of huge public works happening in Harlem. You see them happening downtown, but you don’t see anything happening in Harlem.

You also work as a lighting designer. Do you see that label as separate from being an artist or are they the same?

I’ve always viewed myself as an artist. The way that I’ve been able to do my art most effectively is through lighting design. Moving to this type of work has been a very natural process. Being a lighting designer, there’s a whole lot of capability that I have that I wouldn’t otherwise have. That allows me to really think in artistic terms not limited by what my technical limitations would be.

How have you brought your lighting design expertise to this piece?

As humans we have a relationship to light but the relationship to light that we have is really one of visibility more than sensibility. For the purposes of this conversation, let’s just assume that the soul is constructed of light. The body can function very well under all kinds of light, but the soul only connects to certain kinds of light. I believe the differentiating factor is that certain light has full spectrum and certain light does not have full spectrum.

If you look at my past work you’ll see it’s all based on juxtaposing light sources. What that does, is it gives the viewer the ability to start to distinguish a relationship to light. I did this piece at the Whitney where we had five different life sources. I had them be immersive just allowing people to walk into the room. Everybody congregated in one spot. It was really interesting to see the way that people were attracted to certain kinds of light. Most people walked through all of the kinds of light and then ultimately went back to the one that had the full spectrum. It’s been very interesting to watch people and their relationship to light evolve in the presence of multiple sources and their ability to distinguish within that context.

So how does all of that apply to the Harlem piece?

With “The H in Harlem” there will be a juxtaposition of LEDs, which will be in the outer rim, and then the H itself is going to be lit up by plasma light. Plasma light is a relatively new technology. It’s a light bulb the size of a tick tack. It puts off twice the light of a streetlight. It puts off full spectrum light. What I wanted to do was juxtapose full spectrum light versus LEDs, which have incredibly small slivers of the spectrum, and then amplify them to create visibility but not create connectivity. The upshot in all of my work is to create a relationship between humanity and light. It goes beyond visibility.

How do you hope people in the neighborhood receive the work?

First of all, the initial idea was let me give back to the community that’s given me so much of my life. Then, I was like, “What are we really going to give here?” Are we just going to put up an H and give them an art piece? Or are we going to start to give people, whether consciously or unconsciously, the ability to start to evolve their relationship to light. It’s about providing sources of light to heighten the viewer’s relationship to light.

— Ashton Cooper (@ashton_cooper)

CB9 calls for market in underserved West Harlem

A man browses at the greenmarket near Columbia, GrowNYC's only farmers' market in West Harlem

Residents of West Harlem say the neighborhood needs more heirloom tomatoes and free range fowl.

Community Board 9 and local community organizations including Montefiore Park Neighborhood Association and the West Harlem Art Fund passed a resolution in January calling for the opening of a farmers’ market in Montefiore Park, at 138th and Broadway by June 2011.

“The location makes so much sense—it has lots of foot traffic from the subway stop, bus stops, and commuters to City College,” said Brad Taylor, Chair of the CB9 Committee for Waterfront, Parks & Recreation.

If a farmers’ market does move in uptown it will be one of the few in Harlem, long known as a “food desert” with few options for fresh produce and other high-end dining. The only greenmarket in CB9 is the one near Columbia’s campus.

“West Harlem is woefully underserved,” said Taylor. “Greenmarket has been aware of the Harlem ‘food desert’ for years. In 2005, they were looking at market locations at various locations in Harlem. Yet if you look at their market map you’ll see that Greenmarket has no markets in East, Central, or West Harlem. You would have to ask them why they have had so little success over the years.”

Many involved in the effort to bring a farmers’ market to the area have complained that governmental programs and nonprofit organizations have not been doing enough to make it happen.

“For the past four years we have sent in requests for the market, said Savona Bailey-McClain, a member of the CB9 Economic Development Committee and director of the West Harlem Art Fund.

“Each and every year it is rejected. In the past they have claimed the foot traffic [is a problem], but there has always been foot traffic there.”

Margaret Hoffman, a representative for Greenmarket director Michael Hurwitz for GrowNYC, told attendees at a recent CB9 meeting that GrowNYC must be selective about opening new locations.

“Our issue for the most part is that we are a small, nonprofit organization and that we have very limited resources. We don’t always have the funds to do certain projects,” she said.

Taylor said that GrowNYC has opened numerous markets in other locations across the city.

“Years go by with residents imploring Greenmarket and Greenmarket in return saying they need to study a location and remaining noncommittal. In the intervening years, Greenmarket continues to set up and expand numerous markets in neighborhoods that can hardly be called food deserts—including the location adjacent to the Columbia campus at 115th and Broadway,” Taylor said.

However, Bailey-McClain does not feel that limited resources are the crux of the problem. “NYC organizations have rejected communities ofw color consistently. I hope this works out, but you never know.”

CB9 chair Larry English said bringing a farmers market, through GrowNYC or an independent market, would be a top priority this year.

“It is very difficult for a lady in her 80s to go on a bus to 110th Street for fresh food…. it’s a shame on the community board and New York,” he said.

constance.boozer@columbiaspectator.com