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Chelsea Gallery Show Uses Art to Spark Discussion About Gentrification

By Maya Rajamani | December 13, 2016 3:44pm
 Artist Ann Lewis with one of her works for
Artist Ann Lewis with one of her works for "Exchange."
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Rod Goodman, Courtesy of IThou

CHELSEA — A four-day gallery exhibit in Chelsea hopes to spark a discussion about gentrification in the neighborhood using art ranging from sculptures to collages. 

Exchange” — presented by arts organization IThou at the Rush Arts Gallery on West 26th Street from Thursday through Sunday — will feature work from 12 different artists “reflecting on their experience of gentrification.”

Some of the pieces in the exhibit, like artist Jerome China’s steel sculpture “What is Old is New Again,” examine the physical effects of gentrification.

China found the materials for the sculpture at the site of a Jersey City building that is on its way to becoming a luxury condominium, his artist statement says.

Others, like Fort Greene-born Nae Howard’s mixed-media collages, reflect the experience of growing up in a neighborhood that has been heavily gentrified.

“With my collages, I chose to juxtapose [childhood] snapshots with transitional imagery of big name corporations whom have moved in as a result of gentrification — and whom have now capitalized on my childhood,” Howard’s artist statement reads.

Long Island City-based photographer Kris Graves, meanwhile — whose pigment print “R.I.P. 5Pointz” will be featured in the exhibit — describes “feeling conflicted” about living in the neighborhood after growing up nearby.

In conjunction with the exhibit, IThou will host four free, gentrification-centric events, starting with an open forum on Friday called “Exchange 4.0 Chelsea” that will give attendees a chance to share their their thoughts and concerns about the changing neighborhood.

A panel discussion on Saturday moderated by a professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College will focus on housing issues and tenants’ rights, followed by a forum about “artwashing” to discuss “the ways that arts are used (willingly and unwillingly) to drive gentrification in New York City.”

Sunday’s event will bring advocates together to discuss solutions to the city’s housing crisis.

At a Community Board 4 committee meeting on Monday, IThou co-founder Jessica Martinaitis said the organization’s events are meant to “facilitate a dialogue for the community.”

“We know the only way we can make any sort of change is if we’re all together understanding other people’s experience,” she said.

“From that place, we can actually get to what we can do to be more responsible for NYC’s communities.”