Art has the power to encourage honest dialog, cultivate empathy, and inspire hope. Artists who move to New York City often understanding themselves as itinerant strangers, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood without commitment to any one place. TBD aims to make space for artists who want to stay put; artists who see dialog, collaboration, and exchange with one’s neighbors over time as integral to a practice of belonging.
With Mayor Bill de Blasio in office, the New York City Community Land Initiative pilot in East Harlem gaining momentum, and increasing interest in artist-led urban redevelopment from artists, philanthropists, and developers alike, we have a window of opportunity. We can educate and organize ourselves and other professionalized artists whose personal and cultural geographies are shaped by rising rents.We believe that Community Land Trusts, co-housing, intentional living, and cooperatives, among other sustainable housing models and strategies, can bring resilience to neighborhoods rather than displacement. We think this can happen most effectively through coalition-forming.
Transformative engagement relies on sustained human relationships. Artists do not need to be physically or conceptually separate from larger, more comprehensive and heterogeneous communities where they live and work. TBD, aims to deepen the mutual interests and accountability of artists within communities.
Socially engaged art is more about mutually respectful commitment and less about representation. Martha Rosler’s 1989 project If You Lived Here… pushed the contemporary art world to look at housing struggles by bringing community groups into an installation to hold meetings. TBD pushes contemporary artists to think through their own practices of belonging in neighborhoods and to work with existing housing coalitions.
TBD collective members joined the Education and Outreach working group of the New York City Community Land Initiative in December 2013 to learn about Community Land Trust strategies for New York City and to collaborate on cultural action and media production projects for the East Harlem pilot project. TBD continues to work with professionalized artists to articulate the implications of affordable housing on future generations of artists in New York City together with working poor, unemployed, and low income people.
Let’s work together!