New Outdoor Exhibitions in New York and Chicago Are Geared to Spur Public Discussion

·2 min read

IT TAKES A VILLAGE: An interactive outdoor exhibition in downtown New York is shining a light on historic events and famed residents in three neighborhoods.

Accessible through Oct. 17, “Village Voices” celebrates some of the cultural touch points of Greenwich Village, the East Village and NoHo. Organized by Village Preservation, an organization that has helped gain landmark designation for more than 1,250 buildings in those three areas, the exhibition features 21 shadow boxes at sites where well-known residents lived or historic events happened.

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Locals like Norman Reedus, John Leguizamo, Ed Norton, Joel Grey, Kathleen Chalfant and Alec Baldwin have been recruited to record insights about the various locations that can be accessed via QR codes at each location. Photographer Berenice Abbott, artists Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg, choreographer Martha Graham, poet e.e. Cummings, writer W.H. Auden and musician Patti Smith are among the creatives referenced in the outdoor installation.

In addition, the place where Billie Holiday first performed “Strange Fruit” is one of the stops, as is the spot where activist Jane Jacobs stood in protest of urban developer Robert Moses’ plan to replace Washington Square Park with a highway. The Holiday outpost and another one related to Bob Dylan feature augmented reality that can be viewed by the Membit app on iPhones.

More sobering is a shadow box that is a memorial to the 146 victims of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Located outside of New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, that marker is not far from the site of the blaze that occurred in what was then known as the Asch Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street. The commemorative piece is a small shirtwaist dress embroidered with all of the victims’ names encased in the shadow box.

Village Preservation lined up artist and PS New York’s founding principal Penny Hardy to design the 21 shadow boxes. The two-time Emmy winning sound designer Serge Ossorguine handled the digital and audio components of the exhibition.

Village Preservation board of trustees member Leslie Mason said the exhibition “draws on the neighborhood’s diverse and creative nature by encouraging people to gather around a piece of art, experience it, discuss it and share ideas. We are creating salons en plein air for everyone’s participation.”

Site-specific attractions that are geared to bringing people together also are the bedrock of the just-opened Chicago Architecture Biennial. Titled “The Available City,” there are 80 contributors from more than 18 countries who have created architectural projects, exhibitions and programs across eight neighborhoods in Chicago.

Studio Barnes’ “Block Party” in Chicago. - Credit: Nathan Keay/Courtesy Chicago Architect Biennial
Studio Barnes’ “Block Party” in Chicago. - Credit: Nathan Keay/Courtesy Chicago Architect Biennial

Nathan Keay/Courtesy Chicago Architect Biennial

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