As crowded as New York is, there still exists a plethora of uninhabited and abandoned spaces here, from buildings to vacant lots. With a little initiative and a lot of tenacity, various citizens and organizations have turned these neglected spaces into valuable community assets. Public art installations are one of the things we’ve seen pop up in these spaces, and in this post I’m excited to be talking about a group that focuses entirely on this type of urban art.
Project for Empty Space is a relatively new nonprofit founded in 2010 by Meenakshi Thirukode and Jasmine Wahi. According to their website, “the project was born out of the need to bring contemporary art out of traditionally ‘high-brow’ neighborhoods to the people of New York.” By installing art in abandoned or unorthodox spaces, PES is able to share art in a wide variety of neighborhoods and with a diverse array of people. As wonderful as art galleries and museums are, they sometimes act as barriers to art in that people are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable in those environments. Placing art in public areas ensures more access, and invites dialogue and reflection from each and every passerby.
My favorite installation PES has sponsored is the endearing – pun intended – work of Alex Callender at 181 Stanton Street, entitled Where They Are From and Where They Are Going. Deer families roam the whitewashed walls here, drawing attention to the environmental impact urban expansion has had on their population and migration patterns. As the human population grows and the environment continues to suffer, the deer’s habitat dwindles. These little creatures are relief stencils made from graphite on paper with a resin coating. You can find an article about the installation at Inhabitat.