Jacob Lawrence Walking Tour of Harlem
June 04, 2015
As part of the Jacob Lawrence exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (M0MA), a special guided walking tour of Jacob Lawrence's Harlem was arranged. When I got the e-mail, I immediately signed up.
The day began at the Studio Museum in Harlem. It's one of those museums that I've been meaning to go to forever, but never seem to actually make it to. Two of the curators took us around and I was very impressed by their mission.
Essentially, the "studio" in their name is a real and vital cornerstone of what they do. Each year three emerging (and it's exciting that they're emerging, not super established) artists are given a stipend and studio space in the museum. At the end of the year, they have an exhibit (often their first museum exhibit) and the museum makes an effort to purchase some of the work (often the artist's first purchase by a museum). They look at the residency as a launching pad. I think that's so fantastic! It's wonderful to think of a museum as a living and breathing organization actively working to encourage emerging artists rather than a moldy rarified receptacle for established work.
The museum is small, but packed. It makes for an easy viewing experience. Here is a little bit of what I saw -- I tried to include both far away and close-up the photos. The experience of viewing art in-person is so much about scale and texture:
After the museum, we headed to Red Rooster for lunch.
I had been there a few times before, and the food was as excellent as I remembered! We had to choose from a menu the organizer of the tour had put together and nothing that I ordered is something I would have usually gone for, but it was all totally delicious: hush puppies, pork chop, and donuts (with a donated chunk of chocolate peanut butter pie from someone else's plate)!
After stuffing myself with donuts and chocolate (tough life, right?) we walked through the neighborhood with our guide chatting about points of interest such as the building that is believed to be Jacob Lawrence's art studio, the location where he picked up his WPA checks, etc. After about ten blocks, we reached the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
No photos allowed in the Schomburg Center. However, I did learn that the majority of Langston Hughes' ashes are buried in the Schomburg Center. He was cremated and some of his ashes were distributed in various rivers across America. However, the majority of his ashes were buried under the Schomburg Center. There's a lovely floor mosaic commemorating the event.
Finally, a small group of us visited the restored WPA murals at the Harlem Hospital. I mentioned the WPA earlier. Part of what the WPA did was pay artists to create public art. What a wonderful thing for the makers and the viewers! Over the years, the WPA murals have not always fared well. The ones at the Harlem Hospital were damaged by steam, plastered over, and otherwise decimated by time. Recently they were restored and moved to a "murals pavilion." It was a little bit weird because they were in a locked room we had to have a reservation to access -- weird, because they were created under the WPA as art for all to see -- but I understand the need to preserve them. Take a peek:
It was a really interesting day. I got to see lots of art, visit new places, learn, chat with some interesting art-interested folks, and eat yummy food! I highly recommend a trip to Harlem, if you're in the NYC area. You can go on a self-guided audio tour of Jacob Lawrence's Harlem via this website.
Thanks for stopping by!