Virtual Opening Reception: Friday, September 25th 7:00 – 8:30pm on Zoom Virtual Panel Discussion: Through Our Lens: Photography as a Tool of Social Justice: Saturday, October 10th 1:00 – 2:30pm on Zoom Cleveland is more than a city, it’s an environment. Its streets, neighborhoods and monuments shape our reality, setting up expectations and impacting outcomes with every square inch of brick and concrete. This September, the Artists Archives welcomes Bridges and Barriers, a photography invitational which uses the physical landscape of the city to explore the obstacles which face its people and the connections they forge to overcome. The exhibition features the work of regional artists Jef Janis, Chuck Mintz, Lauren Pacini, and Shooting without Bullets, a for-impact organization which deploys artistic activism to break down the systemic barriers which prevent Black and Brown youth from thriving. This dynamic body of work spans traditional photography, video projections, and multimedia installations, while tackling such important themes as voting access, racial equity protests, foreclosure, homelessness, and immigration. A highlight of the exhibition is Keep Me Posted, a multimedia installation featuring sound, photography, and hip-hop performance that “juxtaposes the precariousness of Black life and radical resistance against the forces that threaten it, seen through the lens of Shooting Without Bullets.” Crafted specifically for the exhibition, Keep Me Posted is a creative exploration of movement, not just movement through Cleveland’s neighborhoods as young people of color, but also movement through the digital world, and involvement in social movements including removing barriers to voting, and recent protests against police brutality. King describes, “We are not here to ask nicely for equity, or to evoke empathy. We are here to take up space. To make our voices heard.” Exhibiting Shooting without Bullets artists will include visual artists Jasmine Banks (age 19) and Lai Lai Bonner (19), and Hip-hop artists James Banks (JB- 19), Maurice Philpott (Los P- 20) and Shatara Jordan (Mixxedrose- 18). From the loss of industry to environmental disaster, Cleveland has come back from more calamities than it can count. One of the greatest challenges was the collapse of the housing market in 2007. On display in Bridges and Barriers will be 3 installations from Chuck Mintz’s series, Every Place – I Have Ever Lived. The Foreclosure Crisis in 12 Neighborhoods. These 2’ x 2’ constructions feature images of abandon homes mounted on “cheap plywood”, with alternate views revealed on vintage window shades. Accompanying these are factsheets with personal history and sobering demographics of each neighborhood. As Mintz describes, “Many of these homes were built after wars, in times of what seemed like boundless economic growth. Home ownership had become symbolic of The American Dream…. You cannot tell this story without considering changes in population, race and economics… the concept was to show how this crisis reaches beyond the very poor and is, in fact, a problem for all of us.” Prior to the pandemic, Cleveland had been described as experiencing a sort of Renaissance, with torrents of resources being poured into developing new businesses and housing stock. While many communities tout this revitalization, it is important to examine who benefits from development and who ultimately pays its price. On view in the exhibition is a powerful series by Cleveland artist Jef Janis which documents the devastating effects of the Irish Bend Stabilization and Restoration Project on the local homeless population. “Last summer while doing a great deal of street photography, I was informed that the homeless community down in the flats was being forcefully removed. All the people that were living in this makeshift community had been arrested or runoff and a group of individuals were cleaning up the area. I felt this was something that needed to be documented, I was compelled to be there.” Also in Bridges and Barriers is a series of work by Lauren Pacini which celebrates Cleveland’s diverse immigrant population by reflecting on one its architectural gems – the Cultural Gardens. Today, the nearly 40 gardens represent a physical curation of city’s rich legacy of immigration, a model of inclusion rather than assimilation, where different communities are linked by “paths of peace.” So too does it represent a complicated history, with spaces for Asian, African, and Latin American groups carved out much later than their European counterparts. Pacini, a black and white, architectural photographer explains, “As an artist and local history author I strive to understand the story behind the subject matter…I have felt driven to tell the story of the industrial city and the never-say-die spirit of its citizens… a story not just of death, but of hope – of rebirth, documenting the renovation, restoration.” A virtual opening reception will be held on Friday, September 25th, 7:00 – 8:30pm on Zoom which features a video tour of the exhibition, remarks by the artists, and a vibrant, multidisciplinary performance by Shooting without Bullets that blends hip hop, dance and spoken word. Gallery Hours: Wed - Fri, 10am - 4pm. Saturday: 12pm - 4pm. For more information on the exhibiting artists and exhibition, as well as safety protocols for visitors, please visit artistsarchives.org Featured Image: Amanda D. King, May 30th (Detail), Film still, 16:9, 2020, Courtesy of Shooting Without Bullets
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