Between shootings, protests and COVID-19, the past six months have been a grim time in NYC.
Now a few UWS teachers are trying to change that and put a smile on faces. Barbara Anderson, her daughter Jackie Graham, and a friend, Leigh Majer, recently launched Art on the Ave.
The goal of this initiative is to create a platform to spotlight artists who have been traditionally underrepresented and enlist vacant retail storefronts to act as display space for the exhibition.
“We want to reach people that don’t feel that the art world is accessible to them,” Graham told the West Side Spirit. “We wanted them to know this is an opportunity for them to tell their story.”
Art on the Ave is calling on artists from throughout the five boroughs to create art that represents healing and hope. Submissions run through the month and so far 35 have come in.
Graham, who is an English and history high school teacher in Canada, but a former UWS resident, also serves on an art advisory council. In June her mom suggested it would be “awesome” if they could somehow arrange it so art could be put in storefront windows along Columbus Ave.
The three teachers spoke and quickly realized it was a perfect way to bring the community together. They joined forces with Lisa Dubois, an artist, photojournalist, director and curator of X Gallery in Harlem.
“We really feel this project is important right now,” Graham said.
She recalled when they first came up with the idea, they were not sure how the landlords would react. According to Graham, Anderson began walking down Columbus Ave. going store to store, telling them about Art on the Ave.
The landlords and business owners embraced the project, as did the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), which helped with logistics.
“My mom is tenacious. She got the BID involved and they were super supportive,” Graham said.
The reaction has been overwhelming, she added. “Everybody has been so positive and that is why this is going ahead.”
They are accepting all two-dimensional art, which can be drawings, paintings or photography.
All submissions are through their website and at the end of the month she and Dubois will decide which will go on display. There are 10 stores participating, so the winners will depend on the size of each piece.
“I’d like to fit as many artists as possible that relate to the theme and can be exhibited in a professional way,” Graham said.
They are looking for sponsors to fund installation expenses, as well as promotional materials.
The art will be up for three months and the hope is that it brings some holiday joy.
“If you are an artist it’s important that the call [about Art on the Ave] is getting out there,” Graham said.
“We want to reach people that don’t feel that the art world is accessible to them. We wanted them to know this is an opportunity for them to tell their story.” Jackie Graham