Sunday, September 14, 2014

JUNKED: DC Public Art Installation Panned by Residents

Abigail DeVille photographed during the installation of her public art project The New Migration.
Photo by @joshuacogan  via Facebook.
Jacob Lawrence inspired installation creates scrap 

Text | Peggy McClone for the
Published | September 12, 2014

First there was singing and dancing. And then the complaining began.

A storefront art installation in Anacostia that is part of 5x5, the city-wide public art festival, will be removed after community members complained that it looked like junk.

The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities said it will take down “The New Migration” by Abigail DeVille, a found-art project installed in a down-at-the-heels section of Good Hope Road SE.

The work opened with a “sunset procession” featuring musicians, dancers and community members who marched in the neighborhood last weekend. The accompanying art installation in two storefronts was expected to be on view through December.

DeVille, an African American artist from the Bronx, journeyed from Washington to Florida to collect objects for an installation that evokes the Great Migration of African Americans who fled north during the Jim Crow era.

Inspired by a Jacob Lawrence painting, DeVille connects the historic migration to the gentrification that now forces many African Americans from their homes.

But community members bombarded city officials with complaints about the work, which they described as both an eyesore and offensive. City officials should promote the area’s redevelopment rather than contribute to its blight, they said.

“It’s one of our main thoroughfares, and people walk down the street and look through the window and see what appears to be junk, ” D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said. “It’s embarrassing.”

A spokeswoman for the D.C Commission, a city agency that supports local artists and arts groups, said organizers are seeking a new site for the work.

“The intention of the project is to challenge and engage audiences through art but never to offend. The community reaction has been that the work is not suited to the location. As good stewards of the public trust, DCCAH has determined to remove the installation from its current location,” the spokeswoman said in a written statement.

This is not the first time local residents reacted negatively to the 5x5 festival. In 2012, a piece was taken down, the commission said.

The $500,000 public art event includes five curators and 25 artists who have installed a wide range of art in neighborhoods across the city. They include “Nonuments,” a work honoring non-heroes in a park near the Waterfront Metro station in Southwest, and a mural in a Northeast neighborhood depicting how today’s housing policies will affect future generations.

Some works will be on view through next month, while others are scheduled to come down in December.

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