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West Harlem Art Fund

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West Harlem Art Fund

The West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. is a seventeen-year-old, public art and preservation organization based in the City of New York. The Founder/Executive Director is Savona Bailey-McClain.


Scope of activities

The West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. offers exhibition opportunities for artists and creative professionals in public spaces in Northern Manhattan. The WHAF also is engaged in historical and cultural heritage projects, and supports support community involvement in local development. Its organizational symbol is the double crocodile from West Africa (one of the Adinkra symbols). Funtunmmireku-Denkyemmirreku means unity in diversity.

Public art for the West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. can include traditional exhibitions, photo installations, windows, digital and live performances. Whether commissioned or through agency programs.

The organization promotes art in public parks and other open spaces throughout NYC. It also advocates to local City and State officials on behalf of parks for better maintenance, lighting and needed landscaping.


It took The West Harlem Art Fund five years to place its first installation in Historic St. Nicholas Park. The exhibition “Three Men Walking” featured the artist Kirsten Campbell and her work “Moving Beyond” in May, 2003. Overcoming negative stereotypes and doubts, the success of the exhibition “Three Men Walking” helped the organization to sponsor and produce more outdoor installations. The West Harlem Art Fund has now exhibited in all four Historic Harlem Parks, nearby smaller parks, lobby spaces, sidewalks, storefronts in Harlem but also in Times Square, DUMBO, Governor's Island, Queens, Bronx and Lower Manhattan. The organization has also produced concerts, historical re-enactments, theatrical and storytelling events. Artists have included Barbara Siegel, Luisa Caldwell, Robert Hickman, Florencio Gelabert, Sandor Camille, Julio Valdez, Queen Esther, Jann Parker, Patrick Singh, Dianne Smith, Nora Mae Carmichael, Richard Gonzalez, Sai Morikawa, Scherezade Garcia, Iliana Emilia Garcia,Ellen Maynard, Kiki Smith,Vicki DaSilva, Kyuseok Oh, and Bentley Meeker .

In 2005 and 2008, the project “Take Me to the River” was launched. Phase I and II of this project raised $550,000 dollars through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund which was administered by the New York Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. Those studies further leveraged $40 million from the City of New York to begin capital improvement in 2010. The West Harlem community will have better waterfront access along the Hudson River, new playing fields, picnic areas from 145th to 155th Streets and a future public art walk.

In fall 2008, the West Harlem Art Fund partnered with Vantage Properties to develop storefront installations and a “pop-up” boutique in empty commercial spaces along Broadway in West Harlem and Washington Heights. These installations were able to incubate emerging fashion designers for a short period of time and uplift the spirits of local community residents during a tough time in our nation’s history.

In 2009, the West Harlem Art Fund decided to continue their experiment with “pop-ups”. The organization produced several installations around the city with Transportation Alternative for NYC Park(ING) Day and formed a partnership with the Humanities & Art Division at The City College of New York to co-sponsor public art installations at historic St. Nicholas Park on an annual basis beginning in 2010.

Early Summer in 2010, the West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. in partnership with the MFA program at the City College of New York, the City University of New York presented the exhibition In Dialogue featuring the artists Marcie Revens and Scherezade Garcia in historic St. Nicholas Park. The organization also presented an important work Ghost Net by the organization Trash Patch at the Tapestry Building located in East Harlem for the summer as well. Ghost Net was a timely installation because it held in between the time an Atlantic trash patch was discovered and the BP Gulf oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. The Ghost Net installation allowed the public to discover what a real trash patch would look like underwater.

In March 2011, The West Harlem Art Fund in partnership with the Times Square Alliance and the Armory Show presented a major public art exhibition that featured the organization's Counting Sheep installation. Created by Kyu Seok Oh, Counting Sheep was the first outdoor paper sculpture installation in NYC. Millions watched or visited this installation in the heart of Times Square between 45th and 46th Street and Broadway.

The organization was selected in 2012 to create a public art installation for the Affordable Art Fair in Chelsea with a work by Dominican artist Iliana Emilia Garcia. During 2013, the organization produced two shows in the Bronx at Bartow-Pell Mansion and at the Andrew Freedman Home on the Grand Concourse. In fall 2013, WHAF produced the public art series Playlab with New York Restoration Project in four gardens in East Harlem. During 2014, the organization curated the installation The H in Harlem by premier lighting designer Bentley Meeker, the intervention series Under the Viaduct that included light graffiti artist Vicki DaSilva, Peter Rogina, Cynthia Rudin, Henry Gwiadzu, Jonas Nilsson, Eva Olson, Carlton Bright, Eileen Cohen, Lady K Fever, choreographer Ellen Maynard and digital students from New York University' ITP Program and Columbia University Sound Art Program.

List of exhibitions

  • Counting Sheep 2011
  • Gumboot Juba 2011
  • Story Piles 2012
  • Brimming on the Edge 2013
  • The H in Harlem 2014
  • Under the Viaduct 2014
  • East River Flows 2014/2015
  • References

    West Harlem Art Fund Wikipedia

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