This story is being shared as part of #SupportforRefugees, Repair the World’s campaign focusing on the global refugee crisis.
Calling all Brooklyn art fans: Repair the World’s Brooklyn Community Space recently took on an exciting new identity: socially-conscious art gallery. Working in conjunction with local Brooklyn artist, Jonathan Allen, who curated a collective exhibit as part of our #SupportforRefugees campaign, our walls are now adorned with exciting, thought-provoking, and moving pieces all focused on the global refugee crisis. If you’re in or near Brooklyn between now and June 24, check it out. Meanwhile, we checked in with Allen to find out more about this exciting exhibit.
What was the inspiration behind the exhibit?
No Place Like Home was developed in concert with Repair the World and HIAS national #SupportforRefugees campaign and explores the global refugee crisis. The exhibit features the work of two aid organizations, three artists, and one collective. Their photographs and videos tell personal stories of refugees and people who offer shelter, advocacy and other resources to them in order to shine a light on broader themes of home, safety, politics, war, family, and culture.
How did your partnership with Repair the World come about?
I was awarded a 2015 Brooklyn Arts Council Grant; my proposal called for curating and mounting a group art exhibition about gentrification. I’ve lived in Crown Heights for almost 13 years, and the neighborhood has gone through a lot of changes over that time. It felt like the perfect location to explore this theme, so I contacted 11 local Brooklyn artists and asked them to contribute work. Finding a venue proved more of a challenge. I really wanted the exhibition to happen in Crown Heights, and I was also trying to avoid traditional art galleries. A friend recommended I stop by Repair The World, and I fell in love with the space and staff. They were extremely enthusiastic about hosting the exhibition.
How did you go about selecting artists and pieces to include?
I talked to curators and artists, and also looked online for exciting work that artists were making in response to the crisis. Georgia Lale, for example, has gotten quite a bit of attention for her #orangevest performance series, which draws attention to the European refugee crisis.
Can you describe one piece that you think particularly captures the exhibit’s vision?
Well, there’s not a monolithic, single work that can possibly convey the sweep and complexities of the refugee crisis. I really view the show as a chorus of voices speaking to different dimensions of it. For example, The Refugee Project uses data visualization to map the numbers and figures we hear so often about the crisis. You get a much clearer sense of the history and global scale of what’s been happening for generations. In contrast to this approach, however, is the work of Hidemi Takagi. She made portraits of recent refugees who have relocated to the United States, and the result is a more intimate, nuanced glimpse into the human, personal side of the crisis.
What surprised you most about the exhibit as you worked on it?
The depth and scope of the crisis, once you get beyond the numbers, is staggering. We could have mounted dozens of shows about scores of communities, neighborhoods, countries that have been ravaged and displaced.
What role do you see Repair the World’s Brooklyn Community Space playing in the neighborhood
There is a tremendous spirit of inquiry, openness and social responsibility that envelopes you when you enter the Repair the World space at 808 Nostrand Avenue. It is refreshing and invigorating to see community groups, religious organizations, students and local residents constantly use and circulate through the space. Whenever I am there, people are constantly being greeted and welcomed at the door. I see that warmth and helpfulness extending out daily into the neighborhood: the Repair The World Fellows are responsive to the needs of the community, and extremely dedicated to this work. All in all, I feel the space is a nexus of social, artistic, and community engagement.