If you build it

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10428054_10154351227200393_7964381875293913658_nSweet Sugar Hill, is the epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance and was immortalized in songs by greats such as Duke Ellington and later by The Sugar Hill Gang. This cultural hotbed has not stopped inspiring artists since the 1920s, but how many times have you gone to visit? No Longer Empty’s 12th take over of an iconic space shows specially commissioned work by 25 artists responding to Sugar Hill’s past, present, and future. Located within the soon-to-be-opened Sugar Hill apartment complex, designed by David Adjaye, “If You Build It” brings in the energy of the community to a building in progress.

Culling from the historical past of the neighborhood, works shown focus on themes of ancestry, home, placement, and identity. The instrumental impact of the neighborhood is visually expressed by Radcliffe Bailey’s Windward Coast (2007-2014) consisting of a plaster bust bobbing in a torrent of piano keys, referencing the impact of Jazz and the oppressive middle passage of millions across the Atlantic Ocean.


Windward Coast by Radcliffe Bailey’s (2007-2014) | Courtesy No Longer Empty | Photo: Whitney Browne

The promising future of the community is captured by Nari Ward in Sugar Hill Smiles (2014). Wandering through the neighborhood with his canning station, Ward captured the smiles of passersby in 2,000 mirrored tins that are sealed and sold in the shop for educational programming by Broadway Housing Community. Another interactive work that is drawing in the crowds is Brendan Jamison and Mark Reels Sugar Metropolis(2014), which invites guests to build structures out of sugar cubes as a cathartic exercise.

Sugar Hill Smiles (2014) by Nari Ward |Courtesy No Longer Empty | Photo: Emilia Golden

Keeping with NLE’s mission for collaborative community engagement, 12 local organizations have been invited to set up shop on the 3rd floor. Each having their own apartment to display their work, exhibits, and inviting guests to participate in collaborative projects. NLE has also organized a dense program that reaches out into the neighborhood. Don’t miss the Exploratory Tours, MacBeth in a New York Minute, Wanted by Dread Scott, and the other events slated to continue through August 10. With so much to do, you will become a Sugar Hill aficionados.

Sugar Metropolis (2014) by Mark Reels | Courtesy No Longer Empty | Photo: Whitney Browne

If You Build It

155 Street & St. Nicholas Avenue (Look up for the gray building on the Southeast corner)

June 26-August 10, 2014.

Exhibition hours: New times! Thursday–Friday 3–7pm & Saturday–Sunday 1–6pm; Wednesday by appointment.

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