Walis Johnson, a filmmaker, artist and teacher at Parsons School of Design, is looking to interview residents of Stuyvesant Town who have lived in the neighborhood for 30 years or longer. The conversations will aid in her production of “The Red Line Archive,” a mobile art piece aimed at igniting public dialogue about the political, social and personal impacts of the 1938 Red Line Maps. The project will be part of the Art in Odd Places festival that takes place every October along the length of 14th Street.
Redlining refers to a federal map officially drawn in 1935 that selectively denied financing for housing mortgages, insurance and other services in neighborhoods demarcated by red shading on a map. Redlined neighborhoods became zones of disinvestment and urban neglect where services (both financial and human) were systematically denied to people of color and ethnic working class citizens.
For this years’ AiOP festival, themed “Race,” Johnson is working with photographer Murray Cox and NYU professor Aimee vonBokel to add information to the site specific exhibition about the area of 14th Street from First Avenue to Avenue C.
As Johnson told T&V, “This is a lost history to many people who live in the neighborhood and it would be wonderful to foreground it again in a personal and engaging way. Ironically, when I was a student at JHS 104 on East 21st Street and First Avenue in the 1970s, I never really thought much about how Stuyvesant Town or Peter Cooper Village came to be. It did strike me as odd that I never met any African Americans who went to the school that actually lived in the development.
“I am interested in meeting and talking to folks with a sense of the racial and economic history of Stuyvesant Town who have lived in the housing complex for 30 years or longer (I am open to speaking with people who are younger too!). I’d like to record their stories, and, if they are up for it, take a walk with them as we talk.”
Text and artifacts from the interviews may be used in the piece. Conversations are scheduled to begin in August and September 2016 and last no more than one hour and 30 minutes. Each participant will be credited and is welcome to participate in the festival, October 6-9, or remain anonymous.
To contact Johnson, email firstname.lastname@example.org.