New York City Housing Authority Chairman John B. Rhea and Forest Houses resident leader Erik Farmer joined artist Thomas Hirschhorn and the community for an unveiling of the art project, Gramsci Monument, developed on the grounds of the Forest Houses in the Bronx. The summer-long, interactive art project, named after the political theorist and activist Antonio Gramsci, is funded entirely by Dia Art Foundation and involves local residents at every stage of the project. More than 40 Forest Houses residents were hired to perform various duties for the project. This includes the 15 residents who helped build the structure, which was constructed with easily available, everyday materials. Gramsci Monument officially opens to the public on July 1 and runs through September 15, 2013.
“The New York City Housing Authority is very much looking forward to our residents engaging in this very special endeavor,” said NYCHA Chairman John Rhea. “We especially thank artist Thomas Hirschhorn for bringing his unique vision to public housing, and totally involving Forest Houses residents. And we thank Dia Art Foundation for its generosity in making this artistic effort possible.”
"My decision to do Gramsci Monument does not come from an understanding of the philosopher Antonio Gramsci, rather it comes from my understanding of art and my belief that art can transform," said Thomas Hirschhorn.
The project—a series of outdoor pavilions that features a linking bridge — includes a library, stage, workshop area, lounge, Internet corner, and the bar, which will be overseen by local residents. Residents also will be part of the security team to watch over the project after hours. The resident builders who put the project together will regroup in September to dismantle the structure.
“This project has energized everyone, the community really needed this,” said Eric Farmer, President of the Forest Houses Resident Association. It will bring jobs and teach residents about contemporary art, something that the community is not used to.” It was Farmer’s enthusiasm for Hirschhorn’s concept that convinced the artist to choose the Forest Houses as the site for the summer-long outdoor project.
“It has been a privilege to work alongside Thomas as he puts forth a new idea of the monument and creates an active space of exchange between people, ideas and communities. The depth of his engagement is exceptional. Thomas has the absolute will to include others, and wants to put the whole world in his work,” said Dia Art Curator Yasmil Raymond. “We are deeply grateful to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea and the hardworking team at NYCHA for embracing this project. Above all, our most profound gratitude goes out to the residents of Forest Houses —in particular Erik Farmer, Clyde Thompson, and Diane Herbert —for joining us in this beautiful effort and offering a firm handshake from day one.”
Gramsci Monument is located on the grounds off Tinton Avenue between East 163rd and East 165th Streets. As of July 1, it will be open seven days per week from 10am-7pm, offering a daily program including lectures by philosopher Marcus Steinweg; a children's workshop run by Lex Brown; a radio station; and a daily newspaper. There will be weekly programs that will include Gramsci seminars by international scholars, poetry lectures and workshops. Also, a play titled the Gramsci Theater; art workshops led by Hirschhorn; open microphone events; and field trips organized by the project’s curator Yasmil Raymond.
About the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA):
NYCHA provides decent and affordable housing in a safe and secure living environment for low- and moderate-income residents in New York City. NYCHA serves approximately 420,000 public housing residents across 334 developments in all five boroughs. To fulfill this mission, NYCHA must preserve its aging housing stock through timely maintenance and modernization of its developments. NYCHA also administers a citywide Section 8 Leased Housing Program in rental apartments. Simultaneously, we work to enhance the quality of life at NYCHA by offering our residents opportunities to participate in a multitude of community, educational, and recreational programs, as well as job readiness and training initiatives.