Decrepit Bronx Mansion Colonized by 32 Street Artists
April 2, 2012
Amid the froth of gentrification that transformed parts of Brooklyn and Queens over the past decade, the Bronx sat relatively unchanged. The borough has a complicated history. It contains some of the poorest communities in America alongside very wealthy enclaves. Once an anchor for New York’s immigrant families, its decline is often traced back to several truly terrible urban planning decisions, ranging from the construction of Robert Moses’ six-lane Cross-Bronx Expressway to the city’s mismanagement of Bronx public housing projects in the 1960s and 70s. Today, the Bronx is a patchwork of historic sites, heavily trafficked transit infrastructure, and residential communities.
A new group show inside a decaying mega mansion, a few blocks north of Yankee Stadium, will mix Bronx history with the borough’s burgeoning arts community. Read on.
Cheryl Pope, “Then and There.” Photo © Jaime Rojo.
The Andrew Freeman Home was once a staple of the old Bronx, offering a type of social service difficult for us to comprehend today: a “poorhouse for the rich,” catering to wealthy New Yorkers who had lost their fortunes. When the massive building opened in 1924, white-glove dinners and opera were the norm. Built by self-made millionaire and a financer of the 4-5-6 train Andrew Freeman, who saw the home as his legacy, the building occupies an entire square block and, at four stories high, clocks in at over 100,000 square feet.
In the 1980s, shortly after the home was closed, it was purchased by the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, who worked with a number of organizations to keep the massive building useful. One such partnership, with No Longer Empty (an organization that works to insert cultural programming in abandoned or foreclosed spaces), was the genesis for “This Side of Paradise,” the 32 artist show that opens this week inside the space.
“This Side of Paradise” invited artists to approach the Home’s decaying interior spaces as a canvas. The pieces are layered over chipped paint and broken windows, smattered throughout the block-long mansion. The New York Times has this write up of the show, which apparently necessitated one artist spending the night in the home. According to the artist, the caretaker handed her a machete before leaving her for the night. Ghosts and art: two staples of the New York culture.
This Side of Paradise opens on Wednesday, April 4, at 6pm. More info can be found here.
[Images via Brooklyn Street Art, (c) Jaime Rojo]
Image (c) Bronx Bohemian.