From its exterior, The Harlem Garage seems like nothing out of the ordinary— just another building that blends into the unique monotony of uptown brick. But, inside, are zesty orange walls covered in vibrant modern art, hammock-like swings in place of chairs, and a group of teenagers working to curate an art exhibit. Yeah, that’s right. A group of TEENAGERS!
When I recreate the mental list of things I wanted to do in high school– join a sports team, learn an instrument, write for the school paper– I never thought that “curate an art exhibit” would be on that list. But thanks to TRaC’s new Teens Curate Teens program, I have the opportunity to do that. The seven of us in the program will be keeping you up-to-date on our curatorial journey with TRaC instructor Nate Sensel and No Longer Empty, an organization that transforms abandoned spaces into beautiful galleries.The goal of our first meeting was to come up with a general theme for our exhibit. After introducing ourselves to one another, we broke into teams and started brainstorming. With the gallery space—soon-to-be Early Learning Center—and Sugar Hill neighborhood as inspiration, we dabbled into everything from the meaning of learning, to the excitement you get from a sugar rush, to the cyclical pattern of the artistic process. We talked about the Harlem Renaissance, the Reconstruction Era, and the effects of socio-economic class on success. Our ideas were multifaceted but we found common ground with these three words: education, hope, and freedom.We have yet to come up with a final title, but for a first meeting, we got a lot of creative juices flowing. Next, we’ll be visiting the actual site in Harlem’s Sugar Hill, which is still under construction, and working on producing an exhibition title that teen artists can use as starting points for their works.
As I research more about our exhibition space at Sugar Hill, I’ve come to realize that much like The Harlem Garage, the Sugar Hill site may seem like an ordinary half-finished building from the outside. But, in two months, enter, and you’ll find a lot more than you expected.