A few weeks ago, the Teens Curate Teens team got together with our instructor Nate and continued our discussions on how we wanted to present artworks in the up-coming art exhibition in Sugar Hill, Harlem. We sat down, put our thinking caps on, and listed several topics and ideas we wanted to the exhibition to represent.
Among the ideas were family, hope, education, the community, etc. The main idea everyone agreed on was that the show needed to tell what Sugar Hill, a well known community for its rich history in African-American history, was all about.
To help us learn more about the community, our TraC instructor Nate and Jodie from No Longer Empty then suggested that the group walk a few blocks in Sugar Hill, and ask the locals what they think about it. Before we left, we talked about what we needed to learn and what questions we would ask. Mostly, we wanted to know what were the people’s most memorable moments about the area.
Finally, we set out and took the train to 165th street on a cold rainy evening. Due to the weather, there were very few people on the streets so the team decided to go inside an interesting looking bookstore called Word up Community Bookstore.
This wasn’t your average bookstore. It was packed with books of all types, from music to parenting to politics. The ceilings and walls were one giant painting that was gradually building, being painted by an artist who visits and paints the shop in his spare time. In the back left was a mini stage and mic for their spoken word and poetry slams. The workers at this store seemed to definitely be familiar with the Sugar Hill community.
One girl working at the bookstore, her name is Alex, had grown up in Sugar Hill. She said that she went to a really good school where she learned very well and teachers helped the students a lot. Growing up, she felt, and still does feel, like the community was like her extended family. ” I could be walking down the street, and meet my great grandma for the first time,” she said, “Everyone takes care of each other.” Everyone else at the bookstore felt pretty much the same way about Sugar Hill. Based on the information Teens Curate Teens received, we agreed that the exhibition needed to display the love, care, hope, and comforting feel that Sugar Hill gives off.