Yolande’s Yard: West Harlem Art Fund and City of Water Day

art3By Yolande Brener

Savona Bailey was the kid who just wanted to go to museums and art galleries when all her friends didn’t feel they belonged there. 

art 1Now, as Executive Director and Chief Curator of the West Harlem Art Fund, Savona brings art to urban spaces where she intends to make it a feature of people’s everyday experiences. Savona calls her pop up art exhibits “interventions.”

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In June, as part of the UN International Year of Light, Savona collaborated with Culturehub and La Mama to create River Road, which brought light sculpture, dance and bike riding to Harlem by the Hudson River. The 104-foot long interactive light sculpture brought up words from Rita Dove’s 1932 poem, Under the Viaduct, when participants moved their hands in the light box. Passersby, including a number of children, seemed delighted at the way they could affect the art at the wall with their movements.

Savona’s next intervention will happen on July 18th, City of Water Day, by West Harlem Piers Park.  West Harlem Art Fund is co-sponsoring free kayak lessons with the Inwood Canoe Club from 12:30pm-3 pm; sketching and drawing at 6pm with the Central Park Sketching & Art Meetup Group and other art activities until 10 p.m., including a projection after dark with work created by Dianne Smith, Under the Viaduct.

“City of Water day is led by Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance,” said Savona. “They’re a not for profit group and they have been trying for the last several years to help New Yorkers reconnect to their waterfront. I have to give credit to Mayor Bloomberg because when he became mayor he was like, wait a minute, hold up, this is a water city and yet most new Yorkers were cut off literally from their waterfront for almost half a century because Robert Moses put all the highways and parkways around the edges of the city.”

Savona combines her dedication with a commitment to collaborations, and she has brought together arts and civic organizations to demonstrate that art can be an everyday part of community life that is accessible for all.  Her interventions are becoming recognized as a regular feature of the community. The City of Water Day intervention is free and happens at West Harlem Piers Park on July 18th.

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