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“No Longer Empty” in Search of Space on the LES for Powerful Exhibition

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No Longer Empty, the organization that orchestrates public art exhibitions in vacant commercial spaces, needs your help. Their latest project is scheduled to open on the Lower East Side at the end of next month. They had an empty space lined up, but unfortunately, it fell through. So, now they’re in search of an alternative location.

The exhibition is based on the tragic fire that tore through a popular gay bar in New Orleans in 1973.  Thirty-two people were killed and police were certain it was arson. But no witnesses would talk, and all but one church refused to hold a memorial service for the victims.

“No Longer Empty” is bringing Skyler Fein’s exhibition, “Remember the Upstairs Lounge,” to New York. Visitors will walk right through the swinging bar doors, “throwing a stark light on a hidden chapter of history” and offering “visual riffs on politics and sexuality circa 1973.” The show also includes crime scene photos so graphic they’ve never been seen before. Along with an exhibition there will be a panel discussion exploring the relationship between art and social issues. The show made its debut in New Orleans in 2008.

This morning, “No Longer Empty’s” Manon Slome told me the Lower East Side seemed like the natural venue for the exhibition. There is, of course, the neighborhood’s long history of activism. But also, she said, there are obvious parallels between the tragedy in the French Quarter and the Triangle Factory fire that claimed the lives of 146 workers, most of whom lived in this neighborhood.

“No Longer Empty” is hoping to find about 2300 square feet in which to stage the exhibition. They’d like to begin installation April 6th. The show opens April 27th and closes at the end of May. The organization has ample insurance to cover property and liability. In an email message Slome discussed the value of their projets to neighborhoods and property owners:

Our exhibitions have proved to be an amazing success in each neighborhood and thousands of visitors have come through our spaces. Our temporary art installations have proved to be a win/win situation for all involved as the property is seen in its best light and the neighboring businesses are very happy with the increased foot traffic and commerce that our exhibitions bring into the area.

Incidentally, we found out about this story through Susan Stetzer, Community Board 3’s district manager. She said CB3 has been talking with several organizations that plan exhibitions in empty storefronts. Next month, the economic development committee will discuss ways to support these kinds of cooperative arrangements.

If you can help “No Longer Empty,” send Manon Slome an email message at manon@nolongerempty.org

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