The American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center and Iona Senior Services have collaborated with local artist Gail Rebhan to create a public art project and exhibition on the cultural history of the Tenleytown-American University Park-Friendship Heights neighborhood of northwest Washington. A Cultural History of My Neighborhood documents historic changes to the second oldest neighborhood in Washington, DC. Beginning April 2, large photo collages can be seen in the windows of an empty building scheduled for renovation by the Douglas Development Corporationat the corner of Brandywine Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Smaller versions of the work with additional photo collages will be displayed at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. (See below for dates and times of community events related to these exhibitions.)
Using layers of various opacities, Rebhan combines old and new photographs, historic newspaper articles, old phone directories, and other memorabilia to create photo-collages that show how today’s city is built upon the past. Text is integrated into the image. Some of the text used is from oral histories, other text comes from historic documents, and some is Rebhan’s own writing.
The four public art photo-collages include one piece about the intersection of Albemarle Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue NW. Newspaper articles surround blended 1949 and 2009 photographs. The articles document the 1940 neighborhood fight against the Sears development and the 1993 neighborhood push for historic preservation status of the recently closed store. Redevelopment of the building as a Best Buy and condominiums bring the history up to date. In another collage the Friendship Terrace Retirement Community building provides an illustration of shifting societal needs – this building was once the site of the Washington Home for Foundlings. The third piece documents the public art installation site at Brandywine Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue NW. The changing use of this site from a 1914 stone mason’s residence to a Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone repair station, to a Peoples Hardware store, to a movie theater, to Babe’s Billiards reflects shifting neighborhood needs. The last piece documents the opposite side of the street where there is a decrease in laundries, which in the 1940’s were designated as colored or white, to a proliferation of restaurants.
Cities develop both organically and by deliberate government action. This is especially true in Tenleytown. The work displayed at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center includes the aforementioned photo-collages and additional work that examines varying businesses in the area, integration of the public schools, and the diverse uses of the civil war Fort Reno from a thriving community of freed slaves and whites to government land acquisition of Fort Reno for a park and public schools which caused the displacement of most Tenleytown black residents.
A Cultural History of My Neighborhood conveys a fluid sense of time and place. The impact of the past on the present is palpable. This project complements the newly installed historic markers that dot the landscape of the neighborhood and demonstrates the relevance of the past to current conditions.
For more information contact:
Meg Artley, Director of Development, Iona Senior Services, 4125 Albemarle Street, NW Washington, DC 20016 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator, American University Museum at the Katzen Art Center, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
April 2 – 6 -9 PM Opening reception: American University Museum, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
April 2 – May 15, 2011 Exhibition: American University Museum, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
April 2 – until building is demolished Public art display: Brandywine Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
April 9 – 2 PM Artist’s talk: Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library, 4450 Wisconsin Avenue NW and viewing of the public art installation.
May 1 – 3:30 PM Meet the artist and view photo-collages: Brandywine Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue NW. 4:00 PM Iona Senior Services free concert at The City Church, 4100 River Road NW. Meet the artist again at Iona Senior Services reception immediately following the concert , 4125 Albemarle Street NW.
May 16-28, 2011 Collect oral histories, photographs, and memorabilia from participants of Iona Senior Services. This raw material will form the basis of new photo-collages.