CATALYST: ART AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

Works by New York Artists and Activists since 1960, celebrating the power of art to spark change and spur progress.

Curated by Jessica Bell Brown

A curated installation of Gracie Mansion’s official rooms displayed from February 20, 2020 until August 29, 2021, during what unfolded as the global COVID-19 pandemic and its according closures and restrictions. As a result, the digital assets shown here emerged even during its 18-month run as the principle interpretive pathways shared with the visiting public. That fact itself informs its overall historic record.

Catalyst: Art and Social Justice was the culmination of the four previous exhibits shown in Gracie Mansion since 2015: Windows on the City: Looking out at Gracies New York, New York 1942, New Yorkers at Work and Play, and She Persists: A Century of Women Artists in New York.

Featuring nearly 80 works of art, from more than 50 artists, activists, collectives and student groups, Catalyst was the largest exhibit ever held at “The People’s House.” Most of the artists were New Yorkers, identifying in distinct yet linked ways with groups that have been underrepresented in mainstream culture more broadly. Catalyst showed—and thanks to these virtual tools can still show—how art can question conventional wisdom, call out hypocrisy, and draw attention to major social challenges, including misogyny, homophobia, racism, ableism, and climate change.

The artworks selected for this final installation follow just some of the many moments of social change and transformation from 1960 to the present and exist in many forms and media. Signs, posters, placards, newspapers, and even letters all served as effective calls for action and reflection for the artists featured in Catalyst.

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