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CULTURE

This Side of Paradise

Collaborative art revives a century-old former nursing home estate

by Graham Hiemstra
on 05 April 2012
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Originally conceived as a white-glove retirement home for elderly who had lost their fortunes during the Great Depression, the once decadent Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx itself fell from grace in the 30 years since it closed its doors. The grand manor had succumbed to natural decay until local arts initiative No Longer Empty reclaimed the property, inviting 32 artists to participate in This Side of Paradise, a site-specific public art exhibition that has transformed the space and brought the building back to the community.

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Spanning an entire Bronx city block, the estate's cavernous hallways lead to a grand ballroom, mahogany-lined library and countless boarding rooms, all of which have been bequeathed to the artists as a three-dimensional canvas to do with what they please. Paintings, installations, film, sculpture and photography fill the home, encouraging guests to wander the halls and take in all the home and art have to offer.

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While some artists chose to work within the site's own physical makeup, others like Justen Ladda channel its former inhabitants. His "Like Money Like Water" installation creates a scene where Ladda's skeletons quite literally piss their money away—a legacy that haunted many former Freedman Home residents to the end—addressing the illusion of money's worth and the real value of life.

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Two of the more unconventional works came from graffiti artists HOW and NOSM and muralist Sofia Maldonando. The honeycomb textures and giant prisms of HOW and NOSM's "Reflections" create an otherworldly experience that really switches gears as you roam through the show. Maldonando chose the kitchen as the home's heart, where her street-influenced art is paired with a personally prepared dish made with ingredients sourced from local food vendors to "make something for the community and make something that will last," she says.

This Side of Paradise will run through 5 June 2012. Numerous community-focused events will also run concurrently in the space, including La Cocina—a cooking workshop on 21 April, held in the the estate's kitchen, which now features a mural by artist Sofia Maldonando. For more images of This Side of Paradise see the gallery below.

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