"Red Lines" Exhibit Opening, June 2009|Apertura de la Expocisión «Red Lines» Junio 2009

Entrance to 'Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center'




——————–How does the private housing market really work?——————– —————————-How did the current housing crisis start?—————————- —————————— What could have been done to stop it?—————————— ———————————–——–What can we do now?———————————–——–

Bust of Frederick Babcock, a pioneer of real estate appraisal.

A bust of Frederick Babcock made of chipwood

On Saturday, June 20th artist Damon Rich unveiled a new exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art that takes a stab at answering these critical questions that have become more contentious in recent years.  Titled the “Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center,” the new exhibit incorporates several installations that provide the public with an incredibly physical experience of the current economic crisis.  Sculptures designed for the show range from a 40-foot-long plywood construction that illustrates the ups-and-downs of interest rates, to an outsized bust of pioneering real estate appraiser Frederick Babcock, a pioneer of real estate appraisal.  In addition, a series of images throughout the gallery take you on a walking tour of Detroit, a city deeply impacted by the housing crisis.  And video interviews introduce us to some of the protagonists of the housing saga, including mortgage brokers, housing advocates, and foreclosure victims.

Foreclosure Markers on the Panorama

Some of the nearly 1,500 fore- closure markers on the Panorama.

The highlight of the new show at QMA, however, lies beyond the Red Lines gallery space, and in the Panorama of the City of New York.  This 9335-square-foot scale model of the city, built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, has been integrated into Red Lines as a means of visually representing the impact of foreclosures in NYC.  Each city block with three or more foreclosures filed last year has been marked with a fluorescent pink triangle"€”the same ones found in your pizza box"€”that stand out in the Panorama.  The clusters of these markers in certain areas help to expose the direct correlation between the redlining that occurred decades ago in ethnic neighborhoods, and the tragic troubles that the subprime mortgage crisis is imposing on these same communities today.

Film Screening & Panel Discussion

Opening night began with a screening of three short video productions that gave a backdrop to the issues addressed in Red Lines.  The first was The Road to a Better Living (Jerry Fairbanks, 25 min, 1959), which highlights the powerful role of the mortgage banking industry in building America’s housing infrastructure.  Next up was Damon Rich’s own Predatory Tales (20 min, 2007), which features victims of mortgage and housing scams in Lawrence, Massachusetts telling their stories through puppets in order to educate their neighbors.  The final short film was Primetime: Fighting Back Against Foreclosure (Manauvaskar Kublall, 23 min, 2008), which breaks down the complex issues of the subprime mortgage industry into comprehensible terms, and brings to light the disproportionate impact of the foreclosure crisis on communities of color.

Discussion Panel: (L to R) Prerana Reddy, Damon Rich, Manauvaskar Kublall, Lionel Oullette

Discussion Panel: (L to R) Prerana Reddy, Damon Rich, Manauvaskar Kublall, Lionel Oullette

Following the screenings was a panel discussion led by Red Lines’ Damon Rich, filmmaker Manauvaskar Kublall, Lionel Oullette of CHANGER, a homeowners justice organization, and facilitated by Prerana Reddy, Director of Public Events at the Queens Museum.  They discussed everything from the impact of the American Dream on immigrant communities and their vulnerability to predatory lending, to the striking resemblance between today’s condition and that of the 1930’s, when the nation was trying to survive the Great Depression. 

Opening Ceremony

As the panelists concluded their discussion session, visitors were directed towards the lobby, where a cocktail hour preceded the anticipated ribbon-cutting ceremony.  On hand for the occasion were Damon and Prerana, along with Larissa Harris, curator of the exhibit, and Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the Queens Museum.  Together they cut the red ribbon, officially opening the Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center to the public!

Red Lines Gallery

The 'Red Lines' Gallery on opening night.

Artist Rich was readily available as spectators walked around the “Learning Center,” reading about disclosure and investment from light-boxes that lit up the room, studying the residential maps that outline the discriminatory practice of redlining, shifting through the photos of homes and real estate offices, walking into the head of Frederick Babcock, and playing with the S&L Railroad, a toy train that travels on one of two tracks depending on whether the operator wants to learn about regulation or deregulation.  We interviewed Mr. Finkelpearl as well as several visitors to get a general sense of the audience reactions to this new exhibit that is at once artistic, political and educational. 

Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center will be on display at the Queens Museum through September 27th, after which the museum will take a break from large-scale exhibitions and focus on  artist projects while it embarks on an expansion project that will double its size.

Museum hours: Wed.-Sun. 12pm-6pm; Fri. 12pm-8pm
Suggested Donation: $5 adults, $2.50 children & seniors
For more info, visit the QMA website.

Red Lines in the news

NY Times: Mapping a Bird’s-Eye View of Foreclosure Misery

NY1: Foreclosure Crisis on Full Display at  Queens Panorama

ArtInfo: A Panoramic View of New York’s Housing Crisis

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