Homelessness in the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, is not a new phenomenon. Since 2007, the first year for which national data exist, the number of unhoused people has fluctuated between 550,000 and 650,000. In New York City, the numbers are rising, approaching 1% of the population.
BEING THERE is a multi-disciplinary project that reflects on the notion of homelessness from the unique perspective of artists who have experienced it first-hand. The project includes a visual art exhibition and a series of live performance and video screenings accompanied by public talks.
Michael Deegan uses painting and drawing to convey the grim reality of homelessness and the trauma it inevitably inflicts on anyone who experiences it. His artwork serves as an omen and a wake up call for an indifferent society. Marcus Moore creates short narrative video art in which he instills himself, either in disguise or by narrating animated objects he crafts from found objects. These video shorts, which at first glance appear to be whimsical and humorous, deeply explore the relationships between homelessness and a vast array of social, political and environmental issues. Maaji Newbold writes poignant poems that speak of social constructs and the importance of knowing one’s essence. As part of the project, she will also perform a new short play she wrote. Finally, Yael Ben-Zion presents the work that sparked the artists’ collective – a series of large format still-life photographs and a video work she created in collaboration with the other participants.
With the Covid-19 pandemic pushing millions more Americans into poverty and out of their homes, BEING THERE uses art to humanize unhoused people while raising critical questions about our society’s values and priorities. Ultimately, the project is meant to offer a platform for a more inclusive, informed and constructive dialogue about homelessness.
BEING THERE will be on exhibit from June 1 to 30th, 2022 at Buunni Coffee, 4961 Broadway, New York, NY, as part of the Uptown Arts Stroll, an annual event produced by the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA) in collaboration with local artists, businesses, and community leaders.
As part of the project, the following events will be presented, all free and open to the public:
June 5th (3 pm): Screening of a selection of Marcus Moore’s short videos, followed by an artist talk moderated by Joanna Castro.
June 12th (3 pm): Screening of Conversations, a film by Yael Ben-Zion, featuring Michael Deegan and Maaji Newbold, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Veronica Liu of Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria.
June 26th (3pm): A live performance of Upside Down Situation, a short play by Maaji Newbold, followed by a public talk.
Michael Deegan is a Lantern Community Services’ resident, and self-taught painter.