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DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Public Statement on "The New Migration"

Friday, September 19, 2014

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities announces that The New Migration installation by artist Abigail DeVille will remain at its current location in Anacostia near the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King, Jr., Ave, SE until November 4. 

“The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities recognizes the important role that the arts have played throughout history to provoke, inspire and elevate our thinking. We applaud the artist‘s efforts to use arts as the vehicle to explore the challenging and difficult subject matter of urban redevelopment and gentrification,” said Judith Terra, Chair of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. “We acknowledge the concerns of some residents. On balance, the support for the work was greater, and engaging in public dialogue on these issues is essential.”

“The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities supports the vision of the artist Abigail DeVille to bring focus to provocative topics. While the Commission does not mean to offend anyone, it would be inconsistent with our mission to create lifelong learning experiences, and with the fundamental nature of the arts, to remove this particular work at this time,” said Lionell Thomas, Executive Director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.  “We are glad that in recent days as more people have engaged with the work they have found themselves moved to think differently about issues of urban redevelopment and gentrification. We are hopeful that more people will have the opportunity to do the same.  Over the past week, we have heard more voices from the public that have contributed to the decision to leave the exhibition in place.”

The installation is part of the 5x5 Project, a citywide public art exhibition, and is created from a collection of materials gathered by the artist during a road trip from Washington, DC, to Jacksonville, Florida. The piece explores the implication of a new wave of migration to the South sprung by gentrification and urban redevelopment. The New Migration is inspired by the artist Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series,” which depicts historic accounts of people moving from the South to the North, and is housed at The Phillips Collection and the Modern Museum of Art in New York.

The New Migration installation in storefronts on Good Hope Road is one part of the artist’s concept to expand on the theme of renowned artist Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. A pivotal, but largely overlooked event in American history, The Great Migration was the exodus of over 6 million African-American citizens fleeing the terror of the Jim Crow South in search of social and economic freedom in the far corners of the United States. The materials used in the art installation are accumulated objects and heirlooms from Washington, DC, to Jacksonville, Florida; a trip that navigated one of the most popular routes of The Great Migration, The Seaboard Air Line Railway. As part of The New Migration installation, a processional performance, featuring wearable art, music and District residents was presented on Saturday, September 6. The participants marched from the Frederick Douglass House to the Anacostia Arts Center. 

About the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities provides grants, professional opportunities, education enrichment, and other programs and services to individuals and nonprofit organizations in all communities within the District of Columbia. The Arts Commission is supported primarily by District government funds and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.