Harlem Arts Walking Tour

The Harlem Open Artist Studio Tour, affectionately known as “HOAST,” provided countless young (and old) artists from all disciplines an opportunity to be seen by a large group. The event, which took place every October from 2005 until last year, was a huge success, with art lovers filling the streets of Harlem. Up and coming artists received a lot of recognition.

artHARLEM, the force behind HOAST, opted out of the event this year due to time constraints and other obligations. Casa Frela’s Lawrence Rodriguez, who had worked with HOAST in the past offered to step up to the plate to not let the concept die. This year’s event – renamed Harlem Art Walking Tour to avoid stepping on the proverbial toes of artHARLEM – will take place this weekend, October 9 and 10. There are over 30 local businesses, galleries and private homes hosting the artists as they show what they have to offer. Rodriguez very proudly explained, “the community has been very open and giving. This event is being funded and supported entirely by Harlem; no outside sources, no underwriters. Just Harlem.”

The Harlem Art Walking Tour is free to the public, as the hope is that any money spent will be on the pieces being offered rather than the price of admission. Prices range from $35 to $3,500.

Lawrence Rodriguez and Kitty

People have been talking about Harlem’s “New Renaissance” for the past decade or so, but there really are strides being made. Specifically, when one looks at the contributions made during the original Renaissance, it was through all cultural mediums. When people consider today’s culture, they immediately can look at New Harlem’s appreciation for music. Art? Not really. With The Harlem Art Walking Tour, Rodriguez is trying to change that. “Music has been thriving; art has been a program. It’s time to change that,” he says. Along with the actual tour, he has hosted several meetings designed to help the artists learn how to better market themselves. “My job is to sell art. I’m a gallery owner. I work with art from a business perspective. Most artists are using the right side of their brain. Their job is to create. My goal is to help them both create and sell.” Rodriguez continues, “By giving the artists the proper tools to generate buzz, so to speak, the community will start to recognize the contributions art is making to Harlem’s cultural scene.”

“The Harlem Art Walking Tour has really put my marketing and business strengths to the test as an artist,” says Harlem resident and full-time artist Matthew Thomas. “Thanks to Lawrence, web, print and social networking exposure is here and now.” [click here to learn more about Thomas’ work.]

And speaking of this “New Renaissance,” the artists represented in this year’s Harlem Arts Walking Tour are reflective of the changing community itself. With offerings from artists of varied ethnic backgrounds – and roughly 20 who aren’t American-born – this year’s event is one of the most diverse art showings in the city as a whole, not just Harlem.

"The Original Cotton Club" by artist Lynn Lieberman

With the in-depth meetings, etc. that has been offered by Casa Frela, the artists are coming together as a community. “You really feel a good energy,” Rodriguez notes. “All the artists feel like they aren’t just participants, but an actual part of the canvas of the community. There has been a great sharing of information. I see artists meeting with each other, working with their peers. It is really more than I expected. But I am happy to see it.”

Yes, it can come across as very happy-feely, but – and that’s a bold, italicized “but” – Rodriguez is quick to point out that Harlem’s art community has experienced growing pains. As with any community, politics often come into play and the community as whole has resembled Swiss cheese. Rodriguez asserts, pretty comfortably, that the Harlem Art Walking Tour has helped homogenize the community, while giving the individual artists ample room for creativity.

"Maria Ignez, 2000" by artist Marcela Carvalho

“We have planned an event that has gotten an enormous response – from the community, the press, everyone. We did it on a budget so meager that I am still amazed. We have galvanized a thriving art community. I am very pleased with the outcome.”

I have a feeling you will be too.

The Harlem Art Walking Tour schedule:

Friday, 10/08/10: Noon – 7PM: Media Conference at Casa Frela Gallery

Saturday, 10/09/10: 9AM – 5PM: Art Walking Tour

Sunday, 10/10/10: 9AM – 5PM: Art Walking Tour





For other participants in the Harlem Art Walking Tour, please visit Casa Frela‘s site.