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Welcome Stranger, HVCCA, New York, 2015

Welcome-Stranger-Janssen-Korsmit-Peekskill (3)

‘Welcome Stranger’, two site specific projects for Peekskill Project 6 in Peekskill, NY, by Saskia Janssen and George Korsmit, 2015, more photos soon.Welcome-Stranger-Janssen-Korsmit-Peekskill (4)

Welcome Stranger is the title of two projects created by Saskia Janssen and George Korsmit in Peekskill, a city to the north of New York. The works are part of Peekskill Project 6, a city-wide art festival in public space. Organized by the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, this festival continues through to the end of 2015.

Welcome Stranger (Bohlmann Towers) is a series of five abstract wall paintings in the homes of Peekskill residents. The artists distributed flyers in which they announced that they were giving away five wall paintings to people who were interested. The flyers were handed out in and around the Bohlmann Towers Housing Projects. Each mural was produced in close collaboration with the resident. Size, shape and colours were decided by the resident throwing dice and ‘choosing blindly’. Korsmit immediately applied the outcome on the wall. Neither the residents nor the artists knew the outcome in advance and placed their trust in the unknown and in each other. Janssen documented the whole process of throwing the dice, choosing colours and painting in text and image, to be featured in an artist’s publication with the same title: Welcome Stranger.

Welcome Stranger (Main Street) is a site-specific sculpture in the public space, situated on the field of grass opposite the Bohlmann Towers Housing Projects in Peekskill. It is a wooden structure with a stage, as well as billboard and a mirror with an passageway and a covered space. The structure broadly refers to two events in the African American history of Peekskill: the Underground Railroad, which assisted refugees from southern slavery in the mid-18th century, and the Peekskill Riots, which erupted after a 1949 open-air concert by Paul Robeson, an African American musician and civil rights activist, and were tinged with anti-Communist and racist overtones. The nature of these two moments in history was very different, but they do share common themes, such as racism, tolerance and welcoming ‘the other’ in the community. These are issues that relevant always and everywhere,  even now in the modern-day Europe that the two artists come from. The billboard with the cylindrical passageway and the sheltered space refer to the Underground Railroad and to the Safe Houses. The opening in the mirror, in which the sky is reflected, is a reference to public space that is open to everyone, while the open stage refers to Paul Robeson and the Peekskill Riots.

Welcome Stranger is a combined sculpture, stage and billboard that is meant to be used by the community. The billboard photo was produced in collaboration with several youngsters from the Youth Bureau.

Saskia Janssen and George Korsmit for Peekskill Project 6, New York                                          Welcome Stranger, (Main Street), Kids helping on the last building day, 29 October.

Welcome-Stranger-Maureen-2                               Welcome Stranger (Bohlmann Towers), Ms. Maureen Boyd choosing colors in the blind.

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more photos soon.