Crossing The Blvd Exhibit

In collaboration with the Robeson Gallery, and oral historian/performer/audio artist Judith Sloan and photographer/writer/book artist Warren Lehrer, CMGC will bring the multimedia exhibit, Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, and aliens in a new America to Rutgers-Newark in the spring 2011. The multiplatform project (book, gallery exhibit, audio CD, solo and ensemble performance, curricular materials) is an innovative model for documenting U.S. immigration through the stories of new immigrants and refugees living in Queens, NY, the most ethnically diverse locality in the United States. The exhibit will serve as a curricular resource for classes on globalization, immigration, and oral history. In conjunction with the exhibit, CMGC is sponsoring related programming that will include an artist talk, panel discussions, master classes in performing oral histories, and a performance of Sloan’s adaptation of the oral histories.

The artists started the project in 1999 when they began conducting workshops for new immigrants to recount their experiences. Eleven years later, Crossing the BLVD has grown into a multifaceted documentation, consisting of an award-winning book, CD, website, performances, public radio documentaries, and a traveling exhibition. The traveling museum exhibition uses photographs, sound stations, and a story booth to speculate the changing faces and narratives that comprise the American story. Lehrer presents ninety photographic portraits that exhibit the beauty, as well as struggle, of the new immigrants. The portraits are paired with excerpted passages of oral histories, maps that overlay Queens neighborhoods with countries of origin, and important objects that the individuals have carried, or even still carry, with them.

Visitors of the exhibition are also able to hear the voices and music that is represented in Crossing the BLVD through audio sound stations. Working with composer Scott Johnson and other musicians, including members of Gogol Bordello, Sloan and Lehrer cross the lines separating "journalism and expressionism" when blending the participant's speech with composed music. Many of the Crossing the BLVD audio stories have aired on National Public Radio as a project of EarSay. Lehrer and Sloan collaborated with artists Mark Shepard and Carlos Tejada to create the Mobile Story Booth, which not only allows access to the story archive, but also allows visitors to contribute to the project by providing photographs and recollecting their migration stories or those of their parents or grandparents.

The Crossing the BLVD exhibition premiered at the Queens Museum of Art in 2004 and has since traveled to over 11 locations in the United States including MICA in Baltimore Maryland, Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase New York, The Hudson Museum in Orono Maine, Art Museum of the University of Memphis Tennessee, Weber State University in Utah, and the Ohio State University Urban Arts Space.

Crossing the BLVD traveling museum exhibition from EarSay Inc on Vimeo.

Awards and Recognition
“Immigrant life in Queens, as told in the intimate, rich, comic, ironic and sad stories so often seen but not heard in America’s big cities… Archie Bunker doesn’t live here anymore — not in the Queens of Crossing the Blvd. The first-person narratives are engaging… The stories are so different, and yet many of the immigrants’ lives are so similar… What links them all is the desperation and desire that brought them here. As one immigrant says in Crossing the BLVD, ‘America can do without you, but you can’t do without America’.” The Washington Post Lynne Duke.

“Crossing the BLVD is a powerful social record… Most of the subjects live in Queens, but their stories resonate far beyond the borders of this multicultural New York borough. What often gets lost in the national debate on immigration is the human dimension, an understanding of the lives of those people who give up everything to come here. Crossing the BLVD lets them tell their stories… We see the subjects’ faces in the photographs, hear their voices, and enter into their lives through cherished mementos they have carried from home to home… Extraordinary stories… a living work of art.” The New York Times Benjamin Genocchio

“With first-person accounts from 79 immigrants in Queens, the 400-page book is an offbeat ethnic tour of one of the country’s most ethnically diverse counties. It does not point out trendy kebab palaces or obscure taco stands, but rather tells riveting stories about a new wave of immigrants to America… ” The New York Times Corey Kilgannon

Winner 2003 Innovative Use of Archives Award “The Archivist Round Table recognizes Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan for their remarkable book and audio CD, Crossing the BLVD… A stunning book structured to portray multiple perspectives. We honor Crossing the BLVD for exploding the paradigms of oral history and reinterpreting them for our multimedia century… for its boldness and creativity as it charts a lasting record of this vibrant, diverse community in New York City—the new Ellis Island.” Archivist Round Table of Metropolitan NY

Educational Initiatives