The Art of Land

Co-organized by MoMA PS1 and The Clemente

January 14, 2023

  • Past
  • Talk
20230114_Marissa Alper_MoMA PS1_Art of Land_76.jpg
20230114_Marissa Alper_MoMA PS1_Art of Land_76.jpg

The Art of Land panel discussion at MoMA PS1 on Jan 14, 2023.

Photo credit: Marissa Alper

MoMA PS1 and The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center present two panel discussions exploring how cultural workers have been involved in re-envisioning the use and stewardship of land in New York City. Both MoMA PS1 and The Clemente are sited in decommissioned public school buildings, though they have unique trajectories as institutions committed to supporting artists and their communities. Drawing on this shared history, a presentation on January 14th at MoMA PS1 explores how artists and cultural organizations have reclaimed municipal buildings to creative ends, intersecting with and navigating forces of gentrification. On January 15th, The Clemente hosts a conversation on the impact of arts and cultural workers in the Community Land Trust movement in New York City.

The Art of Land marks the closing of Life Between Buildings at MoMA PS1 and the launch of Activist Estates: A Radical History of Property in Loisaida, a digital exhibition organized by Nandini Bagchee and The Clemente.


Jan 14 at 3 p.m. and Jan 15 at 2 p.m.

2023-01-14 15:00:00 -0500
2023-01-15 14:00:00 -0500


Jan 14 MoMA PS1 and Jan 15 at The Clemente


The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center

Institutions Beyond Institutions: Reimagining architectures of bureaucracy
Jan 14 at 3 p.m.

Free with RSVP

Participants: Nandini Bagchee (Principal, Bagchee Architects), Peter Cramer & Jack Waters (artists and former co-directors of ABC No Rio), Jody Graf & Elena Ketelsen González (Assistant Curators, MoMA PS1), and Libertad O. Guerra (Executive Director, The Clemente)

Since the 1970s, municipal and city-owned buildings across New York City have been reclaimed by artists and cultural workers as sites for experimentation, including PS1 and The Clemente, both of which are housed in decommissioned public school buildings. Focusing on select case studies—including The Clemente, El Bohio, and ABC No Rio—this event considers how efforts to reclaim city-owned buildings for creative projects served to propose new models for institutionality and educational initiatives. Intersecting with larger socio-spatial forces in the city, these histories bring a new perspective to the story of the “alternative art space” movement, and the complex ecology of spaces working within these frameworks then and now. What do the varying outcomes of these projects tell us about the politics of stewarding creative and public space in NYC?

The Art of Land: Cultural workers and the Community Land Trust movement in NYC
Jan 15 at 2 p.m.
The Clemente

Free with RSVP

Participants: Nandini Bagchee (Principal, Bagchee Architects), Jenny Dubnau (Co-Chair, Western Queens Community Land Trust), Monxo Lopez (Board Member Cooper Square CLT, Co-founder SBU, Associate Curator MCNY), SaMi Chester (artists and housing organizer at Cooper Square Committee), Arif Ullah (Executive Director of South Bronx United and Mott Haven/Port Morris Community Land Stewards)

In New York City, where land and rent are the main commodities, sources of wealth, and speculation, Community Land Trusts have been an uphill and joyous effort in creative organizing. Indeed, the city has a raucous and robust CLT movement, including one of the oldest CLTs in the country. What has been the role of arts and cultural workers in this movement? How can artistic and cultural work support CLTs into the future? Could CLTs be the mechanism that allows us to finally decouple cultural and artistic activity from gentrification?


Nandini Bagchee Nandini Bagchee is the principal of Bagchee Architects and an Associate Professor at the Spitzer School of Architecture (CCNY, CUNY). Her research highlights ground-up collaborative building practices as an alternative medium for the creation of public space. Nandini is the author of a book on the history and impact of activist-run spaces in New York City entitled Counter Institution: Activist Estates of the Lower East Side (Fordham University Press, 2018). Nandini’s design work and writing have been published in the New York Times, Interiors Now, Urban Omnibus, and the Journal of Architectural Education. She is the recipient of grants from the New York State Council of the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Graham Foundation. Her research-based architectural work involves engaging with grassroots organizations such as South Bronx Unite, Interference Archive, the Loisaida Center, and the Laundromat Project in New York City. In her capacity as architect and educator, Nandini Bagchee also collaborates with several Community Land Trusts in New York City to advance the project of building a solidarity economy anchored in community land ownership.

SaMi Chester is the artistic director at STUDIO ONE, a newly formed arts program with the Cooper Square Committee on the Lower East Side. He sits on the advisory board of the Johnny Lee Davenport Fellowship, a foundation that grants scholarships to young BIPOC students studying Shakespeare. An actor, director, activist and organizer, he has appeared in numerous television and film projects with a career spanning over five decades. Lastly, he is the founder and artistic director of BeBop Theatre Collective. If there is any “downtime,” you’ll find him in the kitchen cooking.

Named “New York City’s Most Radical Queers” by I-D Magazine, multi-media artists Peter Cramer and Jack Waters are constantly in the process of creating performances, films, videos, installations and works of social practice. Musically minded as well, their queer-skinned kitchen band NYOBS performed “Memories That Smell Like Gasoline - Reading David Wojnarowicz” at the Whitney and “Spaghetti Wrestling” at the Hermann Nitsch Museum in Naples, Italy. Their 40-year collaboration includes dozens of projects including a live cinema/action of Wagner's Ring Cycle for the legendary queer media festival MIX NYC and “Sunscreen Test Boulevard In The Sand" made for the art activist organization Visual AIDS. Waters performed the title role of Jason Holliday in the acclaimed 2015 indie film “Jason and Shirley” for which he is a co-writer. On the cusp of the coronavirus pandemic, Cramer and Waters premiered “GENERATOR - Pestilence Part 1” in 2020 at the East Village’s renowned avant-garde theater La Mama. Waters and Cramer are co-founders and directors of Allied Productions, Inc, a multi purpose arts service organization whose primary venue is Le Petit Versailles, a community art garden on the Lower East Side. Under Allied’s auspices, Cramer and Waters co-directed ABC No Rio from 1983-1990. They continue as advisors and consultants on ABC No Rio’s archives and visual art collections.

Jenny Dubnau is a figurative painter who grew up in Washington Heights, NYC. She was a founding member of the Artist Studio Affordability Project and helped write the Peoples Cultural Plan. She is on the board of the Western Queens Community Land Trust.

Jody Graf is an Assistant Curator at MoMA PS1, where she recently curated the exhibition Life Between Buildings, focusing on the entangled ways that artists and community groups have explored public space in New York City through an ecological lens. She has also worked on exhibitions including Greater New York 2021; Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life (2021); Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration (2020); Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 (2019); and Sue Coe: Graphic Resistance (2018), among others. Her writing has been featured in publications including Texte Zur Kunst, Frieze, Mousse, CURA, and The Exhibitionist.

Libertad O. Guerra is an urban anthropologist, curator, and cultural organizer / producer with vast arts management experience, specializing in startup phase and strategic turnaround of community based cultural organizations with an intersectional approach. She has led the creation of incubation NYC spaces and collectives of Latinx cultural producers and educators. Her academic research has focused on Puerto Rican, Latinx, and New York-based social-artistic movements, and the aesthetic politics of place in im/migrant urban settings.

Several of her exhibitions have been featured in Artnet best exhibitions of the year, and listed by the New York Times as one of “10 Galleries to Visit Now on the Lower East Side.” In 2020 she became the Executive Director of The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Education Center in downtown Manhattan. Guerra is also a co-founder of the South Bronx Unite environmental justice coalition, serves as a member of the Mott Haven / Port Morris Community Land Stewards board, and most recently co-founded the Latinx Arts Consortium of New York (LXNY), a network of 30-plus arts organizations.

Elena Ketelsen Gonzalez is an assistant curator at MoMA PS1, where she has worked to organize activations of Homeroom, a space that amplifies the work of collectives, organizations, and artists that are connected to PS1’s program. These collaborations have included Nuevayorkinos: Essential and Excluded (2021) with the filmmaker and archivist Djali Brown-Cepeda, and Black Trans Liberation: Remembrance and Mourning (2021) with Qween Jean. Previously, she worked on the Gracie Mansion exhibition Catalyst: Art and Social Justice: Works by New York Artists and Activists since 1960 (2020), and has formerly held positions in programming at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of the City of New York, among others.

Monxo López is a museum curator, urban thinker, educator, cartographer, and South Bronx-based environmental and urban justice activist. He is currently an associate curator at the Museum of the City of New York. Monxo holds a PhD in political science from CUNY’s Graduate Center and an MA from Université Laval in Québec, Canada. He taught Latinx Studies and political science in Hunter College, and was a Mapping Fellow at the Design Trust for Public Spaces.

Monxo is a founding member of South Bronx Unite, and a founding member and board member of the Mott Haven/Port Morris Community Land Stewards. He also serves on the board of the Cooper Square Community Land Trust on the Lower East Side. Monxo was born and grew up in Puerto Rico, and lives in Mott Haven in the South Bronx.

Arif Ullah is a social and environmental justice advocate, grassroots urban planner, and community activist with more than 20 years of experience in designing and managing community development programs, establishing diverse alliances, and co-creating campaign strategies around local, state, and national issues.

Ullah is the Executive Director of South Bronx Unite, prior to which he served as Director of Programs at the Citizens Committee for New York City. He worked as an immigrants’ rights advocate with American Friends Service Committee, and designed and led workshops on community organizing. He is a co-founder of Bangladeshi Americans for Political Progress, a steering committee member of Queens Climate Project, and a core member of Malcolm X Community Garden. He has been on the boards of ioby, Farm School NYC, and NY Immigration Coalition. Arif graduated from Hunter College and has a Master’s in Public Policy from Duke University. In his free time, he grows food and keeps honey bees at his community garden.