An update (Nov.)

I’ve been stopping by Lucky once a week to check on the postcard rack and replenish when necessary.  The owner of the Laundromat has been so supportive. She loves the project and is really happy the postcards are there.  Gina, her daughter, has been telling me which are the most popular.  Also, some Laundromat goers have been adding  drawings and text to the postcards and putting them back on the rack.  Lourdes, who works at Lucky during the week, asked me to post some photos of her that I took with Lisa way back in July/August when I interviewed her about JC…So here they are…!

Lisa and Lourdes at Lucky Laundromat in August, 2011

Lisa tells me about how JC has changed since she moved here 5 years ago.

Another photo of Lourdes perusing the Postcard Rack.

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POSTCARD RACK of 20 different postcards installed at Lucky Laundromat




Last week I installed the ASK ME: TELL ME postcard rack at Lucky Laundromat.  There are 20 different postcards that were made by Jersey City residents including myself.  When I first began my Laundromat Project residency I researched the history of Jersey City and hung out at the Laundromat making drawings and talking to JC residents about the history of the neighborhood.  I turned some of those drawings into postcards.  You can read earlier entries about the historical tidbits I learned about–the geological and geographic configuration of Jersey City from the 17th to the 20th century, the history of different owners of the Lucky Laundromat site, previous businesses at Lucky etc.  The postcard series also includes drawings and photographs made by residents describing their view of how Jersey City has changed over the years and how gentrification is affecting their daily lives.  Other postcards excerpt portions of interviews and conversations I had with local laundromat goers.  Some of these are in English and some are in Spanish.  I am working on editing a video of  all the oral histories I recorded during my residency.  When the video is complete I will host a special screening at the Laundromat for the community.  In the meantime, stop by the Laundromat and check out the postcards.

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Postcards by Jersey City residents available for FREE at Lucky Laundromat

Excerpts from Jersey City resident Leo's audio interview about Jersey City.

The owners of 577 Jersey Ave. from 1925- 2000. pencil on vellum paper made at Lucky Laundromat.

Jersey City resident Bruce Mastraccio’s photographic response to the question “What does gentrification mean?”.

Jersey City resident Nelson Montes's photographic response to the question "What does gentrification mean to you?"

Jersey City resident Roger Sayre's photographic response to the question "What does gentrification mean to you?".

Excerpts from Jersey City resident Ross Baez's audio interview about how Jersey City has changed.

Jersey City resident Liana Luz Cotto's drawing in response to the question "How has Jersey City changed?".

Excerpts from Jersey City resident Fernando's audio interview about how Jersey City has changed since 1967.

Jersey City resident Erica's response to the question "What does gentrification mean to you?".

Ink on vellum paper made at Lucky Laundromat by Jersey City artist Aguilera Skvirsky.

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Creating the archive (Sept.)

Over the past month I have been making a series of 20 different postcards based on the contributions from Jersey City residents and my research about Jersey City and the Lucky Laundromat site.  The postcards will be available for free in a postcard rack at the front of the Laundromat.  I’ll be installing the postcard rack sometime this week. And in a couple of weeks there will be an opening inviting the community to peruse the postcards and watch a video compilation of the oral histories I have been collecting.

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The ASK ME: TELL ME event

The event on August 21 was a huge success. A lot of residents came to Lucky to participate in the project and we got a lot of press in the local papers and blogs.  Here are a few of the articles and posts about the event.

Jersey City Independent

Hudson Reporter

About.com

Dislocations

Hyperallergic

Rosa Baez's interview

The Kaczmarek sisters work on a drawing together.

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Early August

Over the last couple of weeks I have fallen into a rhythm.  I go to Lucky for a few hours a couple of days a week.  While I’m there I work on tracings, read notes about Jersey City history and talk to laundromat customers.  Sometimes I approach them; sometimes they approach me.  Many of the customers prefer to speak in Spanish and so we speak in Spanish.  I have collected oral histories, photographs taken with plastic cameras and drawings.  All of these contributions will be placed on this blog, eventually… and some of them will be made into postcards available for free at Lucky Laundromat.  At first I wasn’t sure what type of narrative to focus on.  I wanted ASK ME: TELL ME to be open ended and yet I had to ask my new friends and acquaintances something to start the conversation….So the obvious question came up… “How has Jersey City changed?” And “What will a future Jersey City look like?” These are the questions I ask and the responses are varied.  Participants can use any medium they want to respond to the questions.  Gentrification and being priced out of the community are definitely concerns that have been voiced by different community members.  The changing amenities available in the city  including the renovation of Hamilton Park seem to be positive outcomes of gentrification.  The city isn’t necessarily getting more caucasian but it is getting less Hispanic…

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ASK ME: TELL ME on Sunday, August 21 12 to 6p

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Petrushka Bazin, Program Manager petrushka@laundromatproject.org

718-574-0798 (office), 917-449-1979 (cell)

Jersey City Artist Archives the City’s History in Her Local Laundromat.

Jersey City, NJ, August 3, 2011 – Artist Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, one of five participants in the 2011 Create Change Public Artist Residency program at The Laundromat Project, launches Ask Me : Tell Me, which will take place on August 21, 2011 from 12pm to 6 pm. Open to all Jersey City residents, Aguilera Skvirsky of Jersey City will be facilitating a free art workshop that offers access to drawing, photography and sound recording at her local laundromat, Lucky Laundromat (577 Jersey Ave, Jersey City, NJ). Participants will learn about the city’s history and be invited to record their impressions of how Jersey City’s landscape is changing through redevelopment, gentrification and demographics.

ASK ME : TELL ME is a public art project that uses Lucky Laundromat as a site to gather and share the oral histories and experiences of residents living in Jersey City. For this project Aguilera Skvirsky is using the laundromat as a defacto community center to connect with and engage her neighbors.

Aguilera Skvirsky says “making artwork in the laundromat has led to exchanges with Jersey City residents about how their neighborhood is changing, uses of public space and how they see themselves in a future Jersey City.”

From residents’ artistic contributions to this project, Aguilera will create a series of place-based postcards that will act as a living archive of Jersey City and will be made available for free from a postcard kiosk located at Lucky Laundromat during fall 2011. Participants in the archive will also receive a copy of their contribution.

ABOUT THE LAUNDROMAT PROJECT

Founded in 1999 and incorporated in 2005, The Laundromat Project is a non-profit organization committed to the wellbeing of communities of color living on low incomes. Understanding that creativity is a central component of healthy human beings, vibrant neighborhoods, and thriving economies- we organize art programs in laundromats throughout New York City. By bringing art to where our neighbors already are (everyone has to do their laundry) through our two core programs: Create Change and Works in Progress, we aim to raise the quality of life for people whose incomes do not guarantee broad access to mainstream arts and cultural facilities. For more information please visit www.laundromatproject.org

ABOUT CREATE CHANGE

Create Change was created to connect communities and artists in meaningful ways. There are two ways for artists to participate: the first is as a Create Change Professional Development Fellow, and the second is as a Create Change Public Artist in Residence. This annual 6-month public artist residency program commissions five artists of color to mount public art projects in their local laundry and invites up to 15 additional artists to participate in a professional development series tailored to making socially-engaged artwork. Since 2006, we have worked in 20 laundromats across New York City to produce 11 public art projects that have ranged from collecting and documenting oral histories to teaching techniques in urban gardening.

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Day 7 (July)

I spent the day at the Hudson County records office near Journal Square, JC.  This is the place where you can find JC deeds (transfer of property from one party to another) and mortgages dating back to the early 20th century.  I was a bit clueless when I walked in but luckily a guy who must look up information on deeds and mortgages for a living  explained the system. On line you can look at deeds for any property in JC from 1962 to the present. If you want information on deeds before 1962 there are stacks of books in an easy to find cataloguing system that contain photo copied deeds dating back to 1924.  I was able to track down every owner of the Lucky Laundromat lot from 1924 to the present.  At different times the property was foreclosed, inherited and more recently bought and sold. Im not sure about all the businesses that have been housed at 577 Jersey Ave. but I have a list of owners and I know how much the property sold for each time it changed hands. There have been at least 10 different owners since 1924. The owner in 1925 was Oscar Auf der Heide; the owner today is Willow Ave. Realty Association just to give an example.  The different names (and their origins) and property values tell an interesting story about gentrification and demographics in Harsimus Cove over the years. A tangent I plan on following as I continue to uncover more information.

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Day 6 (July)

I realize that over the last few weeks as I go to Lucky and the Jersey City Library I am on this quest to find out the history of JC .  From land that was home to the Lenape indians to a metropolitan city called NYC’s 6th borough on Wikipedia, JC has changed a lot over the last 400 years.  What place hasn’t?  What is the story about JC that should be told and what is the story that I want to tell? I have been enthralled by the maps that visually describe the changes in the land.  The little islands connected by a plank road that become a waterfront made from landfill, the waterfront and extensive train lines that made JC integral to the development of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the US, the diversity of people that populates the city…What do the changes mean? What is the narrative behind these changes? The displacement of the Lenape? The corruption of JC and its resulting economic stagnation? The on-going gentrification of JC? Or can all of these narratives/stories become part of the Lucky archive? And what role does the Laundromat play? I have been making drawings with JC residents as they wash their clothes. They visually describe their relationship with JC using colored pens on transparent pages.  The Laundromat is their nexus; their place for reflection about their relationship to the city.

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Day 5 (July)

I was hanging out at Lucky today making drawings.  Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was on TV. A customer by the name of Jim was washing his clothes and answering all of the game show questions correctly.  We started talking and making a drawing together.  He is a long time resident of Paulus Hook and lives in a condo that was converted from an old Domino’s sugar factory.  I had to encourage him to put some marks on paper, mapping out his story–what brought him to Jersey City and why has he stayed.

What was interesting about this whole process was that my conversation and collaboration with Jim engendered more discussion about Jersey City–both personal stories and historical tidbits.  For example: Because Jersey City was a group of islands surrounded by water, the area was pivotal during the Revolutionary war because it was under British control.

One major challenge in my project is going to be getting Laundromat goers to make drawings themselves (or with me). There is this fear of not being able to draw well. As the artist/navigator/guide in this project I understand since my own drawing skills are quite limited.  Why has the skill of drawing become synonymous with art making? Perhaps, it is related to the dearth of art education in the schools.  In any case I can side step the whole “we’re making art here” discussion by focusing and framing the activity as recording stories–their particular stories.

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