Expanding The Walls

Prosperity of Perspective

  • Expanding the Walls participants shooting in Harlem with Devin Allen

    Photo: SaVonne Anderson

This month, Expanding the Walls (ETW)—an eight-month photography-based program at the Studio Museum—participants had the opportunity to work with Baltimore-based photographer Devin Allen.

Devin Allen’s most recognizable work, the series "A Beautiful Ghetto" (2015)—documenting the Baltimore uprising following the death of Freddie Gray—demonstrates how an image can have the power to unify a community and promote social justice. After presenting his work at the Museum and discussing the impact that his community has had on his life, ETW participants had the chance to walk the streets of Harlem and take photos with Allen.

Expanding the Walls Gets Digital

  • Donnell,  Expanding the Walls '17

    Say Cheese to the Camera!, 2017

    Courtesy the artist


During the second month of Expanding the Walls (ETW)—an eight-month photography-based program at the Studio Museum—participants received the digital cameras that they’ll use for the remainder of the program.

Receiving my digital camera in ETW last week was an amazing experience. Not only was it fun to have my camera, it finally gave me the tools to transfer my ideas into reality. This means a lot to me because you can only grow to love something by doing it more and more. Getting the camera highlighted my main goal during this program, which is to learn how to work with digital photography. Alvaro, a friend who is also in the program, said, "Getting our cameras was like getting a new pair of eyes, we now see the world from a different perspective." 

Glenn Ligon

One Black Day (II)

  • Glenn Ligon (b. 1960, Bronx, NY)
    One Black Day (II), 2017
    Neon and paint
    Courtesy the artist

The Studio Museum in Harlem believes that the radical voices of artists telling the truths of the moment are essential to democracy. The Museum has long been committed to giving artists a space to share their provocations and insight—artist Glenn Ligon’s One Black Day (II) (2017), currently on display in the Museum’s window, is the most recent example of this.

Welcome Expanding the Walls Class of 2017!

  • Expanding the Walls 2017
    Photo: Ginny Huo

Expanding the Walls 2017 has officially begun! Congratulations to the sixteen participants from all over New York City that have been selected to participate in the Museum's after-school teen photography program. Every Tuesday and Saturday for the next eight months, we will meet to create art, engage in discussion groups and embark on excursions all while learning the basics of digital photography!

What will this year bring for Expanding the Walls? We are looking forward to a lot of exciting experiences this year, including visiting artists, learning film photography though a partnership at the School of Visual arts, exchanges with other cultural institutions, artmaking and time capsules. We hope you will follow us on our journey!

Congratulations again to the Expanding the Walls class of 2017! I’m proud of you all and excited to see what we create together.

Happy New Year from the Studio Museum

2016 was a fantastic year for The Studio Museum in Harlem. We launched inHarlem with sculptural installations in four of Harlem’s Historic Parks, presented trailblazing exhibitions, and confirmed the vital place our Artist-in-Residence program holds within the community and art world at large. Help us continue the exciting work of the Studio Museum and participate in the Annual Fund. We wish you the very best in the New Year.

Donate today!

ETW Blogs

Our Journey to One Stop Down

  • Zainab Floyd

    Untitled, 2015

    Courtesy the artist

As a high school student, I have had the opportunity to learn about photography at the Studio Museum through a program called Expanding the Walls. It’s an eight-month photography-based residency that immerses high school students, from all over New York City, in the world of photography. This program is specifically unique because we receive cameras and have opportunities to interact with contemporary artists and the James VanDerZee archive, and exhibit our work in the Studio Museum’s galleries.

ETW Blogs

Finding Themes and Experimenting with Materials

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  • The students watch as Samuel Levi Jones walks through the paper-pulping process

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Samuel Levi Jones demonstrating the paper-pulping process

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Samuel Levi Jones forming pulp into flat sheets

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • ETW 2008 Alum Ivan Forde leading a cyanotype workshop

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Forde showing students how to make cyanotypes

    Photo: Chris Ogando

  • Students proudly displaying their finished cyanotypes

    Photo: Chris Ogando

As the sixteen high school students continue on their eight-month, photography-based journey at the Museum through the Expanding the Walls program, they take time to look through and thoroughly discuss work by artists such as Lorna Simpson, Malick Sidibe, Gordon Parks and others to help shed light on the multitude of topics and themes photography can cover. The hope is that in studying these artists, the students gain an introduction to themes that they might later choose to focus their projects on. As emerging artists with newfound creative voices, the students struggle with capturing their experiences, perspectives and comments on their respective themes. Many found themselves stuck when trying to analyze and build upon the themes they have chosen, feeling that their approaches had already been employed in a multitude of projects by other artists.

Unbinding Contemporary Book Art

Samuel Levi Jones & More

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  • Samuel Levi Jones

    Unbound (detail), 2015

    Mixed media

    94 × 343 in.

    Courtesy the artist

  • David Ortiz

    #232 Me as a Kid at my Old Address, 2014

    Courtesy ArtNow NY

  • Nicholas Galanin

    What Have We Become? Vol. 5, 2006

    Courtesy the artist

  • Nicholas Galanin

    What Have We Become? Vol. 3, 2006

    Courtesy the artist

  • Robert The

    Art Crisis, 2003

    Courtesy the artist

  • Wim Botha

    Untitled (III), 2011

    Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg

    Photo: Mario Todeschini

    © Wim Botha

  • Wim Botha

    Untitled (Witness series I), 2011

    Courtesy Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg

    Photo: Mario Todeschini

    © Wim Botha

  • Paul Octavious

    from the “Book Collection” series

    via pauloctavious.com

For his first solo museum exhibition, Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound, Samuel Levi Jones transforms the Studio Museum's Project Space with a site-specific installation made of dismantled law books. When deconstructed into their basic components—covers and spines—the reference books’ implicit authority symbolically disintegrates. Stitched together in wall-to-wall grids, the fragmented books hang like paintings, emphasizing form and materiality. Once the books are stripped of their identity, their function and value are obscured, even negated. By manipulating law books, Jones engages with recent criticism of the American justice system.

ETW Blogs

Just the beginning

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  • Isaac Diggs walking the students through the intricacies of exposures

  • The students editing their contact sheets in search of a strong image

  • The students’ darkroom orientation

Not very often will a beginner photographer get an intensive class at a prestigious art school, but that is exactly what happened for the 2015 class of Expanding the Walls. Many of the participating students came to the program without any previous knowledge of photography. Slightly overwhelmed, some of the students worried about how they would capture images with a high tech camera. While a few students had some experience in photography, they still lacked an in-depth understanding of the camera’s workings. So to ease the students into using their cameras and the world of photography, Isaac Diggs, photography professor at Schools of Visual Arts, lent a helping hand. Throughout the month of February, ETW class sessions took place at the SVA campus, where Diggs led an intensive class covering the technicalities of the camera as well as the bases of black and white darkroom photography.

Ellison at 100 Livestream

Watch it here!

Ralph Ellison lived in Harlem from the late 1930s until his death on April 16, 1994. He was a prominent figure in the neighborhood’s overlapping literary and artistic communities. Ellison at 100: Reading Invisible Man honors this legacy through a landmark collaboration between two leading Harlem-based cultural institutions. The participating artists in the program have been specially curated by the Studio Museum and the Schomburg Center teams, following in both institutions’ tradition of exploring Harlem as a site for artistic and literary creation. 

Ellison at 100: Reading Invisible Man is organized by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The Studio Museum in Harlem with the generous support of the Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust.