NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – For the first time since the 1990s, the public is invited to visit an historic Harlem art collection.
The paintings and sculptures show life in Harlem during the early 1900s.
After 25 years stuck in a basement, artwork from the 20th century is being given new life once again.
The “Harlem Roots” exhibit is back on display in its original home, the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building, after repair and restoration work. A flood damaged many of the pieces in storage.
PHOTOS: Harlem Roots Exhibition
The art takes viewers back in time to the Harlem renaissance, a time of intellectual, social and artistic explosion.
“They are part of the evolving world here in New York City and in Harlem and really in the world. It’s all about the hardship. It’s all about the world they lived in, and they painted it, they took pictures of it,” said Ro Ann Destito of the New York State Office of General Services.
The collection of 24 paintings, photos, prints and sculptures captures the essence of Harlem’s rich culture, teaching about social issues and artistic techniques of the times.
Some of them were ahead of their time. One piece entitled African Series Phoenix was painted by Harlan Jackson, a major pioneer of what later became known as abstract expressionism.
Inspired by the people who lived, worked, struggled and survived in the city, Leita Mitchell created a collage called “Street Jivin’.”
Many of these artists create what is now known as “community art,” some America’s finest works created in the 20th century by predominantly black and Latino artists in New York City.
“I hope we have some budding artists come and see what their ancestry was able to accomplish,” Destito said. “It just all tells a story about this community.”
And it celebrates the neighborhood’s rich and diverse culture.
More than 100 works of art will rotate in and out of the exhibit over the next year.
Starting Nov. 15, the free exhibit is open every Friday from noon to 7 p.m.