I Heart JR

From the Women are Heroes Project in Kibera Slum, Kenya.

JR is a French street artist best known for his large-scale photographic portraits that he prints and then posts in public spaces often in developing countries or in areas of conflict. From his website bio:

JR creates “Pervasive Art” that spreads uninvited on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle-East, on the broken bridges in Africa or the favelas in Brazil. People who often live with the bare minimum discover something absolutely unnecessary. And they don’t just see it, they make it. Some elderly women become models for a day; some kids turn artists for a week. In that Art scene, there is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators.

While in Ecuador, I signed up the youth foundation to participate in the JR-led participatory art project, Inside OutInside Out came about as a result of JR winning the 2011 TED Prize. His wish was to, “Turn the world inside out,” by encouraging each of us to document our lives and post the images for the public to see. Although it never worked out to participate in the project in Ecuador, I am still a huge fan of JR and of the Inside Out Project. See the video of JR’s TED wish below and check out more about Inside Out at the project website.

JR’s latest project is “UNFRAMED Ellis Island,” where he has placed archival images into abandoned spaces on Ellis Island to bring the past alive. In particular, he was given access to the hospital located on the south side of the island. Immigrants who were found to be ill on arrival were sent to the hospital for tests and treatment. According to the New York Times article about this project, 1.2 million people passed through the hospital before it was closed in the 1930s. As you can see in the incredible images below, JR tells the stories of these immigrants with dignity and beauty.

The hospital has been opened once again to show off these remarkable installations and tours started October 1st. I wish I had known when I was visiting NYC a couple of weeks ago – I would have been the first in line!

Read the full text of the New York Times article about this project and visit www.saveellisisland.org for more on the tours.

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