Expanding the Walls

The New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellowship

  • Expanding the Walls 2017 participants and The New York Community Trust Van Lier fellows Chess and Donnell
    Photo: Ginny Huo

This year, two participants in Expanding the Walls—an eight-month photography-based program at The Studio Museum in Harlem—were awarded The New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellowship. This fellowship grants the recipients with additional professional experience and a scholarship for their postgraduate studies. We are excited to introduce the two fellows: Chess and Donnell. Congratulations!

Here are their responses on receiving The New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellowship!

A Visit, and Advice

  • Expanding the Walls 2017 with The Studio Museum in Harlem curatorial staff
    Photo: Ginny Huo

The Studio Museum in Harlem is home to both an incredibly talented curatorial staff and a brilliant educational program, Expanding The Walls (ETW), a group of sixteen teens exploring new territory both intellectually and in their worldviews. The product of these two groups working together is the exhibition Impressions, which is on view July 20–August 27, 2017.

Meeting Ms. VanDerZee

  • Expanding the Walls 2017 with Donna Mussenden VanDerZee

    Photo: Ginny Huo

This month, Expanding the Walls (ETW)—an eight-month photography-based program at the Studio Museum—participants had the opportunity to meet with Ms. VanDerZee, the widow of the late Harlem Renaissance photographer James VanDerZee (1886–1983).

Every year the Expanding the Walls program exposes its young artists to a wide range of artists of African descent, and James VanDerZee’s photography becomes a key inspiration for program participants’ work. VanDerZee tried to see that each photograph documented the person to look better and that is what I consider when clicking that shutter button of my camera. VanDerZee, known for his iconic portraits of 1920s and 1930s middle-class Harlemites, created images of dignity and refinement that helped portray the lives of African Americans. 

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.