40 ACRES: Weeksville
It was Juneteenth 2023; the sun was hot, the grass whispered cool secrets between our feet. They say the sky holds memories and on this day the sky stretched out in crystal clarity. This atmospheric backdrop set the scene for Sandy Williams IV’s photo and video installation 40 ACRES: Weeksville. Coming together as a multilayered public performance using the sky above Crown Heights, Brooklyn, as its stage, a skywriter traced the borders of our historic Weeksville community, spanning 492.72 acres.
Despite the harsh realities of oppression embedded into our daily existence as Black and Indigenous people, we came together on Juneteenth for this monumental moment to cultivate inspiration and community from the Black life that once thrived on this land from 1838 to 1930.
This skywriting performance and exhibition serves as a reminder of the dreams, love, and memories that once shaped Freedmen communities throughout the United States after the Civil War; Weeksville is just one of many.
The flyover took place in partnership with the Weeksville Heritage Center’s Juneteenth Food Festival. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. 40 ACRES: Weeksville was commissioned by The Shed as part of Open Call. It was developed in collaboration with the Weeksville Heritage Center and has been generously supported by the University of Richmond.
About Sandy Williams IV
Sandy Williams IV is an artist and educator whose work generates moments of communal catharsis. Their conceptual practice uses time itself as a material and aims to unfold the hidden legacies of public spaces. Through ephemeral, malleable, and collaborative public memorials, Williams’ work unsettles popular colonial logics of permanence, uniformity, and displacement. This work creates participatory paths for communal engagement informed by targeted research and site-specificity: holding space for disenfranchised public memories and visualizing frameworks of emancipation and shared agency.
While aesthetically Williams’ work flirts with minimalism, the practice is deeply interdisciplinary, and carefully layers contextual research, communal activity, collaboration, civic action, and performance. Their projects expand beyond the limits of the gallery toward public space: places of education and worship, fashion, virtual portals, and even upward to the sky. Williams’ work is guided by generations of freedom fighters who have dared to unsettle global colonial practices and the visible and invisible structures that sustain them.
The 40 ACRES: Weeksville exhibition is open to the public and can be viewed during building open hours.
February 10, 2024 – April 6th, 2024
Curated by Sandy Williams IV and Weeksville Heritage Center
Works by Sandy Williams IV
We’d love to feature your photos from Juneteenth in the community slideshow featured in the exhibition.
Please share your photos here.