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3 min read - Wednesday 31st November 2021 

‘What Kind of City?’, Rebuilding Post-pandemic Communities at Manchester’s New Exhibition

By Lois Freeman

Image description: A diverse group of women aged 50 or over who took part in Suzanne Lacy’s ‘Uncertain Futures’ project.

A new art exhibition has opened at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. ‘What Kind of City?’, by US art activist Suzanne Lacy, seeks to reinstate community autonomy by placing the future of Manchester firmly into the hands of its inhabitants. Running from 26th November 2021 to the 10th April 2022, the exhibition taps into the relationship between creative initiatives and community identity by asking visitors to imagine their dream Manchester, and explore how this could be achieved through art.

Image description: A young woman involved in the exhibition stands in front of tv screens showing archival footage of Suzanne Lacy’s Oakland project.

As people take tentative steps out of their homes and back into a new covid-safe city, there is a greater need than ever to create connections with our neighbours. Exhibitions like this encourage people to reconvene with different social groups by placing them together in the same space, and asking them to collectively decode problems. It is only through this exposure, and the understanding of a shared reality, that a community can pull together to reshape the lines of their city for the better.

The gallery will overflow with video footage and photographs from three renowned Lacy artworks including the iconic ‘Oakland Projects’ which included a roof-top discussion and basketball game between the youth and police of Oakland, California. The installations will act as a visual blueprint for how creative workshops can help reform damaged relationships and foster a culture of unity and peace within a city.

Image description: Lacy’s project with members of the police force and young people, sat in conversation in Oakland, California in the 1990s.

The exhibition’s endeavours will come to life through a large-scale programme of events focusing on four areas: youth voice, community borders, intersectionality and employment. These will be targeted through inner-city workshops that will culminate in a presentation of ideas to city leaders — those with the power and resources to enact real change.

The exhibition will also partner with ‘Uncertain Futures’ at Manchester Art Gallery, where interviews with 100 women over the age of 50 will form a database of personal stories, uncovering the reality of aging, employment and the divisions between minority groups. Lacy is realistic about the difficulty in achieving ‘concrete goals’ through art, instead telling the BBC, ‘you make the difference through your relationships.’ Her work spotlights how open communication and education on the lives of others are crucial to bettering the community as a whole.

Gatekeeper Magazine© 2021