Momentum Builds to Preserve Richmond Barthé’s Brooklyn Frieze

By: Zachary Small

Today marked the second article in as many days — this time in Hyperallergic — on gay African American sculptor Richmond Barthé and his art-deco frieze at Kingsborough Houses in Brooklyn.

Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho is Barthé’s largest work. Originally a site-specific piece meant for an amphitheater at Harlem River Houses, the work was installed in its current location in Brooklyn when the planned amphitheater was not realized (because it was a publicly funded project through the Works Progress Administration, Barthé had no say as to its ultimate location).

Following a visit to the work, art professor Michele Bogart (@urbaninsideout on Twitter) noticed the dilapidation of the work and issued a public cry for restoring the frieze:

“Traveling to Brooklyn to see the state of Barthé’s frieze last week, Bogart was shocked by what she saw: open joints, hairline cracks, large holes, and disfigurations threatened to disintegrate whatever the ice, wind, and rain had left behind.”

The published stories piqued the interest of Twitter’s art lovers, and the interest of Swann Galleries, an auction house that has experience with Barthé’s work. The gallery announced it would lead the effort to have a conservator perform a cost assessment for restoring the frieze. This is only the first step, a way to gauge what it might take for interested parties to work together toward preservation, but it’s inspiring that this cause has drawn such interest. And that interest has only continued to grow, with many continuing to express on social media their support for seeing the art preserved.

We love this story! Many thanks to everyone who has shown so much interest in what happens to this important piece of public art and its connections to LGBT and African American history. To stay informed on further developments, Swann Galleries has created a dedicated mailing list for anyone interested in learning more about how they can get involved in any future efforts.

To read the full story at Hyperallergic, click here.

Richmond Barthé’s Brooklyn Frieze in amNewYork

November 27, 2018
By: Mark Chiusano

Today, amNewYork ran an article about the state of Richmond Barthé’s public art “Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho,” an NYC LGBT historic site located at Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Houses since 1941.

The article was spurred by Stonybrook Universtiy art professor Michele Bogart, who expressed concern for the artwork’s state of disrepair. From amNewYork:

“The reader was Michele Bogart, a former vice president of what is now the city’s Public Design Commission. She had heard that the art was in trouble and was shocked at the state of the panels when she went to take pictures of them on Friday, a surprising and imposing freestanding art-deco wall in the middle of the towers. There are open joints, hairline cracks, large holes or disfigurations between some of the dancers’ legs. All can lead to worse problems when rain seeps in, and ice and snow.”

Barthé, who was gay, is considered one of the most important sculptors of African American modernism in the first half of the twentieth century, known for work portraying religious subjects, African American history, notable performers and for public work.

This public work is the artist’s largest and was originally intended for the wall of an amphitheater at Harlem River Houses. That amphitheater was never built and the piece was installed, without Barthé’s consultation, at the Kingsborough Houses in Brooklyn.


Richmond Barthe’s “Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho”

To read the full story, click here.

WATCH: SmartTalk at “Summit for New York City”

November 6, 2018

On October 9, 2018, Project co-director Ken Lustbader spoke at the annual Summit for New York City, hosted by the Municipal Art Society. This “SmartTalk” was a brief look at the organization’s mission, a visual tour of sites which demonstrate the incredible legacy of LGBT people in New York City … and a call to follow the Project (and share our work) on social media!

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Groundbreaking Study to Identify and Evaluate Historic LGBT Sites in NYC




Ken Lustbader, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
p: (917) 848-1776 / e: [email protected]


NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project Announces Completion of Groundbreaking Study to Identify and Evaluate Historic LGBT Sites in NYC

New York State Leads the Nation in Designating Sites Significant to LGBT History


New York, NY—November 5, 2018—A new, groundbreaking study has been published as a framework for researching and evaluating sites of potential LGBT significance in New York City, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project announced today, following an October-long celebration of national LGBT History Month.

Completed in partnership with the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the “Historic Context Study for LGBT History in New York City” will continue the momentum of New York leading the nation in listing sites associated with LGBT History on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The context statement provides an overall history of the city’s LGBT past by themes, from the 17th century up to the year 2000. It is a framework for the public, advocates, and cultural heritage professionals to identify and evaluate potential historic resources with specific examples and a step-by-step evaluative tool.

“We are honored to have been recognized by New York State as leaders in the documentation and interpretation of LGBT place-based history. The ‘Historic Context Study for LGBT History in New York City’ will be an invaluable tool for others statewide who share our commitment to preserving LGBT heritage sites,” said Jay Shockley, lead author and co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “Informed by decades of work in the five boroughs, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project team conceptualized and developed a partial narrative — both thematic and chronological — of New York City’s LGBT community spanning centuries. Our work continues, with research that seeks to expand this narrative to further include underrepresented communities within the larger LGBT community throughout New York City.”

Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation: “This study provides the roadmap for designating future LGBT sites in New York City and will serve as an inspiration to other communities in the state and across the nation that are seeking to unveil their often-unrecognized LGBT history.”

The “Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York City,” coordinated by the NYS Division for Historic Preservation, was funded through an Underrepresented Communities Grant awarded to the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation by the National Park Service. In addition to the study, the grant funding facilitated the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project team to research and write new State and National Register listings, including:

  • Earl Hall at Columbia University, in recognition of the site as a venue for meetings and dances of the Student Homophile League, the first gay student organization in the country (more)
  • Caffe Cino, for its role in the development of Off-Off-Broadway and gay theater and support of gay playwrights at a time when depicting homosexuality on stage was illegal (more)
  • Julius’ Bar, the site of the 1966 “Sip In,” protesting discriminatory policies against homosexuals in public spaces (more)
  • Alice Austen House, an update to the site’s existing listing to now include recognition of Austen’s pioneering work as a female photographer and her 53-year same-sex relationship with Gertrude Tate (more)

To explore further information and an interactive map of the sites documented in the study, visit

Other State and National Registers-listed properties in New York State that explore LGBT history include Bayard Rustin Residence at Penn South, the home of one of the most important yet little-known figures of the civil rights movement (more); Fire Island’s Cherry Grove Community House and Theater and the Carrington House (both on Long Island); and two communities in Buffalo: the Fargo Estates and Allentown Historic Districts.

The State and National Registers of Historic Places are the official lists of buildings, structures, districts, landscapes, objects and sites significant in the history, architecture, archeology and culture of New York State and the nation. State and National Registers listing can assist property owners in revitalizing buildings, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

About the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is the first cultural heritage initiative and educational resource to document historic sites connected to the LGBT community in New York City. The initiative was founded in 2014 by preservation professionals and is focused on the recognition and preservation of extant sites relating to the broad cultural impact of LGBT people on New York City. The project has developed an interactive map featuring diverse places from the 17th century to 2000 that are important to LGBT history and illustrate the community’s influence on New York and American history and culture. We are also nominating LGBT sites to the National Register of Historic Places and developing educational tours and programs.

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