Fact Sheet “Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography”

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Laura Baptiste
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"Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography"


Smithsonian American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets N.W.


America’s urban streets have long inspired documentary photographers. “Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography” explores the work of 10 photographers—Manuel Acevedo, Oscar Castillo, Frank Espada, Anthony Hernandez, Perla de Leon, Hiram Maristany, Ruben Ochoa, John Valadez, Winston Vargas and Camilo José Vergara—who were driven to document and reflect on the transformation of American cities beginning in the 1950s. The title of the exhibition is drawn from Piri Thomas’ classic memoir Down These Mean Streets (1967), where the author narrates his upbringing in New York City’s El Barrio. Like Thomas, these photographers turn a critical eye toward neighborhoods that exist on the margins of major cities such as New York and Los Angeles. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the museum’s collection and showcases many new acquisitions by Latino artists. It offers a chance to see how these photographers responded to the urban crisis in the communities where they lived and worked. The exhibition is organized by E. Carmen Ramos, deputy chief curator and curator of Latino art.

Opening Program - Poetry Reading
Friday, May 12, at 6:30 p.m., award-winning poets Martín Espada, Naomi Ayala and Sami Miranda read poems inspired by photographs featured in the exhibition. Information about other exhibition-related public programs is online at americanart.si.edu/calendar.


The Latino Initiatives Pool of the Smithsonian Latino Center provided generous support for the new acquisitions featured in this exhibition. The Bernie Stadiem Endowment Fund supports the installation and programs.

Note to editors: Selected high-resolution images for publicity only may be downloaded from americanart.si.edu/pr. Email americanartpressoffice@si.edufor the password.

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About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.

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