Documenting a Community with Heart

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A strong sense of community is at the heart of Daya Bonnie Astor’s artwork, as well as the rest of her life.

So it was only natural for her to return repeatedly to her native New York and to a specific community of artists there to create her current Shift show, Gentrification.

Her show mostly commemorates, through photographs, media clippings and a few related works of her own, the final days of a locally famous street art venue, a old factory building in Queens, not far from where Daya grew up and where The Museum of Modern Art has created a satellite museum out of an old school, PS1 MOMA.

Ironically, PS 1 MOMA was designed to showcase hot new artists just as its neighboring open-air gallery, the factory building known as 5 Pointz, has been whitewashed by developers and is soon to be bulldozed for a condo project.  Previously, as Daya’s photographs show, it was covered in massive and curated street art.

Daya found the concept and changing face of 5 Pointz “completely fascinating because it gives the artist a way to be spontaneous and creative and most of the artists, I must say, are very, very talented.”  She watched and photographed 5 Pointz art being created and followed the artists’ vain attempts to stop redevelopment.  “If you were to go there now,” she said, “the building is white. You can see pieces of the graffiti sticking through.”

She regrets what will be missed.  “I like the idea of a community having a lot of diversity and there being space for this in a community,” she said.  “I like that the artists don’t have to risk their lives climbing something at midnight to make their art.”

Daya noted that some of the more recognized 5-Pointz artists–often commissioned to create art in more traditional settings–could arguably be asked to create art for the new buildings that will supplant them but they wouldn’t be able to afford to live there.

Living a kind of bicoastal life herself, Daya was recently interviewed by the Brooklyn Art Museum about her volunteerism there, one aspect of which was creating a graffiti board experience last summer. Her show will include a graffiti board for Shift attendees as well.

In other community-oriented ventures, Daya runs the internship program for the Bellevue School Dsitrict.  A licensed community health nurse, she also helps out at a Bellevue free clinic and at a chronic mental illness group. Her work in community nursing–providing access and fairness to all who come–is the egalitarian same principle, she notes, that relates to her passion for street art.

Astor’s show, “Gentrification” is on display at Shift Gallery from May 1st – 30th

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