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While We Are Still Here + Dionis Ortiz

“Shining the Light… So Our History Is No Mystery”

“Shining the Light… So Our History Is No Mystery” was inspired by the continuing powerful presences that are part of why Harlem is a momentous site of influence. Shown in a rich cosmos of cyanotype blue, Arturo Schomburg, Queen Mother Moore, Malcolm X, Paul Robeson, Ella Baker, and Elizabeth Catlett are remembered for their illuminating art, scholarship, and activism.

While We Are Still Here


While We Are Still Here (WWSH) will educate, enshrine and preserve the extraordinary legacy of Harlem as an influential incubator that was vital to the intellectual, cultural, social, and political advancements of the Harlem community as well as the African Diaspora.


While We Are Still Here ensures that the “post-gentrification” community of Harlem and beyond will honor and find a meaningful connection to the legacy of African American achievement, and its paramount importance to world culture.

Karen D. Taylor, Founder/Executive Director

Karen is driven by her passion to bring the cultural history of Harlem to the forefront of now, and to keep it relevant for generations to come. Inspired by the national discussion on “gentrification,” she is moved to steward the creation of programming that wraps the arts and humanities in a package that is a gift to the future. She consults as the director of public history for Columbia University/Teachers College’s Harlem Education History Project.


I work in collage, printmaking, and other media in order to celebrate the aesthetics of Afro Caribbean diasporic communities and create empathy across people of color. I draw from my own experiences growing up as a Dominican-American child in Harlem, where I found joy in the coming together of black and brown people at block parties. The work is process-oriented, making use of everyday items that are transformed into complex, layered compositions. I reuse objects that are discarded or ill-regarded, such as linoleum tile and cardboard, and elevate them.
Inspired by David Hammons, I find meaning through the usage of shapes and conform my materials to geometric patterns. We are shaped by our environment and I use the materiality of the Caribbean and urban landscapes to build the works. This inventiveness was also part of my childhood and I bring these domestic and community elements into artworks like artist Pepón Osorio. The ‘skin’ of the work is formed by elements from the environment like brick buildings, concrete sidewalks, and the ensuing gentrification and erasure. The double consciousness that is part of this black experience is embodied in the work by combining Western practices and traditions with materials, narratives, and figures from the diaspora. One of the lingering and most insidious effects of colonialism is self-doubt and a devaluing of self.
My work comes from the truth to show people of all shades of black, from all corners of the world, their beauty by reflecting back their own images and environments. I create my work out of the everyday to focus on the positive and spiritual aspects of my community.

IG: dionis_O_Studio