• House of D
    Alex Strada

Photographer unknown, "Prisoner at New York Women's House of Detention waves," ca. 1970. Photograph 6.5 x 9 in. Courtesy Diana Davies papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA

The Jefferson Market Library is an architectural icon of Greenwich Village. Before it became a New York Public Library (NYPL) branch, the site served as the Women’s House of Detention (WHD) from 1932–74. This lavishly designed Art Deco jail/prison was championed by NYC officials and prison reformers as a “school” to punish women, transgender men, and gender nonconforming people who broke the law or did not abide by feminine societal norms. Thousands were detained in what was a fortress-like heavily congested prison, including Angela Davis, Afeni Shakur, and Andrea Dworkin. The WHD ultimately closed and was partly demolished due to mass protests by the Black Power Movement, Gay Liberation Front Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and feminist coalitions—an intersectional abolitionist and architectural history of NYC often overlooked. In collaboration with NYPL, artist Alex Strada is researching this history and transforming the Jefferson Market Library into a site-specific counter-monument artwork focused on the WHD and the activist labor that enabled its closing.

Alex Strada is a multimedia artist and educator based in Brooklyn, New York. Through film/video, installation, sound and orality, performance, and public art, her socially-engaged projects explore collectivity, critical legal studies, and political transformation. Recent exhibitions include Queens Museum, NY; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; and Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moment, NY. Her work has been supported through grants and fellowships from Artadia, NYFA, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and NYSCA, and artist residencies at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center, and Socrates Sculpture Park. She received an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University and is an alumnus of the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program. Strada is an assistant professor of art at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University and serves as the inaugural Public Artist in Residence with New York City's Department of Homeless Services.