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Lewis Latimer House Museum hosts new large-scale art installation

A new art installation "shines light on forgotten histories" at the Lewis Latimer House Museum in Flushing. (Courtesy of Beam Center)

One of the borough’s oldest homes is hosting one of its newest art installations, one that serves as a guiding light as Queens emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beam Center, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that produces ambitious, collaborative projects with more than 7,000 youths across the city each year, announced “BEACON,” a new public art installation, created in partnership with interdisciplinary artist and educator Shervone Neckles, is currently on view at the Lewis Latimer House in Flushing.

“BEACON is a public artwork designed to illuminate its immediate surroundings with light based on one’s proximity and direct interaction with the structure,” Neckles said. “Metaphorically, it’s about illuminating truth, illuminating one’s existence, and illuminating the life and contributions of pioneer American inventor Lewis Howard Latimer. Like Latimer, many of us have had to affirm our existence by telling our own stories as a way of offering new perspectives on our lived experiences. I’m thrilled to partner with Beam Center and their fellows to collectively reexamine our local history and put into context the meaningful impact of Latimer’s legacy on our everyday lives.”

Latimer was an African American inventor, electric engineer and son of runaway slaves in the late 1800s who worked with three of the greatest scientific inventors in American history, Alexander Graham Bell, Hiram S. Maxim and Thomas Alva Edison. He played a critical role in the development of the telephone, and invented the carbon filament, and a significant improvement in the production of the incandescent light bulb.

Latimer moved into his Flushing home, in 1903 and lived there until he died in 1928.

“BEACON so vividly symbolizes Lewis Latimer’s historical legacy,” Lewis Latimer House Museum Executive Director Ran Yan said. “It is critical to have BEACON installed here at the Lewis Latimer House Museum and open for public viewing during the transition of COVID and in anticipation of the museum’s reopening. It sheds light on our resilient nature and the hope for a brighter future for us all.”

Beam Center Fellows who worked on BEACON are young adults from across the city recruited from NYC Human Resources Administration’s Youth Services. Over the course of their fellowship, Beam Fellows collaborated to weld, solder LED circuits, cast cement and polymer, follow precise project renderings and realize BEACON from the ground up.

“We’ve always thought that young people, for their futures, required authentic experiences of collaboration,” Beam Center Executive Director Brian Cohen said. “When we saw Shervone’s proposal, we were fascinated to learn that Lewis Latimer’s love of drawing was the catalyst for all the greatness he achieved in life. At Beam, we believe one’s interest can form the core of a career and continued learning. We’re here to help young people believe in their own capacity and ideas, and to use their interests as springboards for innovation in whatever direction they decide to go.”

BEACON was made possible with support from ConEdison, National Endowment of the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Mayor’s Grant for Cultural Impact, and Human Resources Administration.

The Lewis Latimer House Museum is located at 34-41 137th St. in Flushing.

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