Category Archives: Visual Art

FAB Interviews: Miguel Trelles, Studio Artist at the Clemente

In our Member of the Month series, we celebrate different organizations in our community every month. This month’s highlighted member is the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, better known as the Clemente. Throughout the month, we will be investigating the center’s long history, its founders, and its current residents.

The Clemente houses many artists of many different practices, most of which have been in the building for a long while. FAB spoke with painter Miguel Trelles for his history with the building, along with his take of the evolution of the Clemente and the Lower East Side.

Miguel Trelles: I’m a visual artist from Puerto Rico. I’ve been based in New York since 1992. I started off in Williamsburg, then arrived to the east village in 1995, and then got into this studio in the Lower East Side…so it’s been real. A lot of neighborhood changes, a lot of exhibitions, here and abroad…I’ve always staged them here, and I’ve always been involved with this building through everything. The good, the bad, the ugly.

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Photo by Patrick Jaojoco

What’s your relationship with the Clemente? How long have you been in the building?

I’m a resident visual artist here, and I’m the secretary of the board of directors. I’m also the chair of the programming committee for the gallery and the visual arts. So I wear three hats. the one that I hold most dear, of course, is my residency as a visual artist, and because I believe in participation and civic engagement, I’ve participated in influencing – hopefully for the better – in taking the Clemente forward, to serve its mission, to serve its community, and to serve the resident visual artists here.

What have you seen the building do for the community?

The building is almost like a weathervane: it channels cultural lightning, and thanks particularly to one resident group, called the Sociedad Educativa de las Artes – otherwise known as SEA – the building has provided a couple of signature events over the last 10 years. Most notably, the Borimix festival, which I am a cofounder of, along with Manuel Moran, the head of the SEA’s children’s bilingual puppet theater company. [During the festival] we mix Puerto Rican culture with everything. So we put out a call on a Puerto Rican topic, and we invite artists at large to join us…so it’s not just Puerto Rico, or Puerto Ricans, and that germ opens up. And because there’s been a big Puerto Rican community here, over the years, we’ve been able to draw some of them in. The other signature event is Three Kings Day. And we’ve broken through the ethnic barriers and it’s not just Puerto Rican and Dominican kids. So now you have Asian kids, because there’s a very strong Chinese community and growing, and Bengalis on Orchard Street…

We also have Open Studios, which comes form the visual artists in the building. Community is starting to come in, but sometimes its not the kind of thing that attracts them. But more and more are coming, and the broader New York community and the artistic community has always come to that. I remember the open studios from 1996, the year I came here was the year it started.

It seems that the artists and performers work together for the community in addition to practicing their art. When and how did that come about?

Maybe 2005 on or so, there’s been an increasing ecumenical feeling in the building. We’re doing a show of installations throughout the building right now [There Will Be Art Here, curated by resident artist Sarah Beatty]. And the visual arts gallery has taken on many shows, but also given the internal artists more play, so theres more of that feeling of collaboration, and it makes a huge difference.

One of the beautiful things about the Clemente is the residents, the community. Even though people come and go, we’re opening a swath of studios that are going to be rotating. The wonderful thing about this is, yes, we’ve grown to be civil, we understand the mission of the Clemente, we understand that we have a civic responsibility with the surrounding community, whether they’re art-savvy or not.

But we also treasure our disagreements. We’re all artists, we’re all different once you close the door. You know, there are some people who need silence or whatever, but as long as those things are verbalized in an elegant way, and doesn’t transcend into bad blood, I think that’s the beautiful thing. We’re not a football team, we’re not touchy feely, there are people here I love, there are people here I don’t care about. But we’re like any other building in New York City. We’re together in this, theres a modicum of commonality that we have to espouse and treasure, but we do differ. And I think that adds a bit of richness to the endeavour.

Can you talk about your studio practice, and if its been influenced by the building?

I’m a painter. I’m an old-fashioned painter on canvas or wood, I also do printmaking, so for a visual artist of my medium, permanence and stability are very important. I was extremely lucky, thanks to this visionary Ed Vega. When I left grad school, I had no idea what I was walking into. My mother, who was a journalist, interviewed Vega for a book she was doing on Puerto Rican artists. She said there’s a building you should check out, and in any case…so I went to hunter, came out, met Ed Vega, and it was just like, a handshake and you’re in.

Image sourced from MiguelTrelles.com

Image sourced from MiguelTrelles.com

Some people here close the door, don’t want to talk, and I totally respect that, but sometimes I say what is this circus? It’s people coming in with dogs, people having a conversation about Beckett, people doing things I don’t want to go on record with…you know, to me that’s always been what i wish and what I work for in terms of the Clemente. It’s distracting, and maybe disruptive to the creative aspect of the process, but I fancy myself as a very fortunate visual artist because even though I pay my dues, etc., the big project is the building. Sometimes you have to interrupt the very remarkable and selfish process of individual creation for the also very remarkable and completely collective process of the building, and with the outside world.

There Will Be Art Here, an exhibition of installations around the building, is up now. Is that the first time that something like that’s been up?

We’ve had theater, which was great because we convened and they took us around the building, and we’ve had impromptu exhibits and open studios, but I think this is the most organized and well thought out exhibition. The most exciting thing is that it’s one of our revolving studio artists. Sarah Beatty is bringing in some outsiders, but also some old-time Clemente residents, so I think it shows the Clemente’s evolution, and its remarkable impact on people coming through here. People that won’t become permanent residents but will leave a permanent mark in terms of the new things they bring to bear. So its old and new.

The building is like an organism, man. It takes people in, but it also chews and spits people out…we’ve had permanent residents all along, but there was also this sense that anything could happen here any time, you know. Furniture would appear in the halls, you’d find a hall full of people smoking pot late at night, there was a crazy bar downstairs that we had to eject…I am very conflicted about that, because we’re artists. This is New York. We can’t be totally cut and clean and everything, but of course, if we don’t handle that correctly, we’ll be out the door tomorrow. But still, you lose some of the whimsy, the wildness, so it’s hard to preserve some of the wildness when you go institutional.

This is obviously a rapidly changing neighborhood, and a bastion of hope is this preserved cultural center. But you also talk about innovation, with some new folks invested in injecting life back into it. Do you see that in the neighborhood?

In terms of the lay of the land, there is such a thing as rent control – thank God – and we still have plenty of families making a living. Some of them are choosing to go because you get tired of people waving money in your face, and the truth is there has been an erosion of permanence.

But there is a silver lining. Some of the new people coming in couldn’t care less about the community, but some of them are also remarkable people that want to set up roots, or they want to deal with youth, or other people, or across intergenerational spans. Some of them are coming here. Depending on the socioeconomic/educational factor, they might be primed to check out arts, and some of them are also highly aware of the process of displacement that they themselves are a part of.

There’s also the remarkable influx of Chinatown coming in, which is very exciting. My work is called Chino-Latino, so for me, the mix of Asian and Latin is a new frontier all across the board. It’s two frontiers that have not yet gotten total exposure to each other.

Image sourced from MiguelTrelles.com

Image sourced from MiguelTrelles.com

Are you hopeful about the neighborhood?

I always am. Because it’s living tissue, you know. When the economy’s really good, more gentrification happens. The economy is not so good. I don’t wish that on anybody, but this real estate could contract. Some of the restaurants around here that are a little too high priced are closing down, so maybe the landlords will feel more sensible, and rent to a little fritter joint or something…what I’ve lost in my tenancy in the Lower East Side is the people in the street. That’s life. That’s New York.

Edits have been made for clarity and brevity.

FAB Minute: The Color of Summer

In our Member of the Month series, we celebrate different organizations in our community every month. This month’s highlighted member is the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, better known as the Clemente. Throughout the month, we will be investigating the center’s long history, its founders, and its current residents. 

Closing tonight at the Clemente, the Color of Summer brings French artist Thomas Henriot to various galleries around the world. This exhibition will travel from USA to ASIA, commencing from NewYork this January then in Miami, Mumbai, Dhaka, Chittagong and Singapore, through a collaboration between Celine Moine Gallery (France), Basu Foundation for the Arts (India) & the Clemente.

We spoke with Thomas Henriot and Celine Moine about the exhibition in a FAB Minute:

About twenty drawings exhibited at the Clemente by Celine Moine Gallery (Lyon, France) reproduce, word for word, articles from the main newspapers in Havana, Granma and La Tribuna de la Habana, and appear as testimonies of present and past times. Some ink on Japan paper’s drawings are 25 meters long.

Image courtesy of Celine Moine Gallery

Image courtesy of Celine Moine Gallery

Other drawings in the exhibition reflect New York’s urban landscapes, landscapes whose architecture conveys as much symbolism about New York as do the stories and images exposed in Cuba’s newspapers. Finally, ten drawings, realized in the artist’s studios in New York and Havana instead of the streets, represent hundreds of flowers punctuated by symbolic images, and hundreds of photographs, which are also offerings – ofrendas – to the passage of time.

Image courtesy of Celine Moine Gallery

Image courtesy of Celine Moine Gallery

The Color of Summer closes tonight at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, 2nd floor.

The Stories of FABLES: Miguel Trelles & Juan Fernando Morales-Nazario

After four months of exhibitions and public programs for Fourth Arts Block‘s latest public art series FABLES, the project will come to a close this month. Fourth Arts Block opened FABLES: a public art project to coincide with the first annual Lower East Side History Month in May 2014, to celebrate the beauty of our neighborhood, its community, and all the stories that pulse through its streets.

Though we are saying goodbye to the physical manifestations of these projects, we are very excited to share in-depth interviews from each of the artists involved in FABLES, and explore their cultural heritage and relationship to the ever-evolving Lower East Side.

To start things off, we have Miguel Trelles of “Posters on the Wall: Our Nuyorican Story,” a carefully curated presentation of Nuyorican Posters from the Center for Puerto Rican Studies‘ extensive image archive, with prints dated from the 1960s through the 1990s. In partnership with artist Juan Fernando Morales-Nazario, Trelles and Morales-Nazario toyed with the notion of a show within a show for this First Street Green Park exhibit.


Can you give some background into your work with Centro (Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College) and how the Posters on the Wall project came to be?

Back 1993 or so, as I was working towards an M.F.A. @ Hunter College, I became involved with the Wexler Collection of Puerto Rican prints at the Wexler Library. I volunteered and subsequently was paid to create a catalog for the collection, with an emphasis on Puerto Rican printmakers from the Island. It was on again, off again and then I graduated in 1995. It was a long and winding road until 2007, when as an adjunct for the Art Department at Hunter I was given the opportunity to curate an exhibiton of the Wexler Library Collection of prints for the Leubsdorf Gallery. The project came full circle and a modest but handsome catalog was produced. Centro, who has a library that has been my go to for many personal art projects (especially prints), and whose Journal I have followed throughout the years commended me on this Wexler effort and subsequently asked invited me to study their collection of Puerto Rican prints, with an emphasis on Puerto Rican printmakers from New York and the diaspora. The aim is to produce another catalog where I can delve into this fascinating subject.

"Posters on the Wall: Our Nuyorican Story" at First Street Green Park

“Posters on the Wall: Our Nuyorican Story” at First Street Green Park

What was your intention to allow the public to add their own artistic statements to your installation at First Street Green?

As visual artists we are cognizant of everyone’s artistic potential and we believe certain projects such as this, are enriched by public participation. Besides FABLES has set a very high (but constructive and fun) bar in public art projects that dynamize the Lower East Side and its rich heritage.

Do you have future plans for Posters on the Wall and the conversation it’s been fostering?

I definitely think the FABLES forum has paved the way for me to revise the essay I have been working in for the past year so that the catalog can be designed and printed sooner rather than later. Additionally there has been some interest in turning this into a traveling exhibition that after Centro, The Clemente Soto Velez Center, and FABLES, can visit university galleries especially in the North East.

How have some of the artists behind the posters responded to the project?

They have been supportive and seem amused that these time/place specific “notices” can be reactivated in different contexts thanks to the prescience of the Centro archives in collecting them. 

Have you received any interesting feedback on the installation at First Street Green?

My favorite feedback was an email forwarded by FABLES where a very concerned neighbor expressed dismay at the posters (in this case reproductions) where getting pummeled by the elements! More often the feedback came from Puerto Rican residents who had a “Proust” moment. It was also very pleasant to be warmly encouraged by the broader LES community at large who felt the project provided a fascinating glimpse at the travails, concerns and accomplishments of a community that neighbored their own or that they felt close to in some way or another. In other cases, and this was very gratifying, others expressed their excitement at becoming acquainted, for the first time, with our Nuyorican aesthetic. 

pano2

What was the initial draw to applying for this project? How did you hear about it?

After premiering at Centro in 2013, Posters on the Wall was featured as the 2013 Borimix visual arts exhibition at the Clemente Soto Velez Center. The people at FABLES, Tamara and Keith, were then instrumental in inviting Juan Fe and myself to apply for the FABLES 2014 public art venues.

When you came across the application, did you have a pre-existing idea in mind or did the open call inspire a wholly new work?

Both. We were very prepared because Juan Fe Morales had carried out what I consider to be a highly attractive exhibition design. And yet the open call, the potential for outdoor site specificity, the highly contagious and supportive energy of Keith and Tamara (and the whole FABLES crew) and the glorious early summer hanging all contributed to infuse this iteration of Posters on the Wall with a unique appeal. A certain enchanting quality is best transmitted when the public at large, especially our Loisaida folks, decides to pay attention and interact with a project. . .

Was this your first public art project? Did the framework of “public art” change your approach in any way?

I truly think this was a first for me. I have done murals and have been involved in a remarkable NYC Loisaida Cultural Center atmosphere (the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center) since 1995. And yet, this project gave me the unique opportunity to project my scholarship and admiration for the Nuyorican aesthetic into the public arena in a way that made it so much more meaningful to me and, apparently, to other folks as well. And also, the curatorial process shared with Juan Fe, a fellow artist, a curator colleague and a friend, became ever more seamless.

Can you give us a quick glimpse into the inspiration behind this piece?

The remarkable opportunity to experience past “public” art (the poster) in a new context and a new era. We soon discovered that Nuyorican artists crafted prints/offsets that have withstood the test of time and still call a passerby’s attention. Our community and NYC has a collective memory that registered many of these icons so that they endure, and this art with a documentary purpose (the sublime poster), is much more fascinating for its dynamic mix of historical information and artistic means.

What was it like working on your location? Did the history or current use of your specific location have any influence on your project?

Working at the park was a blast. Shade and breeze in the sun thanks to the trees, people hanging out checked out the hanging, passerby’s commented, we had some loved ones get enthused helping us. . . It felt kind of like being Tom Sawyer painting that fence. . . Others wanted to join and whether physically or emotionally they did. Of course the location meant a lot to me. The Lower East Side/Williamsburg frontier has been a destination of the Puerto Rican NY diaspora since before the mid 20th century, when it became a true bulwark, along with El Barrio and The Bronx . Besides, Loisaida became a unique cultural epicenter thanks to Miguel Algarin, Pedro Pietri, Mickey Pinero, Bimbo Rivas, Jorge Brandon, Lucky Cienfuegos, Papoleto Melendez, Sandria Maria Esteves and many other Nuyorican poets that afforded the community a source of pride in good times and through bleak years as well.

Silkscreen print of one of the "Posters on the Wall" for a show at the Teatro de Orilla. Title translates to "Does this train stop at Delancey?"

Silkscreen print from “Posters on the Wall.” Title translates to “Does this train stop at Delancey?” performed at Teatro de Orilla (214 E 2nd St.) in 1972.

How would you describe your relationship to the Lower East Side? How did it permeate into your work for this project?

It has been a love affair full of bliss. “Storm and stress” and also some form of civic commitment, enchantment, disenchantment, re-enchantment and more commitment. In short, it has been wonderful. These days, when things are good (and I arrived here late, in the mid 1990′s when things were improving but latinos were finding it increasingly hard to stay, definitely diminishing the neighborhood’s real life vibrancy) it seems difficult to imagine the epic struggle of so many to survive and even improve the neighborhood around them. I feel humbled by their efforts and encouraged to advocate a neighborhood where all kinds of folks from all walks of life can share–and if not to actively help each other, at least respect and celebrate the differences. Allow me to quote Bimbo Rivas “Loisaida” (1974)

. . .una mezcla, la perfecta

una gente bien decente
de to ‘as rasas
que estiman
que te adoran
que no saben explicar
lo que le pasa
cuando ausente de
tus calles peligrosas

si te aman
A ti, mi hermosa Loisaida

O what a town…..

even with your drug-infested
pocket parks, playgrounds
where our young bloods
hang around
waiting, hoping that
one day when they too
get well and smile again
your love is all
they need to come around.
Loisaida, I love you.
Your buildings are
burning up
that we got to stop.

Loisaida, my love,
Te amo.

How has this project inspired or fostered ideas about how to integrate your community and history into future work?

How to integrate the NY, Loisaida and especially the whole Latino/Puerto Rican family into art and culture projects is perhaps the best way to describe the mission of the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center, where I have the privilege of working as an artist, programming exhibitions and serving on the board. Thanks to the Puerto Rican/Latino performers and artists in the centers as well as the many other artists that work there we are constantly looking for and finding new ways to bring Latino/Puerto Ricans into contact with all kinds of art and theater (FringeNYC, Cutlog, etc.) and all kinds of people to experience Latino/Puerto Ricans art and theater (Borimix, Open Studios, etc.).

Curators/Artists Miguel Trelles (left) & Juan Fernando Morales

Curators/Artists Miguel Trelles (left) & Juan Fernando Morales

 

What are your thoughts on the current state of the LES? Hopes, dreams, fears, hesitations? 

As with many historic neighborhoods what has been gained in safety, security and general quality of life improvements has often represented a loss of diversity due to growing unaffordability. Whereas this trend has been both good and bad, it sometimes appears as if Bimbo’s dream will remain unreachable to the children and grandchildren of the people that worked to make it happen. For now, the greatest hope is that new developments consider the plight of former longstanding residents forced to evacuate, but that we don’t shoo away newcomers either, so that young artists and recent arrivals can find a spot and that we develop job opportunities beyond bartending.

Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

Borimix Puerto Rico Fest 2014 is around the corner. The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center has hosted this festival Manuel Moran and I have worked on for almost a decade. Produced by Sociedad Educativa de las Artes (SEA), the Festival opens in November and includes theater, music, art etc., seeking to mix in Puerto Rican culture and artists with the New York matrix. We showed Posters on the Wall here in 2013 and this year we will hang a group show, Aquous Fervor, of work allusive to water and its imagery in the poetry of Julia de Burgos. Please join us.

Tour de FABLES

If you’ve walked around the East Village recently, you may have noticed some of its walls covered in abstract layouts of Yiddish theaters, faces of famous women, posters designed by Puerto Rican artists, plates full of food, and the architecture of old New York. You may not have known that each of these pieces celebrates the Lower East Side (LES) through a project titled FABLES, a public art series presented by Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc) that explores different elements of LES history.

On a Tuesday evening in July, FABnyc’s Director of Public Art, Keith Schweitzer, led a walking tour of the FABLES projects, which were created by five artists and artist teams. Keith explained that each of the artists has a personal connection to the LES, whether it’s their birthplace, their place of work, or they have family roots here. The artists were selected in late 2013 from about 200 submissions by a four-person jury and were judged based on their concepts, connections to the neighborhood, and on samples of their previous work. “Feasibility was another criterion,” Keith admitted. “Some of the ten semifinalists didn’t make the cut because their projects weren’t practical given what we were capable of providing.”

The tour began at City Lore, where Tamara Gayer’s hand-cut vinyl depictions of Yiddish theater marquees grace the glass front of the gallery. Her project, which also includes a similar design outside Italian eatery and bar, L’Apicio, is titled Who Needs Honey When Sugar is Sweet (a name taken from a 1930s Yiddish play). Gayer, whose family lived on the LES, worked with commercial-grade vinyl and based her images on her own abstract illustrations of the marquees.

Gayer's mural outside City Lore.

Gayer’s mural outside City Lore.

Next, the group visited the Centre-Fuge site, which displayed a mural by Lexi Bella called Lower East Side Heroines. The mural features portraits of important, beloved female figures from the LES, like Rosario Dawson, Ellen Stewart (Founder and Director of La Mama), and even Bella’s own daughter, Roxy. For Bella, who has lived and worked on the LES, this project became very historically investigative during the months between being chosen to participate, and late April, when the mural went up. “This project,” explained Keith, “gave her the opportunity to delve deep” into the lives of these women through her paintings of them. Along the way, she learned about some of the figures she hadn’t known about before; most significantly, Stewart, who helped establish the neighborhood as a theatrical arts district and whose portrait became one of the most talked about images. The mural was also praised highly by Dawson, who visited it and was honored by Bella’s work. Those of us on the tour were lucky to see the mural then, because it was painted over the next day. However, Bella has created her own website to prolong the life of the piece, which can be found at http://www.lowereastsideheroines.com/.

Keith Schweitzer teaching the group about some of Bella's LES heroines, including Debbie Harry and the Russ daughters (Hattie, Ida, and Anne).

Keith Schweitzer teaching the group about some of Bella’s LES heroines, including Debbie Harry and the Russ daughters (Hattie, Ida, and Anne).

The tour then made its way to First Street Green, which hosts two of the FABLES projects, Posters on the Wall: Our Nuyorican Story and Feed Me a Story. Posters, a project curated by Miguel Trelles and Juan Fernando, is a collection of posters created by Puerto Rican artists in New York during the 60’s through the 80’s. This is the first time these posters, which have until now been housed in an archive at Hunter College, are being displayed publicly. During the decision process, there was a discussion about whether this project, as a curated work, was acceptable within the FABLES guidelines. Keith is certainly glad the jury decided to include it, and considers this project one of FABLES’s greatest success stories. “Here was an archive, a collection [of posters] that people have been accumulating,” said Keith, “and it was basically just sitting in a basement and the [artworks] weren’t on display.” The decision to breathe life into this project, Keith believes, is very much in the spirit of the way FABnyc serves as an incubator for the arts on the LES. This is certainly what happened with Posters, a project which will likely evolve into a book or public online archive. “We like to inspire a project to develop,” says Keith, “to be a launching pad, a testing ground.”

Some of the Nuyorican posters in First Street Green.

Some of the Nuyorican posters in First Street Green.

FABLES served as a launching pad for the next two stops on our tour, too. Feed Me a Story, a project by Theresa Loong and Laura Nova, is made up of eight photographs of different food dishes set on a red-and-white-checkered picnic tablecloth. The large images are bright and mouth-wateringly colorful, and each one is captioned with a person’s name and the name of the dish (e.g. “Mendy’s Cauliflower Latkes”). The foods are clearly ethnically distinct, and the whole display paints a striking portrait of the Lower East Side. Also on the mural is the title of the piece, along with the project’s website (www.feedmeastory.com). Going to the website one can find the recipes for each dish displayed, as well as a video of it being prepared by its cook. The cooks, who the artists worked with at the LES’s LaGuardia Senior Center, share stories of their families and heritages as they make their dishes.  It was exciting for everyone that “something talked about in a room in the senior center got shown to the public,” said Keith. The seniors who participated in the Feed Me project all came out to see it and had a potluck dinner on the site. “This is the first public iteration [of Feed Me a Story],” said Keith, but the project will continue to travel and grow from here.

The dishes of Feed Me a Story.

The dishes of Feed Me a Story.

The tour then made its way to Ideal Glass, an art collective on 2nd Street, where Levan Mindiashvili’s mural Ghost is on display. Painted on the wall are buildings with architectural elements no longer present on the LES, creating a window-like reflection of a much older New York. “[Because] this is the first time he’s done anything of this scale in public,” Keith said, Mindiashvili used smaller strips of paper that he painted in his studio and then pieced them together on the wall. As with Bella’s mural, Mindiashvili’s project “inspired an investigation,” with Mindiashvili working with the New York Public Library to research the old architecture of the LES. Though Mindiashvili’s work normally speaks about architecture, this was the first time he investigated the architecture of a specific neighborhood. Mindiashvili’s work in turn inspired another Ideal Glass artist, John Sully, to create a video response to his work. The video is shown starting at sundown on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, playing until about 11PM.

Mindiashvili's window-like mural outside Ideal Glass.

Mindiashvili’s window-like mural outside Ideal Glass.

We ended off our tour with drinks at L’Apicio, whose outer wall is housing the other part of Gayer’s project.  Reflecting on FABLES 2014, Keith is very pleased with the project, and proud of its results and of the opportunities it provided for the contributing artists. “We’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time,” said Keith, “but needed the proper funding and host locations.” Even once the project was planned, though, “there were a lot of unknowns, and a good amount of faith went into it.” The projects greatly evolved from the time the artists were selected to seeing the sketches, “… and the fruits of their work and watching it develop was thrilling.” Keith said the outcomes surprised everybody on the upside, but that “given the caliber of the artists that were selected, we had pretty strong confidence that they would do a great job.” The success of the project only makes it more likely that FABLES will continue in future years. “We would like to keep going,” said Keith, “and provide opportunities of this nature for other [artists] in our neighborhood.”

The Lo-Down on Feed Me a Story: A project of FABLES

Beginning in June, the fine folks over at hyper-local Lower East Side blog The Lo-Down began spotlighting the terrific work of multimedia artists Theresa Loong and Laura Nova, the two women behind FABLES project Feed Me a Story. A multi-year project, Feed Me a Story is a collection of stories, videos, drawings and photographs documenting the many aspects of a “family recipe.” The project initially began through SPARC (Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide), a New York City-funded program that connects artists with senior centers around the five boroughs to foster inspiration and meaningful relationships between both parties. During SPARC, Theresa and Laura interviewed residents about their most memorable dishes, then asking them to create the dish as they documented the process on film. Completed dishes were plated and photographed, and eventually constructed into what is now on view over at First Street Green. We encourage you to pop by, take a look at the eclectic selection of ethnic cuisine, and to explore their website www.feedmeastory.com for the histories behind each recipe.

For a quick preview of each, take a look at The Lo-Down’s coverage.

Announcing our Five Final Projects for FABLES 2014

After a competitive jury process, we have selected five finalists for the inaugural FABLES Public Art project! FABLES is a public art series produced by FABnyc to explore the Lower East Side’s living cultural heritage, rich historical legacies, and current issues in public storytelling through visual art. The five finalist artist/teams are: Lexi Bella, Tamara Gayer, Theresa Loong & Laura Nova, Levan Mindiashvili, Miguel Trelles & Juan Fernando Morales-Nazario. Semi-finalists also included Paul Brainard, Scott Simon, Greg Spielberg & Rich Tu, and Margaret Inga Wiatrowski.

FABLES artist Tamara Gayer's installation "Happiness is Easy" at Mixed Greens, NY in 2009

FABLES artist Tamara Gayer’s installation “Happiness is Easy” at Mixed Greens, NY in 2009

The first installation will open in April, with subsequent installations through August 2014, and will be a featured program of the inaugural Lower East Side History Month in May 2014. Each exhibition will be on view between one and three months at multiple locations in the neighborhood, including: Ideal Glass (East 2nd St, btw Bowery & 2nd Ave), First Street Green Park (corner of 2nd Ave & Houston St), Centre-Fuge (East 1st St, near 1st Avenue), and City Lore (56 East 1st Street).

Artists of the final projects have lived, worked, or have deep roots to the Lower East Side (LES), and have proposed pieces that draw on the stories and history of the LES and its residents. “The Lower East Side has one of the most diverse and rich cultural histories in New York City,” says Lexi Bella, an artist who will be focusing on notable, yet under recognized women of the LES. “It is my heart, my home, and the birthplace of my daughter. I am so excited to express, educate, and pay homage through my art to the great women who are the past and the future of my favorite part of NYC.”

Theresa Loong and Laura Nova met at the counter of Shopsin’s in the Essex Street Market. A restaurant known for its one of a kind chef and provocative philosophy on food, Theresa and Laura quickly connected on topics of digital media, food, and art. Feed Me a Story is the resulting collaboration, consisting of food stories gathered in part from their work at the LaGuardia Senior Center, shared with the public through visual and audio installations. “We are thrilled to be a part of the FABLES Exhibition. This project will enable us to shine a spotlight on senior citizens and reflect diverse tastes and traditions in the neighborhood.”

By applying sign vinyl directly to glass, artist Tamara Gayer is designing a new stained glass inspired storefront space on the windows of City Lore. The artist explains, “First Street between First and Second Avenue is a beautiful block, exemplary of the diversity and history that are still evident on the Lower East Side. It would be hard to find a more perfect ‘canvas’ than the windows of City Lore.”

Artistic team Miguel Trelles and Juan Fernando Morales-Nazario will bring a lively, Loisaida-centric variant of their exhibit Posters on the Wall, Our Nuyorican Story to actual walls in the neighborhood. According to the artists, the exhibit will revisit the striking and historical Nuyorican poster, “which lavishly illustrates the cosmopolitan sophistication of Puerto Rican artists in New York amalgamating traditional Puerto Rican culture with life and activism in the City.”

Levan Mindiashvili, whose project will investigate gentrification and its effects on architecture and sense of place, describes, “With the mural ‘Ghost’ I want to contribute to a raising awareness in the importance of historical heritage and outline the overwhelming expansion of gentrification and generalization in the contemporary world.”

Updates, progress and further information can be found by contacting FABLES@fabnyc.org or by visiting www.fabnyc.org/fables.php.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts/ Art Works and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in participation with The City Council. FABLES is presented in celebration of LES History month, the inaugural celebration of the rich and diverse history of the LES, taking place during May.

9 Semi-Finalists for FABLES

FABnyc announces 9 Semi-Finalists for FABLES Public Art Program

 FABnyc is pleased to announce these nine projects semi-finalist projects as selected by our jury:

Lexi Bella
Paul Brainard
Tamara Gayer
Theresa Loong & Laura Nova
Levan Mindiashvili
Simon Scott
Greg Spielberg & Rich Tu
Miguel Trelles, with Juan Fernando Morales-Nazario
Margaret Inga Wiatrowski

Finalists will be announced Monday, February 24th after consideration of additional information from the semi-finalist artists. FABnyc would like to thank all the applicants and our FABLES jurors: John Bowman, Molly Garfinkel, Legacy Russell, and Ethan Vogt.

photo © Jaime Rojo

“Adios Amigos” by Raul Ayala in the Extra Place Alley; Photo © Jaime Rojo, courtesy of BrooklynStreetArt.com

FABLES is a public art opportunity for artists to explore the Lower East Side’s living cultural heritage, rich historical legacies, and current issues in public storytelling through visual art. The first exhibition will launch in April 2014, with subsequent exhibitions opening monthly through August 2014. Each exhibition will be on view between one and three months.

 This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts/ Art Works and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in participation with The City Council.

Announcing “FABLES” – 2014 Public Art Project OPEN CALL / RFP

Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc) is pleased to announce “FABLES,” a public art opportunity for artists to explore the Lower East Side’s living cultural heritage, rich historical legacies, and current issues in public storytelling through visual art.

  • Four to five artists (or artist teams) will be selected through an open call process,by a panel of jurors, to produce murals located in outdoor sites throughout the Lower East Side neighborhood.
  • Project and artist selection will be based upon artistic quality, merit and appeal of content, connection to the community, feasibility of implementation, and contribution to public discourse.
  • Each selected artist will receive between $1,500 to $2,500 as a combined artist fee and production budget.
  • The first FABLES exhibition will launch in April 2014.
  • Each artwork will be exhibited for between 1 and 3 months, and will open within several weeks of each other, creating a 3-month period of sequential public exhibition launches.
Image Detail: Udom Surangsophon "Saints of the Lower East Side" with works by Tom Sanford; Curated by Keith Schweitzer & Presented by FABnyc

Image Detail: Udom Surangsophon
“Saints of the Lower East Side” with works by Tom Sanford; Curated by Keith Schweitzer & Presented by FABnyc

Applicant artists should live, work and/or have deep roots in the LES. Ideal applicants should be invested in a story collecting or investigative process that will delve deeply into the neighborhood’s legacy and/or current culture. Exhibits should contribute to community identity and sense of place, drawing on the stories of the LES and its residents. This may include memorable cultural experiences, local traditions and collaborations, vanished cultural traditions, new beginnings, or underground movements.

Artwork proposals can include: murals, collages, wheat pastes or other flat medium. In some cases, we would consider interactive new media or projections.

Applications are to be submitted by filling out the form provided at the following website.

Note: Feasibility (budgetary, logistical, and otherwise) and permitting requirements will be additional criteria by which proposals will be evaluated. Please be realistic with your proposals. Locations and details subject to change. Artists must be available to produce the exhibition on site during Spring/Summer 2014.

Timeline:
Submission Deadline: 12/13/2013 Extended to 1/2/14!
Finalists Announced:1/31/2014
Project Development: 2/2014-4/2014
Exhibition Period: 4/2014-07/2014

FABnyc Director:Tamara Greenfield
Public Art Director: Keith Schweitzer
Jurors: Legacy Russell, Ethan Vogt, John Bowman, Molly Garfinkel

Potential Locations:
Extra Place (East 1st St, btw Bowery & 2nd Ave)
Ideal Glass (East 2nd St, btw Bowery & 2nd Ave)
La MaMa Arcade (East 3rd St, btw Bowery & 2nd Ave)
First Street Green Park (corner of 2nd Ave & Houston St)
Centre-Fuge (East 1st St, near 1st Avenue)

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts/ Art Works. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in participation with The City Council.

More information and full Request for Proposals available here: http://fabnyc.org/images/FABLES-Request%20For%20Proposal.pdf

Load OUT! Lesson #2 from Fantasy Grandma

Halloween is tonight, and the holiday season is just around the corner. It’s a time for creativity (costumes, presents, parties!), but it’s also a time of massive consumption in our culture.

Do you know what that means? Lots, and lots, and lots of WASTE! Luckily, FABnyc had Myrtle J and Jane B of the band Fantasy Grandma explain some of the less commonly known recycling rules that will help us all cut down on the amount of waste we send to landfill….

Fantasy Grandma

Fantasy Grandma

In Load OUT! Lesson #1, we gave you some beginner recycling insights from Fantasy Grandma – but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Get the full scoop here:

If you’re curious and want to know more, come by our Load OUT! event on Nov. 2nd from 12-3PM and learn more recycling rules from our partner, GrowNYC! We’ll also be accepting donations of gently used materials at this event, so if you’d like to offload some of your “junk” for responsible reuse or recycling at Load OUT!, find out more HERE!

Load OUT! Lesson #1 from Fantasy Grandma

As you may know, FABnyc is a big supporter of sustainability and the arts. We’re always looking for ways to both increase sustainable best practices in our artistic community, and also to engage artists in developing new ways to facilitate sustainable behaviors.

So, in preparation for Load OUT! (11/2), our biannual recycling and reuse extravaganza, we had two super creative ladies from the band Fantasy Grandma explain some of NYC’s basic recycling rules.

Fantasy Grandma

If you think this is an easy task, think again. It’s certainly fitting that lesson #1 from the Fantasy Grandmas is DON’T automatically assume you know everything about what can and can’t be recycled…

The rules are more complicated than you might suspect, for a number of reasons that we won’t go into here; and if you’re someone who has moved to NYC from another state, like many of us at FABnyc, throw everything you think you know about recycling out the window.

For example, did you know that this is the first year in NYC that rigid plastics can be recycled? That’s right! You can now throw all your plastic cups, plastic toys, plastic anything… that’s rigid*. YAY!!!!

Fantasy Grandma elaborates…

If you’re curious and want to know more, come by our Load OUT! event on Nov. 2nd from 12-3PM and learn more recycling rules from our partner, GrowNYC.

*Previously, any plastic item without a “neck” had to be tossed into the trash. Gross, right?!