About a month ago I heard from Eileen Kaminsky that T Salon, Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation (ESKFF), ESKFF Nest, Blick and House of Yes were helping to support a group of Artists who were going into SoHo to paint over the plywood boards on the windows and doors of buildings that had been covered over because of the looting that had caused so much damage in that community. I lived in SoHo for many years and I remember the time when I first went to a performance at the first space of The Open Center which used to be on Spring Street if my memory is correct. A dancer friend in college had invited me to an evening of meditational music, a happening of sorts where after we walked in the door and climbed what seemed like interminable stairs that went straight up, we found ourselves in a room that was filled with all kinds of music-making apparatus, gongs and drums from many different cultures and traditions, flutes, harps, and a variety of different types of stringed instruments and bells. During the course of the evening the performer moved through the room, touching this instrument then that, ringing a bell, touching a wind chime, plucking a string, tapping a drum. It was mesmerizing and very beautiful, but the thing that I remember most about that night is how dark it was in that part of town and how desolate. There was absolutely no hustle and bustle and only a rare streetlight that seemed very dim.
By the time I moved to SoHo, there was definitely more life in it than on that first visit, but Tribeca was still fairly empty, especially on the weekends, and my neighborhood still had a feeling of space and breath and peace. Over the years that I lived there I started to see tour buses driving down West Broadway, and I used to joke with friends that I imagined them pointing to me as I carried my vintage woven bushel basket that I used for my laundry and saying, "Look, there's a resident doing her laundry!" And then all at once it started to become the SoHo of today, and the streets were fuller than full, especially on weekends and I didn't even like to walk down the street on a Saturday night because it was so crowded. But though many of the smaller shops and boutiques that I loved are gone, I still love SoHo and it feels like home when I walk through the streets where I used to live my every day life. When I see a familiar restaurant or shop, or even something new in one of my old favorite spaces, I remember the times I shared there with good friends, Artists and Writers, Actors, Designers, Chefs and Restaurateurs who I've known and worked with for years.
When I heard that the storefronts had been boarded up due to the looting and damage, it felt as if someone had ransacked my childhood neighborhood. This place where I had lived and loved and created and produced theater and art, where I had been inspired to live the life I live and do the work I do to this day, is a beautiful place to walk and explore and discover new ideas. To think of its stores and restaurants boarded up was in a way very difficult to imagine, because it made me wonder how joy and creative expression could ever come into that place again. I lived in SoHo during September 11, 2001, and in the weeks afterward I started the Downtown Revitalization Project to help bring art and commerce and community back to lower Manhattan. But though that time was a profoundly difficult one in so many ways for so many people, somehow the fact that we could still gather together as a community and support one another through art events and performances made everything seem a little bit easier to bear. In the time we are living in now when we haven't been able to gather in groups in any way that has felt like community, to have store fronts out of necessity be boarded up seems to separate us even more from the life that we once used to live.
And then I heard about Art2❤SoHo, a project developed by Artist and Filmmaker Maxi Cohen, Artist Bobbi Vann, and Miriam Novalle who founded the T Salon at Mercer and Prince under the Guggenheim in 1992. Miriam put out a call to Artists, inviting them into SoHo to paint over the boarded up buildings with messages, signs and images of love and hope. A core group included UNLOK Artist Gordon Kindlon, Stefanie Frank, and Gene Seidman from Harlem. Approximately 200 Artists painted in Soho beginning in the first week of June and included Artists living and working in Soho since the 1970's, their children and grandchildren, six year olds to seventy year olds, and New York based Artists from Egypt, Greece, China, Harlem, Brooklyn, and others who came from Boston, Long Island and New Jersey. Misha Heyman, founder of The Health Warrior Project, served a vegan lunch to the group that was comprised of people from every cultural background and faith tradition.
Rob Rinderman, a Strategic Marketing and Communications Consultant and Banker who I met at a design event in Manhattan and began to run into at a variety of other types of events I attend including the Jersey City Tech Meetups, had posted a video on his Instagram page and I'll share it here with his permission. I contacted him to ask if I could share it when I planned to write this post because that's one of the things that I love about the life I have lived for many years. It's always all about community and sharing resources. If you have that footage and share it with me, I'll incorporate it into my post and we'll be able to tell an even more beautiful story through our collaboration. When we create things from our hearts and share them, whether they be videos, blog posts, art on canvas, or art on plywood boards over buildings at a time of great upheaval and difficulty in the cities and neighborhoods we love, God promises he'll multiply whatever we have to give if we give it from our heart. In the words of the Artists' statement in their press release for the project, "Art2❤SoHo is a call to Artists to bring optimism, healing, and love to our world by painting messages of compassion and unity onto boarded up buildings, welcoming the change that's coming." Art heals, reclaims and rebuilds communities and lives, and this project will continue to inspire and live on. I've heard that there is the possibility of a show in the future as boards that had been painted were saved when they began to be taken down for the community businesses to re-open. I'm looking forward to seeing the show and celebrating this revitalization project and the community we all love.
Video Courtesy Of Rob Rinderman https://www.instagram.com/zentropa61/
A Few Selected Images
Courtesy Of Maxi Cohen and Miriam Novalle
From A Press Release
Forwarded To Me By Eileen Kaminsky
Artists Have Been Identified Where Known