For as long as I can remember, the Lower East Side has always been a hotbed for creative minds, even during the dark (some would say glorious, but that is debatable) days of squats and heroin addicts. Even with the recent gentrification and the consequent transformation of the neighborhood into a destination for boutique restaurants and shops, there is still a strong artistic movement among locals who have somehow thrived in spite of the escalating rental prices. And with the economy going down the tubes, they might be having the last laugh.
For the 14th consecutive year, the Theater for The New City presents its annual Lower East Side Arts Festival, a multimedia event that includes theatrical events, concerts and visual arts, including a collective exhibit by 46 neighborhood artists curated by Loisaida Artists Collective founder Carolyn Ratcliffe, who personally selected the different pieces in the show, which will be open until June 30.
As expected in a collective of this magnitude, the styles of the works shown here vary greatly, ranging from photography and sculpture to abstract and concrete paintings portraits and beyond. Two examples of these are a mural by TFANC resident artist Jeanete Arnoni-K (pictured) that she describes as “a permanent work in progress” and a dinosaur painted on a discarded guitar case by Mike Rimbaud, who doubles as an independent musician and painter, which the artists says represents the marriage between his musical and artistic sides.
According to Ratcliffe, the selection process was quite informal—the criteria was “basically that you lived or worked on the Lower East Side,” she explains.
Many of the artists have yet to make their break into the arts world, and Ratcliffe has been instrumental in trying to make it happen via various similar exhibits done over the years in her neighborhood.
Choosing what to show wasn’t hard, either. “Artists were asked to submit three images, and I picked two out of three of them,” she says. “The artists whom I’ve worked with for a long time… I know their work, since I’ve been showing them since 1995 and the people from the Theater for The New City have their own group of artists who they have shown.”
According to Ratcliffe, many of the works showcased in the room are for sale by the artists, although some artists preferred not to mention it. “Not all the artists wanted to sell their work,” she says. “Morena [Saenz] said she didn’t have a price that she could name for her painting La Luna, George [Smol] said that if he sold it he would have a quote, but he has listed it as not for sale—it just depended on the artist.
>Through June 30, Theater for The New City Gallery, 155 1st Ave. (betw. E. 8th & E. 9th Sts.), 212-254-1109; Sunday through Wednesday from 3 to 5; Thursday through Saturday from 5 to 7, FREE