Friday, March 8, 2013

Gathering at 24 West 8th Street with No Longer Empty

Cup(s) of the Day #119
The view from #24
By Gwyneth Leech
India ink on upcycled paper coffee cups

For the last few weeks I have been spending a lot of time on West 8th street in Greenwich village.
Not long ago, when my teenage daughter wanted to buy new boots I sent her to this particular block between 5th and 6th to do some comparison shopping. When she came home she said, "there was nothing to see". Fickle youth. How could she fail to find what she wanted in the dozens of shoe stores on that block?

Window Drawing by Simonetta Moro
Ink on layered mylar

Now I know! All but two of those shoe stores are gone, fallen victim to new online shopping patterns and high rents, gone the way of the 8th Street record stores before them. It is still a mutli-faceted block laden with Greenwich Village history. The studio school continues to thrive at #8 West 8th. I like to think of the early days of the art salons in that house, where visitors perused Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's outstanding private art collection before it became a museum and moved uptown. And until recently, the Barnes and Noble on the corner of 6th and 8th was one of my regular destinations. However, I have to admit that I browsed more than I bought. I guess everyone else did the same, since the bookstore just closed also. In all, there are over 20 vacant shops along this one block and the local community is asking itself what will become of a once famous thoroughfare of culture and commerce?

Studying the view from #24

So what have I been doing down here? Why, sitting in the window of a vacant shop drawing on cups, of course. No Longer Empty, champion of the artistic potential of empty and history-laden real estate, has been granted the use of an unrented property at 24 West 8th Street where they have launched a new Curatorial Lab program. The result is Gathering Place, a month-long exhibition pulled together in record time by Katherine Gressel (Smack Mellon) and Jessica Whallen (MTA Arts in Transit) with a roster of 9 artists who have created spite specific installations referencing aspects of Greenwich Village history and future. Possible evolutions of 8th Street are a subtext.

Wall of Cups by Gwyneth Leech 2013
Mixed media on upcycled paper coffee cups, fishing line and magnets

The exhibition opened in late February with a terrific turn-out. Drawing on cups was a big hit and I am pleased to have put my collection of personally-collected coffee cup empties at the disposal of the public, young and old, who want to try their hand at drawing on a conical surface. For the next three weeks I will be there Friday, Saturday and Monday from 1-4pm. Take a walk around the Village, buy a cuppa from a coffee bar and then stop by with your empty to draw or donate the cup.  The show runs through Saturday March 23rd so don't miss this opportunity to see some fresh art and to join us in envisioning a new and revitalized future for a famous Greenwich Village artery.

 Cup drawing at the opening of "Gathering Place"
Use my cups or bring your own.

Gathering Place is located at 24 West 8th Street,
between 5th and 6th Avenues in Greenwich Village, NYC.
Open Friday - Monday 1-7pm

Luisa Caldwell / Rebecca Hackemann / Kristen Jones and Andrew Ginzel / Gwyneth Leech / Jennifer Maravillas / Simonetta Moro / Eleanor Ray / Ira Sachs / Micki Watanabe Spiller / Gail Thacker / Seldon Yuan

 Cup drawing at the opening of "Gathering Place"
Use my cups or bring your own. 
For more information about Gathering Place, the curators and artists click here.
For more about No Longer Empty programs click here.

A young artist at work