It's likely that, in the last few weeks, you've seen Legacy Russell sitting with her typewriter in Tompkins Square Park or outside St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery.
The artist has been transcribing people's memories of the East Village and Lower East Side as part of her Trust Art project, Open Ceremony.
Per the news release, the project is broken up into four "rites," each aiming to experiment with a different facet of public worship and remembrance as inspired by those rapidly changing neighborhoods.
The first of the four, Rite of Remembrance: Memory Transcription, brought Russell to Tompkins Square Park, Sarah Roosevelt Park, and St. Mark's Church with a table, two chairs and a typewriter, asking residents both old and new: "What memories do you have of living in this neighborhood?" (Sample response! "I remember paying 80 dollars a month in rent. Now THAT is rent control.")
Russell will be out today in Tompkins Square Park from 3-7 p.m.
I asked her what inspired her to do this.
"I am born and raised in the neighborhood and as an artist so much of my own history and so much of what I am today is in many thanks to the creative climate of the East Village," she said. "Living in the Lower East Side now, I am curious to come to a better understanding of what the current climate is in the area — who my neighbors are, how people are processing these changes (mourning the losses, feeling a sense of anticipation about what's to come, etc.), how folks arrived at this site, why people choose to leave, why people choose to stay or move here, and so forth."
And how does she think the first phase of the project has gone so far?
"The project thus far has surpassed my wildest expectations in its reception — people have been lining up to share their stories, have emailed me, have reached out with a real readiness to discuss how they feel about the East Village and Lower East Side as two sites undergoing major shifts," she said. "Acting as a 'native stenographer,' I want to be sure to reach as many people as possible, in the interest of making sure that as many of these personal narratives and histories are chronicled."
She posts some of the memories @OpenCeremony. And on Facebook. For more on the project, go here.