Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village.

By James Maher
Name: Lauren Edmond
Occupation: Artist
Location: 9th Street and Avenue A
Date: 4 pm on Tuesday, July 8

I was born in Park Slope and I grew up on Long Island. I came to the East Village when I was 25 in 1977. Cheap rent brought me here. I’ve been an artist my whole life. I have been painting since I was 13. I came here so that I could not have to pay a large rent and just do odd jobs and paint as much as I can, and I’m still doing it 37 years later.

I was an oil painter for 30 years and then I got very toxic from the paint and searched around for another medium. I started painting on my computer in the mid 1990s and I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s been about 20 years that I’ve been painting using software and a Wacom tablet. Either I go completely abstract or I do landscapes of the neighborhood.

It was a slum here in 1977. It wasn’t like this at all. It was a completely different feel. There were a lot of Polish and Ukrainian restaurants. There were bars but there were no cutesy stores. There were interesting stores, clothing — second-hand clothing. There were people who did art and made little things. There were a lot of stores like that. They came and went, even then. There was not this proliferation of bars and cafes like there is now. There were a lot more divey places. It was a different economic time.

Uptown people still made money, but the people who lived uptown wouldn’t come here. They wouldn’t want to live here. I remember one Saturday night in 1978 in the summer. We sat across from the Grassroots and we could count on one hand how many people walked by in one night. I said to myself, Remember this, because it's probably not going to be this way forever, because here is this neighborhood that lies between Midtown and Downtown. How could it not be a big deal? How could it be lost and forgotten? How long could this go on?

It wasn’t until the mid-1980s when the wealthier people started coming here. By 1980 it started to change. We started to get on the map. People were having fun. We had a blast. It was just a lot less crowded. There was a lot of romance. It was very romantic for us young artists. We had a real fantasy thing doing on here.

I remember when we put together the East Village Eye in 1979. I was on the original staff of that and it was great. I got to work with a lot of very good people. The Eye was a newspaper that was devoted to the East Village scene — music, fashion, art. We kept up with politics, but it had a lot of fashion and style and scene, because there was a lot of scene and there was a lot more live music going on, not necessarily just in this neighborhood.

By the 1990s it really had completely changed and now it just keeps getting more so. It’s good and bad. It’s good because there’s more wealth and that’s not a bad thing. People of my generation think all wealth is bad. I don’t agree with that. Wealth is fine. It’s how you use it and what your values are. It’s a tool. Wealth for wealth’s sake can get out of hand, but it’s a tool.

Now they say the old East Village is done, but if you go to another neighborhood and come back here you realize that it is a lot more laid back here than any other place ... it’s got a different style to it here. It’s still the East Village. It’s still creative and it still draws creative people, although not only creative people. You can be creative and be into money. There are a lot of ways to be creative that don’t rely on just putting it on canvas.

James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.


Anonymous said...

Wow she's cute.


olympiasepiriot said...

Yea! Lauren!!

Anonymous said...

It's refreshing to read a positive, optimistic assessment of the n'hood ... and from someone with the cred to be listened to!

It's true, the E.V. still IS different. We have deep roots and resources that we can call on to keep our personality, rather than go corporate-boring like Chelsea -- which didn't have the same kind of people, roots and resources. (Not to down on Chelsea too much, and there are great activists there. But the EV's radical DNA can yet save it -- )

Anonymous said...

Woah, what an inspiring insight on the hood.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. This is being said by someone who obviously has rent control. You cannot live in the EV, "work odd jobs" and then spend most of your time painting with rents the way they are now. You have to hustle constantly. It's nice to hear about and remember the "romantic/artistic" East Village, but lets get real. No young (or any aged) artist/s can presently afford it.

Good for her though that she got in when it was cheap.

Anonymous said...

@Anon @ 4:19pm: I believe you are wrong in saying she "obviously has rent control."

She states she moved to the East Village in 1977.

From Wiki:
"To qualify for rent control [in NYC], a tenant must have been continuously living in an apartment since July 1, 1971."

So she was a few years too late for rent control.

Theoretically, rent control *could* still apply - but only to people living in buildings with fewer than 6 units (which describes almost ZERO of the housing in the East Village).

Everyone I know who IS still rent-controlled moved in during the 1960's.

Anonymous said...

Maybe she "bought".

moe said...

Clearly the poster meant rent stabilization, which is often referred to by the technically incorrect term rent control. Surely you realized this, no?

Anonymous said...

Yea but the point is still the same. She said it herself. Good for her. Maybe she bought but the bigger point is this is now a rich person place and the wealth is being used as a tool. Bloomberg used his wealth as a tool quite well and look at the results. She seems like a good person but artistic ev is over. Either you are flush with cash or you are struggling to get by. She is right about being creative with money. A new ev/NYC has been created. Just look around.

Anonymous said...

@moe: Uh, no, I didn't think the person who said "rent control" meant "rent stabilization" since they are two very different things, and most NY'ers know the difference. Therefore I took the commenter at their word, and the term used was "rent control."

moe said...

5:26, not to belabor but if as you say New Yorkers know the meaning of these terms, than why the exposition on rent control? For the benefit of our foreign readers, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

@moe: Ah, but you are belaboring the point!

I provided the SPECIFIC date after which no new rent-controlled apartments were leased merely as a fact, a fact that indicated why she could not have had rent-control.

I doubt many people would know that date off the top of their head (I certainly didn't). Is it a problem that I looked up the information & shared it, given that it was germane to the discussion?

Anonymous said...

Well could be for domestic readers- most Americans own and even if.the rented they wouldnt know what you mean. This isn't an issue when you can buy for 200k or rent a house for 800 but I digress

Anonymous said...

I for one was interested to learn what was up with rent control, as I live in a building where many people still have it, judging from the amounts ranging from $300 to $500 I see in the ledger when I pay my rent. thanks for the lesson!

moe said...

Wow a real gangbang unsolicited no doubt.

Those with questions regarding Rent Control and Rent Stabilization are advised to seek information on the sites detailing these laws, rather than from quoters of "wiki" on local blogs. Or by reading the actual legislation, not so dense as one might fear.

Or not!

Lauren Edmond said...

Hi everyone - Thanks to James Maher for his column and interview style of letting people speak. And thanks for the kind comments. To clear up the rent confusion, i have a rent stabilized lease. I earn a living writing. I have a blog (yes, i have read the EV Cynical comments about blogs!) yet, i have been writing online for 18 years and have developed and continue to develop my site, My painting gallery is online at: i continue to paint and have been showing in local community shows for the past 10 years. My intention is to give and share, and perhaps receive. Cheers! Lauren Edmond/EV NYC

Anonymous said...

Any local community shows coming up?

Lauren Edmond said...

Thanks for asking - not right now. the focus has shifted to immigrant artists. i have no plans to show at this time....