Wednesday, November 5, 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: Kim Kalesti
Occupation: Singer, Composer, Poet
Location: Avenue A, between 3rd and 4th
Time: 2 pm on Monday, Nov. 3

I was born in Pueblo, Colo., in the Rocky Mountains, and then I left when I was in high school. I came to New York in the early 1980s when I was in my early 20s. A friend visited me in another state and he was from New York and we ended up living together, getting married and having children together. My apartment was $70. I’m in the same apartment for 31 years.

I’m a composer, I’m a singer. I also write poems, do video poetry and write shows.

I was a professional when I was 5. My mother tells a story. She said we were in the park on a family picnic and there was a big band playing at the bandshell. I just came up to my mother and said, ‘I’m going to go sing with the band.’ She thought it was kind of funny. Then 10 minutes later I was onstage.

I came here and I had the pleasure of being blessed to sing with and to be influenced by all the great American composers and musicians in the jazz idiom. Earlier in my career, in the 1980s, I was singing with the greatest jazz musicians in the world … I was on the same stage with Joe Williams, Betty Carter, sang for Eartha Kitt, Abbey Lincoln, all of the majors who were around in those days. Lush Life was a club on Bleecker and Thompson Street on the corner. Everybody was around at that time. They were all the elderly masters of their generation. They were the creators of the music.

There were a lot more artists and a lot more creativity because it was affordable and so you would have these hubs of different types of artists. We were all working together, not separately. There were musicians and poets, performing artists and sculptors. You would gather and, because it wasn’t that expensive, you had a lot of time to be creative. You influenced each other. It was a wonderful time. It was dangerous here but at the same time it provided a hub of creativity. A lot of new ideas were born. People were writing their novels and opening up places and nurturing talent. There was just a lot going on in every genre of music and arts.

Now it’s kind of marketed like we’re supposed to be separate. That’s why I don’t really like to tell people what I do, because I don’t like to be pegged into one art form. Creativity expresses itself in a lot of different ways. I just recently recorded some choral work. I wrote some choral music and now I’m expanding my horizons. True artists, we’re a work in progress. There are artists who do make money. If you were never driven or had the opportunity — as they say, be in the right place at the right time, which they call luck — then artists have to devise a way to have their freedoms, and I’ve done that. We don’t shop, we don’t have credit cards, we don’t own things. That’s my system. I don’t own anything. I see the abundance and I live off the excessiveness of others and there are a lot of extra things.

I’ve been working on a project for nine years now. It’s called "Chemistry, the Living Museum." It’s based off my life experiences and my philosophy of living. I’m very connected with nature. I’m going to be performing this project soon. It has a whole choir, it has a band, dancers, aromatherapy and all kinds of things. Right now I’m putting together the group because the group not only has to play well but it also has to be in the right spiritual place.

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


Former East Villager said...

Thank you Grieve. What an inspirational piece! And life just shines through her to my screen from the beautiful photo.

I very much enjoyed her poem about the carousel, it made me smile. (Oddly, I once rode on a Piaf-playing carousel as an adult.)

I look forward to learning about her work in progress. It sounds amazing...! If circumstances allow, I'd love to experience it. (I live far away now; visit NYC perhaps twice a year.)

I also remember a time when all creative people sort of met, supported, and helped each other, no matter what form they chose to express. I was thinking that today's technology should make this easier. How did we do that then?! When I lived in the East Village, bands had demo tapes that were really tapes, labels pressed 7" records, music videos were shot on videocameras, and literary magazines were printed on dot matrix printers with color Xerox covers. And what I spent on film and developing...!

Thanks to technology, I can read this blog and learn about residents like Kim.

Anonymous said...

She sounds (and even looks!) a bit like an older, saner, wiser and more grounded version of Ellen Turrietta, as when she talks about seeing abundance, living off others' excess, and not owning anything. Anyway, great interview!

Anonymous said...

I feel like I'm a few years away from being just like her. Thanks for this inspiring piece, EVG!

Anonymous said...

She looks so young!

Not Taylor Swift said...

Artist: A person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as being a Diet Coke spokesperson or flitting about in Target commercials.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, positive, spirit through in the photo and interview! The EV needs you...the world needs you...

- East Villager