-- A Cyberspace Review Of The Arts

Volume 23.01
January 15, 2016

Minerva Moves

The old space....

64 Spring St.
The Old Space: photo by G. Fitch
The new space, outside:

293 Broome St., exterior
Outside the New Space: photo by G. Fitch
The new space, inside:

293 Broome St., interior
Inside the New Space: photo by G. Fitch
Last December, after 22 years of daily Life Drawing, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, Minerva Durham and her Spring Studio and all its artists and all that revolved around them were exiled from their basement quarters at 64 Spring Street in what is now behind the lines of Soho's Eastern Front.

With the Studio's exile, a certain kind of scene has passed away. There was something deliciously conspiratorial and mid-century about being hidden down in a grungy basement, sometimes invaded by fluids from the restaurant above, sometimes shaken by the subway below, carrying on work (play?) of which the busy, hastening world above had neither knowledge of nor, probably, the desire to understand.

But however quaint Spring Studio may have seemed, it has more importantly been a serious and successful project of unusual dimensions. It is itself a living work of art, one which produced art and artists and a community, one which happily contravened the transient and vacuous fashions of the present Art World. Not the market but the Muses have been its navigators.

Besides Life Drawing, on Sunday evenings the Studio often hosted parties and performances at which one might find anyone from local amateurs to professionals who perform regularly at Carnegie Hall. It served as well as a gallery, usually but not always for work done there or at least by those who attended.

In quieter times I suppose it might have gone on for a long time yet that way, but the laws of today's hot Real Estate intervened, and so in September Minerva was told that her lease would not be renewed, and that she had to leave by the end of the year. Some sort of high-register clothing store is planned for the site, in answer the dire shortage of rich people's clothing stores in Soho.

There is not much new or shocking in artists being kicked around or out in New York City, of course. Anyone involved the actual, art-making business of art is likely to know many people who have been pushed out of Manhattan, out of the city and state, even out of the country, driven by the gentrification blitzkrieg of the last twenty years or so. It was, though, somewhat ironical in that the present kickers-out derive from what was once an artists' cooperative, and Minerva had been encouraged to start her studio there by the cooperative's original organizer, Virginia Admiral.

In any event, Minerva's work of art is in no way finished or dead. Once the doom of 64 Spring Street had been pronounced, with some effort a new place -- 293 Broome Street -- was found, rented, and renovated by Minerva and many who contributed labor, thought, or money to continue her enterprise. It is, as one commenter has noted, a step up, or rather three steps up, into an above-ground storefront which affords about the same drawing space plus some daylight. It hosted a jammed New Year's Day party on January 1, and regular operations began on January 3, a little more than two weeks after the last drawing session at 64 Spring Street. Onward, then, into the future....

'À l'aurore, armés d'une ardente patience, nous entrerons aux splendides villes.'

Some other views....

Elie in The Bowery Boogie

Daniel Maidman in The Huffington Post

James Barron in The New York Times

text and photographs by Gordon Fitch, 2016



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January 15, 2016