The old space....
The new space, outside:
The Old Space: photo by G. Fitch
The new space, inside:
Outside 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.
Inside the New Space: photo by G. Fitch
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
Maidman in The Huffington Post
James Barron in The New York Times