VIDEO: VILLAGE TOURISTS, DOWNTOWN ART

This charming short documentary from 1960, narrated by the late great Jean Shepherd, provides a now-historic yet evergreen look at the Village, Home of Artists ‘N’ Beatniks, as it was perceived to be — not least, by Village businesspeople. You would never know, however, that there had been since the 1910s a sizable gay and lesbian population in the Village (many of whom preferred to go unnoticed in those pre-Stonewall days); that the South Village was still predominantly Italian (most of whom were gentrified out by New York University and others in later years); and that not every working artist showed his or her work every weekend in Washington Square.

(Photo by Danny Lyons, The Destruction of Lower Manhattan; loft on Washington Street demolished in the mid-60s for the World Trade Center).

From the 1940s through the 1970s artists did their work in spaces much similar to the one depicted above. The places were rougher, the rents much cheaper, even if the neighborhoods often left considerable to be desired. A full ground floor loft on Greene Street, near Grand, in 1971, could be rented for $250 a month, and there were much cheaper spaces than that across downtown Manhattan: in former factories in the one-time Hell’s Hundred Acres, the neighborhood now known as Soho, through which the Lower Manhattan Expressway was planned to be built for over thirty years (and which would have eliminated the neighborhood almost in its entirety; throughout the East Village, and the Lower East Side, living side by side with ancient immigrants, gangs, and junkies; and in and around the food wholesale district in what was called the Lower West Side, the surviving part of which is now known as Tribeca.

Prior to founding Black Mask and Up Against the Wall Motherfucker, Ben Morea was active as an abstract painter in New York, working on paper as well as canvas. While all the work was thought to be lost (the work on paper still is), five large canvases were located under a bed in Hell’s Kitchen. (Trust us: stranger things have happened.) These amazing, original artworks will be on exhibit at Boo-Hooray from June 19 to August 1 — we’ll see you here