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East Village Activist History on Display at Loisaida – Greenich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Mother Earth by the Bread and Puppet Theatre was paraded in the streets of New York on the event of the third UN Special Session on Disarmament. Photography by David McReynolds, 1988.

Few places have made more significant contributions to civil rights and social justice struggles, artistic creativity, and freedom of expression than the East Village. Now more than ever, it’s important to remember and pay tribute to that history and to the lessons learned from it.  That is why it is important to take note of a just-opened exhibition called Activist Estates: A Radical History of Property in Loisaida. It’s an examination of participatory practices that illuminate the critical relationship between livable neighborhoods, real estate, architecture and activism…

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Activist Estates – Archtober 2019

An exhibition curated by the Architect/Historian Nandini Bagchee in partnership with Loisaida Inc. Center. The exhibit visualizes the narratives of a historic space-based activism via maps, models, photographs, pamphlets and posters.

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Graham Foundation Grant 2019

Windmill Power For City People, cover page of a brochure advocating for reusable energy as an urban future. Courtesy of UHAB.

Nandini Bagchee and Marlise Wise awarded a 2019 Graham Foundation grant for their exhibition curation of Homesteading and Cooperative Housing Movements in NYC, 1970s and 80s at Interference Archive.

Contemporary architectural discourse has primarily focused on commoning as a speculative project, rather than as a historical, spatial, practice developed by marginalized communities. Debates about social housing often focus on state-subsidized public housing, and commoning practices have largely been discussed as a theoretical position or an architectural imaginary, rather than as a tangible architecture with a history that can be studied, analyzed and built upon. The exhibition Homesteading and Cooperative Housing Movements in NYC, 1970s and 80s, tracks the impact of collective, self-organized practices such as squatting, homesteading, and resident mutual aid in New York City and examines the way in which they have shaped the city. By analyzing ownership models, construction methods, spatial techniques, and material practices deployed by the cooperative housing movement, and presenting them through an immersive and interactive environment, the exhibition asks audience members to imagine new models for equitable development and spatial commoning.

The Graham Foundation is pleased to announce the award of 63 new grants to individuals worldwide that support projects on architecture. Grantee projects represent diverse lines of inquiry engaging original ideas that advance our understanding of the designed environment. Selected from over 500 proposals, the funded projects include exhibitions, publications, films, and performances that promote rigorous scholarship, stimulate experimentation, and foster critical discourse in architecture. The individuals leading these projects are based in cities such as Ahmedabad, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cairo, London, Milan, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The innovative projects are led by eminent and emerging architects, artists, curators, filmmakers, historians, and photographers, among other professionals.

The new grantees join a worldwide network of individuals and organizations that the Graham Foundation has supported over the past 63 years. In that time, the Foundation has awarded more than 4,500 grants, and has become one of the most significant funders in the field of architecture.

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Radicals and Real Estate – Urban Omnibus

The façade of 339 Lafayette Street in 2014. Photo © Jade Doskow

When outrage seethes or injustices demand a response, people take to the streets. But the political activity that fills public space first emerges from between four walls. The buildings where meetings take place and plans are hashed out constitute the city’s crucial, yet “less visible domain of participation.” In the 1970s and 80s, a storefront art gallery in an old tenement building, a Puerto Rican community center in a former public school, and an office for antiwar activists all emerged as alternative institutions for communities ill-served by the city’s civic infrastructure. Vital spaces for building alternative futures, these buildings have also struggled to hold on to their claim on the increasingly valuable real estate of the Lower East Side. Architect Nandini Bagchee makes their hidden corners and far-reaching consequences visible through interviews, archival photographs, and her original maps and drawings in her new bookCounter Institution.

In this visual history adapted from Counter Institution, Bagchee describes the far-reaching political community that for almost half a century called 339 Lafayette Street home. A rundown, three-story building providing low-rent offices for social justice advocates was a central node for networks of radical and antiwar activism in New York City and beyond. The Peace Pentagon closed its doors in 2016, when the owners sold the building and moved with some of their main tenants to a rented office space on Canal Street. The A.J. Muste Memorial Foundation hopes to purchase a new building with funds from the sale of the old Peace Pentagon. In the 21st century, radicalism may shape-shift, but the importance of an HQ remains the same: From filing cabinets to internet connections, activists needs institutional space from which to mobilize.

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Lower East Side ‘Activist Estates’: A Tale of Three Buildings

From – The cover of Nandini Bagchee’s new book at looking at three buildings that were focal points of activism and counterculture in the East Village and Lower East Side

It gives a sense of passing time to see much of your life reflected in a work of recent history.

This I experienced while reading “Counter Institution: Activist Estates of the Lower East Side,” by Nandini Bagchee, new from Empire State Editions.

In her review of  oppositional spaces in the neighborhood over the past generations, architect and CCNY history professor Bagchee focuses on three buildings: the “Peace Pentagon” on Lafayette St., CHARAS community center on E. Ninth St., and ABC NO RIO artists collective on Rivington St. All these counter-institutions have impacted the lives of us longtime denizens of the alternative Lower East Side.

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2019 Creative Engagement Grant – Lower Manhattan Cultural Council

Creative Engagement is an arts funding program that provides seed grants to individual artists and nonprofit organizations for projects and activities that offer Manhattan communities diverse artistic experiences. Each year, the program supports over 150 arts projects in Manhattan, including concerts, performances, public art, exhibitions, screenings, festivals, workshops, readings and more. Through this grant program LMCC will award over $600,000 for projects in neighborhoods from Inwood to the Battery taking place between January 1–December 31, 2020.

The program funding provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs’ Greater New York Arts Development Fund, and the New York State Council on the Arts’ (NYSCA) Decentralization program.

In the category of Visual Arts/New Media, Nandini Bagchee has been awarded the grant for Activist Estates: An Alternate History of Real Estate in Loisaida. Activist Estates is an exhibition designed by the architect Nandini Bagchee in collaboration with the curators at the Loisaida Center that charts the history of social movement spaces in the Lower East Side and brings the multiple participants of these movements to narrate and share their
experiences via interactive displays.

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