Is Crown Heights Like Soho in the 1970s?

In her book 112 Greene Street: The Early Years (1970-1974), writer and curator Jessamyn Fiore documents an intensely collaborative and vibrant time and place in the New York art world. 112 Greene Street was an alternative and yet archetypal community art space where artists like Gordon Matta-Clark, Suzanne Harris, Richard Serra and Spalding Gray created and collaborated on different projects. “It was a kind of perfect storm of cheap space, urban decline (and renewal), post-minimal practice, interdisciplinary experimentation, political protest with anti-capitalist sentiment, and the momentum of a highly active free spirited group of people who thought they could change the world for the better,” Fiore tells us. While 112 Greene Street could never quite be duplicated, the conditions that inspired such productive energy have in some ways established themselves in the Brooklyn art world of today.

Fiore, who grew up in Manhattan and spent years in Dublin, where she ran the non-profit alternative art space Thisisnotashop, now lives in Crown Heights in a prime example of a current Brooklyn artistic community. “I live in a brownstone that has been converted into multiple apartments with a back garden,” she tells us. “Next-door is a similar such set up, and our backyards connect.” In these two buildings live Fiore and friends of hers—a group which includes a sculptor, a teacher, a photographer, a dancer, a poet and more. “Our backyard has evolved into a gathering space: we’ve hosted dance performances, live music, film screenings, dinners, drinks,” Fiore says. “It’s grown into a kind of a creative nexus where we share ideas, develop projects, collaborate, critique, support, inspire. Add to that the rich history and culture of the area, the friendliness and generosity of our neighbors, and the beautiful architecture—well, it’s a great place
to live.”


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