A Neighborhood in Sketches

T.GalmitzJamie Newfield An illustration by Terry Galmitz from his exhibit, “My East Village.”

When Terry Galmitz went to Avenue D looking for a candy store half-remembered from his youth, he found it was no longer there. In its place stood Sergio Deli Superette, a Spanish bodega, but, Mr. Galmitz reasoned, since he was already there, he would stay a while and draw. The result is one of the most striking images in “My East Village,” his portfolio of neighborhood sketches, on display at SB D Gallery on East 4th Street through Dec. 4.

In black-inked illustrations, a group of children jump gleefully in the water of an open street hydrant, the bodega behind them, its windows postered with lunch and lottery ticket advertisements. This quintessential image of urban summer, and its resonant sense of community, lie at the very heart of Mr. Galmitz’s show, a snap shot of the East Village caught between ethnic and bohemian roots and an ever-developing future.

Traveling around the neighborhood for three months, Mr. Galmitz sketched locations to which he felt a particular connection, as well as hidden architectural gems discovered on his walks. Spending approximately two hours in front of each location with just a sketchbook and pencil, he created detailed renderings of buildings’ brick facades, sun-glared windows, and graffiti-strewn walls.

The collection of 54 drawings is composed of local landmarks, which Mr. Galmitz has depicted in minute detail, such as Lucky Cheng’s, Katz’s Delicatessen, Yonah Schimmel Knishery, Mars Bar, Astor Place, McSorely’s Old Ale House and Toy Tokyo. Also included are venues no longer standing like CBGB and the Fillmore East. Drawn from photographs, Mr. Galmitz included the now-defunct rock clubs because “those were just so much a part of the Village before they left.”

Having lived in the East Village since age 15, Mr. Galmitz, now in his sixties, has seen the neighborhood undergo various transformations. He described the projects as documenting, “places in the East Village that are gone and old.”

“These buildings that are going up, that’s really weird,” Mr. Galmitz said of the neighborhood’s constant architectural development. “But I guess it’s what’s new, so I just sort of go along with it,” 
Yet despite all its outward changes in appearance, Mr. Galmitz feels the East Village is, “still very ‘neighborhood-y.’ People are really friendly. There’s a community feeling that’s still there.”

It is in the small details of his drawings – the windowsills adorned with house plants, the eclectic mix of old men and hipsters congregating in front of stores – that Mr. Galmitz manages to freeze time. His renderings of the East Village’s gritty sidewalks, kosher eateries and small businesses are a stenciled time capsule, laying bare the community he has called home for the past 49 years, in black and white.

“My East Village” is open to the public at SB D Gallery, 125 E. Fourth Street, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 12 p.m.-6 p.m.