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Making It | Barbara Shaum, ‘Solopreneur’

Barbara ShaumSuzanne RozdebaBarbara Shaum in her workspace on East 4th Street.

When you’ve been in business as a ‘solopreneur’ since 1962, you find you’re known for a few things, and you pay no mind about taking your time to relay all the details to anyone within earshot. For Barbara Shaum, 80-something, the legend behind the institution that is Barbara Shaum Ltd. on 60 East 4th Street, that means noting she was the very first woman officially to enter the male-only McSorley’s Bar, and that she hand-makes what fashion icons view to be some of the very best leather sandals and belts in the city. These days, it is rarity to enter a shop where there is a craftswoman who cobbles the very item you plan to slip on, right there in the store. Ms. Shaum, but she doesn’t have plans to retire either. Too many people are depending on her to outfit their feet.


How did you make your way into this business?


I was doing wholesale and living in a loft on West Broadway. I was working for a wonderful sandal-maker who taught me so much of what I know. This was back in the 50s. Then I went on my own in 1962, opening up a shop on 7th Street between Bowery and Second Avenue.


Right next to McSorleys! That must have been interesting.


Absolutely. It was for men only until 1970 when the Civil Rights Bill was passed and they could no long discriminate against women patronizing their establishment. I was the first woman in there and that’s the kind of person I am.


Was there a benefit to being in the location next to such a legendary place?


I sell to men and women and the bar was enormously popular. It was the 60s so there were hippies wearing a lot of belts and sandals so I was making a lot of sandals and belts. That was a good time for me. Lots of off-beat people with style.


People weren’t really worrying about making their rent so much then were they?


In those days things were not so much focused on real estate and money and that sort of thing. My rent was very low. It was $75 a month for quite a large place. I had a front part and a back part where I put up a wall and I lived back there. I also had a backyard and I’d have these big backyard barbecues with like 75 people coming by. Read more…

So Cool! La MaMa, Theater for the New City Get White Roofs

LaMama1Courtesy La MaMa Preliminary work on La MaMa’s white roof.

The building that houses La MaMa got a new mural back in May, and now it’s getting another paint job – but not in the name of art.

The White Roof Project laid down a first coat of white paint on the theater’s rooftop on Wednesday, adding another 7,000 square feet of solar-reflective white roof to the neighborhood in an ongoing effort to reduce carbon emissions and encourage energy efficiency.

Juan Carlos Piñeiro Escoriaza, the project’s founder, told The Local that the Lower East Side is one the heaviest energy users in the city. “Our efforts there get you more ‘bang for your buck’ every time a roof is coated white,” he said, adding that he wanted to have contiguous rooftops along East Third and Fourth Streets between Bowery and Second Avenue painted white by the end of 2013. Read more…

Street Scenes | Container Painters

Chris and Veng, Robots Will Kill, sun dappledScott Lynch

H. Veng Smith (a.k.a. Veng), last seen painting a mural with schoolkids on Avenue D, was one of several artists who redecorated the construction containers on East Fourth Street over the weekend. See more shots at The Local’s Flickr group.

Making It | Shirley and Rebecca Solomon of Pageant Print Shop

For every East Village business that’s opening or closing, dozens are quietly making it. Here’s one of them: Pageant Print Shop.

pageantLauren Carol SmithRebecca Solomon

It’s been nearly two decades since Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey perused the Pageant Book Shop for a copy of E. E. Cummings in “Hannah and her Sisters,” but the store’s history goes back farther than that. In 1946, Sidney B. Solomon and Henry “Chip” Chafetz joined the ranks of Book Row, a stretch of mom-and-pop bookshops along Fourth Avenue from St. Marks Place to 14th Street. One of Mr. Solomon’s two daughters, Shirley, took over after her father died and then moved the store to West Houston Street after a rent hike in the 1990s.

Pageant became an online-only enterprise in 1999, only to reopen at 69 East Fourth Street after Shirley’s sister Rebecca moved back to the city. Nearly seven years later, the siblings are still selling hard-to-find items, though now maps and prints rather than rare books. “Some are old, some are very old, some are very, very old,” said Shirley during a recent conversation with The Local.


How does a shop that sells old maps stay in business?


Shirley: I focus on the unique and affordable. I have things from $1 to $100, to $1,000. There’s an original David Roberts lithograph that is $3,000 framed. We get lots of foot traffic and sell a lot of things in the $1 to $4 range, which adds up. Read more…

Welcome to the ‘Machine’: New Art at Extra Place

Sonni: Music Machine, at Artist Alley at Extra PlaceScott Lynch

Here’s a peak at the latest sidewalk mural at Extra Place, set to be officially unveiled this Saturday. “Music Machine,” painted by Buenos Aires-born, New York-based street artist Sonni in his trademark primary colors, picks up the theme of his 30-foot acrylic-on-metal mural “Boom Box,” which was the toast of Miami’s Art Basel festival in 2010. It’s the second exhibit at Artist Alley @ Extra Place, which – like last week’s mural behind La MaMa – is a collaboration between Fourth Arts Block and Murals Around New York.

A reception for the work will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Oaxaca Taqueria at the end of Extra Place, which is located mid-block on East First Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue. You can see more of Scott Lynch’s photos in The Local’s Flickr group.

FAB Tasting Tour Tries Again

Tickets are on sale for the Fourth Arts Block East Village Eats Tasting Tour on October 22. According to East Village Eats, $29 buys around $50 in food, drink and discounts. Participating restaurants include Cucina di Pesce, Hecho en Dumbo, Jimmy’s No. 43, Luke’s Lobster, Oaxaca and others. In June the tasting tour was canceled due to poor ticket sales. Hopefully, appetites will be stronger this month.

Paint the Town White

According to I Love East Village, a local arts group is looking for volunteers to paint an entire block of roofs on East Fourth Street. The White Roof Project, working with Fourth Arts Block, says the project will demonstrate that white roofs lower the temperature in the area, which in turn reduces demands on the power grid.

An Honor for the Poet Bob Holman

Philip Kalantzis Cope

This evening the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation gathers for its 31st annual meeting and presentation of awards to honor individuals, groups, businesses who have made significant contributions to the area. This year’s winners include Bob Holman, founder of the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Fourth Arts Block.

Founded in 1980, the society is dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage and cultural legacy of Greenwich Village, the East Village, NoHo, the Gansevoort Market, and South Village. Their myriad activities include historical and architectural research, lectures, tours and publications. Currently, the group is at the forefront of the effort to designate parts of the East Village as historic landmarks.

Bob Holman has been tirelessly involved in promoting poetry and the arts on the Lower East Side during the past four decades through a host of activities. Most recently, he emceed the reading of Allen Ginsberg’s epic “Howl” at Howlfest. He served as coordinator of the Poetry Project at St Mark’s. In 1987, he helped reopen the Nuyorican Poets Café where he served as slam master for newly introduced poetry slams.

In 2002, he realized a vision in founding The Bowery Poetry Club, a venue where poets, musicians, playwrights  and artists are able to present their work seven days a week.

Tonight’s event, which is open to the public, begins at 6:30 p.m. and is being held at The Village Community School located at 272 West 10th Street. Come and join the festivities.

A New Plan for Extra Place Takes Shape

Extra PlaceLaura E. Lee Extra Place.

Construction is scheduled to begin Monday on a new plan to turn the historic Extra Place alley into a pedestrian walkway for retail patios and a new local arts venue.

The art space is a collaboration between developer Avalon Bay and Fourth Arts Block, a non-profit coalition of arts organizations.

“We’re really excited” said the arts block’s director Tamara Greenfield. “We think it is a fantastic opportunity.”

The vacant alley, tucked off First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, has special historical significance. In the 1970’s, the backdoor for the legendary music club CBGB opened to the alley and bands like The Ramones were photographed in the space.

“It managed to make garbage look beautiful, in its context,” said Rob Hollander of the Lower East Side History Project.
Read more…

Celebrating the Arts on Fourth Street

FAB! Festival & Block PartySamantha Ku A red-nosed surprise for three young visitors to the Fourth Arts Block Festival Saturday.

The Fourth Arts Block, or FAB! as it’s known by the locals, held its seventh annual FAB! Festival on East Fourth Street on Saturday.

FAB! FESTIVAL_JamieNewmanPhotography 38
FAB! FESTIVAL_JamieNewmanPhotography 26
FAB! FESTIVAL_JamieNewmanPhotography 52Jamie Newman Scenes from the festival.

On a balmy early autumn day, the festival showcased a wide variety of the neighborhood’s creativity from the performances of the Alpha Omega and Rod Rodgers dance companies, to readings by poets from the Nuyorican Poets Café.

There were also culinary offerings, including Akiko’s Cookie’s Green Tea cookie and Bao Bing’s Taiwanese-style shaved ice. The diverse program made for a fun and widely appreciated festival.

The Fourth Arts Block, on Fourth Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, is home to a large number of theaters and cultural organizations, and is one of only two communities to receive “cultural district” designations from city officials (the other is the neighborhood around the Brooklyn Academy of Music).

The festival is designed to celebrate the creativity of one of the most densely populated blocks for the arts in the city.

As Tamara Greenfield, the arts block’s executive director, puts it, “We see the festival as an opportunity to spill everything that takes place in our neighborhood year round out on the street so its accessible to everyone.”

Did you attend the FAB! Festival this year? What did you find most memorable about it?

FAB! FESTIVAL_JamieNewmanPhotography 15Jamie NewmanPerformers from the Alpha Omega dance company.