Our artists are our cultural treasures; They need help!

Photos by Clayton Patterson Taylor Mead has returned to his Ludlow St. top-floor apartment after a hospital visit, but he has difficulty going up and down the stairs.

Photos by Clayton Patterson
Taylor Mead has returned to his Ludlow St. top-floor apartment after a hospital visit, but he has difficulty going up and down the stairs.

BY CLAYTON PATTERSON | On March 7 a representative each from Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office and the Cooper Square Committee visited Taylor Mead. They arrived around noon and stayed for about 15 minutes. Taylor lives on the top floor at 163 Ludlow St. I am not sure if they checked the door to the roof. The roof door is never locked or fully closed, which allows in the elements and the cold air. Imagine what it must have been like during Hurricane Sandy. Then add in that Taylor is 88, with no electricity, and is one of the only tenants left in the tenement, which is a construction site.

And if they went to the roof they would have observed that there is fresh graffiti, which means the roof is somewhat active and certainly accessible. People have been mugged in his building.

I, as well as others from The Villager and other concerned people, have tried to reach the people who made the visit, or at least get a verbal response about the visit. Taylor has a niece on vacation, who will come by in a week. I think something needs to be done now.

On March 13 Taylor was having problems with his heart and was taken to Beth Israel Hospital. He was released and allowed to go home Sun., March 17. He did say he has to now basically stay at home, since going up and down the stairs is extremely difficult.

Taylor, until now, has endured and survived the wrath and all the brutality his new landlord has inflicted on him. But isn’t there any agency, politician or a group that can do anything to help? Is there an elderly abuse council? How about calling 311? Something? Where are our councilmembers on this — not only Chin, but also Christine Quinn and Rosie Mendez, who are both openly gay, and share that bond. Taylor is gay. He needs help!

Shell Sheddy, right, with East Village activist Rob Hollander, is battling to keep her apartment and to raise the fee to store her photo archives.

Shell Sheddy, right, with East Village activist Rob Hollander, is battling to keep her apartment and to raise the fee to store her photo archives.

Quinn makes so much of her Irish immigrant grandparents — but they couldn’t survive in Bloomberg’s New York. Our politicians are just letting all of this happen, as Manhattan increasingly becomes a place only for the rich, with no room for artistic types like Taylor.

I got a note from Shell Sheddy, one of our important Lower East Side documentary photographers. She, like so many others, is facing landlord hell. It’s a serious situation. Shelly is fighting to stave off homelessness and also trying to save her L.E.S. photo archive, a jewel of immense importance. Look her up on Facebook. She had one benefit but it did not raise enough for the fee for her storage locker. N.Y.U, a nonprofit institution, is investing in billions of dollars of real estate, yet they have no interest in Downtown history. Shell has created a historically important visual history, saving for future generations a slice of the culture she found worth memorializing.

Shell Sheddy is not the first artist to lose so much because of lack of funds to pay storage. Anthony Haden Guest lost his retirement collection. John Penely, who has been protesting for N.Y.U. to provide some shelter for the homeless, had the university’s Tamiment Library purchase his archive for so little it was a steal. And then I saw some of his images online and the copyright credit went to Tamiment Library, when in fact it still belonged to John. We have to protect our cultural treasures — and we need the help of everyone, including our politicians.

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5 Responses to Our artists are our cultural treasures; They need help!

  1. this is just so awful.

  2. N.Y.U, has no interest in Downtown history? They house The Fales archive,: The Downtown Collection, which began in 1993, is an attempt to document the downtown arts scene that evolved in SoHo and the Lower East Side during the 1970s through the early 1990s. During this time, an explosion of artistic creativity radically challenged and changed tradition literature, music, theater, performance, film, activism, dance, photography, video, and other art practices.

    • Tiffany, that history that NYU archives was created by real PEOPLE. And these PEOPLE and their works are being displaced. That is the point. NYU houses Penley's photography. It probably archives films and things created by or with Taylor Mead. He is a legacy of the Warhol years and pioneering gay/trans scenes of the 60s and 70s…. This is the point. They always say when a scene gets put in a museum, that means it's dead. Many of the people documented in the archives that you speak of aren't dead–yet. But NYU and other institutions have done very little to support the arts that are still being created downtown by still living pioneers like Mead and by young people carrying the tradition of these elders. Perilously few artists can afford to live in East Village, LES, Soho… they are going to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island. If we care about art, we should care about living artists. To say NYU "houses" these amazing collections is like saying don't worry about all these animals going extinct, we have plenty of jaguars and tigers in zoos.

  3. I am a librarian. DO you know expensive it is to catalog, house and maintain a large collection? I am only commenting on the writers bias position by stating NYU has no interest in Downtown history when in fact, they do by the university accepting such a huge undertaking.

  4. A moving account of Taylor Mead's last days in New York. Can I use the photo of him in his apartment in a post on him for my blog, No Place for Normal: New York (cbrowder.blogspot.com)? You would of curse be credited. Cliff Browder

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