Volume 74, Number 54 | May 18 - 24 , 2005

Villager photos by Bob Arihood

Clockwise from top: Jerry has a beer during a relaxed moment; the exterior of the Cave Collective, with paintings by Mike to the left of the door and by Maze to the door’s right; Eddie playing the saw, which his father taught him.

The last days of the St. Mark’s Art Commune

For the past several years, a building on St. Mark’s Pl. just east of Avenue A has been home to a loose group of artists who have turned it into what they call the Art Commune and also the Cave Collective. The owner has let them live there rent-free and do whatever they will, and they’ve made it into a giant artwork, painting on practically every inch of the place. But all good things must end, and the artists say the landlord wants the building back and that they have to leave sometime this month. For their finale, they recently had an open house, inviting people in to see — and buy — their artwork and crafts. Noah Rider, 22, from Kentucky, who makes boxes and purses out of MetroCards as well as his own jewelry and micromosacis, said he’s had a productive period in the art squat. He was formerly homeless, living in the Second Ave. F Train station; a lowpoint was when he was in Doc Holliday’s bar on Avenue A and someone — who he thinks slipped a Xanax into his beer — stole his backpack with all his possessions and art supplies. In the confines of the Cave, he’s been able to focus on his art. Jim Power, the East Village’s “Mosaic Man,” has also enjoyed living in the Art Commune, though at times, he said, it’s been a heavy scene. A few weeks ago, he took off his cap to show some ugly-looking scabs on his scalp that he got breaking up fights. But he thinks now he’s established peace in the building at last. Power’s dog, Jessie Jane, has been at his side through it all. Sometimes, though, she is a bit puzzled when she looks at the life-size statues on the squat’s second floor, cocking her head to one side, wondering if maybe they are members of the Collective.

Mike, a leader of the Art Commune, takes a nap in between creating art; Noah Rider shows some of his handmade jewelry; Rider, right, and Jim “Mosaic Man” Power model one of Power’s new mosaic works, commissioned by Criff Dogs across the street.

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