West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 26 | November 28 - December 04 2007

Photo by Paul O’Hanlon

Linda Griggs, curator of the artist projection/discussion series E32, held at the 5C Cultural Center on Ave. C the third Tuesday of every month.

On Ave. C, artists get their very own show and tell

By Kelly Kingman

The walls of the 5C Cultural Center Lounge are shimmering — hypnotic, found footage of a 1940s burlesque dancer has been layered with jellyfish, flags, and geometric patterns. When the screen darkens, artist/organizer Linda Griggs starts the first round of applause for the video’s creator, Tim Cahill. He has five minutes to speak about his piece, and another few minutes to field a brief discussion, before Griggs hits play on the next video, and our gaze is flooded with lines of jumping pink type, conjuring images of airports and dreams. This is E32 (e32.hitart.com), an abbreviation of Every Third Tuesday, a projection/discussion series open to artists from anywhere, in any medium, loosely organized around a central theme and interspersed with written and spoken statements from the artists, and questions from the audience.

E32 is the latest in a long line of projects that Griggs has spearheaded, ranging from tenant organizing in her Lower East Side building to the steering committee of the now-shuttered Matzo Files. The seed of the idea came from a discussion she had with Marybeth Nelson, an owner of Alias restaurant at Clinton and Rivington Streets, who she met through work with the Matzo Files. The restaurant was experiencing a slow period and Griggs suggested an art slide show and discussion. The show debuted in April of this year. After only a few months E32 outgrew Alias and had to relocate.

E32 found the perfect partners in Bruce and Trudy Silver who have run the 5C Cultural Center at 68 Ave. C since 1995. “It’s difficult for any type of artist to get exposure, especially if you’re not bringing in any money,” said Bruce. “I’ve been living in this neighborhood since 1980, coming here since the sixties and we loved the mix of art and activism. It was a lifelong dream of ours to find a place where we could host artists of all types.” The couple opens the lounge especially for E32 on the one Tuesday each month. “Every month is really different — the style, the number of artists, the range of ages — which is very exciting for us.”

She may hail from Tulsa, Oklahoma but Griggs found her artistic home in New York nearly twenty years ago. She and her husband, both painters, have lived at the same L.E.S. address for more than a decade. “Art just bubbles up out of the ground around here,” said Griggs. “The shoe shop around the corner has a rotating show of paintings. Another boutique has an installation in the back. You just can’t stop it.”

Griggs’s enthusiasm for everything she discovers is infectious. Soon after we meet, she’s inviting me out for house hunting in a long-neglected corner of the Jersey Shore where she and her husband recently renovated an abandoned house. “It seems I can’t just learn new things, I am compelled to share the information,” she quips. And Griggs is constantly learning new things, in fact her story is of relentless curiosity — her sister’s interest in the opera “Carmen” inspired Griggs to study flamenco and she soon organized her fellow dancers to perform at the Cabrini Nursing Home. Flamenco sparked an inquiry into Gypsy culture in America, which led her to publishing an article on the topic and a job working on the archives of American folklorist Alan Lomax. There began her interest in sacred harp singing, from which her singing group was born. “It looks like every time I get interested in something it leads to a little work and lot of volunteering,” says Griggs.

Griggs’ bubbly, articulate banter suddenly takes on a steeliness of conviction when we shift to her favorite cause: artists. “I wanted to be an artist from the time I learned the meaning of the word.” Staying true to the dream hasn’t always been easy, and Griggs knows the importance of encouragement. She also runs Shape Note Singing at The Living Room, now in its third year — a choral, a cappella folk music group “with crazy, dark lyrics and open harmonies which would be power chords if played on a guitar” — for many of the same reasons that gave shape to E32. “I wanted to make a place where you can sing loud with other people. All voices welcome,” says Griggs.

“I’d like to think that I brought that warm, positive feeling with me to E32. I love that all the artists receive applause. It’s rare to be congratulated for being an artist,” she wipes away a mock tear with a smirk. “It’s not always easy to stand up and talk about your work,” says Griggs knowingly.

Now in its eighth month, the E32 project is going strong. Griggs is planning for February’s sugar-themed show already, and has a group of photographers lined up for next March. “We want people to know there’s more going on down here than a bunch of frat-boy antics,” laughs Griggs.

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