Once upon a time in the city, not the bright shiny part of the city, but the old rusted out rust belt section where a post industrial mood had settled in, there was a place dedicated to art. You could walk right by and except for the sign, never know it was there. True, there was a steady stream of cool-looking people going to and fro along Morgan Avenue; people who were young and/or interesting looking; people with what the fashion magazines call a “personal style.” They weren’t loud, they didn’t announce or sport designer togs, but were quietly artistic and you just knew. That somewhere along that dingy stretch of auto shops, strange nameless factories and boarded up brick, something creative and interesting was going on.
I saw it first when a dancer who wanted some pictures took me on a tour of the unfinished second floor. It was a mess, but an interesting one. If there was peeling paint and a squashed up couch, there was also space and light filtering in through the tall banks of windows.
Somehow through emails, art sites, and a certain undefinable electricity in the air, I heard about 3rd Ward around 2009 or ’10. I went out for a tour, and while interested, wasn’t sure I wanted to pay the monthly fee for photo studios I might not use. I declined, or rather postponed. A year later, I took another tour and signed up.
The studios were gorgeous. Huge, with lots of natural light and enough “nub” to make even plain walls interesting. I shot still lifes there, but really the subject was always the room.
Interesting places come with interesting histories. Ghosts from the past set up shop and continue to inhabit. I could shut myself in Studio B (my favorite) and be quite content for several hours. I never felt alone, felt quite charmed by the living artists who came and went for classes and to their work studios, and by whatever and whoever had been there in the past.
New York is a palimpsest. For everything new, there are a dozen things old. Underneath one building is another, or the markings of a settlement or a burial ground. It is constant, ever-changing history.
Like 3rd Ward which is now history, a brief marker of the outpost of artists pushing into ethnic, troubled or just poorer neighborhoods, in seach of space, a place to do their work. The march will continue, because the dream, or rather dreams, will never die.