For many years the East Village was an American foothold for generations of new immigrants (Irish, German, Jewish, Ukrainian, Puerto Rican and other families), later becoming a powerful attraction for artists, musicians, bohemians, political radicals and reformers. That shift toward a populace composed of artists and other bohemians began in the 1950s with the migration of members of the Beat Generation into the neighborhood, and then hippies, musicians, artists and social activists in the 1960s. While it often has been ravaged by grueling poverty and neglect, it has also been an area of intense cultural activity that changed the world.
Over the last 100 years, the East Village has served as the first home of cultural icons such as financial barons, political leaders and national celebrities in the performing arts. Andy Warhol and his “Superstars,” important folk, punk, rock, anti-folk and hip-hop music emerged from this area, as well as advanced education, organized activism, experimental theater and the Beat Generation. Club 57, on St. Mark’s Place, was an important incubator for performance and visual art in the late 1970s and early 1980s, followed shortly by 8BC. The East Village art gallery scene helped to galvanize modern art in America, with such artists as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons exhibiting. The East Village is also the setting for Jonathan Larson’s musical Rent, which is set in the early 1990s and follows a group of friends as they spend a year struggling against AIDS, poverty, and drug abuse.
Manhattan’s Legendary East Village
The Historic East Village: A Heritage of Culture, Art and Activism
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