6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, award-winning photographers James and Karla Murray return with a series of snapshots from last year’s debaucherous Village Halloween Parade. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at [email protected].
Started by Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee in 1973, the Village Halloween Parade began as a “wandering neighborhood puppet show.” The event was a walk from house to house in Lee’s neighborhood, created for his children and their friends to enjoy. In the three years that followed, the parade took on new shapes and sizes, propelled first by George Bartenieff and Crystal Field of the Theater for the New City, who staged the production in its second year as part of their City in the Streets program; and then two years later when the parade became a non-profit with its own resources to put on a major show. By 1985, the parade morphed into an extravaganza that marched down Sixth Avenue, attracting 250,000 participants and onlookers. Today, the Village Halloween Parade is the largest celebration of its kind, considered by Festivals International to be “The Best Event in the World” for October 31st.
While the parade is now more spectacle than small-scale and community driven (as Ralph Lee wanted it to remain), there is no question that tens of thousands of costumed individuals can still find their place, and plenty of delight, in its latest incarnation.
As the current artistic and producing director, Jeanne Fleming, told us, “We make a Utopian society for a few hours when everyone can come together joyfully.”
In anticipation of the 2016 festivities—which will take place 7-11 pm on Monday, October 31st under the theme “reverie”—we share some of our favorite snapshots from last year’s affair, in addition to some fun facts about the parade.
James and Karla Murray are husband-and-wife New York based professional photographers and authors. Their critically acclaimed books include Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, New York Nights, Store Front II- A History Preserved and Broken Windows-Graffiti NYC. The authors’ landmark 2008 book, Store Front, was cited in Bookforum’s Dec/Jan 2015 issue as one of the “Exemplary art books from the past two decades” and heralded as “One of the periods most successful New York books.” New York Nights was the winner of the prestigious New York Society Library’s 2012 New York City Book Award. James and Karla Murray’s work has been exhibited widely in major institutions and galleries, including solo exhibitions at the Brooklyn Historical Society, Clic Gallery in New York City, and Fotogalerie Im Blauen Haus in Munich, Germany, and group shows at the New-York Historical Society and the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale, CA. Their photographs are included in the permanent collections of major institutions, including the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the New York Public Library, and NYU Langone Medical Center. James and Karla were awarded the 2015 Regina Kellerman Award by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) in recognition of their significant contribution to the quality of life in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. James and Karla live in the East Village of Manhattan with their dog Hudson.
Fifty years ago, Ralph Lee took a walk around Greenwich Village with his puppets on Halloween night. It resonated with people. A couple of years later, as part of the City in the Streets program, Theater for the New City stepped in and produced the event on a larger scale, hitting more Village streets and attracting more participants. After Lee stopped his involvement with the parade, Jeanne Fleming stepped in. Today, over four decades under Fleming’s careful eye as artistic and producing director, the Village Halloween Parade is a part of New York City’s cultural identity — an event that through hardship and triumph over the past 50 years, has remained a ritual.
more on on the iconic event here
A permanent memorial in Greenwich Village honoring the lives lost to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire will finally be built. Designed by artists Richard Joon Yoo and Uri Wegman and commissioned nearly a decade ago by the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, the tribute will feature the names of all 146 workers who died, cut into steel panels outside of 23-29 Washington Place, the building where the tragedy happened over 100 years ago. As first reported by the New York Times, a dedication ceremony for the new memorial is scheduled for October 11.
The annual competition that pits New York City-based architectural firms against each other to carve the best pumpkin is returning on Friday, just in time for Halloween. Known as Pumpkitecture, the event will give onlookers the opportunity to see architects hone their skills in real-time and compete for the big prize, the Pritzkerpumpkin. Pumpkitecture will take place at the Center for Architecture at 536 LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village on October 28 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Get ready to go gourd to gourd
The Village Halloween Parade may not be as completely outrageous as it once was, but this annual holiday extravaganza is quintessential Greenwich Village. Though many parade attendees are there to show off their costumes and check out those of others, there's a large number of guests who revel in the nostalgia of a New York tradition that's marched downtown since 1973. But there's a lot more history to the parade than most people may know. For instance, it didn't always go up 6th Avenue, and there's an entire art form behind those supersized puppets.
All the history right here
The site of a monumental event in the LGBTQ community's fight against anti-gay discrimination was honored last week with a historic plaque. The Village Preservation and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project on Thursday unveiled the plaque at Julius' Bar at 159 West 10th Street. The bar was the site of the first "Sip-In," an act of defiance in which members of gay rights groups entered the bar and asked to be served drinks while announcing they were homosexuals, going against the discriminatory regulations of the New York State Liquor Authority which at the time prohibited bars from serving gay or lesbian patrons. See more here
A public art installation consisting of sculptures representing nine of the world's most endangered animals was unveiled on Friday. Created by husband-and-wife art duo Gillie and Marc, the six-foot-tall sculptures are located within Greenwich Village's Ruth Wittenberg Triangle. Each sculpture is accompanied by a QR code which spectators can scan to learn more about each of the animals as well as donate to the World Wildlife Fund, Gillie and Marc's charity partner. The exhibit will be on display until July 31 when its next location is announced.
Find out more
The Village Halloween Parade is officially back this year thanks to a major donation. The beloved event was scheduled to return after a pandemic-related hiatus, but a lack of funds threatened to cancel the 2021 parade, according to organizers. The parade set a fundraising goal of $150,000 by October 5, and with the help of 183 donors who contributed over $11,000 and Jason Feldman and his wife Missy who made up the difference, the spooky show will go on.
Though the Village Halloween Parade was just a small neighborhood gathering in 1973, it has taken place and grown every year since then except after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This year, however, the beloved event is being cancelled for the second time ever due to COVID-19. Jeanne Fleming, who has been the director of the parade since 1985, broke the news yesterday to the Post, but promised New Yorkers a special "trick" in its place, though she's remaining mum on those details for now.
For many, celebrating Irish American heritage in March brings one to Fifth Avenue for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, or perhaps a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. But for those willing to venture beyond Midtown, there’s a rich Irish American history to be found in Greenwich Village and the East Village. While both neighborhoods became better known for different kinds of communities in later years – Italians, Ukrainians, gay men and lesbians, artists, punks – Irish immigration in the mid-19th century profoundly shaped both neighborhoods. Irish Americans and Irish immigrants played a critical role in building immigrant and artistic traditions in Greenwich Village and the East Village. Here are some sites connected to that great heritage, from the city's oldest intact Catholic Church to Irish institutions like McSorely's Old Ale House.
Many artists have been inspired by the scenes of life in New York City, particularly Lower Manhattan. But perhaps no artist captures the feeling of New York during the hot, heavy days of August like the painter John Sloan. Sloan was one of the leading figures of the "Ashcan School" of artists of the early 20th century, a loosely-defined movement which took its name from a derisive reference to the supposed lowbrow quality and themes of their work, and the smudgy, impressionistic brushstrokes they utilized. His workaday subjects and hazy images of city life capture the heaviness of the air of New York during its dog days. Here’s a look at some of those paintings of life in our city 100 years ago.
See NYC through the eyes of Sloan
Fifty years have passed since the Stonewall Uprising changed New York City forever and gave the world a symbol of the struggle for LGBTQ rights and recognition. There are a seemingly endless number of ways to celebrate this milestone, learn about the history of the gay rights movement and enjoy a rainbow of diversity. Heritage of Pride, the nonprofit organization behind New York City’s official LGBTQIA+ WorldPride events, offers an interactive map to help navigate the many events planned this month. Below, you'll find 50 ways to celebrate Pride Month.
Pride, parades and parties, this way
Days before the start of Pride Month, the city announced on Thursday that the next She Built NYC monument will honor two transgender activists, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, key leaders in the Stonewall Uprising that sparked the gay and LGBTQ rights movement in America. The monument is currently planned for Ruth Wittenberg Triangle in the heart of the Village and near other important LGBTQ neighborhood landmarks including the Stonewall Inn. The city is seeking artists interested in creating the public monuments honoring Johnson and Rivera in an open call.
Statues will honor women who changed NYC