Installation view of In, Of, and Crossing Essex  at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space (image courtesy Artists Alliance)

Artists are often seen as harbingers of gentrification in a neighborhood, and sometimes as the enemies of longtime residents and businesses who fear being priced out. There are, however, some exceptions. From day one, the nonprofit Artists Alliance Inc. has made efforts to engage with its community in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The organization initially began in 1999 as a cluster of studios in a former public school on Suffolk Street, where “member artists worked to improve the building for everyone working there.” In 2001, it opened the Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space inside the Essex Street Market, an indoor food market that has existed since 1940. Many of the exhibitions and events revolve around its unique location and those who work there. 

On Sunday, June 10, the Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space is hosting a roundtable discussion with the following prompt: “What steps can artists take to support small businesses?” The debate comes at a particular moment, when the Essex Street Market is relocating to the Essex Crossing real estate mega-development this fall. Artist Sonia Louise Davis will lead an open-ended conversation guided by questions that will inspire “concrete, day-to-day actions” as to how artists and institutions can contribute to small businesses like the Essex Street Market. The discussion will draw on other existing models like the Chinatown Art Brigade, Wing On Wo, and Art Against Displacement.

Sunday will also be the last day to see the exhibition In, Of, and Crossing Essex at Cuchifritos, which shares the histories of the market and its vendors. Davis, for instance, has a printed zine with “text-based prompts and activities for market visitors to respond to on their own as they explore the market and its surroundings.”

When: Sunday, June 10, 3:30–5pm
Where: Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space and Essex Street Market

More info at Artists Alliance Inc. 

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.