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 City Lore                                                                January 28, 2011  


Adam Purple’s Garden Ukrainian Wedding Songs
Understanding Muslim Cultures through Poetry
Real Cowboys Food for Thought


Dear Citylorists,

Please enjoy our Tours and Tales January 2011 e-letter!

Adam Purple
Photo by Harvey Wang

Adam Purple’s Garden: a Reblooming January 8, 2011 marked the 25th anniversary of the destruction of The Garden of Eden, an earthwork created by Adam Purple that once spanned five city lots on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. On February 2nd, Fusion Arts Museum opens an exhibit of Harvey Wang’s photographs, for the most part unpublished and on display for the first time, documenting the expansion of the Garden from 1978 to 1985. Rare prints of a few of Adam’s 1975-76 negatives will also be shown. The garden was demolished just before City Lore was formed, but it was among the first of many losing battles that pitted beautiful and iconic gardens and street art against plans for "low cost housing."

In 1975, Adam Purple set out to plant a garden behind his tenement building at a time when the Lower East Side was a crime-ridden wasteland. It was a massive undertaking – the site had been buried in rubble from the demolition of two other tenements. While clearing nearly 5,000 cubic feet of debris using only simple tools and raw muscle power, Adam began to create his own topsoil from materials he found at the site and around the city. In addition to traditional composting, Adam made the seven-mile round trip to Central Park on his bicycle almost every day to bring carriage-horse manure back to the Garden, carrying about 60 pounds on each trip.

Adam Purple's Garden
Photo by Harvey Wang

His circular design had mathematical and metaphysical meaning: The Garden of Eden grew exponentially with the addition of each new ring of plant beds, and at its center was a double Yin-Yang symbol. By 1986, his world famous eARThWORK had grown to 15,000 square feet. Among the many crops and flowers were 100 rose bushes and 45 fruit and nut trees.

Adam "zenvisioned" the Garden expanding until it replaced the skyscrapers of New York. For Adam Purple—social activist, philosopher, and urban gardener/revolutionary—the Garden was the medium of his political and artistic expression. When the Garden was slated for demolition to make way for a federally funded housing project, many prominent New Yorkers wrote letters and delivered statements of support for Adam and the Garden. Alternative designs that would have spared the Garden or incorporated it into the new structure were displayed in the 1984 exhibition "Adam’s House in Paradise" at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in SoHo. Nevertheless, The Garden of Eden was razed on January 8, 1986, and the new housing project did not include an apartment for Adam or space for a new garden.

In his revolutionary ideas about sustainability and living as humble members of the natural world, Adam was ahead of his time. He has not yet been properly recognized as an important environmental artist. It has been 25 years since The Garden of Eden was destroyed, and this exhibition aims to ensure that Adam Purple and his unique, site-specific artwork are not forgotten. (Adapted from the FusionArts press release.)

FOR MORE INFORMATION: To hear an interview with Adam conducted by Amy Brost for the StoryCorps Oral History Project, visit here or download the podcast from iTunes. A slide show of selected photographs along with audio excerpts from the StoryCorps interview is on YouTube.

WHERE: FusionArts Museum (Gallery B), 57 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002
WHEN: February 2-20, 2011 Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday: 12:00-6:00 pm
Friday and Saturday: By appointment only.
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 3 from 6:00-9:00 pm

Mr. Brad Bonaparte
Hutsul Wedding

Ukrainian Wedding Songs On Saturday evening, January 29th, our good friends at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance along with the New York Bandura Ensemble will present "Invitation to a Wedding" at the Ukrainian Museum. Ukrainian-American singer Nadia Tarnawsky leads the Ukrainian Women’s Voices Collective and other special guests in an evening of Ukrainian wedding songs, sung in traditional village singing style and Ukrainian folk polyphony.

WHERE: Ukrainian Museum, 222 E. 6th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Manhattan)
WHEN: January 29th, 7:00 pm
ADMISSION: $15 with member/senior discounts available

Understanding Muslim Cultures through Poetry — Save the Dates City Lore and our long-standing partner Poets House are pleased to present Illuminated Verses: Poetries from the Islamic World, a series of curated events, programs, performances, and interpretive panels in Spring 2011. Illuminated Verses speaks to the many-ness of poetic forms and styles while at the same time demonstrating the central role of poetry in cultures where Islam is practiced. We explore improvised poetic forms and performances of ancient and venerated work from poets such as Rumi and Hafez, along with contemporary literary poetry in settings ranging from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, North and West Africa. We explore the central role of poetry in the lives of Muslim men and women who memorize poems, buy and sell poetry on cassettes, sing the work of venerated poets, and utilize poems in social and political negotiations. Programs are funded by a Bridging Cultures grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to City Lore and Poets House, with the Asia Society as a collaborating partner. Save the dates:

Saturday, March 19, 2:00-4:00pm at Poets HouseThe Poetics of Recitation: the Structure and Style of the Qur’an. Duke University professor and Carnegie Scholar of Islam Dr. Bruce Lawrence offers an introduction to the structure and style of the Qur’an—its suras (chapters), ayat (verses), and distinctive diction—as well the different schools of recitation.

Thursday, April 21 at the Asia SocietyA Prince’s Manuscript Unbound: Selections from the Shahnamah. To coincide with the Asia Society’s exhibition of illuminated miniatures, director of the Tehran Theater Workshop Iraj Anvar performs selections from the Ferdowsi’s 10th century epic, one of the jewels of Persian literature.

Tuesday, April 26, 7:00-8:30pm at Poets HouseTransmutations. A major figure in modern Moroccan poetry, professor of Arab poetry at the Faculty of Letters, Rabat, and founder of the literary review Attakafa Aljadida, Dr. Mohammed Benis reads selections from his work.

Thursday, April 28, 7:00-8:30pm at Poets HouseIn Search of Finah Misa Kule. Joined by New York-based West African jali musicians, Kewulay Finah Kamara discusses, performs, and screens segments from his documentary in progress about his journey to recreate an ancient oral epic traditionally kept by his family. The only written copy was destroyed in the 1998-9 Civil War in Sierra Leone. In collaboration with the Bowery Poetry Club.

Saturday, April 30, 8:00-10:00pm at the Asia SocietyMushaira: Celebrating Urdu Poetry. Featuring celebrated poets from Pakistan, this program will recreate the intimate interactive atmosphere of the mushaira, a traditional Pakistani poetry performance.

Tuesday, May 3, 7:00-9:00pm at Poets House Between Love and Death: The Precarious Lives of Arab Poets Since Pre-Islamic Times. This talk by literary critic and Columbia professor of Arabic literature Muhsin Al-Musawi challenges the premise that long-established veneration or respect for poets and poetry excludes poets from harsh punishments and retributions, be they in the form of reprisal, murder, or execution.

Dr. Reza Aslan
Dr. Reza Aslan

Thursday, May 5, 7:00-9:00pm at Poets HouseFrom Tablet to Pen: the Literary History of Islam. Internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions Dr. Reza Aslan gives an overview of the history of Islam and the different languages and poetic traditions in the Islamic world.

May 7th, 10:00am-10:00pm at Borough of Manhattan Community CollegeIlluminated Verses Public Forum. This day-long public forum includes panels, discussions, readings and musical performances on poetry from the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, Pakistan, North Africa, and Muslim American poetry culminating in an evening program that includes a demonstration of the Lebanese zajal tradition of improvised poetry duels, Rumi singers, music from the cafes of Baghdad, and young Muslim American poets. Dr. Reza Aslan offers his perspective on Middle Eastern literature, and Sylviane Diouf of the Schomburg Center demonstrates a connection between early forms of the blues and the Muslim call to prayer.

An integrated cowboy crew at mealtime on the Merkeson Ranch in Texas in the 1890s. Courtesy of the Gillette Brothers

Who Were the Real Cowboys Alan Lomax was an inveterate world traveler, a passionate folklorist, and diehard New Yorker, who invented what he called the "Global Jukebox" long before i-Tunes, right here in New York City. He is the subject of a new book by folklorist John Szwed, Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World. Last spring with funding for the National Endowment for the Arts I took one of the all-time-best road trips with Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center where we retraced some of the footsteps of Alan and his father John Lomax’s journeys from Meridian, Texas, where John grew up to Angola Prison where they recorded Leadbelly. Many of the musicians and scholars we interviewed spoke about the influence of the blues on cowboy music. Our first NPR story based on this theme was broadcast in December and there’s more to come.

CARTS Newsletter

Food for Thought: Foodways in Education The new issue of City Lore and Local Learning’s Education Newsletter, CARTS highlights foodways. Essays suggest the ways teachers can use what we eat to explore the journeys of people across continents and oceans and to engage students in community gardening and new eco-friendly ways of learning about the world. The foods we eat provide a firsthand, sensory experience that can build an appetite for learning in a wide array of subjects. The new issue, available from City Lore for $5.00 (call 212-529-1955, x 305) includes a "taste" of an essay by folklorist Michael Owen Jones, "Food, Choice, Symbolism, and Identity," covering a number of "bread and butter issues," and highlighting some delectable metaphors: how we "hunger for, cannibalize, spice it up, sugar coat, hash things out, sink our teeth into, and find something difficult to swallow or hard to digest so we cough it up and then have a bone to pick with someone, which is their just desserts. . . In other words, as Lévi-Strauss said, ‘Food is not only good to eat, but also good to think with.’"

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Enjoy the City!


City of Memory is sponsored by City Lore and Local Projects.  It was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

City Lore is part of a cultural coalition called CATCH, to promote the City’s cultural heritage. Check out the web sites of our wonderful partners, the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, the Latino Children’s Theater, SEA, and the World Music Institute.

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