New York City is a living breathing artistic wonderland. From Broadway to the Met, New Yorkers truly have a global culture at their fingertips. No neighborhood, however, is a better example of the artistic culture than the East Village. This neighborhood was built by artists, musicians, students and hippie who were originally drawn to the beatniks and cheap rents in the 1960s. Today, the East Village is associated with art and counterculture, an incubator for the next artistic movement.
The East Village has its own unique neighborhoods, including the Alphabet City, Bowery and Tompkins Square. The East Village, along with the Lower East Side, have made many artistic contributions to American culture. Punk rock, hip hop and folk music all found a voice here. The neighborhood is also known for its performance art, with venues still in operation today.
The East Village was not always a separate entity within the city. For many years, it was simply part of the Lower East Side. In the late 1950s, beatniks began their migration into the neighborhood. Soon they were followed by students, musicians and artists. By the mid-1960s, the East Village was born, as the name came about to make the district distinct from the surrounding Lower East Side.
Musically, it became the place to establish a band and prove your musical chops. Rock and roll bands, including the Who and Pink Floyd, played in the Fillmore East. This venue was termed the Church of Rock and Roll. Another venue, known as the Electric Circus, hosted such acts as The Grateful Dead, Sly and the Stones, and many other rock bands of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Fight to Maintain the East Village
As with many other neighborhoods in New York, the East Village has seen a downswing in its artistic identity as gentrification began to occur. To combat this movement, East Village residents have banned together to achieve rezoning standards that will not allow new buildings to change the overall height and feel of the neighborhood. Additionally, they have worked to maintain the affordable living aspects of the East Village.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) also designated two different historical districts within the East Village. Other buildings and landmarks also continue to be designated historical, thus helping to preserve the charm of the community.
Capturing the Culture
While the changes have resulted in a less gritty East Village, there is still plenty of evidence of the artistic culture. The neighborhood includes poetry and music venues, along with museums, such as the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space. The famous New York Public Library has its Tompkins Square Branch here. New York University also has its home here, thus keeping a student voice within the neighborhood.
Yet within all of this vibrant culture, there is also still a dynamic nightlife with clubs and venues to appeal to a variety of individuals. While the fight continues against gentrification, there is still plenty of evidence that the East Village is still a source of art and culture.