Lower East Side History Month was launched eight years ago in the hope that a collective celebration of our neighborhood would strengthen our connection to each other and strengthen our sense of community.
This year, finding ways to come together to share stories, honor neighbors, respect histories—to remember our roots, past struggles, and past joys—feels profoundly important. It’s clear that the bonds of community have been critical in sustaining us as we navigate overlapping crises of health, economic survival, and the ongoing battle for racial justice. Our history sheds light on our present and can motivate us to continue building a future of mutual support, respect, and inclusion.
We invite you to celebrate the LES with us! Lower East Side cultural and community groups, small businesses, and residents will host a variety of public events, exhibits, tours, and learning opportunities. Celebrations proudly feature Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other community histories of the LES as defined by its historical boundaries which includes the East Village, Chinatown, Two Bridges and Loisaida.
A Abrons Arts Center, Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company, Art Loisaida Foundation, Artists Alliance Inc., Arts For Art, B Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, C Center for Remembering & Sharing, The Clemente, Chinatown Partnership, City Lore, Cooper Square Committee, Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, D Dixon Place, Downtown Art, E Earth Celebrations, East Village Community Coalition, East Village Independent Merchants Association, East Village Vintage Collective, Educational Alliance Art School, Essex Street Market, Exit9 Gift Emporium, F FABnyc, First Street Green, FRIGID New York, G Good Old Lower East Side, Grand Street Settlement, Green Map System, H Hester Street Fair, I IATI Theater, International Center of Photography, K Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum, L La MaMa, La Sirena Mexican Folk Art, Lo Fi Dance Theory, Loisaida Inc., Lower Eastside Girls Club, Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, Lower East Side Partnership, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, Lucky on B, M M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden, Mark DeGarmo Dance, Merchant’s House Museum, MoustacheCat Dance, Museum at Eldridge Street, Museum of Chinese In America, Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, N Nazareth Housing, New York Marble Cemetery, New York NeoFuturists, New York Theatre Workshop, O Office of Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, Office of Councilwoman Margaret Chin, P The Poetry Project, Printed Matter, Q Queer|Art, R Rod Rodgers Dance Company & Studios, S Seward Park Library, Sixth Street Community Center, Swiss Institute, T Teatro Círculo, Tenement Museum, Tompkins Square Library, U University Settlement V Village Preservation, W WOW Café Theater # 8 Ball Community, 6th & B Garden.
LES Stories: Chalk the LES! | Saturdays May 1 & 8
FABnyc | More Info
May 1 – Black Histories of the LES
FAB will work with local artists to chalk Black histories and trace the presence of Black communities throughout the Lower East Side.
May 8 – Chalking on Avenue B Open Street
In collaboration with Loisaida Open Streets Community Coalition, we will be celebrating the multilayered histories of the neighborhood by chalking historical trivia along the street. Swing by any time in the afternoon to join us!
+ Virtual Chalking!
For folks online, all are encouraged to participate in a virtual “chalking” of the social media streets by posting about local histories, other trivia, or even the history of your community/organization in the Lower East Side. Hashtags: #LESmonth #LEShistorymonth #peoplesLES
Always Hopeful | Throughout May 2021
Lucky | 168 Avenue B
In recognition of Lower East Side History Month, Lucky proprietrix Abby Ehmann, aka Editrix Abby, curated a book of photographs titled “Always Hopeful” inspired by a quote by Dorothy Parker. The book contains shots of Manhattan over a 50-year span, in various stages of disrepair and distress, but “always hopeful.”
Visit Lucky for a photo exhibit of work from the book. These prints and copies of the book will be for sale. There will be an accompanying menu of historically inspired cocktails available all month as well, featuring the 1870’s Sazerac and the 1970’s Tom Collins.
Assorted Pop-Ups at La Sirena | Every Saturday in May
La Sirena Mexican Folk Art | 27 E 3rd St
Every Saturday in May, La Sirena will be having a Mexican cultural pop up out front of the shop. With ballet folklorico, music, traditional food for sale, print signing by renowned photographers, donation table to help those who do not have resources and always , Fabulous folk art. Check out their FB and instagram to see what fun pop up is coming each weekend ! Mask required, social distancing encouraged. La Sirena will provide hand sanitizer.
Yiddish Theater Virtual Walking Tour | Tuesday, May 4, 1pm
Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI) | More Info
Explore the creativity and vitality of early 20th Century Yiddish theater and its contribution to New York City culture with Barry Feldman. Sites on this live-streamed tour will include the Village East Cinema (former Yiddish Arts Theater), La Mama (site of the first Yiddish production in New York), and the Hebrew Actors Union. Themes will address the origins of Yiddish theater, culture, language and literature, immigration, adaptation to NYC and famous performers.
Mamas with Chutzpah Virtual Walking Tour | Wednesday, May 5, 5pm – 6:30pm
Museum at Eldridge Street | More Info
A special Mother’s Day virtual walking tour exploring historic sites around the Lower East Side. This virtual edition of the popular Mother’s Day Lower East Side walking tour highlights the experience of Jewish women in the neighborhood. We’ll follow in the footsteps of pious women and prostitutes, activists and artists, freethinking feminists and tough-talking balabustas. Stops will include settlement houses, a mikveh, the first municipal playground in America and, of course, the Eldridge Street Synagogue!
Jewish New York: A History and Guide to Neighborhoods, Synagogues, and Eateries | Wednesday, May 5, 7pm – 8:15pm
Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy | More Info – RSVP required
Author Paul Kaplan discusses his indispensable travel guide, covering all things Jewish in Manhattan. This book delves into the rich history and immense contribution of Jewish immigrants. Focusing on neighborhoods in Manhattan, Kaplan includes museums, places of historic interest, restaurants, synagogues, and entertainment venues. It is a road map of Jewish immigration in the Big Apple.
MOCAKIDS Author Meet & Greet with Julie Leung | Thursday, May 6, 4pm – 4:30pm
Museum of Chinese in America | More Info
Join for a MOCAKIDS Meet & Greet with award-winning author Julie Leung! Julie will read her inspiring new book, The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee, about the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military. Then you’ll have a chance to ask Julie questions about her writing process and together we’ll create a paper plane in honor of Hazel. This event is free to the public. Best for families with children ages 4-8, but all are welcome. Please note that this workshop will be recorded via Zoom and available on Facebook Live.
From Spaces of Resistance to the Architecture of Repair | Thursday, May 6, 6pm
The Clemente | More Info
Join for a conversation with cultural activists, artists, and scholars Nandini Bagchee, Libertad O.Guerra, and Todd Ayoung. Led by Gregory Sholette, and focusing on past, present, and future forms of collective self-organizing in the face of ongoing economic, political, environmental, and aesthetic crises, the group will discuss the construction of urban counter-institutions in the defunded ruins of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1970s, as well as Community Land Trusts and ecologically structured social zones that have emerged since the 1980s, despite neoliberal privatization and displacement. As we confront present-day struggles over hyper-gentrification, racialized policing, and an insidious political threat from white supremacists recently targeting people of Asian descent, their conversation will outline how collective resistance can repurpose, repair, and re-imagine community liberation as a space of hope, resilience, and cultural emancipation.
ECOLOGICAL CITY – Art & Climate Solutions POP-UP PAGEANT | Saturday, May 8, 11am – 5pm
Earth Celebrations | More Info
Earth Celebrations’ ECOLOGICAL CITY: Art & Climate Solutions POP-UP PAGEANT features spectacular physically- distanced outdoor pop-up performances and temporary visual art presentations that celebrate the climate solution initiatives throughout the community gardens, neighborhood and East River Park waterfront of the Lower East Side.
ICP x Lower East Side History Month 2021: LES in Focus: iPhone Photography and Scavenger Hunt | Saturday, May 8, 12pm – 2pm
International Center of Photography | More Info
Join instructor Clint Weldon and guest artist Destiny Mata for a special LES History Month iPhone Photography online course! As the popular saying goes, “The best camera in the world is the one that’s with you.” In this hands-on workshop students learn how to elevate their photos from casual snapshots to frame-worthy personal images using only an iPhone. Topics include: highlighting your subject, framing and composition, using light and shadow to create mood and depth, as well as photo editing apps. After learning iPhone tips and tricks, students will be prompted to use the LES Local Business Photo Scavenger Hunt, created by Destiny Mata, to explore this vibrant and diverse neighborhood. Not located in New York City? You can still join the class and learn iPhone photography skills and explore your own community and neighborhood.
Happening all May: #ICPinLES launch, In-store display, Museum Admission BOGO for adult priced tickets, lobby screening of Film Club 68 and From Spike to Spindles
“Godlis Streets” of the Lower East Side: Book and Photo Talk | Tuesday, May 11, 6pm
Village Preservation |More Info
Named one of the New York Times Best Art Books of 2020, photographer David Godlis’ book Godlis Streets takes us deep into the recession-tattered Manhattan of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Known for his night photographs of the Bowery punk scene at CBGB between 1976 and 1979, Godlis will discuss that series of photographs, as well as a series of his color photographs from the 1980’s of long-gone storefronts in the East Village. Godlis has spent 40 years walking around the streets of New York by day, shooting whatever interesting catches his eye.
A Celebration of the Life and Work of Corky Lee | Thursday, May 13, 6pm
Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI) | More Info
Explore the work of the talented photojournalist, and champion of Chinese-American culture, Corky Lee, and his impact on his collaborators and friends.
Lower East Side Cityscapes: Free Outdoor Drawing Workshop | Saturday, May 15, 11am-1pm (Rain date: May 22)
Educational Alliance Art School | More Info
Join Educational Alliance Art School Faculty Member Jodie Niss for a free adult drawing workshop (18 years+) on Jefferson Street! This drawing workshop will use the built environment of our city block as inspiration! Working outside, we will draw street scenes from Jefferson Street including historic tenement buildings, Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center, Seward Park, and our local New York City Public Library. Jodie will teach techniques using one-point and two-point perspective to guide students to draw what they see. All materials included. *This workshop is made possible by our partners at Les Enfants de Boheme and the NYC Open Streets Program.
WHOOP Dee Doo: A free, live show for the community | Saturday, May 15, 6pm – 9pm (rain date: Sunday, May 16)
Artists Alliance Inc with Whoop Dee Doo, Garden of the Humanitarians, and Aalokam | More Info
Garden of the Humanitarians: 270 East 4th Street, NYC
Whoop Dee Doo artists, working in collaboration with local students and community members, founders of Garden of the Humanitarians, and the classical Indian dance company Aalokam, will stage a series of short performances (10-15 min), which change throughout the day in response to the setting of the sun.
Protest & Celebration: A History of Lower East Side Murals | Tuesday, May 18, 6pm – 7pm
Tompkins Square Library | More Info
Please join Jane Weissman for the exciting talk “Protest & Celebration: A History of Lower East Side Murals.” Jane will discuss the vital role these murals played in the community, exploring the social, political, and cultural context in which the murals were created.
Meet the Stars of Yiddish Broadway | Wednesday, May 19, 5pm (Rain date: Thursday, May 20)
Sixth Street Community Synagogue, Stanton Street Shul | More Info
Meet at SE Corner of Second Ave + East 10th St.
Second Avenue Deli owner Abe Lebewohl decided to celebrate Yiddish Theatre’s leading figures by creating granite stars and placing them in the sidewalk outside of the Deli. Enjoy hearing the stories of the playwrights, impresarios and actors who played in the theaters that dotted Second Avenue, known as the Yiddishe Rialto. Learn about the Second Avenue buildings they played in and how these buildings remain tied to the performing arts. Broadway’s roots run deep and are grounded in Second Avenue: theatrical figures “crossed-over” to Broadway for decades and more recently Broadway has crossed back to Yiddish Theatre through performances of Indecent and Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof. Paper and crayons provided so that you can rub the stars the right way.
Club 57: Lower East Side Performance, Art, Community, and Magic | Thursday, May 20, 2pm
Village Preservation | More Info
Club 57 was known for supporting all disciplines in the arts with a do-it-yourself, spontaneous spirit. Club 57 existed from 1978 to 1983 in the basement of a Polish Church at 57 St. Marks Place. What began as a no-budget venue for music and film exhibitions quickly took its place in a constellation of countercultural venues in the neighborhood experimenting with new modes of art, performance, fashion, music, and exhibition. Susan Hannaford, one of the Club’s co-organizers and director of The Club 57 Artists Fund, will join Village Preservation from Berlin for a special illustrated talk.
Walking Tour of 19th Century Noho: A Century of Change | Thursday, May 20, 11am, 2pm
Merchant’s House Museum | More Info
Join for a socially distanced journey back in time to the elite ‘Bond Street area,’ home to wealthy merchant families like the Tredwells, who lived at the Merchant’s House. You’ll see how the neighborhood surrounding the Tredwell home evolved from a refined and tranquil residential enclave into a busy commercial and cultural center during the 19th century. Stops include Colonnade Row, home to the Astors, Delanos, and Vanderbilts; the Astor Library, now the Public Theater; Tompkins Market, where the Tredwells bought their food; and bustling Astor Place, site of the Opera House riot of 1849, among the bloodiest in American history.
MOCAKIDS Meet & Greet with Author Oliver Chin and Illustrator Juan Calle | Thursday, May 20, 4pm – 4:45pm
Museum of Chinese in America | More Info
Join for a special MOCAKIDS Meet & Greet with author Oliver Chin and illustrator Juan Calle in celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month! Learn about trailblazing Chinese Americans– Bruce Lee, Dr. Flossie-Wong-Staal, Helen Zia, and Jeremy Lin– as Oliver reads excerpts from Awesome Asian Americans: 20 Stars Who Made America Amazing. Stick around for a live drawing demonstration with artist Juan Calle. Be sure to bring a sheet of paper and something to draw with. A pencil, colored pencil, marker, or anything you have on hand will work! This event is free to the public. Recommended for students in grades 4 through 8, but all are welcome. Please note that this workshop will be recorded via Zoom and available on Facebook Live.
Activism, Athletics & Advice: Immigrant Newspapers in NYC | Thursday, May 20, 6pm – 7pm
Museum at Eldridge Street, Museum of Chinese in America, The Forward | More Info
Nearly 200 languages are spoken by New York City’s diverse citizens. They read in their own language, too – 95 ethnic and foreign-language newspapers circulate every day in the city. Printing news from the old country alongside their new one, these papers keep immigrants connected and provide a sense of belonging. New York Magazine reported in 2014 that these newspapers have a combined circulation of 2.9 million – more than the print reach of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Daily News and the Post combined.
The Forward and the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) both have archives of these fascinating historic newspapers. Discover how these two different communities in such close proximity used their newspapers to share information and build community. Joining this conversation will be Chana Pollack, Archivist, The Forward; Yue Ma, Director for Collections and Research, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA); and Nancy Johnson, Archivist and Curator, Museum at Eldridge Street.
Snack & Story: What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street & Mama’s Leykach | Saturday, May 22, 10am
Seward Park Library & Essex Market | More Info
Lead Librarian Andrew Fairweather will be reading What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street, a unique and magical story drawn from the author’s own memories of growing up in tenement buildings. Then Essex Market’s Programs Director Lauren Margolis will try her hand at baking Mama’s Leykach, a traditional Jewish honey cake often served during the high holidays, using a recipe from the book itself! Perfect for kids aged 3 to 10 years old.
Lower East Side Walking Tour | Sunday, May 23, 1pm-2pm
Museum at Eldridge Street | More Info
Explore important sites of the neighborhood and piece together what life was in the Jewish Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century. A century ago, New York’s Lower East Side was home to the world’s largest Jewish community. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants lived, worked, played, here; all while struggling to survive. Today, much of this neighborhood has changed as new generations of immigrants make the Lower East Side part of their own story. But if you look closely, you can find remnants of Jewish community from a century ago. Join the Museum at Eldridge Street for an hour-long in-person tour as we explore important sites of the neighborhood and piece together what life was in the Jewish Lower East Side at the turn of the 20th century.
The 34th Annual Loisaida Festival |1st Part: Sunday, May 23, 2pm | 2nd Part: Sunday, May 30, 2pm
Loisaida, Inc. | More Info
The 34th Annual [Virtual] Loisaida Festival –which will live-stream on Sunday, May 23 and Sunday, May 30, 2021–will feature a solid roster of musicians and performers, artistry, and overall family entertainment, comparable to only the best Latinx Heritage Festivals in the world. The musical lineup includes: World-renowned Mexican singer & actor Fernando Allende; Afro-Caribbean/electronic music project ÌFÉ; Puerto Rican folk singer Chabela Rodríguez; Afro-Brazilian Samba Reggae All-Female Band Batalá, and acclaimed local contemporary R&B Soul-Jazz artists Duendita and Linda Díaz, winner of NPR’s 2020 Tiny Desk Concert.
Becoming Loisaida: Spanish Caribbean Food & Family on the Lower East Side | Tuesday, May 25, 5pm
Essex Market & Tenement Museum | More Info
A celebration through food of the past and present of the Lower East Side’s Spanish Caribbean communities. The Tenement Museum will share the story of Ramonita Rivera Saez and her children, who migrated from Puerto Rico to the Lower East Side in the 1950s. From there you’ll go to the historic Essex Market to meet Sobeida De La Cruz, owner of Viva Fruits & Vegetables. The De La Cruz family migrated from the Dominican Republic during the same wave of immigration in the 1950s, and has owned produce markets on the Lower East Side for over 20 years.
Bialystoker The Beautiful – 1 hour Evening Tour | Wednesday, May 26, 6pm – 7:15pm
Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy | More Info
Join for a 1 hour tour of the magnificent Bialystoker Synagogue, which was built in 1826 as a Methodist Church, and believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. Hear a presentation of Lower East Side history and learn about the largest active Jewish congregation on the Lower East Side today. See its ceiling covered with rare, hand-painted and treasured mazales – representations of the signs of the zodiac. This is one of the few surviving examples left of what once were countless Eastern European synagogues boasting these depictions. Those synagogues (and their mazales) were destroyed by Nazi
The Conservancy is the only touring organization with access to this site!
More events coming very soon!