Artists reeling in Sandy’s wake

Employees are working to clean up the Fraunces?Tavern Museum.

Soaked costumes, torn paintings, ripped-apart sculptures — Hurricane Sandy flooded galleries around the city, many situated by the water in neighborhoods like Chelsea.

In Red Hook, a studio hosted “Sandy Hates Art,” a damaged-art show last weekend organized after galleries and artists, from Greenpoint to Tribeca, were pummeled by surges of water in the storm.

Chelsea art bookstore Printed Matter is just one example: they lost 9,000 books from their basement storage, totaling an estimated $200,000, an employee said.

The 80-year-old Martha Graham Dance Company had recently moved into an almost-new space themselves: the former Merce Cunningham studios on Bethune Street in Greenwich Village.

“We felt incredibly lucky to receive the space and still do,” Artistic Director Janet Eilber said.

But surge waters ripped the doors out of the walls of their 4,000-square-foot basement storage space, tossed around their heavy wooden crates packed with decades worth of iconic costumes and sets, and then remained, 6- to 8-feet-high, for six days.

It took an additional four or five days to pump all of the water out, Eilber said.

Many of the costumes were taken to the Fashion Institute of Technology, where experts are attempting to restore what they can, and the Smithsonian Institute gave them $10,000 to freeze-dry documents.

Others in the dance community offered help: The Joffery Ballet is loaning costumes from Graham works they danced in in recent years.



Lower Manhattan slow to recover

The South Street Seaport Museum and the Fraunces Tavern Museum are two Lower Manhattan institutions that are unable to reopen since the storm.

Both were fortunate not to lose any of their collection, kept on the upper floors, but floor-to-ceiling flooding in the lower levels knocked out utilities system.

At Fraunces Tavern, waters rose to three feet on the first floor. 

Jerry Gallagher, general manager of the South Street Seaport Museum, said it could have been much worse.

Their waterfront director, Captain Jonathan Boulware, assisted by his crew and various museum personnel, spent several days securing the massive ships kept on the water there.

“Our president, Susan Henshaw Jones, was down there pulling lines and tying rope,” Gallagher recounted.

Sorting out insurance and new spaces

Printed Matter’s insurance doesn’t cover the basement, as their lease is for the ground-level space.

Greenpoint wood sculptor Rachel Beach noted that such real estate gray areas are common in the arts community.

“Artists take all the weirdo spaces, the cheap spaces that other people won’t rent,” Beach said.

Beach is looking for a new space since her studio, a shared Commercial Street space, was flooded by waters from nearby Newton Creek — but she is finding it expensive.

“Artists have been priced out of the city,” she lamented.


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