In December 2015, Artmakers directors Camille Perrottet and Jane Weissman realized that the 30th anniversary of the La Lucha murals had come and nearly gone. Clearly, a commemoration of some kind was in order. Thus, began a 15-month effort to contact or locate the 34 participating muralists in order to gather primary materials for what became the exhibition La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues: 1985 & 2017.
The exhibition opened on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at The Loisaida Center (TLC), across Avenue C from La Plaza Cultural. Scheduled to run until June 30, it was extended twice—to July 31 and then to September 10.
Curator Jane Weissman thanks Libertad Guerra, TLC’s executive director, for inviting Artmakers to mount the exhibition at The Loisaida Center and TLC’s operations manager Alejandro Epifanio and staff member Andrea Gordillo for their warm welcome and generous assistance in making it an outstanding success.
Camille Perrottet documented the 1985-86 murals and her photographs are the foundation of the exhibition. They show the artists at work and play, the various stages of the murals’ evolution, and their completed form.
Countless thanks go to Artmakers’ La Lucha colleagues who rummaged through their archives, basements and attics to provide primarily materials that supplemented Camille’s images: more photographs, preliminary sketches and maquettes, copies of funding proposals and site schematics, press releases and publicity posters, media coverage, and video documentation.
Moreover, the artists wrote of their La Lucha experience, providing a searing portrait of Loisaida in the 1980s and the political issues that influenced their murals’ themes and imagery. These statements and selected images are included in the exhibition catalog.
The exhibition’s opening was as much a reunion as a wonderful celebration. Nineteen original artists attended. (Two additional artists visited during the run of the show.) They came from near and far—the City, upstate New York and Long Island, Massachusetts, and Chicago. Many hadn’t seen each other since the murals’ dedication so gloriously captured by video documentarian John Hunt who also attended. Glasses were raised for those artists who couldn’t attend the opening and special toasts were made to the memories of Eva Cockcroft, Nancy Sullivan and Luis Frangella.
During the exhibition’s opening weeks, Artmakers and The Loisaida Center presented several public programs.
CHARAS’ Chino Garcia joined La Lucha muralists Maria Dominguez, Noah Jemisin, Kristin Reed and Seth Tobocman for a program moderated by TLC’s Libertad Guerra that, in words and images, looked at Loisaida: Then and Now.
Jane Weissman presented two illustrated talks. The first outlined a general history of the neighborhood’s murals including those sponsored by City Walls and the collaborations between Cityarts Workshop and local residents to create, in the 1970s, New York’s earliest and, perhaps, most political community murals. The second focused on Artmakers’ La Lucha murals, detailing their inspiration, themes, imagery, and legacy.
Additionally, artist Mauricio Trenard led a 6-week Community Screen Printing Workshop sponsored by The Loisaida Center. The participants took as inspiration the political issues addressed by the La Lucha murals; more than 30 years later, these issues still impact Loisaida residents. The 16” x 20” posters produced in the workshop formed the basis of a companion exhibition to La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues: 1985 & 2017. Also on view were Adam Ende’s puppets created for the 2017 Loisaida Festival as well as an image of the La Lucha-inspired community mural at First Street Green (Second Avenue and Houston Street), organized by TLC and FABnyc (Fourth Arts Block).
On June 30, Jim Cockcroft, Eva’s former husband, and Eric Cockcroft, one of their three sons, visited the exhibition. They were accompanied by good friends Michael and Debby Smith along with La Lucha muralists Kristin Reed and Camille Perrottet. Following a spirited lunch at Mogador, Kristin brought Jim and Eric to La Plaza, its current beauty and community activity very different from its derelict and near-abandoned state in the summer of 1985.
The exhibition La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues: 1985 & 2017 has been preserved intact and is part of the Artmakers archive recently acquired by New York University. It is housed in Fales Library’s Downtown Collection, one of its many Special Collections. When processed, the archive will be available by appointment to researchers, scholars and journalists. For more information, click here.