Pieces are falling into place for activist museum
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Things are really starting to come together at the new Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) — including, notably, its mosaic sign.
Over the past two weekends, volunteer crews have been assembling at the museum space, in the ground-floor storefront of C-Squat, at Avenue C and E. 10th St., to assemble the sign — a first for all of them.
According to Laurie Mittelmann, the museum’s co-director, on the first weekend, they tried to enlist the East Village’s “Mosaic Man,” Jim Power, to do the 13-foot-long shingle, but he was swamped with his various commission work. But Power gave two of the museum’s volunteers a tutorial, and they also read about making tile mosaics online, allowing them to get started.
The result was a smashing success. However, the tiles weren’t literally smashed, but clipped. They purchased 3-inch-by-3-inch blue tiles, and Mittelmann and the volunteers, using a cutting tool, clipped them into fragments and shards. Then they arranged the blue bits into the shape of the letters, which had been stenciled onto the sign. Black tile bits were used to create the MoRUS logo at the sign’s right end. The space between the blue letters was filled in with mirrored mosaic pieces.
Meredith Doby, an exhibit designer, created the sign’s design, and, with Jonathan Daily, pieced together the “M.”
“It’s like a puzzle — but you’re controlling it,” she said of the M.O. of mosaic.
Meanwhile, the mosaic maestro Power showed up this past Saturday to help them with adding the grout, as well as doing the design elements on the sign’s left side, including four tenement buildings with a garden in the middle, with the sun shining in the background.
The sign is close to completion. As for the museum, Mittelmann said they hope to open soon.
When they’re not getting MoRUS ready, Mittelmann, co-director Bill DePaola and volunteers help out in local gardens. They recently installed a sink in La Plaza Cultural, built a stage in Green Oasis Garden, and planned to construct a solar-powered pond in another community garden.
MoRUS will be paying C-Squat $1,600 monthly rent. The museum recently received $3,500 from Councilmember Rosie Mendez, which will help, covering two months’ rent.
Bill Cashman, a band and event manager who lives in the former squat, took the lead on bringing in the museum.
He said a few of the C-Squat residents actually had backed a more traditional commercial tenant for the space, feeling it would bring in the most rent, which would be to the residents’ benefit. But most wanted a nonprofit use connected to the principles of East Village squatting and activism, and MoRUS fit the bill.
“I’m totally for it,” Cashman said of MoRUS. “Me and Johnny Coast — it was a total group effort.”
Cashman added that if some sort of chain store were the tenant, it would have fixed up the storefront space at its own expense. However, C-Squat spent its own funds to get the storefront, as well as part of the basement, into usable shape for MoRUS.
“We put in a lot of money,” Cashman said, not wanting to disclose the amount publicly.
For Cashman and the other C-Squatters, the crowning moment will be when the museum’s new storefront and steel window frame is installed — which was made by two of the building’s longtime denizens, Popeye and Shayne — which will mark the end of C-Squat’s efforts on behalf of the new museum space. That will happen sometime soon.
“It’ll be good,” Cashman said. “That roll-down gate has been closed for so many years. It’ll be one less closed, roll-down gate on the block.”