Urban Works

Urban Works "Andy practically convinced me to open The Pop Shop. I feel a responsibility to continue the things that Andy inspired and encouraged". Closed in 2005.

A Short History of URBAN WORKS

- The name URBAN WORKS was first attached to a night club promotion team that technically began in 1990 with an emphasis on bringing art and culture to the night club experience in New York City.

- Many of the founding members of this promotional crew met at The Paradise Garage in the last few years before it closed in 1987 and shared an intellectual interest in the Warholian lineage and the directive he had passed on to Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquait, as well as an interest in the message of house music, dance and the culture of diversity that was brewing during those times. They saw the Garage as a place where human potential was being challenged in great ways and felt the Garage was more than just a club and it's mission needed to be continued.

- After Warhol's passing and the closing of the Garage in the same year, most of the founding members of URBAN WORKS went on to have an association with the Garage's predecessor, The Sound Factory. One founder spent two years in intense Buddhist study and indoctrination and after the death of Keith Haring decides to return to New York to research the mentor and teacher relationship that existed between Haring, Basquait and Warhol, with a mission to preserve the cultural messages that Warhol shared with the now deceased disciples of his lineage.

- In the early 90's, URBAN WORKS became synonymous with the mufti-cultural and pan-sexual youth culture that existed on lower Broadway in Manhattan centered on the clothing store, Unique Boutique. Two of the founding members worked closely with the owner of Unique in finding common ground between the different elements of a changing neighborhood and eventually brought much of the street culture into the actual store. Before it's closing, both the Broadway and Lafayette Street entrances had become meeting places for young people on their way to the clubs that night and a cultural oasis for the sometimes misunderstood multiracial crowd that frequented the area.

- URBAN WORKS earliest promotional team were mostly members of The House of Elegance, a rare mostly straight house in a predominately gay ballroom scene, with most of it's members being teenagers from the Lower East Side or from the Brooklyn gang, Together Forever. The promotional team was also heavily influenced by the Bronx street art crew, T.C.T. headed by the artist and Keith Haring protege, Andre Charles. URBAN WORKS primarily promoted events with a focus on celebrating the art and music of the youth culture most notably, Saturday Nights at Red Zone. Much of the energy of Urban Works during this time was centered on the "diversity dialogues" and association with the more formal youth organization at the time, "City Kids" and spearheaded by the platonic friendship of Joey Sheridan and Anthony "Atom" Cuevas, two key elements of URBAN WORKS.

- In 1991, URBAN WORKS was contacted by the New York Democratic Party to register young people to vote in the streets and clubs of New York. Over 100 young people participated and were paid to be part of the effort. URBAN WORKS and the artist, Andre Charles became and intricate part of the first Clinton presidential campaign in New York.

- In 1992, after the closing of Unique Boutique, Red Zone and worn down by violence in the clubs, Urban Works opened a small art gallery on Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan. The first show was a One Man Show for Andre Charles. The show was a huge success, but unfortunately the multicultural people it attracted were a source of contention with most of the neighbors, especially the two “mafia” social clubs on the block that were famously under much observation at the time. Urban Works survived one more opening on Mulberry Street, with a One Man Show for the graffiti fusion artist, Tim Vega, now deceased and most known for his album art for the popular music group, "The Blues Travelers" and his association with the downtown nightclub, Wetlands, another component of the youth culture of the time.

- In 1993, URBAN WORKS moved from it's gallery on Mulberry Street to offices on Bond Street. At 43 Bond Street the emphasis shifted from art only to a slightly more business version of a night club promotion company. At it's height, Urban Works coordinated the distribution of invites for most of the clubs and promoters in the city. The location soon became a social and business center to night club entrepreneurs of the 1990's. It was the creation of the night club promotion, Cafe con leche, a weekly event that was to become URBAN WORKS' manifestation of what the founders felt would be a party, Keith Haring might have seen as a natural evolution to his art. The co-founder of Cafe con Leche, Joey Sheridan when once asked if it was true the party was based on Keith Haring's spirit, answered, " Cafe con Leche was inspired by the relationship between Haring and his last "lover". Haring felt there was a message to that particular relationship and I wanted to explore that. The most immediate answer was to create a party that both Haring and his last lover would have thoroughly enjoyed equally". Populist in nature and a fusion of all downtown crowds, Cafe con Leche in addition to satisfying URBAN WORKS' base crowd also heavily promoted an atmosphere that both straight and gay people could equally be attracted too that had maybe not experienced the mixed scene of the Vill' at the time. With Latin culture as a bridge, Cafe con Leche went on to live up to it's reputation of being the place for, “The Gay, the Straight and the Not Quite Sure” for the remainder of the 1990's.

- Toward the end of the 1990's, both URBAN WORKS and Cafe con Leche fell into the pervading drug culture of the times and city's pressure to "clean up the clubs". URBAN WORKS and Cafe con Leche both suffered slow deaths under the scrutiny of the powers that be in the city's process of preparing New York to be able to attract more affluent people to it's real estate market and in the attraction of mainstream tourism that was happening by 2000, epitomized by the redevelopment of Times Square and the expansion of NYU in lower Manhattan.

- In the 2000's URBAN WORKS' founders splintered into safer grounds within the scene, some grew up and got real jobs, others went back to the land or nature or had families and went through many of the normal transitions that people have after their youth. Cafe con Leche continued to hold a popular event annually in New York during the 2000's, as it does to this day.

- After the sobriety of key founders, URBAN WORKS and Cafe con Leche returned in 2010 to re-establish a very incomplete mission with an event celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Keith Haring's Party of Life. Auspiciously the event was held on the same date, May 16th as the original Party of Life just 25 years later. The event raised money for The Hispanic AIDS Forum and for the ailing ex-lover of Keith Haring, Juan Rivera Xtravaganza.

- In 2011,URBAN WORKS, now heavily influenced by the green movement and Andy Warhol's quote, "I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art you can ever want to own", moved it's small office out of New York to Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, where it became involved in the revitalization of a small neighborhood and art community surrounded by a National Park. In September of 2011 URBAN WORKS opened "Natural Works" a natural light gallery without artificial lighting or climate control. The inaugural show "Mentor Disciple...Andy, Jean Michel and Keith", attracted over fifty artists from around the world. The theme of the show was for artists to produce works that depicted images of the persons of Warhol, Basquait or Haring and provided artistic comment on their unique relationship. The show extensively explored the message that Warhol, the mentor was transmitting to his younger disciples.

- On September 28th 2014, URBAN WORKS presents the works of Robert Hawkins at "Natural Works" in Hot Springs National Park, the first commitment to the original work of a single artist in over 20 years. In Robert Hawkins, URBAN WORKS had always found a link in the Warholian linage still largely unexplored, though the top art critics of the generation have proclaimed Hawkins talent, his work is still largely unknown outside the international art world. One of the conclusions in Warholian lineage research, is several artists were sidelined by the actual deaths of their mentor and peers, perhaps by the emotional state it left those in the art world. With Warhol, Basquait and Haring all dying with a few years of each other and with the younger artists especially, a feeling of loss was left behind, sometimes beyond just the artist's lives, but a sense that works never to be seen were lost or their evolution as artists would never be known.

- In the future, one can expect URBAN WORKS to continue to manifest it's research into the Warholian lineage with future shows by the illustrator Alvaro and the matured artist of Andre Charles. URBAN WORKS will continue to manifest the Warholian promise of a democratic approach to art and fame and will continue to explore his directives toward an art world that is more diverse, that gives equal opportunity to women and in fact champions women as natural spear headers of new art movement. URBAN WORKS humbly continues to research the Warholian linage message to understand life in an accessible, yet thought provoking manner, always going back to the basics provided by the following key quotes:

"Everyone is Rich and Everyone is Interesting" ...AW
"I don't want to be a Gallery Mascot" ...JMB
"Art is for the People" ...KH

Though URBAN WORKS recognizes the efforts of The Keith Haring Foundation in maintaining the mission of Haring's legacy, Urban Works was extremely saddened by the closing of The Pop Shop. Urban Works also plans on putting grass roots pressure on the family of Jean Michel Basquait to begin sharing his legacy with the world community in tangible ways that benefits all. URBAN WORKS is also very interested in the local art scene in New York by matured artists that were born in or "paid their dues" in New York (not to be confused with the art scene in New York). These hints should provide fodder for URBAN WORKS' plans in New York in 2015. UNDER CONSTUCTION>>>>>>URBAN WORKS' origins are found in the lives' of several of the founder's during Manhattan's downtown scene of the 1980's. Like many others of the time period, the founders came to New York to be in the world of Andy Warhol. During this time downtown and urban culture were taking huge leaps in inspiring each other in the art and music scene. Each with their own journeys through the 80's several founders eventually established themselves in the culture of The Paradise Garage, a predominately black gay club that had a huge influence on house music and diversity. In 1987 both Warhol's death and the closing of the Garage, left the founders identities and lifestyles shaken. Two of the founders went on to work at the Garage's successor, The Sound Factory and another left town to study Buddhism. In 1988, the artist Jean Michel Basquiat also passed. The three artists had served as cultural pillars of the their scene. In 1990 after the death of Keith Haring, the Buddhist determined to move back to New York and if even in some small way protect these artist legacies with three goals. One was to continue to study and propagate the directive that Warhol was passing on two his young artist protégés. Two, was to continue Haring's message that, "Art was for Everyone". Three, was on a human level and on the young artists own turf, protect the alive disciples of the Warholian lineage and to offer unofficial support to perpetuate and preserve their art and message for future generations to the best of his ability. Armed with this resolve, the Buddhist saw the continuation of bringing art the next generation in the night club environment as an immediate extension of his determinations. Together with the friends from The Garage era, they immersed themselves in what was left of downtown culture in 1990. The younger straight scene had anchored itself in front of the store, "Unique Boutique" on Broadway in Greenwich Village, while the younger gay scene continue to rule the West Village, particularly Christopher St. and was receiving attention in the ballroom scene. In 1990, these groups were primarily socializing separately. One founder, breaking into night club promotion, as the father of the House of Elegance, the city's first primarily straight house in the ballroom scene founded by John Elegance Xtravaganza and concurrently as a gay man that had created a friendship with Andre Charles, a Keith Haring protégé and his mostly straight "T.C.T."(The City's Talent) graffiti crew found himself at the epicenter of the "village kid" scene. The scene that had exploded around "Unique" by 1991 had become the starting point for any village kid going to a club that night. A club night promoted by an informal crew spearheaded by Joey Sheridan, Atom, E-Man and DJ Derrik Foxx and with a flyer by Andre Charles meant the party was on, and would be attracting an art oriented youthful, increasingly mixed crowd of straight and gay people that all knew each other from the village scene. Frustrated by police activity and neighborhood complaints, the owner of Unique Warehouse met with Joey Sheridan, John Elegance Xtravaganza and Andre Charles. The dialogue led to a compromise with neighbors and businesses that were going through demographic change. Sheridan, Elegance and Charles agreed to move the pre-club party atmosphere outside Unique Warehouse inside to the Lafayette St. side of the store and created formal ties with the store. Early in the new relationship, Harvey, the owner of Unique and Sheridan were walking from Unique to Canal Jean Company, the store owned by Harvey's brother. Harvey asked Sheridan if this arts oriented night club promotion team that was at the center of the scene around Unique had a name, was it House of Elegance, T.C.T, or was it altogether something else? Out of the corner of his eye, Sheridan saw a help wanted sign on another retail store they were passing that said, "Urban Works". He answered Harvey, it's called "Urban Works". Now an informal grass roots movement, Urban Works went on to promote Saturday nights at Red Zone. After Red Zone closed, the crew continued promoting primarily large Saturday night Red Zone style parties at various Manhattan clubs. At the time hip hop's popularity began overshadowing the more peaceful house scene and Urban Works became synonymous with a younger, multi-racial, pan-sexual, often misunderstood crowd of club regulars that enjoyed both hip hop and house music, though many club owners at the time began noticing the hip hop element to the parties invited more violence. In early 1992, a fatal shooting at a Urban Works produced concert featuring "Black Sheep" at what was then Kilimanjaro left the founders reflecting had their art mission gone off track and had they given in to the popularity of hip hop at the expense of a less diverse and peaceful crowd. It was also during this time that Clinton's first presidential campaign contacted Urban Works about paying it's flyer distributors to register people to vote. At a crossroads, Urban Works soon virtually moved into the Democratic Headquarters in New York during the campaign. Though Urban Works had made a name for itself with club owners to turn to for help with flyer distribution, Urabn Works continued to not have a direct role in night club promotion itself and decided to open a small art gallery on northern Mulberry Street in Little Italy with what little was left of the voter registration money and to begin to move in the direction of creating opportunities to what they considered "lineage" artists. The first official show in "Urban Works" gallery was for the artist, Tim Vega. The now deceased,Vega was known for his fusion of styles that incorporated his upbringing in Spanish Harlem and his downtown connection to the neo-hippy downtown club, Wetlands. His graffiti influenced pieces were featured on the album covers of the popular,Blues Travelers at the time.

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