A Taste of Essex Street Market: Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space
A historic culinary destination on the Lower East Side, Essex Street Market is home to more than 20 independent merchants. Over the next few months, we will feature the characters that make up the bustling corner of Delancey and Essex Street.
Essex Street Market is filled with all sorts of edifying goods, including some of the non-edible variety. This week, we profile Artists Alliance, a non-profit that supports emerging artists and serves as a resource to engage the Lower East Side community. Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, one of their four principle programs, provides exhibition opportunities to hundreds of independent artists in the community. Here, the group shares information on the kind of art they bring to the market.
Name: Artists Alliance Inc.
Business Name: Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space
How long in market: Since 2001
Product sold: Art!
Who started the business, and why did they want to be in the market?
Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space is a program of Artists Alliance Inc., that was started in 2001 by Paul Clay, one of our founding members. The gallery provides independent curators with the opportunity to exhibit the work of underrepresented and emerging artists. We believe that the arts and individual artists are essential elements of the culture, history, and future of the Lower East Side. Our location within the Essex Street Market underscores our mission to connect contemporary artists with the local community.
What is your favorite memory at Essex Street Market?
We love welcoming market vendors into our gallery either as artist/curators or as collaborators to our exhibiting artists. In January 2012, artist Alison Owen created a site-specific installation called Shelf Life that was inspired by architectural and spatial patterns throughout the market that incorporated objects given to the artist from the market vendors. More recently, Jenny Santos had an exhibition called The Nineteenth Hole, which was an interactive putting green—we enjoyed the vendors’ participation with a daily putt!
What is the specialty of your organization?
Artists Alliance Inc. (AAI), the organization that programs Cuchifritos Gallery, is an artist and curator-centered 501c3 non-profit organization committed to supporting emerging and underrepresented contemporary artists. Through innovative programming, experimentation, and collaboration, AAI serves as a resource and forum to engage the community of the Lower East Side.
What is your favorite time of the week at the market, and why?
It’s hard to decide on a favorite time at the market. Any opportunity where we are able to connect with visitors and our fellow vendors is a delight!
Do you source any products from within the market?
We shop from the market vendors whenever possible for openings and events at Cuchifritos. More importantly, the market vendors keep our staff and volunteers well fed during lunch breaks. It's also a great place for fast and friendly grocery shopping on the way home.
Are there any “fun facts” about your business that you want to share?
We are constantly being asked about the gallery’s name, Cuchifritos! The founders wanted the gallery’s name to reflect our location within the food market and also to give a nod to one of the Lower East Side’s diverse cultural groups. In fact, being surrounded by so many delicious food vendors, we regularly get visitors looking to purchase cuchifritos [generally, a fried food that often involves pork]. Sadly, we must turn them away, but hope that they enjoy the unexpected glimpse of our exhibition space and return.