How Arlene’s Grocery is Changing its Tune to Embrace Street Art

Posted on: July 30th, 2015 at 9:27 am by
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Arlene’s Grocery celebrates two decades on Stanton Street this year. Considered one of the first modern live music clubs in the neighborhood, the establishment came to prominence in 1995 when the former bodega and butcher shop at 95 Stanton were combined to create the venue.

It’s an establishment known more for its stage and musical attraction than anything else. An elclectic mix of punk, hardcore, funk, and rock acts have passed through since the joint opened twenty years ago (e.g. The Strokes, Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, The Bravery, and Jim Carey). Heavy Metal Karaoke still reigns supreme on Monday nights, too.

But, for Arlene’s Grocery, music isn’t the only creative draw. There is also a budding art program taking shape. It began in 2012 when street artist Joseph Meloy (aka Vandal Expressionism) was approached by talent booker Eric Berrebbi for a mural. The empty wall space in the lounge half of the establishment was also catalyst. A relationship developed, and more artists began to participate. Three years and a brief hiatus later, “A Group Show” was the result – a weekly roundup of local upstarts spanning the scene from the streets to photography, sculpture, and illustration. So, Meloy has essentially become the de facto curator of its visual programming.

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Thus far, the response to “A Group Show” has been fairly positive. So we’re told. Each go-round (i.e. Tuesday nights) boasts about a dozen artists, and facilitates a non-pretentious art atmosphere for folks who might not otherwise visit a gallery. Berrabbi says those people “seeing, appreciating, and purchasing the art that’s displayed here.”

Both Meloy and Berrabbi are quick to note how the art scene here is approachable. “There are a lot of stuffy, uninviting art events in this world, and this is certainly not one of them,” Meloy quips.

And, on a tangent, we asked the Arlene’s Grocery talent booker what he thought of the current Lower East Side Music scene…

I think that this is still (and will continue to be) a great neighborhood for live music, even with the emergence of Williamsburg and Bushwick as important scenes. In addition to us, there’s Rockwood, Pianos, Cake Shop, Mercury Lounge, and Bowery Ballroom – all amazing rooms that book great talent within a few blocks of each other. The neighborhood has definitely changed over the years, but you’re still getting a great mix of established and emerging bands of every genre passing through.

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