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The Bob Smith Legacy Projects

Danielle Tilkin

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." Albert Einstein

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PRESENTATION AND MISSION

Bob Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1944 and died of Aids in Miami in 1990.  During his lifetime, as an artist, he had major exhibitions of his paintings and works in Europe and the USA and lived for many years abroad in Morocco, Spain and France; He returned to the States and settled in New York in the late seventies, becoming part of the international underground art scene, befriending and collaborating with artists from all disciplines and generations.  The loft that he shared with Michel Auder (married to Viva, the Warhol star) at 228 West Broadway was already an acknowledged outpost for the European expatriates as he took it over from Miralda and Muntadas, two artists friends from Spain, and shortly after became a favorite meeting point for poets (Taylor Mead), writers (Gregory Corso, Gary Indiana), dancers (Jack Waters) actors (Udo Kier), musicians (Meredith Monk) and artists of all path of life (Christo and Jeanne-Claude) but not exclusively, though he liked to remind one that "Life is not a popularity contest", he certainly had a warm and generous aura that brought many and all together. His art making was a wonderful tool of communication, and in his last years became vital for his survival. Sharing it opened new horizons for others and up to his last minute he collaborated in workshops with groups of other sick patients or with the elderly.  It was his wish that the work should go on, and this has become the mission of our project.


At his death, the contents of his studio were left to the director of this project, Danielle Tilkin, an independent curator and close friend, who with help from the Legacy Project for artists with AIDS (started by the Alliance for the Arts in New York) was able to photograph and catalogue hundred of drawings, etchings, paintings and sculpture/assemblages.  This work constitutes our immediate capital, as through exhibitions it could generate sales that would be turned over to the project.

During his illness, Bob Smith became acquainted with many doctors, hospitals, clinics and hospices, getting familiar with therapy groups that could use him to bring to others the main fighting tool he could share, his art.  The first of these doctors was Dr. Caro, a friend to many artists, who was practicing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, in a then very marginal community, Dominican and Puerto Rican on one side of the bridge and Hassidic on the other.  The clinic was so incrusted in the life of the community that it was a meeting point to all, a home where friendly exchanges took place, and where grandmother’s remedies from different sources could still be shared before the visits with the doctors.  Our first project started there and will expand as we learn.    


Our mission is to address the needs of low-income communities, of those who do not have access to mainstream cultural riches.  Our goal is to provide and promote the tangible benefits of art education and share the global life-enhancing power of all art forms through a hands-on approach with workshops with artists, musicians and dancers for example and the back-up of activities such as exhibitions, concerts and related events. 

PAST ACTIVITIES : 2011-2012 :


PROJECT # ONE  :  THE CLINIC : MEDSPAN ASSOCIATES
First started by 4 doctors of different backgrounds and specialties at 248 Roebling St, in a predominantly Latino neighbourhood, a.k.a. "Los Sures", it recently expanded and moved to a new facility around the corner at 231 South 3rd Street, encouraging colleagues at the N.Y.U. Medical Center to complete the rooster of specialists to better serve this ever growing community with the arrival of new patients from the Hassidic community on the other side of the highway, and a new wave of international young residents, artists and others.  It now counts with 20 doctors, a dentist, a pharmacy, a laboratory and soon a small surgery unit. One of its principals, Dr. Caro, was a friend to many artists and Bob Smith in particular.  He diagnosed his fatal illness and never spared efforts to treat him along the years.  In tune with Bob Smith later vision, the new clinic became the first focus of our mission.  To familiarize the patients with our project and to initiate them to the experience of seeing and understanding art, a selection of works by Bob Smith were hung on the walls and offices.  Talking to other artist friends, the list grew larger, and the clinic now has a vast variety of works of art on permanent display. The community has responded with enthusiasm to this initiative and patients can be seen and heard sharing opinions and visions.

The high point of this first phase became the official inauguration of the clinic in June 2012, for which MIRALDA, an international Spanish artist whose work is closely related to culture, rituals and food, created a public celebration, EL DIA DE LOS SURES (The Day of the Souths), which involved competitions for some of the best famous national dishes and soft drinks prepared by the community mothers and grandmothers, and brothers and uncles too !  An all day celebration in the street, accompanied by a Health Information and Check-up Fair with doctors taking blood pressure and chatting with their patients.  

2013 - 2014

PROJECT # TWO :  THE ANNEX
The space of the old MEDSPAN clinic is being totally renovated, and has now been made available for our first workshops. Aware of other community projects in the neighbourhood, we will mostly focus on certain creative art activities for the young (5-8, 9-12, 13-23 yrs. old), the elderly, the hearing-impaired or those children with major illnesses in hospital. Our focus is the creative process through the arts as a therapeutic medium and a means of fomenting self-awareness, emotional or psychological healing, as well as the discovery of new means of communication through a personal hands-on approach for all to share their input and feedback with the artists.  The calendar of activities will be well publicized and the resulting products/creations posted on our website for everyone's benefit and enjoyment. All workshops will be free to the participants.  
The volunteer curator of this first year project will be Begoña Rey Fernandez of Inertes.org.  She is an artist and a professional specializing in video and computer animation in particular, but has also great experience in teaching and solidarity work.  She has recently volunteered work with the West Harlem based organization Kids-Make-Movies.  She will also be in charge of the creation of the website and the diffusion to the media and social networks of all activities.   The program will consist of:

1. INTEGRATION FOR THE HEARING-IMPAIRED: Film workshops with the hearing-impaired.  Bringing together the hearing and hearing-impaired, to create and narrate stories that will then be posted on the internet or projected for all, using this form of film-making as a link between two worlds.
 2. FOR SENIORS: Cartoon workshop to produce a series for the younger and children.  It would also be posted on the internet and other adequate media.
3. SOLIDARITY: Collaboration with humanitarian projects - visits to children hospitals and workshops on colour and painting and through animation make colour videos.  Also, papier-maché work to create planet and solar system for example.
 4. FAMILY AND ALL: Collective memory. Roots and legacy. Passing the word to the younger. Recycling and poetics. A second life through art. Artists who have lent their work to the clinic and other guests will create special workshops for all ages around their work. In site exhibitions, and commented visits. Music is also an important key to the community and special events and classes will be implemented for all.
 5. THE ANNEX ON THE WEB.  Creation of a website for the diffusion of our community's productions. Linking to the social networks.


 PROJECT # THREE:
 A. EXHIBITION :  BOB SMITH AND NEW YORK, SLEEPERS & DREAMERS
 Curator: Danielle Tilkin

March 31 - May 15, 2014  

248 Roebling Street, Williamsburg 

 B. CATALOGUE: fully illustrated, English and Spanish.  With essays by writer and art critic Gary Indiana and others who were prominent in that period and knew the artist. IN PROCESS.

C. WEB : www.thebobsmithlegacyprojects.blogspot.com