My friend Ruby took me on my first tour of the EAST VILLAGE back in 2000. It was part of my general education into the Lower East Side where so many families from Europe had created - with their customs, food and languages - Downtown. We ate at the 2nd Avenue Deli where I had an epiphany of some long-ago life in Gotham City. We walked along the side streets, I stared at the stoops, (I love New York City stoops) and Ruby tugged my sleeve ‘keep movin’ she muttered. We had coffee opposite Tompkins Square Park but we didn’t venture further than the entrance benches. The faded graffiti was the only indicator of a not-so-distant past when the EAST VILLAGE was a tough place. But I knew nothing about that.

I held my first art exhibition at the Cooper Brooke: A Tea House in a Gallery, on East 4th St. between Bowery and Second Ave in January 2004. It was one of the coldest nights of that year and I packed the house out (mostly with relatives and friends). I felt as though I’d arrived. Cooper Square (after whom the gallery was named) was itself named after Peter Cooper, inventor and industrialist, who benevolently founded the Cooper Union to provide free education in the arts, science and engineering. The arts have continued to thrive in the EAST VILLAGE – with the likes of Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons debuting here.