josie in the NYT

Yesterday in the paper there was a pic of my daughter participating in the Chalk project, part of a profile of the wonderful Ruth Sergel. (And my first NYT photo credit!) I’ve written about Chalk several times — in The Forward back in 2007, on my blog in 2009 when Josie marched with today’s garment workers in the Labor Day Parade, and on my blog last year when the HBO crew followed Josie as she chalked. I think Chalk is everything a participatory art project should be — the barrier to entry is low; there is no pretentiousness to it; it draws connections between people rather than separating us. The Chalk project is volunteers fanning out across the city (though mainly the East Village and Lower East Side) to chalk the names and ages of the Triangle Fire victims in front of the places they used to live. Sometimes the tenements are still there, looking much as they did 100 years ago. Sometimes there’s a schmancy dress store at the address; sometimes the address itself is eradicated, replaced by a humungous apartment complex. The act of Chalking — being on your knees on the sidewalk — feels penitent; it’s uncomfortable. It puts you touch with the map of the city then and now. Taking the time to write the names of these women, most of whom died before their lives had truly gotten started, helps reassure us they’re not forgotten. This year, on the 100th anniversary of the fire, everyone wants to Chalk. Next year Ruth will be scrambling for volunteers again.

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