The Money Trail

Arts Groups Large and Small Suffer After September 11; Special Foundation Grants Kick In

One local "reed" is choreographer Keely Garfield. If you called her in Battery Park City, the automated voice told you the number is not in service, and that no further information is available. Since that number is her business line as well as her family's home phone, she's sure she's lost bookings, and other useful contacts, in the months since September 11, when she watched the planes fly into the towers right outside her windows. She knows she lost seven weeks of rehearsal time, her focus, and the yield of all the grant proposals she might have written if she hadn't been caught up in the bureaucracy surrounding her dislocation.

Garfield, whose Sinister Slapstick troupe offers the new Free Drinks for Ladies With Nuts and two other works February 20 through 24 at the Duke on 42nd Street, has two young children and a husband who lost his job soon after the attack. Though she's had assistance from the Red Cross and is registered with FEMA, she's hoping the Arts Recovery Fund will reimburse her for the costs of many meals out, essential furniture—a bed, a table, a desk—and the press kits and videos inaccessible after the blast. "Money from my 'dance pot' went into my family's 'survival pot,' " she says. "How do you put a price on nearly two months of work that I missed doing, or on the yield of applications I wasn't able to get to?" But she's choreographing again, buoyed by an outpouring of support from the dance community.

Flight plan: Keely Garfield on her Battery Park City roof.
photo: Sylvia Plachy
Flight plan: Keely Garfield on her Battery Park City roof.

"I'm not going to be making a September 11 piece anytime soon," says Garfield. "But if my work is born of my feelings and my sensory perception of the world, what's being expressed now has a lot to do with the urge to hike my dress up and head for the hills, the idea of fright and flight—a very personal response, looking for escape routes. I've been grateful that I'm an artist, that I have access to how I'm feeling and the means to express it. It feels right and good, feels healing."

Experimental composer David First lives on Dutch Street, less than three blocks east of ground zero, and also witnessed the attack on September 11. He and his wife, painter and yoga teacher Patricia Smith, were "on the run" for two weeks, staying with friends, but then moved back into their loft. "At night, you can hear all the ominous crashing and banging and strange noises" still coming from the site, he says. "In a way, it's sadder for me now."

First wrote a song, "Jump Back" about September 11, cut a CD, and gave away 4000 copies of it, a process that occupied him almost totally until the end of 2001. Then, he says, "I sort of turned a corner. My denial went away. I'm trying to integrate [the destruction] into my life, where before it was my life."

He's finishing up another CD. "I ended up radically rewriting one of my songs to reflect things that have been going on since then." He's gratified that his guitar students have largely continued to come downtown, and is hard at work on music for a "new work with performing objects" with Theodora Skipitares, coming to La MaMa March 14 through 31. Called Tamburlaine the Great, it's about the radical Islamic world conqueror, and concludes with a meditation on war.

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