Penny Arcade celebrates 13 years of documenting the disappearing Lower East Side art scene

Quentin Crisp and Penny Arcade. ()
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For more than a decade now, Manhattan performance artist and former Warhol starlet Penny Arcade has been doing her part to preserve the legacy of fellow downtown artists—a legacy that continues to be gradually erased as the East Village and the Lower East Side march toward total gentrification.

Her oral history series, "The Lower East Side Biography Project," produced in collaboration with videographer Steve Zehentner, airs every Wednesday at 11 p.m. on Time Warner Channel 34 and several other local stations.

Tonight, Arcade (real name: Susana Carmen Ventura) and Zehenter will celebrate 13 years of broadcasting with a special program at the CUNY Graduate Center's James Gallery.

The 90-minute program will feature a series of four-minute "mini biographies" of some of the many counterculture stars they've documented over the years, including Jonas Mekas, Jayne County, John Vaccaro, Jack Waters, Jeanie Chan, Judith Malina and Quentin Crisp, the British writer, actor and raconteur who was one of Arcade's closest friends before he died in 1999, the same year her biography project was born.

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Some Patti Smith performance footage is also on tap.

"It will be 90 minutes of fascinating 4 minute video clips of the very diverse people we have been interviewing about art, life and personal authenticity for past 13 years," Arcade wrote in an email to friends and colleagues earlier this week. "We are not done by a long shot but this will be a smorgasbord of the many amazing and sometimes rare interviews we have done. ... It is a unique tapestry of art and individuality."

The Lower East Side Biography Project has been funded through the Rivington Street performance space ABC No Rio, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Manhattan Neighborhood Network. It also includes a "community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies," according to its Facebook page. "They become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography."

Tonight's event begins as 6:30 p.m. and its free and open to the public.