On November 1 the iconic Alamo sculpture, known simply as “the Cube” turned fifty years old!
At a Cube-themed birthday party, “Happy Birthday, Alamo”, presented by the Village Alliance in partnership with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), hundreds of visitors from the local community and beyond celebrated fifty golden years of Astor Place memories.
The wildly popular Astor Place Creativity Cubed workshops returned where many industrious hands constructed mini-spinning replicas of the Alamo sculpture, collaging them with images depicting fifty years of vibrant and eclectic East Village “faces, places and traces”. Alongside Creativity Cubed, things got even smaller as GVSHP led visitors through the intricacies of creating origami replicas of the Cube!
There was nothing small however, about the Cube’s three birthday cakes, custom designed and baked by Agata & Valentina. Each cake was of course, a perfect Cube, wrapped in black frosting with the topside featuring an image of the Alamo, printed on edible paper. (For the curious, it was chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream filling).
The cake provided welcome fuel for those taking part in the never previously attempted fifty minutes of non-stop Cube spinning, to benefit Astor Place based charity, the GO Project who’re also celebrating their fiftieth. While the Cube did not entirely spin non-stop (it almost did) dozens and dozens of folks spun hard to raise over $1,100 for the GO Project! For those moments the spinning over one ton of Cube became too much for mere mortals, the bright orange army from Orangetheory Fitness stepped in to keep it spinning, often with astonishing ease!
During fifty years of spinning around Astor Place, the Cube has witnessed many different perspectives of late night antics, colorful impromptu gatherings, hopping pop-up parties and so much more, if the Cube could talk, it could tell a million stories. At the birthday celebration strangers were instead telling and sharing their very personal and often innermost stories and secrets, while reading those of others with the Strangers Project, which has been a frequent part of this year’s Astor Place events.
The stories and watershed moments of Astor Place and East Village history are also documented in the seven colorful and shimmering light poles of the Mosaic Trail, created by and recently restored by Jim “the Mosaic Man” Power, with support from the Village Alliance, City Lore and Councilmember Mendez. At Happy Birthday, Alamo the Mosaic Man once again retuned to Astor Place, telling the story of how he began the infamous mosaic trail almost thirty years ago, while giving demonstrations of how he creates his mosaics.
Originally intended to be in place for just six months for the 1967 New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Sculpture and the Environment festival, the Cube has fifty years later gained a special place in the hearts and minds of many New Yorkers. The Cube’s history was shared with a speaking program, joining Village Alliance Executive Director were New York State Senator, Brad Hoylman, GVSHP Executive Director, Andrew Berman, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Tom Finkelpearl, Jonathan Kuhn, Director of Art & Antiquities; NYC Parks Department and Mandy Hackett The Public Theater Associate Artistic Director, who also celebrate their fiftieth birthday.
Across the entire year Astor Place, events have celebrated fifty years of the Cube, looking back at the significant cultural and social changes, which have taken place in our neighborhood. At all of these events and on social media there has been one recurring question, what does the Cube mean to you?
The Cube means so much too so many, with thousands of different memories and personal experiences having happened in its spinning shadows. There are however always two common recurring themes to what means for people, continuity and strength.
Continuity in the fact that no matter what we do around the Cube, no matter what experiences we share in its shadows, no matter what changes in our city, our lives and our world, the behemoth spinning bulk of the Cube is always continuously present, always waiting to be spun. And with that constant presence, comes the feeling of strength invoked by spinning its sheer weight, a metaphor and symbol for strength in our lives and our community…when things seem down a couple of spins can restore the sense of strength and continuity.
For many decades to come that sense of continuity and strength will be experienced by many more generations of New Yorkers, assured by the fact that November 1 will forever be known as “Alamo Appreciation Day”, as proclaimed by New York State Senator; Brad Hoylman in the shadow of the Cube at its fiftieth birthday.
We cannot be sure, but as Senator Hoylman read aloud the proclamation, we think the Cube slowly started to spin under its own strength, heralding another fifty golden years.