Central, one of the video interviews in my installation, 9 Flights, is my tribute to Tommy. Tommy, then a 92-year old active member of the Y, was a former gymnast and athlete who had joined the Central Y in the 1930’s.
When Tommy and I pressed weights together in the fourth floor gym, he would tell me the story of his “walk.” Between sets, he would put his hands on his small hips and proudly recount the story to me. It was some sixty years ago that Tommy had performed a perfect handstand, and then while maintaining his balance he had walked down the entire nine flights of the Y’s metal fire escape stairs on his hands. His pride of his extraordinary feat inspired and sustained him in his workouts until his passing in 2011.
His story as well as the memory, empowerment and community of the Y inspired me. I have created an installation built upon video interviews with former members of the Central Y community. Included in the installation are my ‘stat’ sheets which narrate memories of my days, times, and efforts of weightlifting and body change which began at the Central Y and inform my art practice today.
I continue to collect stories for an ongoing video narrative. I will place a mail-slot at the projection site to collect personal stories from residents of the neighborhood, former members of the Y and other passers-by.
Former members can choose to respond to a questionnaire I have distributed at select YMCAs and at www.midmarketartproject.org