Thornton Willis

Thornton Willis
Wed, 07/18/2018 - 13:54
Related people
Related stories
When did you live in SoHo?


Where did you live in SoHo?

119 Spring Street-first loft85 Mercer Street- plus 40 years

What was your occupation when you lived in SoHo?


What do you miss most about SoHo in the 1970s?

The other artists, the ability to interact and learn from one another, building a community of fellow artists, using our studios to show each other's work, the peace and quiet to make art and think creatively. I miss the all night diners. I miss gathering at Fanelli's when Mike was still alive and his son's worked there. I miss the manufacturing community that worked here, though many in sweatshops. Yet it made the neighborhood real.

What do you miss least about SoHo in the 1970s?

Living here illegally, having no garbage pickup, no street lights at night. I do not romanticize the sweatshops that misused migrant or illegal workers. But I miss the integrity of people working for a living to make a better world for their families.

What is your most vivid SoHo memory?

The buildings, the architecture that is so compelling both inside and out. It was a soulful place filled with artist of diverse background, drawn here from every part of the US and abroad to try and make art of every kind; jazz, poetry, sculpture, dance, painting, and photography etc. The energy was amazing and unique because we were here in one area while the rest of the city for the most part ignored us.

Is there anything else you would like to add to your profile?

I have many slides of the lofts and artists studios from the late 1960's and early 1970's. I have street shots, I have internal shots. I show these slides from time to time in University and other settings. I used an NEA grant at the time to fund the project to include about 14 artists and their studios. Some went on to fame, like Hannah Wilkie and Jackie Whitten. I would be happy to share these with your project if you are interested.