SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — All it took was one glimpse into the charmingly gritty world of the bustling Fulton Fish Market more than 30 years ago, and Naima Rauam said she was hooked.
“It was fascinating watching these men working through the night, busily throwing around colorful fish, colorful boxes, with water, ice that glistened,” said Rauam, a painter who set up her first studio in one of the Seaport fish company buildings in 1983.
“I thought it was magical. I thought, 'This is where I want to be.'"
Rauam kept her studio in the Seaport even after the fish market closed in 2005 — moving into a space on the second floor of the Pier 17 mall — but now she's being forced out again as the pier undergoes a complete overhaul.
“It’s sad — it’s like a trauma,” Rauam said. “My work has always been anchored to the Seaport.”
Rauam has to move out by Sept. 9, when the entire mall will be shuttered in anticipation of construction that is slated to begin Oct. 1. The multi-million-dollar redevelopment calls for gutting the mall and replacing it with high-end shops and restaurants built in a sleek, glass structure.
To mark her final days on the pier, Rauam will be showing a selection of her paintings, charcoals and prints at one last exhibition in her Pier 17 gallery, from Aug. 28 to Sept. 9.
The artist said she's been searching for another Seaport space, but with so many buildings still shuttered, or under construction, because of Hurricane Sandy damage, she has not yet had any luck.
“I want to come back, of course,” said Rauam, who lives on the Lower East Side and said she loves the Seaport's historic buildings, quaint cobblestones and waterfront views.
“But right now I’m just focused on the day-to-day — it really all hasn't sunk in yet."
Rauam's show, in her second-floor gallery in the Pier 17 mall, will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.