LOWER EAST SIDE — The storied history of the Lower East Side will take center stage in May as local groups run programs celebrating the neighborhood's past.
The first-ever LES History Month will feature more than 80 events, including live performances, talks, film screenings, exhibits and walking tours, said Ryan Gilliam who co-chairs the LES History Month steering committee.
“Our shared stories are actually fun. It’s really great to see where we all came from,” Gilliam said.
“It’s really kind of empowering to know our history.”
More than 60 community groups and cultural organizations are planning events as part of the month, covering everything from the neighborhood's centuries-old history to more recent developments.
Organizers are using the historical parameters of the Lower East Side to include what is now the East Village, Chinatown, Little Italy and Alphabet City.
Programs will begin May 1, but the official kickoff will take place on Sunday with Picnic on the Pier from noon to 4 p.m. at Pier 42. The event will coincide with the second year of Paths to Pier 42, which brings art, design and educational installations to the waterfront.
The “big get-together,” as Gilliam described it, will feature swing and salsa music, as well as family-friendly art activities run by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Museum of Chinese in America, La MaMa Kids and artist Meredith Doby.
Community members will also be honored with the inaugural Lower East Side Community Hero Awards.
Other free and paid events throughout the month include Chalk/LES, a three-day project where volunteers and residents will chalk neighborhood history and personal memories throughout the area, as well as gallery exhibitions that pay tribute to the Real Estate Show of 1980 and a “history of neon” walking tour, Gilliam said.
“Basically, there’s everything,” she said about the cultural offerings of LES History Month.
“That’s what's so great, that there really is a range that I think can speak to a broad range of interests.”
A complete list of events is available at the official LES History Month website.