Gathering of the Tribes is an arts and cultural
organization dedicated to excellence in the arts
from a diverse perspective. Located on the Lower
East Side of New York City, Tribes has been in
existence since 1991. In that year, Steve Cannon,
poet, playwright, novelist, and retired professor
from the City University of New York, converted
a portion of his apartment into an informal salon.
Despite his loss of eyesight to glaucoma, he encouraged
the exchange of alternative points of view traditionally
overlooked by mainstream media. The ideas raised
in the discussions served as inspiration to the
pieces later published in A Gathering of the Tribes
1993, a further transformation of the space by
Dora Espinoza, a Peruvian photographer, produced
Tribes Gallery. Since then, Tribes has evolved
into a performance venue and meeting place for
artists and audiences to come together across
all artistic disciplines, all levels of complexity,
and all definitions of difference. In this pan-disciplinary,
multi-cultural environment, artists exchange ideas,
create peer relationships and find mentorship.
Through Tribes’ publications, readers encounter
a unique synthesis of literature, visual art,
criticism and interviews with promising artists
of all kinds. In an attempt to attract a wider
audience for these artists, Tribes additionally
organizes an annual outdoor event — The
Charlie Parker Festival — to engage members
of the community who have seldom, if ever, attended
literary or artistic events.
Tribes was conceived as a venue for underexposed
artists, as well as a networking center and locus
for the development of new talent.
formation of Tribes was motivated by the thriving
artistic community in and around the Lower East
Side: poetry at The Nuyorican Poets Café;
performances and plays at the Living Theater;
activist art at Bullet Space; as well as hundreds
of artists trying to find and develop a voice
in their medium and a place in which their work
might be appreciated.
in a historic federal house built by the founder
of The Nation magazine, (Hamilton Fish), Tribes
is located on East 3rd Street between Avenues
C and D.
space houses administrative offices, a gallery,
and a salon where artists of all kinds can drop
in and connect with each other and the organization.
for Tribes’ Programming
has participated in collaborative programming
with such institutions as Lincoln Center, where
Lawrence “Butch” Morris staged his
“Poet’s Choir,” and the Whitney
Museum, where Tribes artists staged the play “En
Vogue” as part of the Basquiat Retrospective.
Poets from Tribes have performed at the St. Marks’
Poetry Project, the Public Theater, the Nuyorican
Poets Cafe, the Schomburg Center in Harlem, Barnes
& Noble, and more recently at the Asian American
Writers’ Workshop and Borders Books.
the year 2000, Poets’ House, City Lore,
and St. Marks’ Poetry Project considered
Tribes to be an important enough venue on the
literary scene of New York City to make the organization
one of the sites for its People’s Poetry
Gathering, a weeklong citywide celebration. As
part of the week long celebration Tribes hosted
a massive 24-hour reading for that event, featuring
over 200 writers.
sponsoring events in New York, Tribes has also
cosponsored readings in cities as far as San Francisco,
Los Angeles, Austin, New Orleans, and Chicago.
The organization has even gone so far as to dispatch
a few of its members abroad to stage poetry/dance
performances in Copenhagen, where they were greeted
warmly by the Danish artistic community. During
the holiday season last year, to much acclaim,
Tribes joined hands with its sister organization,
The House of Tribes Theater, to present “Up
Close and Personal with Wynton Marsalis.”
An encore presentation featuring Wynton Marsalis
and his band, as well as Abby Lincoln, is scheduled
to take place next summer.
and the Community
reflects and celebrates the fluidity and diversity
of contemporary society. Tribes’ audience
comprises every possible ethnic group, age group,
religion and income level. The artists Tribes
serves are similarly diverse. Tribes not only
serves various communities, it actually creates
a community. Artists bring their own audiences
to Tribes for their events, where they meet and
interact with Tribes’ larger audience.