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Kembrew McLeod
University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA 52242-1320)
The Pop Underground: Downtown New York’s Converging Arts Scenes in the 1960s and 1970s

A book-length study of the social networks that connected the art, writing, film, theater, fashion, and music movements in lower Manhattan during the 1960s and 70s.

The Pop Underground is the first book to provide a thorough account of the interlocking arts scenes that thrived in Lower Manhattan (i.e., “downtown”) during the 1960s and 1970s. Even though these art, writing, film, theater, fashion, and music movements have each been well-documented, this project breaks new ground with its holistic approach. Using interview and archival research methods, it maps the social networks that developed downtown, where artists used DIY (Do It Yourself) media in innovative ways. This contributed to the development of what media scholars refer to as “participatory culture”—which enables everyday people to make and distribute their own creations. The most recent example of this mode of media production is “Web 2.0,” but the origins of that DIY approach can be traced back to those downtown arts scenes. It was a unique period when offbeat artists, gonzo musicians, and other outsiders used indie media to remake popular culture in their own image.

Project fields:
Art History and Criticism; Communications; Communications; Music History and Criticism

Public Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2016 – 5/31/2017