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June 21: Book & Audio Party!

You're invited! The culminating event for my SU-CASA "Tell Us Your Stories" workshop will be a book and audio party in Goddard Riverside Older Adult Center's Art Room. Participants in the reminiscence, oral history, and storytelling series will perform live readings and introduce audio clips of their stories about earliest memories, childhood pastimes, home and family, and more.


A limited edition book of their work will be distributed at the event and guests will be invited to share their own reminiscences over light refreshments.


A preview of the workshop's audio stories is now available for listening on my SoundCloud page.


WHEN: Friday, June 21st, from 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM


WHERE: Goddard Riverside Older Adult Center, 593 Columbus Avenue at West 88th Street, New York, NY 10024

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SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence

I'm excited to share that I will be one of the 30 Artists-in-Residence for the 2024 SU-CASA creative aging program at older adult centers in New York City through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council! My project combines reminiscence, oral history, and storytelling in an interactive arts-based group activity.


The workshop is on Fridays from 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM through June 21st. For more info or to register for one class or the series please contact me at hello@triciavita.com. 


SU-CASA is a community arts engagement program that places artists and organizations at older adult centers across the five boroughs of New York City. The program provides selected artists with a stipend in exchange for the creation and delivery of arts programming. SU-CASA classes are FREE and open to New Yorkers, ages 60 and older.


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Growing Up With Little Fugitive

Little Fugitive (1953) is my favorite film shot in Coney Island.  I love the scenes where Joey, the seven-year-old boy played by Richie Andrusco, goes to shops under the boardwalk to redeem bottles that he picked up on the beach. We don't really have an accessible "under the boardwalk" anymore but when a section was renovated in 2012, one of those basement-level spaces was excavated and its signage was revealed and photographed. I also love the shots where Joey is walking under the boardwalk and you see the light shining through the wooden slats making shadows on the sand. Whenever I see the still of that scene, I can't help thinking that in the future if the city makes the boardwalk plastic wood or concrete, that interplay of light and shadow will no longer exist.


I recently recorded an oral history with Mary Engel, the daughter of Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin, who co-wrote and directed Little Fugitive. Engel grew up steeped in the world of filmmaking and photography and it seems natural that she would become a filmmaker and an archivist of her parents' work. She talks about her childhood memories, her parents' lives and work, and her work as a documentarian and manager of their archive and the founder of the American Photography Archives Group. You can listen to the full interview in the Coney Island History Project oral history archive.

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Interviewing a Centenarian

I recently had the pleasure of recording my first interview with a centenarian. Jeanette Bigelson, a 103-year-old Coney Island resident, shared the secret to her long and happy life.


"Well, I love nature. In a past life, I must have been maybe a bird. I don't know. I like looking at clouds. When I had good feet, I used to walk on the beach with my-- you ever walk on a beach with your feet in the water? It's delightful. It's delightful and sometimes that sand is so clean. You think you're walking on a carpet, no sand, no pebbles, no nothing. And then you sit down on the rocks and you let your feet dapple in the water and listen to the waves cause when the waves roll in, it's music. They talk to you."


You can listen to the full interview in the Coney Island History Project oral history archive.


Many thanks to JASA Older Adult Center in Coney Island, which Bigelson calls her "second home," for arranging the interview.

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Hearing the Past with Tricia Vita

Tune in to "Hearing the Past with Tricia Vita," the new episode of Castos' Audience podcast. This time, instead of me doing the interviewing, I was the one being interviewed! The episode is about how the Coney Island History Project made the oral history podcast Coney Island Stories, which I co-produce, and the importance of preserving oral histories. 

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Memories of Faber's Fascination

Have you ever played Fascination? It's a group game often described as combining the luck of bingo with the skill of Skee-Ball. A 2011 interview I recorded with Sam Person, son-in-law of Faber's Fascination founder Nat Faber, is now available for listening in the Coney Island History Project oral history archive. The interview was research for an article titled "Fascinated by Fascination" that I wrote for Games Magazine in 2012.


According to Billboard Magazine, the store's location on Surf Avenue opposite the subway terminal was the original Fascination, in existence since 1926. When the game was in its heyday, from the 1930s through the '60s, it was popular enough in Coney Island to keep three separate Fascination businesses flourishing. Sadly, all closed in the 1970s, though the bare-bulb sign for Faber's Fascination survived, and fronted a gaming arcade until 2010. Sam Person passed away in 2017 at the age of 86.

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Remembering Louise DeMars

Today I honor the legacy of Louise Lauretano DeMars, the longtime director of Connecticut's Carousel Museum, who passed away last week. If you've never been to the Bristol museum - it was founded in 1990 and has a wonderful collection - you're in for a treat. I got to know Louise in the late '90s when she hired me as manager of the museum's Mystic branch and we've kept in touch over the years. The Mystic museum was located in a fun center, which I loved, coming from a carnival family. I also enjoyed giving tours and being alone with the antique horses for a few minutes when we closed for the day. Thank you, Louise. You will be missed.

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My Twelve-Year Search for a Mystery Artist

My newly published oral history with John Philip Capello is the culmination of a twelve-year search for the mystery artist who carved faces into rocks at Brighton Beach in the 1970s! The carvings have remained out of the public eye because they're usually buried in sand. Many thanks to photographers Bruce Handy and Jim McDonnell for their help solving this mystery. This is a very satisfying way to end the year. You can listen to the interview in the Coney Island History Project oral history archive.

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Tell Your Story and Make Your Case

I was delighted to receive this book in the mail today! A successful grant application that I wrote for the Coney Island History Project is published in Tell Your Story and Make Your Case: A Workshop to Build Grant Writing Skills. The workshops will be offered by the Museum Association of New York in each of New York's ten regions in the fall of 2021. The proposals featured in the book will serve as a model for workshop attendees.


The grant application that I wrote was awarded funding for general operating assistance by the Pomeroy Fund for New York State History in 2020. The series of grant-writing workshops are supported by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts.


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The Dreamland Social Club

"Who wouldn't want to belong to the Dreamland Social Club?" I wrote ten years ago in a review of Tara Altebrando's book set in Coney Island. "In this novel for teenage readers, the club is an unofficial group frequented by a freaky clique at Coney Island High School. Among its members is Babette, a goth dwarf who befriends the novel's 16-year-old heroine Jane with the explanation: 'You seem cool. And you've got carny blood, even if it's highly diluted.' "


During the pandemic, Tara and her husband Nick began adapting the novel into a stage musical with her 13-year-old daughter singing the part of the main character Jane.  I caught up with the author via Zoom and recorded her oral history for the Coney Island History Project. You can listen to the interview here.



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