7. Lost Photos from the Lower East Side

Rainbow Shoe Repair An Unexpected Theater of Flyness exhibition exterior
From the late 1980s to early 2000s, Rainbow Shoe Repair, a shoe cobbler was located at 170 Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. As a side hustle on top of fixing shoes, the staff at Rainbow became well-known for taking affordable passport photos and portraits for neighborhood locals. Rainbow Shoe Repair was Lower East Side staple in a pre-Instagram world, where local residents stopped by for a casual shot of a fly outfit, or to document important milestones like communions, graduations, and everything in between. It became a destination for people in the neighborhood to express something about themselves or their families and friends.
Now, the exhibition “Rainbow Shoe Repair: An Unexpected Theater of Flyness” at the Abrons Art Center and in multiple locations on the Lower East Side showcases some of those portraits that were taken when the shoe shop was open. The photographs were acquired through an open call and from the Rainbow Shoe Repair archive.
On an upcoming curator-led walking tour of the Lower East Side on March 12th, Ali Rosa-Salas from the Henry Street Settlement will take Untapped New York Insiders to three locations that are part of the Rainbow Shoe Repair exhibition, and ending at the monthly ceremonial fire outdoors in the amphitheater at Abrons Arts Center that explores Indigenous protocol and knowledge. “The exhibition definitely warranted a life outside the gallery space,” Rosa-Salas tells us.