tsatsas a 14th street pilgrimage:      
new york, october 1-10,2011
October 7th, 2011: Seventh & final day of A 14th Street Pilgrimage

I'll begin with another participant response:

Hello Julie,

Thank you for your work. I found my tsatsa outside the Rubin Museum.

My friend Ben and I had gone to the Museum's gift shop to buy a pillow from Tibet for the new office which we will share to do psychotherapy. Now the tsatsa will grace our office where much healing will take place, and be a sign of our moving day, and much beauty, crossing cultures, and serendipity.

Peace and all good things to you,

Stephen McDonnell

Hoorah for this man, taking the time to write in the midst of moving & setting up shop. I realize the information I posted for A 14th Street Pilgrimage doesn't emphasize my desire to hear back from people who find the tsatsas, and most people seem not to feel the need to correspond. But I value each participant response as a gift & a small window into what on earth may be happening with the pilgrimage as it moves out of the street & into private sacred ordinary-spaces.

On this final day of tsatsa placement, I was joined by Miss Adora Lee, in NY for a couple of days by some amazing synchronicity, having just finished her apprenticeship at Blue Heron Farm in Grand Isle, Vermont. Adora collaborated with me this Spring in setting out tsatsas for White River Junction, VT. Today we took on 14th Street and Union Square together, with excellent results. Below on the left is Adora sniffing a patchouli-scented American flag from Occupy Wall Street. On the right is a picture she took of me.


I'm a leave-no-trace-besides-tsatsas purist, and Adora likes a bit more mise-en-scene. Here she is, tackling the issue of most people simply not-seeing the tsatsas:

...and here are some results of her approach:

With Adora as my co-pilot, whole new fields of glorious tsatsa opportunities opened up: places I had never noticed in the previous dozen times I'd walked 14th Street. I started off this project with an intuition about the transformative power of careful attention, but can't say enough how amazing the experience of seeing a place fresh every day actually is. Eureka! The key to ending boredom & restlessness, and it's pretty much free.

We found The Andy Monument (dedicated to Andy Warhol), the Gandhiji Monument (garlanded in flowers), and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union Local 169 (with frescoes above and below complacent eye level).

We found traces of other AiOP artists' projects: one of the Carry Your Burdens site markers on a phone booth supporting a large shattered mirror, and a Get Lost! modified subway sign sharing space with one of the 14th Street Saints. Adora and I decided on a catch-and-release approach to the little saint-box: we looked at it, photographed it, and then put it back for someone else to find.
(Later, I found a Commit an Act of Domestic Terrorism clothesline near a mysterious doorway that has become a magnet for stickering, guerrila laundry, permanent doodling, Buddhist devotion, and other assorted idiosyncratic forms of expression.)

We meandered onwards to the farmers' market in Union Square, where we found maple syrup from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (brief homesickness!) and a friendly syrup-seller. She is the only person who's actually agreed, when asked, to host a tsatsa in her space. My friend Jeff speculates that there are two kinds of consent: the kind where you say yes overtly & take on responsibility for whatever has been offered; and the kind where you may see out of the corner of your eye that something is happening in your space, but you can always go back to plausible deniability in case things get sticky. In my experience, the latter is much more popular where American street-tsatsas are concerned.

We also found really amazing, beautiful food, and an Amish dairy farmer who told us it makes him laugh when New Yorkers ask him whether his cows are treated well. "Look how they live," he says, "this place is a prison!" Not quite, I want to say: I've been living as a well-fed free-range human all week.

After Adora took off for Brooklyn, en route back to Vermont, I did a little more wandering in the park, finding some lovely green spots I'd totally missed during my rainy-day wanderings early in the week.
Finally, with my Julie Tsatsa-Seed bag nearly empty, I made my way back to the Rubin Museum to see the Pilgrimage and Faith show. I passed several sites where tsatsas were still out from my walk with Adora, including one outside a (possibly former) writers' studio. In a bit of excellent good luck, I found a perfect industrial tsatsa site in the fence around the New School's construction site. On my way into the museum, I deposited one last tsatsa on a little ledge in the facade - this is the one Stephen McDonnell found (see above).

In the Rubin show there are a Santiago pilgrim's passport and a Shikoku pilgrim's book just like the ones I have kept from my own journeys (in 1991 and 1993). Seeing these, I feel a sense of kinship and celebration across distance and time. The 14th Street Pilgrimage is both transient and not, as are all journeys, and those who make them. The core aspiration of this project (and of devotional practice as I best understand it) is to be enlightened by all things - to approach every bit of the city, and every encounter within it, as simultaneously perfectly ordinary and perfectly sacred. When this quality of attention can be present, something amazing opens, and a suitcase full of brittle clay (or a hunk of cheese eaten on a sunny afternoon, or a silly fiberglass Superman) becomes a catalyst for welcoming That Which Is.

I am grateful beyond words for this week: for Louise, who hosted Timothy and I; for Sewanee, who paid my way; for Ed Woodham, who made the festival; for my family, who brought me to Bhutan; for my students, who understood why I needed to be gone for the week; and on and on.

I'll close with another participant's letter:


Today was my second time walking along 14th street to see what AIOP had to offer. I had not known to look for your tsatsas so I returned on my own special pilgrimage to try and find at least one.

We started at Union Square, went East to 1st Avenue and then came back west. As I approached 5th Avenue I could feel myself being drawn to the construction site, and Voila! There was MY tsatsa. Carefully protected from the street in a nice wooden niche. It is number 97.

My family then went along 14th street to the highline. The 6 year old decided that on our way home we should walk on the opposite side of the street to try and find a tsatsa for Papa. We found 2. The second was gently placed within a large planter. We only found it since another participant had placed a large feather in the greens and my 3 year old pointed it out. As I went to get it for her I noticed your tsatsa. That is number 93 of 108.

The 3rd was very high up and as I took its photo a tall man walked by. He turned to apologize to me and then turned to see what I was taking a photo of. I told him it must be for him since it was at his arm's reach. He gently took it down and investigated it for a moment as I continued down the block. I turned to look and he was still holding it, then he put it back on the bar and then he took it down again.

I have attached 3 photos and you are welcome to use them.

Thank you for adding to our collection of art and talismans.

Jenny Herdman Lando
Astoria, NY


May all beings be safe,

may they be happy,

may they be strong,

and may all beings live at ease in well-being.



Here are a couple more messages from participants. Hoorah!

Good morning,

I wanted to write and thank you for placing the Tsa Tsas on 14th street as a gift to the rest of us. I found one - #90 - and have added it to my art collection. I just moved to the area a few weeks back and was looking for 'things to do' to learn the city online when I found out about the AIOP festival. In some way your tsa tsa and another piece of art that was gifted are like my 'welcome to your new home' gifts and have a prominent space in my home now!

I have a picture of where I found this one that I will be happy to send to you once I pull the photos off my camera. I will be blogging about these as well.

Thank you again,



Hi Julie,

I am from Rochester, New York, and have been to New York City several times. I was there last week with a friend from Australia who was visiting the United States for the first time. On Friday, we visited St. Paul's Chapel, where I found your Tsatsa in the tree. I am now back in Rochester with the tsatsa, where I will place it somewhere and keep it moving.

Thank you for the well wishes, and I wish you the same!

Samantha Mateer

14th Street project pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Art in Odd Places 2011: RITUAL is guest curated by Kalia Brooks, MoCADA Director of Exhibitions and Trinidad Fombella, El Museo Del Barrio Exhibitions Manager/Assistant Curator. Festival Producer, Lucia Warck Meister. Founder/Director, Ed Woodham.

Art in Odd Places (AiOP) aims to present art that stretches the boundaries of communication in the public realm by presenting artworks in all disciplines outside the confines of traditional public space regulations. AiOP reminds us that public spaces function as the epicenter for diverse social interactions and the unfettered exchange of ideas. www.artinoddplaces.org