Growing Up Underground With Steven Heller

The legendary art director on Greenwich Village in the '60s, the aesthetics of rebellion, and life at The New York Times.


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As a teenager growing up in Greenwich Village in the late 1960s, Steven Heller improbably became the art director of pioneering alternative publications such as The New York Free Press, Screw magazine, and The East Village Other before eventually moving on to work at The New York Times and teaching at the School of Visual Arts for decades.

He chronicles his youthful misadventures in Growing Up Underground: A Memoir of Counterculture New York. In November, Heller spoke at the Reason Speakeasy, a monthly, unscripted conversation with outspoken defenders of free thinking and heterodoxy in an age of cancel culture and thought police. He regaled the Manhattan audience with tales of arrests on obscenity charges, how design and aesthetics can supercharge the meaning of words and pictures, and why so many in the counterculture adopted exactly the same "uniform of alienation" in the name of individualism.

Produced by Nick Gillespie; videography by Kathleen Lakey; edited by Brett Raney and John Osterhoudt; sound editing by Ian Keyser