Posts Tagged ‘Karsten Moran’

If you saw a sign in a museum saying that the suggested entry fee for students was $8, would you ask if you could pay $2? Would you even ask what the sign meant?

Museums may be taking too much for granted about what people know.

All summer, after classes, Chanel Baldwin hung out in the lobby of the Brooklyn Museum for the air-conditioning. She didn’t understand that the $8 “suggested” student admission was merely suggested. So she got to know intimately the only painting that was in the lobby, and she thought about what was meant by the details surrounding the black man on the horse in “Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps,” by Kehinde Wiley.

One day when her cousin was cooling in the lobby with Chanel, NY Times reporter Anand Giridharadas showed up, explaining that they could go through the entrance gate without paying. “No donation today, thank you,” Giridharadas said to the cousins’ astonishment.

“The gates parted,” writes the reporter. “We received green tags to prove our bona fides. … The first room set [Chanel] alight and held her rapt until she had to leave. There was no label too tedious to read, no piece undeserving of her scrutiny. …

“ ‘Look at the detail on it,’ she said of a Fred Wilson mirror, gasping.

“A piece called ‘Avarice,’ by Fernando Mastrangelo, gripped Ms. Baldwin. It appeared from afar like a classic Aztec sun stone. But she got up close. Traced her fingers over it. Went to one side, looked at it; went to the other side, considered it that way. She noticed that the piece was made of corn, and then detected a toothpaste tube, soda bottles and cowboy hats lurking on the surface, all crackling with meaning.

“Watching her,” says Giridharadas, “I realized how the inadvertent exclusion from these rooms must have trained her eyes. … New York is run on the kinds of understandings that kept the cousins in the lobby, with so many places formally open to anyone but protected in their exclusivity by invisible psychic gates.

“Ms. Baldwin suggested a more honest approach, since people tend to think you have to pay: ‘They should just put a sign out telling us that it’s somewhat free.’ ” More here.

Suzanne’s Mom admits that she might not have known the secret code either. But then, she always had the $8.

Photo: Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Chanel Baldwin exploring the Brooklyn Museum after learning that “suggested” when admission fees are “suggested,” that could mean free.

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Not sure which of many delightful aspects of this story I like best: that there are programs offering free swim lessons, that a teenager decided he needed to learn to swim, or that a dad whose son enrolled in lessons decided to take lessons himself and then gave back by teaching others.

Lisa W. Foderado writes at the NY Times, “After Hurricane Sandy brought the ocean to his doorstep, Kenrick Sultan felt a new sense of vulnerability. A shy 15-year-old, he has lived by water his entire life — but he never learned how to swim. …

“Having watched the waters of Hurricane Sandy creep up his street, Kenrick finally decided to conquer his fear of the water … Looking slightly terrified behind blue-tinted goggles, Kenrick lowered his slender frame into a pool at a nearby high school. Alongside him stood Ray Belmont, a volunteer instructor  …

“Five years earlier, Kenrick’s best friend, Raynald Chance Belmont, 15, had learned from Swim Strong, which is administered and staffed entirely by volunteers. Because swim lessons typically cost as much as $1 a minute, learning to swim can be something of a luxury …

“Swim Strong is only one of a number of programs giving free or low-cost swim lessons to New Yorkers. The largest, by far, is a program called Learn to Swim offered by the city’s parks department, which provides free swim lessons at select pools through an online lottery system throughout the year. In the fiscal year that ended in June, the department taught 27,709 children and 1,110 adults to swim. …

“‘ After Chance learned to swim, his father, Ray Belmont, asked if he could sign up for lessons, too.

“ ‘It was always a goal,’ recalled Mr. Belmont, 39, a property underwriter. ‘It was huge for me. It was a big accomplishment. I’m two blocks from the ocean and before, if something happened to my children, I wouldn’t be able to help them. As an adult, there’s a different kind of fear. I had to overcome that by getting lessons for myself.’

“Like a number of Swim Strong alumni, Mr. Belmont decided to give back by volunteering as an instructor. He was eager to teach his son’s friend.”


Photo: Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Kenrick Sultan, 15, with Ray Belmont, left, a volunteer teacher with a New York nonprofit group.

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I’m happy to see some long-neglected murals being restored in Harlem. Robin Pogrebin has the story in the NY Times:

“When the Works Progress Administration [WPA] commissioned murals for Harlem Hospital Center in 1936, it easily approved the sketches submitted by seven artists, which depicted black people at work and at play throughout history. The hospital, however, objected, saying four of the sketches focused too much on ‘Negro’ subject matter … .

“Protesters rallied around the art, though, lodging complaints as high as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the murals ultimately prevailed.

“Over the years, those wall paintings deteriorated or were obscured by plaster. Now they have been restored and brought front and center as part of a new, $325 million patient pavilion for the hospital, on Lenox Avenue at 135th Street that will be unveiled on Sept. 27. …

“The artists — the last of whom, Georgette Seabrooke, died last year — were not well known and their murals portrayed ordinary people going about their daily lives. Vertis Hayes’s ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ panel traces the African diaspora from 18th-century African village life to slavery in America to 20th-century freedom; from agrarian struggles in the South to professional success in the industrialized North.” More.

The WPA cost money, but it put a lot of people to work. And look at all the great things that were created! I especially love the idea that unemployed people were paid to paint murals, write and produce plays, interview ordinary Americans for the National Archives, and record folk music. I know it was a stressful time, but thinking about the art makes me almost nostalgic.


Photograph: Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Elizabeth Kolligs works on restoring Vertis Hayes’s “Pursuit of Happiness” at Harlem Hospital.


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