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Posts Tagged ‘new york’

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Photo: Magnolia Pictures 
In the film Skate Kitchen, the introverted Camille (played by Rachelle Vinberg, left) finds her tribe of skaters in New York City. The filmmaker found her subjects almost the same way — instinctively.

What I especially loved about this article on making a female-skateboarder movie was the director’s sixth sense. She hears girls on the subway talking in a wildly creative way and experiences vibes that direct her to pursue a new path of possibility.

Lakshmi Singh reports at National Public Radio, “Director Crystal Moselle made waves three years ago when her documentary The Wolfpack won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The film told the true story of six brothers growing up in confinement in Manhattan’s Lower East Side — and it all began from a chance encounter Moselle had with the brothers on the street.

“Her new film comes from a similar place. Skate Kitchen follows a group of teenage girl skateboarders and activists rolling their way through the streets of New York. This time, she met them on the subway.

From the NPR interview:

“I learned to understand my instinct. There’s this thing that happens to me. …  I’m like: Oh, this is something. This is interesting. I just — I have to explore it. …

“I was on the train in New York City. I was on the G train. And I heard this voice that just — you know, sometimes there’s a voice that’s so charismatic, you just have to figure out who’s talking and what’s happening. I mean, that’s how I am. And I look over, and there’s these three teenage girls, and they have skateboards. And Nina [Moran] — she’s telling a story. I can’t remember what the story was about. I think maybe it was about a party she went to or something that happened in the park that day. And she has that kind of voice that almost silences a room where you want to — just everybody stops what they’re doing and they want to see who’s talking.

“And so I — just out of curiosity and out of this instinct that I’ve kind of gained from my past project, I just — I feel like there’s this moment where I sort of know that there’s something there and I have to figure it out. And I went up to them and asked them — I just said, hey, you know, introduced myself. I said, my name’s Crystal. I’m a filmmaker, and I’d love to talk to you guys. Maybe you guys would be interested in doing some sort of video project at some point. [And] — I don’t remember saying this — I said, is there more of you? …

“They’ve found all these really interesting pockets [of the city], and they go to these skate parks, and they have these, like, spots that they skateboard and they just use the architecture of buildings. And you know, people chase them away. And it’s just, like, this kind of really riveting scene. And I would just start hanging out with them and experiencing it myself. They’d even, like, make me jump on the skateboard. They’re like, if you’re going to hang out with us, you have to skateboard. Here’s the board. Skate down the block. …

“The girls actually met through YouTube. They would be commenting on each other’s videos and, you know, that’s how they would create these communities because it’s difficult. Like, if you’re a girl living on Long Island and there’s no other girls around that skateboard, you can go to, you know, a social media platform to find other women that also do the same thing that you do that’s, like, something specific. …

“I think that it’s actually a really positive thing to be able to find people that are, I guess, your tribe. …

“When I was with Rachelle one day — Rachelle Vinberg, who plays Camille. She was skating with all these boys. And they all rolled by, and the little girl [watching the film crew] didn’t notice them at all. And then Rachelle rode by with her hair just like in the wind. It was just an epic moment — she’s, like, carving down this hill. And this little girl, like, stopped in her tracks and just watched her and, like, saw the future.”

More here. I love how this director is drawn by curiosity to pursue things that are unfamiliar and interesting. Having something interesting to think about is apparently as essential to her as food.

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Photo: MTA Arts for Transit
Faith Ringgold’s mosaic “Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines (Downtown and Uptown),” 1996, is one of the pieces of subway art featured in a PBS documentary.

I’m always amazed by the beauty of the mosaics in the New York subway, even the ones that merely tell you what street you’re at. It makes me happy to see that the city values them, too, and periodically cleans up the oldest ones. They go back as early as 1901.

My sister alerted me to an excellent PBS documentary about recent additions to the art in the subway system. You can read about it at the website Mosaic Art Now.

“For a delightful immersion into the history and current activities of the enormous underground museum that is the New York subway system’s Arts For Transit program, treat yourself to WNET Channel Thirteen’s free one hour video called ‘Treasures of New York: Art Underground.’ …

“Mosaic artist Steven Miotto gets major face time. His decades-long collaboration with artists of all stripes is a fascinating story in itself. When selected by a commissioned artist as a collaborating partner, he gets into their minds and hearts, leading them through the complex process of translating their vision and their graphic designs into mosaic ‘paintings for eternity.’ …

Faith Ringgold, speaks eloquently and nostalgically about the series of paintings – now mosaics – that portray the heroes of her Harlem childhood. Writers and musicians fly across the cityscape in flattened but vivid characterizations. I had the opportunity to interview her when she was in Miami last year, and she spoke about the challenges of trying to ‘make it’ as an African-American artist dealing with political themes at a time when the galleries favored the abstract.  Click here (http://bitly.com/yxGJ3R) to listen to that interview with her.”

See some of the beautiful new mosaics and watch the video here.

If you are up for more on transit-system art, be sure to check out an excellent article by Sarah Hotchkiss at KQED about what’s going on with San Francisco’s Transbay system, here.

 

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Photo: Celeste Sloman for The New York Times
Camryn Cowan and Jordan Millar, 11-year-old students in the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers (VYC) program, received a burst of media attention after being featured along with their compositions in the New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks.

The young composers in this story got a boost for their musical talent thanks to a New York Philharmonic program. Just imagine what could be accomplished with similar programs in all areas of the arts — playwriting, painting, poetry, sculpture, etc.! Giving kids an opportunity to blossom benefits us all.

Joshua Barone described the experience of two gifted girls in a New York Times article: “It was the kind of debut most musicians only dream of: a world-class orchestra, tens of thousands of listeners.

“At its outdoor parks concerts [in June], the New York Philharmonic performed works by two 11-year-old girls, Camryn Cowan and Jordan Millar — newcomers to the world of composing. They won over the crowds, who gave standing ovations. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times gave them an effusive review. …

“Where does a composer go from here? Ms. Cowan and Ms. Millar — two students from Brooklyn who are part of the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers initiative — followed up on their victorious tour of New York City by, well, returning to class. …

“Both girls … were confident in explaining their works, originally written for a Harlem Renaissance-theme program earlier this year. Ms. Cowan, who was 10 at the time, said that her ‘Harlem Shake’ was an exercise in layering, but with saxophone improvisations that nodded to the neighborhood’s past.

“Ms. Millar’s ‘Boogie Down Uptown’ conjures stepping out of the subway onto the streets of Harlem for the first time, with musical textures inspired by the shadowy movement of Aaron Douglas paintings. (For all this seriousness, they are still children: Ms. Millar said her fascination with Douglas’s art comes from her favorite Disney movie, ‘The Princess and the Frog,’ which borrows its aesthetic from his paintings.) …

“Jon Deak — a composer, the Philharmonic’s longtime associate principal bassist, and the founder of its Very Young Composers initiative — said that … all children are creative. ‘People ask whether I’ve found the next little Mozart, and I say yes, I’ve found dozens of them,’ he said. ‘They’re all over the place. We just need to listen to them.’

“Participants in the program come from about 15 partner schools in New York. … Eventually, they graduate to writing complex scores that they workshop with one another and try out at Young People’s Concerts.

“In the process, Mr. Deak said, the students have to become leaders: ‘Look at a 10-year-old who comes up to a bassoonist’s kneecaps and says “That’s too fast” or “There’s something wrong with that note.” They have to defend their pieces, and boy, do they … do it.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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Thank you for all the lovely things you have written. My sister has a long road ahead, but she is a strong person and is facing it well. Ms. Mighty Mouse.

I actually saw a Ms. Mighty Mouse sculpture on my walk and took a picture. Unlike her, my sister has both her arms and all her faculties.

I liked the Alice Walker poetry mural I saw, too, and will repeat the poem here as my sister loves poetry. In fact, the day before her surgery, the four of us who were gathered in her room had the best time quoting poetry at each other. It was a lot of fun.

The Nature of This Flower Is to Bloom

Rebellious. Living.
Against the Elemental Crush.
A Song of Color
Blooming
For Deserving Eyes.
Blooming Gloriously
For its Self.

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The Sunnyside Social Club performs at the celebration for the completion of the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan

Photo: Elizabeth Shafiroff/Reuters
The Sunnyside Social Club had to pass a rigorous audition process to get into the subway busker program in New York.

One of the few things I miss about commuting to a job is the daily possibility of great music in the subway. I would never know what I was going to get. Some performers were bad. Some were so fantastic I felt like letting a couple trains go by so I could listen.

The MBTA doesn’t require much more than signing up and paying a fee to be a busker, but in New York City, it’s a different story. You have to pass a tough audition.

Claire Bryan writes at CityLab, “Each year, hundreds of musicians vie to see their name not in lights, but in pink, on a banner indicating they’ve earned official status to perform in New York City’s subway stations. …

“By a March deadline this year, MTA MUSIC received 309 applications with audio samples and selected 82 finalists to audition. On May 15, the 31st annual auditions opened in Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall, a passageway from the station to 42nd Street. On that morning, the hall, with its 48-foot ceilings and five chandeliers, was filled with a myriad of musical scales: Behind a black felt curtain, cellos, French horns, a Kurdish hammered dulcimer guitar, and vocalists, were warming up. One of the finalists, the all-female a cappella group Mezzo, took to the stage.

“The women of Mezzo launched into ‘Dreams’ by The Cranberries. They had just five minutes to prove to the judges that they deserved the right to serenade people in the subways.

“Since 1985, the MTA Arts and Design program, of which MTA MUSIC is a part, vets musicians to find the best subway-appropriate performance groups to enhance New Yorkers’ commutes. MTA MUSIC Senior Manager Lydia Bradshaw says the judges look for quality, musical variety, cultural diversity, representation of the culture and people of New York, and appropriateness for the transit environment. …

” ‘The thing about it in the subway is you have no stage, you have no backline, you have no stagehands, you must just create the space right here,’ said Sean Grisson, a Cajun cellist who has been in the program since 1987 and a judge since 2013. For Grisson, whether or not performers are chosen comes down to if the performance is something that ‘you would want to pause and make you reflect as you go about your busy New York existence.’

“Once admitted to the program, musicians must call in and book slots. … Performers receive a personalized banner with their name and the MTA MUSIC bright magenta logo. Musician’s names and contact information also gets added to MTA MUSIC’s website — a feature that can help groups land events.

“But anyone can play in the subway as long as they follow MTA’s Transit Rules of Conduct. … MTA employees and music performance groups believe that registered groups deserve their spot. ‘One of the benefits of being in the program is sort of having that permission to book and be at more visible spots,’ Grisson said.

“Which doesn’t mean that non-sanctioned performers can’t play — they just aren’t afforded the security and institutional support MTA MUSIC performers receive. …

“MTA Press Officer Amanda Kwan said that if an MTA MUSIC group calls in, signs up, shows up, and there’s a non-MTA MUSIC group there, the issue is often resolved between the musicians. …

“Grissom, the judge who has also been performing in the subways since 1983, said the competition to enter the program is challenging and he has come to appreciate the MTA MUSIC program much more.

“But he adds: ‘I’ve never had issues [with the authorities] believe it or not. I always feel that street performing or subway performing is kind of Darwinism at its best.’ Grissom said.”

More.

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Photo: Carter Burden Gallery
The Carter Burden Gallery in Chelsea shows works by artists who are at least 60 years old.

I’m always happy to see that older people are still appreciated in some quarters — in this case, at a New York gallery that features only artists over 60. Susan Stamberg has the story at National Public Radio (NPR).

“Some artists in New York may be wishing to get older faster. A gallery there caters to artists age 60 and older. No kids allowed.

“Some 200 artists have exhibited at the Carter Burden Gallery since it opened nine years ago in Chelsea. Business is good, and works sell from $200 to $9,000. It’s a lot like hundreds of other galleries in New York — except for one important thing: The Carter Burden has an age limit. Why?

” ‘Older adults do not stop being who they are because they hit a particular age,’ said gallery director Marlena Vaccaro. ‘Professional artists never stop doing what we do, and in many cases we get better at it as we go along.’

“What does change is the art market. With rare exceptions, artists who were hot when they started out found that galleries, and certainly museums, cooled to them as years passed. They kept making art, but weren’t being shown or bought. Carter Burden’s mission is to give them a wall, ‘because walls are the thing we need,’ Vaccaro said.

“According to Vaccaro, very few galleries represent older professional artists, unless they’re really famous. ‘And I get that,’ she said. “Galleries are a business. They need to show artists that are going to bring in big bucks.’

“Carter Burden is different. It’s a nonprofit, supported by a board, a corporate sponsor and philanthropists. …

“Artist Nieves Saah, 67, originally from Bilbao, Spain, has painted all her life. ‘My first show was in SoHo in ’85,’ she said. ‘And I had like 28 paintings there. I sold a few, and then from that I got many shows. I think that year I was in like 15 shows.’

“Then things slowed down. There wasn’t much interest for 10 years. Saah kept on painting her figures and fantasies in vividly colored, cheerful oils. One day she heard about Carter Burden and decided to apply online. ‘I was in a show one month after I sent the application,’ she recalled. …

“Werner Bargsten, a newbie, had his first show this past October. It consisted of stunning, powerful sculptured wall hangings made with clay and copper tubing, and formed into what look like wrapped packages. …

“At 69, Bargsten is glad to be part of the Carter Burden over-60 crowd. ‘I mean, look, it’s always harder to get out of bed the older you get, but most of the artists that I’ve met here seemed like they missed that memo that they were getting old. Most of them have the brains of a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old or something. So they haven’t really aged in terms of their spirit.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

Photo: Carter Burden Gallery
“Under the Stars,” by Nieves Saah, an 0ver-60 artist who shows her work at the Carter Burden Gallery in New York.

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Photos: Rachel Watson
Barbara Balliet and Cheryl Clarke, owners of Blenheim Hill Books, one of five bookstores in an upstate New York village of 500 souls.

This village sounds like heaven to a book lover. I think the people who live there must be very happy. I’m pretty sure they are well-read.

Daniel A. Gross writes at Atlas Obscura, “The village of Hobart, New York, is home to two restaurants, one coffee shop, zero liquor stores, and, strangely enough, five independent bookstores. … Fewer than 500 people live in Hobart. Yet from Main Street, in the center of town, you’re closer to a copy of the Odyssey in classical Greek, or a vintage collection of Jell-O recipes, than a gas station.

“This literature-laden state of affairs emerged just after the turn of the millennium, when two residents of Manhattan, Diana and Bill Adams, stopped in Hobart during a trip through the Catskills. ‘We were both intrigued,’ says Bill, who worked as a physician for 40 years. … He and his wife, Diana, a former lawyer, were looking for retirement activities that they could pursue into their old age.

“During that first trip, in 2001, the couple spotted a corner store for rent at the end of Main Street. After speaking with the owner, they decided to rent it on the spot, and soon they were lugging their hefty personal book collection to Hobart, one rental car-load at a time. They didn’t expect to establish a book village in the process. ‘There was no plan,’ Bill says. They weren’t even sure whether their bookstore would survive in the foothills of the Catskills, three miles from the main highway.

“But they did own a lot of books. … That was how it became possible to buy a leather-bound collection of classical verse, or a set of classic political essays, in a tiny village more than two hours from New York City. Wm. H. Adams Antiquarian Books had a relatively quiet first year. But then Don Dales, a local entrepreneur and piano teacher, decided that one good bookstore deserves another, and opened his own shop. …

“Readers, like shoppers at the mall, often wandered back and forth between the shops. As more bookstores came to town, one of Hobart’s original booksellers (no one can quite remember who) began to describe the town as ‘the only book village east of the Mississippi.’ (Other American book towns include Stillwater, Minnesota, and Archer City, Texas.) …

“Barbara Balliet and Cheryl Clarke, a couple who spent their careers at Rutgers University, moved to Hobart at around that time. Clarke was surprised to find such a tiny community, far from cities or colleges, so overrun with books. …

” ‘She says, “You find all kinds of people who like books, and they’re not just college-educated.’ When the two women arrived, they met a bookseller who was ready to sell her stock, so Balliet bought it and they hopped into business themselves.

“Both women saw right away that, compared to other Catskills towns that have lost jobs and emptied out, Hobart seemed to be coming back to life. … The bookstores were a part of that. …

“Balliet says that, although she can’t make a living off the store, she can make a tidy profit — enough to grow a garden, travel, and buy more books. …

“According to the International Organisation of Book Towns, [the first] was Hay-on-Wye, Wales, founded in 1961 by Richard Booth. … Others include Wigtown, Scotland; Featherston, New Zealand; Kampung Buku, Malaysia; and Paju Book City, South Korea.

“As Hobart evolved, individual book shops have found their own specialty, like siblings who each choose their own path. ‘We try to complement each other,’ Balliet says. ‘Each one maintained its own identity and individuality,’ adds Bill Adams. Creative Corner Books, a cozy one-room shop that specializes in craft, cooking, and DIY books, is Hobart’s only shop with a knitting corner.”

More here.

Hat tip: @michikokakutani on twitter

Photo: Blenheim Hill Books in Hobart.

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