New York – Cultivating Culture http://www.cultivatingculture.com Thinking and writing about culture around the world Sat, 13 Jan 2018 00:08:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 50009989 3-D Image Installation Pays Tribute to New York City’s Street Vendors http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/08/07/3-d-installation-new-york-city/ Mon, 07 Aug 2017 17:07:25 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5393 There’s something special about street food in New York City, and it’s not really the food at all. It’s the people, the tough-as-nails community of vendors running the cars and vans that sell hot dogs, pretzels, crepes, and gyros. They hawk their goods on strategically-chosen corners, some staking out a particular site for years at […]

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A New York City street vendor selling hot dogs.

Photo credit: Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock

There’s something special about street food in New York City, and it’s not really the food at all. It’s the people, the tough-as-nails community of vendors running the cars and vans that sell hot dogs, pretzels, crepes, and gyros. They hawk their goods on strategically-chosen corners, some staking out a particular site for years at a time, even decades.

And by and large, they’re invisible. Even though street-cart hot dogs are one of the city’s iconic experiences, few locals could name the vendor they buy from every single day, or even describe the cart.

This is what Michelle Hessel wanted to tackle. Hessel is a research resident at New York University. She is currently enrolled in their Interactive Telecommunications Program, and she’s also an artist. She followed three vendors’ stories with her installation, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” to share them with their own city and the world.

Thiru Kumar sells vegetarian dosas (A South Indian type of crepe) in Washington Square Park. He’s from Sri Lanka, and used to give diving lessons. Moroccan Dany Hassan sells bagels at Broadway and Waverly Place, but hopes to quit soon to go back to school for biology and to enjoy his new marriage. Ana Harrera has sold tamales out of a cart in Queens for 17 years. She’s from Ecuador.

In “Hidden in Plain Sight,” each vendors’ story is told in their own words while digital imaging projects an illustration of their story onto a 3-D printed version of their cart, including detailed models of themselves.

In “Meet Adam,” a separate installation, Hessel’s crafted a virtual tour of a fourth vendor’s cart. Adam sells coffee from a small, colorful trailer. In virtual reality, viewers can enter it, look all around, or come face-to-face with the man himself, in the actual environment of his corner.

On Hessel’s website, there are more in-depth interviews with all of her subjects, along with pictures and a detailed breakdown of her artistic process.

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How New York City is Fighting Back Against Trump’s Budget Cuts to Art Programs http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/07/24/new-york-city-art-budget/ Mon, 24 Jul 2017 21:14:25 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5381 Early drafts of the Trump Administration’s budget proposed to kill several major sources of culture funding, including: The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Institute of Museum of Library services. Nothing is set in stone yet, but New York City, a city which […]

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A picture of the Statue of Liberty.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Early drafts of the Trump Administration’s budget proposed to kill several major sources of culture funding, including: The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Institute of Museum of Library services. Nothing is set in stone yet, but New York City, a city which prides itself on being a beacon of art and culture in America, isn’t leaving its fate up to the whims of 45 and his friends.

With the support and feedback of nearly 200,000 New York residents, the city announced a plan this week to support the arts in the city, particularly outside the downtown core. A plan called CreateNYC.

CreateNYC’s priorities are threefold:

First, to provide more cultural services to low-income and minority residents. Research done over the past year by the city shows that most participation in the arts is among the city’s top earners (and is it any wonder, with Hamilton tickets going into four figures?). But most New Yorkers, of all income levels, want access.

Second, to ensure diversity in the city’s cultural decision-making processes. Less than 40 percent of the employees of NYC’s cultural organizations surveyed as people of color, though nearly 70 percent of the city’s population surveyed as the same. One step they intend to take in this direction, with the aid of the DCLA and the City University of New York, is to place paid undergrad internships with as many institutions as they can. Paid internships allow disadvantaged students the chance to gain work experience, and access to careers in traditionally privileged spaces. Additionally, translation services and disability access are being prioritized.

Third, to support individual artists. Grants already offered by the city will increase and multiply under CreateNYC.

“This is an exciting moment for everyone who cares about culture in New York City,” the Cultural Affairs commissioner, Tom Finkelpearl, said in a statement. “We are proud to be the largest local funder of art and culture in America.”

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Interactive NYC Art Installation Gives a Voice to America’s Immigrants http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/07/05/nyc-immigrants-art-installation/ Wed, 05 Jul 2017 17:04:08 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5369 Current research suggests that within 40 years, a third of American citizens will either be an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. New York City has exceeded that ration for years, and its eight and a half million residents speak nearly 800 different languages. It’s this melange that artist Aman Mojadidi wants to highlight […]

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A black-and-white historical photo of Italian men awaiting admission processing at Ellis island. Ca. 1910.

Italian men awaiting admission processing at Ellis island. Ca. 1910.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Current research suggests that within 40 years, a third of American citizens will either be an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. New York City has exceeded that ration for years, and its eight and a half million residents speak nearly 800 different languages.

It’s this melange that artist Aman Mojadidi wants to highlight with his new public and interactive art installation, “Once Upon a Place.” With the support of Times Square Arts, Mojadidi has installed three refurbished phone booths. The booths, painted gray with tinted glass panels, are open to all. Step inside, pick up the phone (no pocket change necessary), and listen to one of 70 stories told by New York residents about their homelands.

One of Mojadidi’s goals is to unwind “immigrants” from being a monolithic entity to being the huge tapestry of wildly different life experiences that they are. Himself an Afghan-American, he collected these first-person stories during a recent residency with Times Square Arts. Some of the stories are in English, others in the first language of their tellers, but all are in their own words and voices. Some of these oral histories are quite brief, others stretch to ten minutes or longer.

Storytellers come from Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tibet, and Yemen. Some chose to remain anonymous, others contributed huge portions of their lives. What was not recorded can be read in the attached “phone books” inside each booth, along with historical context both about foreign countries and the ethnic communities within NYC.

Also in the ersatz phone books are blank pages—all visitors, from anywhere, are encouraged to add their own stories.

“Once Upon a Place” opened on June 27th and will continue until September 5th, 2017.

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Fearless Girl Challenged By Charging Bull Sculptor http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/04/24/fearless-girl-challenged/ Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:42:21 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5295 Thirty years ago, Arturo Di Modica illegally installed a massive bronze bull in the center of New York City’s financial district as a guerrilla commentary on the economic resilience of Wall Street after the stock market crash that had happened earlier that year. It was only later that he sought a permit for it to […]

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A photo of the Fearless Girl statue and the bronze bull statue.

The Fearless Girl statue located in New York City’s financial district.
Photo credit: quietbits / Shutterstock

Thirty years ago, Arturo Di Modica illegally installed a massive bronze bull in the center of New York City’s financial district as a guerrilla commentary on the economic resilience of Wall Street after the stock market crash that had happened earlier that year. It was only later that he sought a permit for it to remain, and technically, it still has only a temporary permit, albeit one that has been allowed to persist due to the statue’s popularity.

Fearless Girl, a new statue of a young girl standing defiantly against the heavyweight symbol of capitalism, was also installed overnight, but her artist, Kristen Visbal, at least obtained a permit in the first place. Fearless Girl was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors for International Women’s Day in an effort to point out the lack of women in corporate boards (still less than 20% in the U.S.).

Fearless Girl was immediately popular, and Mayor De Blasio himself extended her temporary permit immediately.

“She spoke to the moment,” De Blasio told reporters. “She is inspiring everyone at a moment when we need inspiration.” He openly alluded to the new tenure of President Trump and his boasts about sexually assaulting women in business.

But now Di Modica is mad. Angry enough that he is threatening to sue city authorities over the permitting of the new statue, claiming that she “changed the creative dynamic of his sculpture,” according to The Guardian. It will be interesting to see how he intends to prove that an addition of a statue some dozen yards away from his own, their only relationship that of juxtaposition in a crowded city, imposes on the artistic copyright of his own.

Can he argue that the public interpretation of the space is a part of his copyright? Perhaps. But how hypocritical is it for one guerrilla artist to object to another’s input?

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Mark Your Calendars for This Year’s Rubin Block Party http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/04/18/rubin-block-party/ Tue, 18 Apr 2017 17:02:43 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5286 In the middle of July, one of New York City’s loveliest niche art museums is throwing a party, celebrating the spirit of community that has supported them since their opening in 2004. Based on the private collection of Donald and Shelley Rubin, the gallery is dedicated the preservation and visibility of art from the Himalayas, […]

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An image with the word "party."

Image credit: Shutterstock

In the middle of July, one of New York City’s loveliest niche art museums is throwing a party, celebrating the spirit of community that has supported them since their opening in 2004. Based on the private collection of Donald and Shelley Rubin, the gallery is dedicated the preservation and visibility of art from the Himalayas, India, Tibet, and the surrounding regions. Formerly a Barneys department store in Chelsea, the 70,000-square-foot museum has over 1,000 items in its permanent collections and regularly hosts exhibits from artists from those countries.

Since they’re opening, they’ve continued to blossom, adding performance spaces, a café, and a large education center, spreading knowledge about Himalayan and Indian artistic traditions and serving audiences of all levels of need.

The Rubin’s block party, an annual gala since 2014, is an all-ages highlight of Chelsea in the summer. Visitors will be invited to join in themed art projects, with professional artists on hand to teach and inspire. Himalayan snacks will introduce people to the rich food from the region. Educational panels will be held, for those inspired to lifelong learning. And the entire museum will be open, free of charge, for tours.

This year, the block party is centered around the multimedia exhibition “The World is Sound,” featuring the art of more than 20 artists exploring the way sound shapes our human experience. At the center of the exhibition will be Le Corps Sonore (Sound Body), a site-specific installation that uses the museum’s graceful spiral staircase as a stage, with carefully-placed speakers allowing tuned ambient sound to “follow” visitors up and down the stairs.

The exhibition and the party will also feature Tibetan Buddhist ritual music, recorded for the purpose at several monasteries in Nepal and India. Visitors are invited to add their own voices to the chore in the Rubin Museum’s OM Lab.

The Rubin Block Party will take place on July 16th, from 1-4 pm. During that time, admission to all of the events and the museum is free, and families with young children are especially encouraged to attend.

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Second Avenue Subway Art Debuts http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/01/04/second-avenue-subway/ Wed, 04 Jan 2017 14:22:40 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5067 “Any child who has never walked into a museum or an art gallery can walk the streets of New York and be exposed to art and education simply by being a New Yorker.” Stirring words from the Governor of New York himself, Andrew Cuomo. On Monday, December 19th, Cuomo presided over the unveiling of the […]

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A photo of an empty New York City subway car.

Photo courtesy of NYCUrbanScape at Flickr Creative Commons.

“Any child who has never walked into a museum or an art gallery can walk the streets of New York and be exposed to art and education simply by being a New Yorker.” Stirring words from the Governor of New York himself, Andrew Cuomo.

On Monday, December 19th, Cuomo presided over the unveiling of the new art installation in the Second Avenue Subway, two weeks ahead of the subway’s own opening on January 1st.

It’s a proud statement, and for this, he has every right to be proud. The four stations of the new subway will together be the state’s largest permanent public art installation. Each features art by an internationally renowned artist. They are:

  • Sarah Sze with “Blueprint for a Landscape” at 96th street.
  • Chuck Close with “Subway Portraits” at 86th street.
  • Vik Muniz with “Perfect Strangers” at 72nd street.
  • Jean Shin with “Elevated” at 63rd street.

All four artists have done wondrous things with mosaics. Muniz and Close covered their walls in people, making portraits of friends, strangers, and historical figures in tile and glass. Muniz’s characters look like they might interrupt your conversation, photo-realistic at a distance and large as life. Close’s works are enormous portraits, looking amiably over the anticipated crowds.

Sze’s idea for the station is more abstract. Her space is tiled in blue and white, blueprints whirling into music and into birds and back.

Shin’s choices were to specifically call out the history of New York and its subways, and she collaborated with glass and mosiac artists to illustrate archival images of what came before this new station: historical subway photographs and passengers, and other images of the history of New York transit.

There is art everywhere in New York’s subways. Some of it deliberate, some incidental, some of it coordinated, some haphazard. Books have been written on it, dozens. It is wonderful that the city saw the new subway line as important to honor with this type of large-scale, intense installation. Art for all, for the commuter, the schoolchild, and even the tourist.

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New York’s Public Art Fund Presents ‘Open House’ http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/01/03/open-house/ Tue, 03 Jan 2017 14:12:33 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5064 2017 marks the 40th year of the Public Art Fund, New York City’s non-profit dedicated to keeping the city full of contemporary art and new artists in public spaces. They’ll be celebrating all year, but one of the works that visitors can’t afford to miss is Liz Glynn’s “Open House,” an open-air installation in Central Park […]

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A phto of the Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park.

The Doris C. Freedman Plaza located in Central Park, New York.
Photo courtesy of jinjian liang at Flickr Creative Commons.

2017 marks the 40th year of the Public Art Fund, New York City’s non-profit dedicated to keeping the city full of contemporary art and new artists in public spaces. They’ll be celebrating all year, but one of the works that visitors can’t afford to miss is Liz Glynn’s “Open House,” an open-air installation in Central Park that will bring opulent history out for all to enjoy.

From March until September, Glynn’s sculptures will appear in Doris C. Freedman Plaza in one corner of Central Park. Cast concrete replicas of elegant furniture in blueish white. Specifically, replicas of the furnishings of the ballroom of William C. Whitney’s mansion, an edifice that once stood in state just up the street from the Park on Fifth Avenue. It was demolished in the early ‘40s, but was an icon of style for Manhattan.

Mr. Whitney’s mansion was far from a public space. His parties were renowned for their exclusivity.

“The idea is turning this rarefied, extremely private space into an open-air ruin,” said Glynn in an interview in 2015. “The title refers to the current real estate market and the question of who can afford to live here anymore.”

While none of Whitney’s collection is intact, Glynn came as close to her source material as she could, studying archival photos in the Museum of the City of New York, and reading novels by Edith Wharton, who often visited the mansion in the late 1800s. Her concrete cast sculptures even show off the embroidery that lushly decorated the delicate chairs and sofas.

While she’s been working on the sculptures for the better part of three years, she hints that it may have only grown in relevance. Much of the furnishings are in the style of Louis XIV, just like the nearby apartment belonging to a much more contemporary celebrity: President-Elect Donald Trump.

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Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn Return http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2017/01/02/miss-manhattan-brooklyn/ Mon, 02 Jan 2017 17:27:52 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5061 In the 1960s, New York’s master builder Robert Moses was charged with making sure that traffic ran smoothly in the ever-growing city, and he did so with a ruthless hand, removing anything he felt was an impediment. One of his casualties, or rather two, were the paired statues of Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn that […]

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The Manhattan Bridge shown at sunset.

Photo courtesy of ccho at Flickr Creative Commons.

In the 1960s, New York’s master builder Robert Moses was charged with making sure that traffic ran smoothly in the ever-growing city, and he did so with a ruthless hand, removing anything he felt was an impediment. One of his casualties, or rather two, were the paired statues of Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn that adorned the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge.

Designed in the early part of the 20th century by Daniel Chester French (the same artist who sculpted the enormous marble figure of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial) the two women stood their sentry position for more than 50 years before being relocated to the Brooklyn Museum for the sake of a wider turning lane.

They’re still there. But something of their spirit is being returned to the Manhattan Bridge.

Designed by Brian Tolle, who also created the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park, two replicas have been installed. Resin, rather than marble, the new statues are illuminated from within and mounted atop a pole where they will rotate slowly. The two are each larger than life-size, approximately 9 feet tall atop their rotating blue pedestals.

Locals, while nostalgic for the old statues, aren’t yet certain about the new installation. Most seem to find the motion unnecessary and even inappropriate, given that both statues were meant to face inwards towards their respective boroughs, not in random and changing directions. They find the glossy white resin off-putting as well.

Nonetheless, the project has reached completion to the tune of $450,000 and a decade of labor. The two statues, Brooklyn reading a book to a child, Manhattan guarding a chest with a peacock, whirl slowly over the daily traffic. Tolle says that a local business group, The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, has agreed to take responsibility for the maintenance of his artwork for the foreseeable future.

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“Subway Therapy” Has Made Quite the Impact http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2016/12/06/subway-therapy/ Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:00:26 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5029 The walls of the Union Square subway station in Manhattan are usually decorated by ad space—glossy posters of models and sets, products and premieres. What decorates them now is about as far from that as can be. “Subway Therapy” began in the hours immediately following the election results on November 8th. It’s art by the […]

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A photo of a subway wall covered in sticky notes.

“Subway Therapy.”
Photo credit: Cabeca de Marmore / Shutterstock

The walls of the Union Square subway station in Manhattan are usually decorated by ad spaceglossy posters of models and sets, products and premieres. What decorates them now is about as far from that as can be. “Subway Therapy” began in the hours immediately following the election results on November 8th. It’s art by the community.

Initiated by artist Matthew Chavez, the message-board style post-it-note statement has grown into a massive, multilayered fluttering thing, with thousands of messages from locals, tourists, and officials sharing their feelings about current politics. The sticky-note display was immediately beloved by commuters and the Internet alike, from the first pictures that emerged of notes placed tidily one per tile, to the photos only a day later of whole yards of the station covered entirely.

By Tuesday, November 29th, the collection of notes covered the entire length of the platform, several layers deep, and was still growing. So when a few passersby noticed that swathes of the notes were being taken down to place a new round of advertisements, they immediately broadcast their displeasure via Twitter.

The notes were being removed to make space for a set of ads for Sonos, a music store that markets itself as being for “audiophiles.” Sonos had purchased the ad space months before, as part of their national campaign to support the opening of their first brick-and-morter store on nearby Greene Street. But the intrusion into “Subway Therapy” was going to get them anything but good publicity. Before their ads were even placed, they were trending on Twitter with rumblings of boycott.

Instead of asserting their contractual rights to the space, however (Chavez, for the record, had no permission to begin “Subway Therapy,” though the wall he used was empty at the time), they backed off and ordered a stop to their own ad placement. Instead, Sonos brought in a photographer to document as much of “Subway Therapy” as is feasible. They also announced that they would leave “Subway Therapy” in their featured ad space all month, as well as display their photographs of it in other space they’ve rented throughout the New York Subway system.

As of now, there is no time frame set for Subway Therapy’s official removal.

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‘Sunbather’ Statue Causes Controversy in Queens http://www.cultivatingculture.com/2016/11/22/sunbather-controversy/ Tue, 22 Nov 2016 16:27:54 +0000 http://www.cultivatingculture.com/?p=5007 The Sunbather is a bronze sculpture nine feet tall and twice as long of a figure in repose. It was recently installed reclining in a shrubbery at the intersection of 43rd and Jackson Avenue in Queens. It’s the result of the Percent for Art Program, an initiative of the Department of Cultural Affairs in New […]

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A picture of the Bronx bridge.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Sunbather is a bronze sculpture nine feet tall and twice as long of a figure in repose. It was recently installed reclining in a shrubbery at the intersection of 43rd and Jackson Avenue in Queens. It’s the result of the Percent for Art Program, an initiative of the Department of Cultural Affairs in New York City that garnishes one percent of all of the budget from eligible city-funded construction projects to install large public art pieces in various neighborhoods.

But whether or not The Sunbather will beautify its neighborhood is up for debate. Despite being a classically cast bronze, it looks nothing like any statue you’ve seen before. In color and texture, the tall, spindly figurine in its twisted post appears to be made of chewed pink bubblegum.

“When this piece goes up, it’s going to make a splash. It’s going to be noticed,” said City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer during a last minute inspection by the Percent for Art committee early in November. The odd appearance of the statue has sparked a bit of a controversy for the PoA team; locals have raised numbers of objections not just to the thing itself, but also to the Department’s process. The statue cost over half a million dollars, but it was chosen by a panel of city officials and businessmen without public input. As have been many other sculptures, but the appearance of this one brought out many more vocal opponents.

“This looks like you dug up Gumby’s grandmother and threw it on the median,” said one opponent.

While the installation of The Sunbather has gone forward despite the backlash, the Department of Cultural Affairs has taken steps to ensure that the public won’t be left out in the future, including a bill to that effect which was signed into action back in June.

The Sunbather was designed by Ohad Meromi, a New York-based artist. It was built in Serrat Metals, and installed on November 11th.

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