Chronicling the Rebuilding of the World Trade Center: A Conversation With the Artist Marcus Robinson

I recently met Marcus Robinson, an artist who hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland. For the last 11 years he has been documenting the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, not only through drawings and paintings, but also with Rebuilding the World Trade Center a documentary he made that was shown on the History Channel in 2014. A few weeks ago I went to his studio on the 66th floor of 4 WTC to find out more about his work on this project, and his art practice in general. Below are excerpts from our interview.

Artist and filmmaker Marcus Robinson working on his epic paintings of the World Trade Center construction in his studio (photo by Allan Tannenbaum/Polaris)

Liz Daly: I’m interested in your journey, first of all as an artist – where and how you learned to draw. I see you’ve got sketches, watercolors, lithographs…

Marcus Robinson: From my earliest age I knew I wanted to be an artist. And somehow I got bad teachers when I was at school who blocked that flow. So then I started trying to do photography as a replacement for painting. In my early days in Paris – I was there for 16 years – I worked as a photographer, although the desire to draw and paint was always there. It was actually my sister – she’s an amazing artist – she gave me an art lesson around 1999 that re-inspired me and got me going again. I worked with a very celebrated Irish painter, Martin Mooney, who taught me a lot about the technique of oil painting, in the tradition of plein air landscape painting.

When I lived in Paris, I used to have a little drawing book, and draw in cafes and at industrial scenes. And with large format cameras I would create things that very often looked like painting, by using torches (lights) with colored gels. I would do long night-time exposures where I would paint the edges of figures with light, using photography as a medium to try to do paintings.

Liz: Here at the WTC, what inspires you?

Marcus: The marks that are everywhere on the site, the little splashes of paint, or an area where someone will have written a series of figures and maybe someone will have drawn a face, a funny graffiti face on the site … the weird language of random marks and how random marks come together… anything I find like that I take photos of and they inspire me… bit by bit I have things I can include in some of these big paintings.

Liz: I get that, I take lots of photos of peeling paint on the subways…

Marcus: I love exactly that sort of thing – where nature and time and decay, and then – modernity – fluorescent spray paint and things like that – [how] the disintegration of different layers of activity incorporate themselves.

And then I have drawn from life a lot on the site. How can that act of drawing, and my experience filming on the site, and then my human experience of connecting with the men and women who are doing the rebuilding, come together and crystalize and be created into these bigger paintings? That’s an on-going, inspiring challenge that I’m working on.

Sketch of WTC rebuilding by Marcus Robinson

Liz: Let’s keep on that theme and talk about how all these layers came together when you decided to come here and document the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

Marcus: I had been living in London and doing films about urban transformation, [including one] about the making of the London Eye. So when the events of 9/11 happened, I was already in the mindset of filming urban transformation, but from a positive and more spiritual point of view. I worked with some producers at the start who were based in London [but] it seemed like there was no way of getting funding… then, bit by bit, I took the reins myself, phoned Daniel Liebeskind’s office and spoke to his wife, Nina. She invited us over and we met with Daniel and her. She kindly opened some doors to people at the Port Authority and to Larry Silverstein. One of the key people I met is a guy called Dara McQuillan, who is the Chief Marketing Officer for Silverstein Properties.

It literally took me 4-1/2 years to find a way to film here, being continually told, ”You don’t know” or not being responded to…

Liz: And were you based in London?

Marcus: I was based in London, shuttling to and fro across the Atlantic, meeting people, going through a labyrinth…  and I had more or less given up, because I knew the site was starting to be rebuilt… I [went to] the south of France [to paint] when the phone rang, and it was Dara saying, “You won’t believe this, but the people have changed their mind, they’re going to let you start filming.” That was a miracle, so I beat it back up to London, got packed up and flew over with my cameras and literally within a week I was starting to film the bedrock.

Benediction, Marcus Robinson, oil on canvas (photo by Marcus Robinson)

And this painting, which is called Benediction, that’s the sort of scene I was greeted with, and that profoundly moved me: huge expanses of bedrock being laid bare, this idea that soul of New York City, this thing that defines the structure, this incredible substrata on which it’s built, this beautiful inner sanctum of the city being laid bare and reshaped to create this new building… And I was meeting these amazing guys on the site, who, I learned through time, were the descendants of many of the men and women and families who had built and shaped the skyline of New York City.

Liz: That’s a wonderful connection.

Marcus: There’s this spearhead of energy going through time, of different generations through the years. That was one of the key things I was inspired by on the site, that many of the men and women are connected to people whose great grandfathers maybe built the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building and then whose fathers have maybe worked on the original Twin Towers. I talk about that quite a lot in the film, there’s a whole section about lineage and family and heritage.

It’s the idea of working people being at the cutting edge of shaping this city that everyone knows and everyone loves.

And I hope this work … that these paintings, long after I’m dead and gone, can define this sense of place and time, while also being timeless and incarnating something about the spirit of humanity, the spirit of people trying to pull through adversity, and… the diversity of New York City, which I think is amazing. That’s one of the things I think this site stands for, the beauty of people working together for a common goal, and the complete interdependence of everything.

Liz: Are you here by yourself, or is there a crew that came with you?

Marcus: By myself, it’s a solitary thing. That part of it is huge, and I’ve had to fund it mostly all the time myself – obviously some money from Channel 4(UK) and the History Channel, and an amazing contractor company called Roger & Sons, they helped keep the project going.

When it came to editing the film, I have an amazing editor, Leo Cullen who’s also a friend – he and two assistant editors. We have a story producer and an executive producer in London with a company called Lion Television.

Big Man in the Sky, Marcus Robinson, oil on canvas

Liz: Tell me about your engagement with the workers here – I would image that when you first showed up they were saying “Who is this guy?”

Marcus: It’s like everything – things take time. Partly it’s the dedication of an artist being there day after day after day: they see that you’re there with them, in all weathers, in all conditions, and you’re there at their coffee break, so there’s a sort of osmosis… and then I’m telling them why I’m here, what I want to do, what I believe in, so they get inspired that their work is being honored and reflected and celebrated by a third eye. Being aware that there’s a big arcing narrative… I think they got inspired by that.

Liz: Now as I understand it, you have something like a dozen cameras on site?

Marcus: I made a time-lapse film about Larnaca Airport in Cyprus being built. When that was finished I brought those 13 cameras here, and at one point I had them in different buildings around the site. Some of them had to be dismantled – I’d say I’ve had 5 or 6 cameras here for a long time. But most of the work that I was doing was with a 35mm film camera, that I would take down onto the site with me and film different things happening on a day-to-day basis. And then with a different camera, a video camera, I would film moments of live action and sound and people talking. So the final film is a mix of quite a lot of different ingredients: 35 mil film time lapse, then digital stills in locked off boxes that go through a period of years, then animated paintings, then interviews that we shot over a specific period of time with some of the guys who had become my friends through the years.

There’s a sort of overlap with all the things I love: drawing, painting, music, photography, filmmaking; [they] all came together in [this] one work. Within it there are lots of animated paintings that come to life, then dissolve into film frames that are all cut to the music. I really love the interplay between music, painting and film. (To see a bit of the film click here)

Liz: So you’ve been on the site now for about a dozen years?

Marcus: Since 2006, it’s coming up on 12 years now and before that, four and a half years of to-ing and fro-ing to develop the idea so it’s been quite a big adventure.

Liz: I think in many ways you’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to do this, to a large degree, on your own terms.

Marcus: This would have been a very different thing if at the start someone had said, “Here’s 5 million dollars make this film,” and defined what it would be. The fact that this is a journey, quite a difficult and challenging journey, means that the whole genesis and organic creation of this film has come from that place of being receptive and trying to learn as your edges are knocked off by the experience. I care about that as being a fundamental aspect.

Liz: And you’re planning to stay here until the end?

Marcus: Yes, I’d like to. Obviously it’s a huge challenge to keep the work funded. One of the things we’re doing now is looking for a patron, someone who’d like to have their name associated with this permanent, ongoing project, as well as having a permanent space in one of the buildings so there would be a living studio, a collection of work, and the film that would celebrate the rebuilding in a place where it could be shared with school children and other groups… that’s already what we do here at a small level, but I think as an on-going activity it could be amazing. We have school children and a lot of visitors from Ireland through the Northern Ireland Bureau and the British Council. Some of the UN Ambassadors have been up here ….

Liz: In addition to this project, what else are you doing?

Marcus: I’m about to shoot a film in Paris that’s an homage to a very famous Irish engineer, Peter Rice, who is the brains behind the Pompidou Center and the pyramid at the Louvre, and the Lloyds Building in London. He worked with some of the world’s top architects, translating their visionary ideas into engineering [support] structures. He’s very well known in the architectural world. I shot a trailer a couple of years ago and I’m shooting the film this summer. [If you’d like to see the trailer, click here – the password is RICE ]

Jardin des Tuileries, Marcus Robinson

I’m working on a number of different paintings – a series of the bridges of Paris.   And there’s a whole body of work I’d like to do inspired by Matisse’s last painting of the view from his window on the Quai St. Michel. So those are some of the plans for this summer. And then there’s a much bigger series of paintings and drawings on things that are inspiring about life in New York City. I do a lot of drawing at the Village Vanguard and at diners – I love New York diners, and because they’re disappearing, I’m trying to draw as many of them as I can… and the maritime life around New York… and the subway… I’ve proposed a film about the subway that I’d really like to make because I think the New York subway is brilliantly unique.

Sketch of the Landmark Diner by Marcus Robinson

Liz: How has your relationship to New York evolved – is it now home for you? Is anyplace home for you?

Marcus: New York really feels like home; I’ve always felt totally at peace here. I absolutely love New York City, I love the people and even the intensity and the madness and the occasional abrasiveness of the city, even sometimes feeling drained by the city. Whatever it is I just sort of thrive on it.

Sketch of Halsey and Stuyvesant Streets, by Marcus Robinson

My family home, the one we grew up in is still there, just outside Belfast, I still love it – that’s my original home. But I feel at home in many places: Paris, London, Ireland. I love Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, which is where I’m living at the moment. I absolutely love this beautiful mix of different people living together in this incredible area and the urban layout – the occasional moments of dilapidation and other moments of grandeur and a whole range of different people so that inspires me – I feel that that is the spirit of New York.

Liz: That’s the great thing about the subway – everyone rides it. That’s true of our parks and that’s also true of our beaches, like Coney Island.

Marcus: That’s what I was going to say – I’ve been starting a series of Coney Island drawings – I want to do this scale (large) painting because I think having an urban beach, a real city beach, where everybody is there – those combinations of populations you’ve just described – I love that – the different shapes, completely crazy shapes, sizes, colors of New Yorkers.

Sketch of the Village Vanguard by Marcus Robinson

Liz:   I’d like to flip it around and talk about music for two reasons: the first one is that when I came in you were playing the piano, so I’d like to know about your musical education; and secondly, you filmed Van Morrison, who I absolutely adore.

Marcus: I think that music is the most powerful art form in the sense that [when you’re] listening to music, [it] enters your soul and takes you to a place that no other art form can take you to. As a child, I learned classical piano – I started when I was 4… We always had music on in our house. My mother and father listened to Radio 3 which is the classical music station. My dad lived in Montreal from 1947 to 1958, so he had a really beautiful collection of old vinyl jazz records that I used to listen to as a child – he even had some 78rpm records… Then I played drums when I was at college and later got into what you call EDM (electronic dance music) but in the UK, it’s a wide ranging scene with all different types of music like deep house and neo-soul and hip hop… Some of the early films I made used those types of music, creating non-verbal films, where music and film worked together to tell a story.

And about the Van Morrison project, I was invited to make a film by Tourism Ireland – who had already been helpful in promoting my work – that would celebrate Belfast as a destination by filming Van Morrison’s 70th birthday concert on Cyprus Avenue. I shot a lot of the footage, time-lapse footage, we had fixed cameras which filmed the whole creation of the stage, the crowd arriving, and disappearing, and I filmed a lot with my 35 mil camera setting the scene, and other shots of the city of Belfast, and then we were very kindly allowed to use some footage that was shot by the BBC actually of his concert, so it’s a combination of those … The film is on Van’s site .

Liz: I understand you may have to move soon?

Marcus: Well these floors have been rented, so I need to find another location at the site. And if I can find a patron, I will be filming right until the end.

You can find more information about Marcus and his work on his website.

The Awakening, Marcus Robinson, oil on canvas, 8′ X 4′ (photo by Marcus Robinson)

Calling Emerging Filmmakers!

On December 1st, The Chelsea Film Festival   will begin accepting submissions for their 2017 Festival   Since its inaugural year in 2013, the Chelsea Film Festival has given emerging filmmakers from the United States and worldwide a voice, support, and an international platform in the heart of New York City to showcase their films with a focus on Global Issues.  For  more information and deadlines, click here. 

SPOTLIGHT Ireland!

IMG_0515In New York, we’ve not only got people from just about every country, we’ve also got a number of foreign cultural institutes.  Throughout the year I’ll be featuring a different one, and we’re starting off with Ireland.  Now I know some of you are scratching your heads, since March, with the Saint Patrick’s Day parade would seem a more logical place, but last week I was at the Irish Consulate for their monthly First Friday breakfast reception where Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade spoke.  2016 is a centenary year for Ireland and a number of events are planned across the US to commemorate the 2016 Proclamation of the Republic.  You can find a list of events on the website of the Irish Consulate General in NY  

New York also boasts a number of Irish performing arts/cultural centers.  The Irish Arts Center NYC   hosts wonderful theatre and musical performances.  Right now, they’re co-presenting Enda Kenney’s “The Last Hotel” which is playing at St. Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn through the 17th.  At the end of February, they’re bringing back “The Man in the Woman’s Shoes” and in April, the singer Camille O’Sullivan will be performing there.  The IAC NYC also runs classes in Irish music, dance and language, and has lots of programs for kids!

The Irish Repertory Theatre   is currently using other space while it’s own is being renovated.  Through March 6th, you can catch Burial at Thebes, Seamus Heaney’s reworking of Antigone (I’ll be going to see it on the 23rd, and will post a review), and on January 29th, a reading by playwright Jennifer O’Grady of Charlottes Letters.

Just across the East River (and only one stop from Grand Central) in Long Island City, Queens is the New York Irish Center,  an intimate space that’s great for concerts,  films and theatre, and has low ticket prices.  This Friday, they’ll be showing a documentary on the late Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.  Every month, they host a Ceili:  an evening of traditional Irish set dancing.  The Center also hosts classes in Irish music and language.

The American Irish Historical Society  hosts lectures, seminars, readings and performances throughout the year. On January 25th, it will host a lecture on Edward O’Meagher Condon;  on January 27th, a concert with Israeli pianist Tomer Gewirtzman, and on February 25th, the launch of a CD of Yeats poems set to music. Its library and archives contain a wide variety of rare books and artifacts from the 17th century to the present.

At Glucksman Ireland House NYU  you can enjoy concerts, films, and talks, as well as readings by writers, poets and playwrights throughout the year, many of which are free, the others of which are really low cost.

In the fall, Origin Theatre produces 1st Irish, a festival of Irish plays, readings and films that’s simply wonderful.  Every year I attend several of the performances, and they’ve all been great.  Mark your calendars NOW!

If you’re down by Battery Park, stop and visit the Irish Hunger Memorial  at Vesey Street and North End Avenue. It blends very well into its surroundings, and you may take a moment to realize you’ve found it.  Designed by artist Brian Tolle, this calm and pastural site representing  a rural Irish landscape, contains a rebuilt 19th century Irish stone cottage, set in a field with walls made of stones from all across Ireland.

I’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg here, so to speak.  There are many other organizations who will be having events throughout the year, and I’ll post information on them when I get it.  In the meantime, I think you’ve got enough here to get started…

Enjoy!

All Things French

Copyright Pixattitude | Dreamstime.com http://www.dreamstime.com/pixattitude_info

Copyright Pixattitude | Dreamstime.com
http://www.dreamstime.com/pixattitude_info

Not quite, since the French language and French culture are found throughout the globe.  According to the Organisation international de la francophonie, French is spoken by 274 million people on 5 continents.  For this edition, I’ll focus on France; future posts will cover the cultural activities of other countries which use French.

There are 67 French-related organizations in New York City, under the umbrella of the Committee of French-Speaking Societies.  I’m just going to talk about just a few of them.

If you’re looking for French film, theatre, lectures, books or even lessons, here are some great places to start: 

The French Institute, Alliance Francaise (FIAF) which has all of the foregoing, all year round.   In addition to their midtown facility, FIAF also has language classes in Brooklyn.  

The Maison Française at NYU  and the Maison Française at Columbia  offer a wide variety of cultural activities as well as language lessons. 

Take a look at the website of Cultural Services of the French Embassy in NYC  which has been a  force for spreading French culture in NYC.  Thanks to their efforts, especially to Fabrice Jaumont, there are now 6 dual-language French-English programs in the public schools at the elementary grades and 2 in middle schools.  More info here  

If you’d like to be part of an on-line community of French speakers and people interested in the French language, check out New York in French  founded by the above-mentioned Fabrice Jaumont. 

For more general information about French business and culture in NYC, take a look at French Morning  which publishes in both English and French, and covers French activities in LA, Miami, San Francisco and Texas.

There’s also French District, French District which is geared more towards the French who have recently moved here.

If you think there’s another organization or publication I should mention, drop me a line!

A la prochaine…

Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in Gotham

Since the Chelsea Music Festival   is focusing on the music of Hungary and Finland this year (both countries’ native tongues share a common linguistic ancestor)  I thought I’d write a bit about the cultural organizations in New York from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. 

The Balassi Institute of Hungarian Culture is hosting Budapest Pop-up during June featuring classic and contemporary music.

Czech out the films, concerts and other offerings at the Czech Center (you knew there was going to be a bad pun)   Through the rest of June, they’s showing the Czech that Film festival, and hosting a concert of new composers.   Their rooftop-ciné series on Tuesdays in July and August features live music and early 20th century Czech and American films on the theme of the “fallen woman”.

The Polish Cultural Institute   promotes a wide range of cultural programs in music, art, film, theatre and dance.  On their website  you can find out more about Polish artists performing in New York  such as the Polish National Ballet at the Joyce Theatre  through June 21st, or the  Obara International Quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center  on June 30th, or the works by  Pawel Althamer and Agnieszka Kurant which are included in the Storylines exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum .

The Romanian Cultural Institute hosts concerts, lectures and exhibits throughout the year; when this blog went to press, their summer calendar wasn’t posted.

Scandinavia House offers a wide range of programs from the Nordic countries, including  exhibitions, lectures, jazz concerts, kids activities and Nordic noir films (need I say more).  You can find the full schedule here    Be sure to check out the gift shop for some truly unique items, or enjoy lunch or dinner at Smörgås Chef.

The Finnish Cultural Institute  offers a residency for Finnish artists, designers and architects.  This year, they’re celebrating their 25th year in New York, with the theme of Urban Nature.   In July, catch “The Powers That Be”     an exhibition on physical energy at  Station Independent Projects  on the Lower East Side.

Sinatra, An American Icon; NYP Library for the Performing Arts

If you’re a fan of Ol’ Blue Eyes, be sure to get over to the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, to see the wonderful exhibition they’ve assembled to commemorate the Sinatra centennial.  With photos, recordings, correspondence, art work and memorabilia, it’s a great place to fall in love all over again  (or maybe for the first time) with “The Voice.”  Be prepared to spend a bit of time here; not only did Sinatra have a long career encompassing many bands (Tommy Dorsey, Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones,to name a few), he also acted in a number of films. I found myself periodically spending time listening to recordings or watching clips of his performances; you get a really good sense of how huge a phenomenon he was.  The exhibition runs through September 4th; during June, they are showing films such as “High Society” and “Pal Joey” that featured Sinatra.  More information here     This exhibit is FREE and continues to September 4.

The Library for the Performing Arts has a wide range of talks, films and performances;  you can find a full listing on their events page 

FREE (and Low Cost) Summer Events!!!

Summertime is when I love to stay in New York City.  Yeah, it’s hot and sticky, but the free entertainment is unparalleled!  And it’s in the parks or by the water, so you can stay cool, or at least get some relief from the heat.  Here’s my list of events to check out if you’re staying in town this summer:

SummerStage – Central Park (and other venues)

Now in it’s 30th year at Summerstage outdoor events include music (Opera, American, world, folk, electronic…), dance, spoken word and events specially with families in mind.   The schedule runs from May 18th through September 24th

In addition to the performances at Rumsey Playfield (69th Street & 5th Avenue), Summerstage also hosts events at various venues in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

You can find a complete list here

Governor’s Island

Hop on a ferry and for a memorable visit to this former army/coast guard base.  This year the season runs from May 24th to September 27th.  Plan to spend a fair amount of time here, as there are always activities for visitors to engage in as well as dance, music, theatre, poetry and art – –  for all tastes and all family members.  This summer has open studios with the artists in residence and choreographers, a 15-minute Hamlet, and a Unicycle Festival!  Find out more here

Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center Out of Doors offers dance and music every evening and on the weekends too, From July 22nd to August 9th.  Find the full schedule here  

Midsummer Night’s Swing isn’t free, but it’s cheap, and it’s a great way to learn new dance steps, or maybe some older dances you’ve always wanted to know how to do (mambo, salsa, swing and more)!  Live music and group dance lessons make for a really fun evening.  Great date night! The series runs from June 23rd to July 11th  More info here

River to River (Lower Manhattan)

Comprising mostly dance with some musical performances, the River to River festival takes place in various venues in Lower Manhattan, June 18-28.  You can find more information here

Brooklyn Bridge Park

On the East River waterfront, you’ll find dance parties, opera, film, kids activities and great public art!  Not to mention a view of the NYC skyline like in the movies.  Brooklyn Bridge Park’s activities go through the end of October.  To see the full list, go here  

Celebrate Brooklyn (Prospect Park)

They’re going to kick off their 37th year in style, with Chaka Khan on June 3rd.  This festival, held at the Prospect Park bandshell, runs through August 12th, and includes music of all genres, dance, and film. Most of the events are free (they ask for a $3 donation); you can find a complete list here

MetroTech Brooklyn Lunchtime Series

Office workers of the world, bust out of your cubes and get over to the BAM lunchtime concert series on the MetroTech commons!  Live performances every Thursday from June 4th to August 6th,  ranging from R&B to funk, to gospel to soul to jazz and world music. Find the full schedule here

June Events

This section lists specific events, and will be updated weekly, as new events are brought to my attention.  Don’t forget to take a look at the other sections of this blog for additional events:

June 26:  The City Below,   a film by Christoph Hochhausler, about the affair of a banker’s wife and her husband’s boss. Lust and money – what more do you need for a Friday night film?  and a free one at that?  6:00, Goethe Institute, 30 Irving Place

June 27:  Made in New York Jazz Festival Gala   You’ll get to hear the winners the 2nd Annual Jazz Competition , who hail from across the world, as well as  trumpeter Randy Brecker and other jazz greats.   Tickets are only $45   You can find more information here   7:00 pm at BMCC, 199 Chambers Street in Tribeca

Through June 28th:  catch the Summer Music Sale     of cd’s and vinyl at the ARChive of Contemporary Music, which has music of all genres – blues, jazz, latin, world, rock….  I’ve gotten some real bargains at this sale in previous years.  11:00 – 6:00 every day, at 54 White Street in Tribeca.

June 29:  Conversation with film music composer Mark Baechle  and the Director of the Swiss Institute Simon Castets.  More information here   7:00 pm at the Swiss Institute, 18 Wooster Street

June 30:  Swann in Love, by Volker Schlondorff, with Jeremy Irons, Alain Delon and Fanny Ardant – with English subtitles More information here   4:00 and 7:30, FIAF, Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street

Through June 30th, the Blue Note Jazz Festival celebrates its 5th year.  You still have time to catch Darlene Love, Al Di Meola, Bebel Gilberto and Natalie Cole, among others.   More information here   

Through July 11th, the 14th annual New York Asian Film Festival,   with special features on Hong Kong, women behind the camera in Korea, new cinema from Japan and Taiwan, as well as a tribute to Ken Takabura and Bunta Sugawara.  More information here    Screenings at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and the SVA Theatre in Chelsea

Through July 31:  Festival on the Green, the festival of FREE French films on Friday nights in various parks around New York City, features such classics as Pépé le Moko and Priceless.  All films are in French with English subtitles 

Through  July 5th   FREE Shakespeare in the Park:  The Tempest                                      July 23rd to August 23rd:  Cymbeline    Scoring tickets for these performances can take a bit of patience, but it’s worth the wait.  You can get tickets (2) by queueing up at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park – distribution starts at noon on the day of the performance;  there’s also a lottery at Astor Place, and a virtual ticketing lottery.   

               Older event listings (in case you’re looking for an organization)

June 5 – 7:  Bushwick Open Studios – a three day arts and culture festival in Brooklyn.  In addition to  the open studios, there will also be a family-friendly programs at the neighborhood Community Day on Saturday, and a film showcase on Sunday evening.  Find out more here  

June 6:  Central City Chorus    With Light Perpetual: Works of Maurice Duruflé  7:30 pm  St. Ignatius of Antioch, 264 West 87th Street

June 7:  From noon to 4:00 pm, the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side hosts the free “Egg Rolls and Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival” celebrating the food, music and folk arts of the Jewish, Chinese and Puerto Rican communities of the neighborhood. You can enjoy Chinese opera, klezmer, salsa nad plena music; Yiddish, Mandarin and Spanish lessons; Hebrew and Chinese scribal art, Puerto Rican mask making, historic building tours, mah jongg, children’s art activities, and, of course, egg rolls, egg creams and empanadas! More info here 

June 9: Museum Mile Festival – Nine museums along 5th Avenue between 82nd and 105th Streets will be open FREE from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. There will also be live music in front of five museums.

Through June 14:  Panorama Europe Film Festival,  co-presented by the Museum of the Moving Image    and the European Union National Institutes of Culture is a showcase of 16 contemporary European Films.  Films will be shown at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens and the Bohemian National Hall in Manhattan.

June 13:  From 2:30 to 5:00 pm, the NY Irish Arts Center in Long Island City Queens, is hosting a Scavenger Hunt open to treasure hunters of all ages.  More info here

June 13:  10th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island with Michael Arenella and His Dream Orchestra –  From 11:00 am to 5:00 pm,  performances, dance lessons and antique cars at a Roaring Twenties themed celebration.  Get dressed up and bring the whole family!  

June 14:  From noon to 6:00 pm, Smalls Jazz Club in the West Village hosts the semi-annual showcase of vocal and instrumental performances by students at the New York Jazz Workshop (yes, I study there).  Stop by when you can, or come for the whole day!  More info here

June 16:  The German Center for Research & Innovation   hosts the opening of Seeing the Art in Science, an exhibition produced by high-end Carl Zeiss microscopy equipment, and a panel discussion featuring scientists from the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at the University of Illinois, who will speak about the connection between art and science.  6:30 – 8:30 at the German House.  Advance reservation required.  

June 12 – 20:  Chelsea Music Festival  celebrating the music of Finland and Hungary, including Finnish Tango and Hungarian Dances, the festival offers over two dozen performances across Manhattan.  

Through June 20:  The Ensemble Theatre’s annual Marathon of One Act Plays continues on.    See 4 new plays in an evening, with settings that include a science lab in Siberia and the red-light district of 18th century Japan.  

June 24th:  The Center for Fiction is hosting a conversation between author Mia Alvar, and her editor  Lexy Bloom .  

June 25th:  The Center for Fiction hosts The Music of Daniel Felsenfeld, a collaboration between the composer and various contemporary authors.         8:00 pm, 17 East 47th Street.

Africa in the Big Apple

The African continent is making a big splash in the Big Apple this May;  first up, the African Film Festival  celebrating its 25th Anniversary will be taking place May 1st to the 25th at Lincoln Center, the Maysles Cinema Institute and BAMcinématek.   The festival will feature 50 films and documentaries from 25 countries.  I’ve already seen “Head Gone” a comedy from Nigeria that makes you think about how thin that line is between sanity and insanity, as well as being a sly nod at how an invested bureaucracy fails to help those it should and catches others in its net.  “The Prophesy” is a short about a photographer’s attempt through beautiful and provocative images to increase awareness of environmental degradation in Senegal and Australia.  “100% Dakar” brought back memories of my 2008 visit to that vibrant city, with its portraits of several creative artists from that city working in fashion, music, photography, etc. who are responsible for a booming arts scene, despite obstacles and burdens that would be crushing for less hardy souls.  I left feeling really good and hopeful after all these films, and I can’t wait to see more!

When I left one of the venues at the Asian Art week in March, I thought to myself “why don’t we have an African Art Week?”   Then in April, at the Columbia African Economic Forum, I heard Touria El Glaoui, the Founding director of 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair  speak about how she was going to bring the show here!  The Fair will take place for the first time in New York City May 15-17, 2015.  Held at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn  the fair will showcase visual artists from across Africa, and will host artist talks, lectures and film screenings. I’m looking forward to discovering the art that will be on display!

BAM is once again hosting the Dance Africa Festival May 16-25.  Now in it’s 38th year, the Fesitval’s theme for it’s 2015 edition is “Brazilian rhythms, African roots“.  In addition to the performances, there will be film, dance workshops and neighborhood events.

And don’t forget African music.  Afropop Worldwide, a Peabody award winning radio show and internet site covering African music made on the Continent and throughout the world.  On their website you can listen to the programs you may have missed, or download them as podcasts, check out their videos, and read their informative articles.