Bronx Artists Residencies Exhibit

This summer, the Bronx Arts Space offered residencies (6 weeks studio space and a $500 stipend) to a group of six artists.  At the end of August, they held an exhibit of projects this inaugural group had worked on during their residencies. I had a chance to speak with three of the artists, and I definitely want to continue following their work.  Here’s why:

untitled, Alexis White, book pages and crayon

I was very attracted to Alexis White’s book-based work.  Against one wall were several works featuring  strong geometric patterns with vibrant colors – on closer inspection, these figures were drawn in crayon on the pages of a book.  Alexis began this series when her father, who works at a psychiatric facility, came home one day with a psychiatric book about “Children of Color.” 

Untitled, Alexis White, mixed paper and book collage

She also created a second collage series using pages from a found book (Les Etoiles by Alfonse Daudet), on which she pasted images cut from magazines.

Melissa Calderón’s embroidery art grabbed my attention immediately – it turns out her grandmother is a seamstress.  Melissa employs unconventional surfaces, such as wood, to create her sculptural embroidery pieces. Her work covers a variety of social issues, from the environment to housing. 

The Arctic Meltdown, Melissa Calderon, 1979-present, thread and wood

Against one wall is a series of 8 pieces, which show how the Arctic ice has been melting since 1979 and will continue to shrink through 2035, based on the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Bronx Housing Court Monster, embroidery on linen, Melissa Calderón

I especially liked The Bronx Housing Court Monster – the title and the image say it all!


diarama of room in Harlem with videos of Shilo, OH by Erica Bailey

Erica Bailey’s dioramas deal with transience and impermanence.  She exhibited two rooms: one a recreation of her childhood room in Shilo Ohio, and the other, her first studio apartment in Harlem. As the artist noted, she wasn’t the first person to live in these spaces, and she won’t be the last.  In the “windows” of each room are street scenes from the other location, demonstrating their connection despite their differences.

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from these three!

Artists Residency Open Call

The New York Art Residency and Studios (NARS) Foundation   is now accepting applications for the International Residency Program from international and US based artists. The NARS residency supports emerging and mid-career artists and curators working across all disciplines through three and six-month residencies, creating a space for artistic dialogue and international cultural exchange for an extended period of time. 

NARS offers 24/7 access to furnished, private or semi-private studio spaces (280-325 sq ft) in our diverse artist community in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. As a studio based residency, the focus is on the artistic process and the experimentation that results from working alongside other artists, within New York’s cultural and sociopolitical context.  Deadline is September 30, 2017.

Celebrating the 4th

Statue of Liberty, photo by ER Daly

While July 4th fills one’s head with visions of fireworks, since those don’t happen until the evening, if you’re spending the day in town, it might be a good opportunity to explore some of NYC’s history, which is very bound up with that of the United States.  Each of the five boroughs has its own historical society;  three of them will be open that day:

New York Historical Society  170 Central Park West (77th St)

Queens Historical Society  143-35 37th Avenue, Flushing, New York 11354

Historic Richmond Town   441 Clarke Avenue, Staten Island

Native Americans have played important, if under-appreciated roles in all the wars the U.S. has fought, serving at a higher rate in proportion to their population than any other ethnic group.  Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces , a special week-long exhibit explores their contributions.  June 29th – July 6th, National Museum of the American Indian,  One Bowling Green

July 4th fireworks from the Brooklyn Bridge, photo by ER Daly

If you want to catch the Macy’s fireworks, they’ll be displaying along the East River from 23rd Street to 59th Street.  Find more information on times and viewing sites here  


Art Opportunity – Call to Artists

Site: Brooklyn has issued a call to artists for submissions for their next exhibit on Hand Pulled Prints which will take place September 22nd – October 22nd, 2017.  The show will be juried by Master Printer Marina Ancona, Founder of 10 Grand Press, an independent print shop that specializes in fine art printing processes and techniques.

This exhibition will reflect the ambitious, innovative and contemporary in printmaking today. Highlighting traditional printmaking processes in any combination of serigraphy, letterpress, collagraphy, etching, woodcut, lithography, linocut, drypoint, mezzotint, monoprint and solar plates. Digital and photographic elements may be used only as a supporting element.

Final submission deadline is August 10, 2017  More information here 

Art and E-Waste

Liz Daly at the Gowanus e-waste center

I’m afraid my life isn’t all about  art openings and concerts and theatre…   I recently spent some time at the Gowanus e-waste center, disassembling hard drives and phones to get ready for the EXPO Gowanus, a carnival focused on art, science, and toxic waste!

You can visit their e-waste craft session booth and make mobiles, wind chimes, and other crafts out of disassembled phones, hard drives and other e-waste. No registration required!

EXPO Gowanus will take place on Saturday May 20th, 11AM – 5PM at Thomas Greene Park, 3rd Ave & Douglas Street Brooklyn, NY 11217.

You can bring your digital trash to the Gowanus e-waste center in Brooklyn, where they will re-cycle or up-cycle it, or resell it – they have a retail outlet and the staff is very helpful.  The e-waste center is part of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, which runs a number of recycling and environmental education programs.  For more information, visit their website. 

Black History in US Currency

Loreen Williamson, Co-founder, Museum of UnCut Funk making remarks at the opening of the exhibit “For the Love of Money”

Coins and bills may seem to be just a way we pay for things, but they have a psychic and symbolic weight that belies their physical heft.  Just think about the debates around imagery when the Euro was created, or the more recent dust-up over changes to the U.S. $20 bill. 

It was against this backdrop that the Museum of American Finance opened its newest exhibit For The Love of Money:  Blacks on US Currency, featuring coins, medals and medallions bearing images of Black icons, historical events, and institutions central to American history. 

The exhibit comes from the Museum of UnCut Funk, a virtual museum dedicated to 1970’s Black Culture and Funk.  Loreen Williamson, co-curator of the Museum of UnCut Funk, opened her remarks noting that announced changes to US Currency will include images of prominent African Americans: Harriet Tubman will be featured on the front of the new $20 bill; the reverse of the new $10 bill will feature several women’s rights activists, including Sojourner Truth; and the reverse of the new $5 bill will honor prominent individuals including Marian Anderson and Martin Luther King Jr. (You can find the full US Treasury announcement here) As she said, quoting the O’Jay’s song that gives this exhibit its title, such a “small piece of paper carries a lot of weight.”

When Ms. Williamson and Pamela Thomas started the Museum, they collected objects they loved, centered on 1970’s Black culture and Funk.  They didn’t know that there were black people on U.S. currency – they found their first coin some 15 years ago at a memorabilia show.  Ms. Williamson noted that the 41 objects in this exhibit are tangible, permanent, accessible objects for people to learn from – many of the coins have images of historical first events and people who carried the hopes and dreams of their race  on their shoulders.  For her this exhibit also brings history full circle, as enslaved people were bought and sold on Wall Street, steps away from this exhibit. 

The exhibit covers a lot of history, and is divided into 5 parts by type of object: anti-slavery tokens used in the US and England; commemorative coins – they are made in small batches and their sales are used to build museums, maintain historic sites and support Olympic programs;  Congressional Gold Medals – one of the highest civilian awards bestowed by the US government to honor particular individuals or events; replica bronze medals – these are replicas of the Congressional Gold medals and can be sold; and commemorative gold medallions – in1978 legislation authorized the creation of commemorative American Arts Medallions, to provide a way for U.S. citizens to invest in gold bullion-type coins. 

Commemorative coins and medals  require an Act of Congress, signed by the US President, to be created, which makes the images that adorn them even more significant.

And who makes our money?  US Currency is made by the Department of the Treasury:  bills by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving  and coins by the U.S. Mint.

Throughout the show you’ll find coins bearing the likenesses of many famous figures or commemorating well-known historic events, such as Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, the desegregation of Little Rock schools, as well as objects with images of less famous people like Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman aviator in the world.  In the displays you’ll be rewarded with the fruits of Ms. Williamson’s research: biographies and descriptions of the people, events and institutions depicted, as well as explanations of how these coins and medals are created. Below are a few of the objects you’ll see:

Copper American anti-slavery token “Am I not a woman & a sister” 1838

The sale of Anti-Slavery tokens supported by American abolitionist movement; the design of the American tokens was inspired by British ceramic medallions projected by Josiah Wedgwood, and commissioned by Benjamin Franklin. American copper hard-times tokens were privately minted and used by merchants to make change.

Louis Armstrong commemorative gold medallion

The great jazz artist Louis Armstrong was the first Black man to be honored on a gold commemorative medallion.  He was also the first Black man to get feature billing in a major motion picture, Pennies from Heaven.  For over 10 years, Armstrong refused to play in his hometown of New Orleans, because they didn’t allow integrated bands. You can also visit his home in Corona, Queens. 

Civil Rights Act of 1964, silver dollar created in 2014

The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was commemorated on a Silver Dollar in 2014. 

bronze replica of gold Congressional Medal presented to the American Fighter Aces

This medal is a bronze replica of the Congressional Gold Medal presented to the American Fighter Aces in recognition of their heroic military service.  American Fighter Aces are military pilots credited with destroying five or more confirmed enemy aircraft in aerial combat during a war or conflict.  This medal includes the likeness of Lt. Col. Lee Archer, the first and only Black Fighter Ace, who fought in both World War 2 (with the Tuskegee Airmen)  and the Korean War.  He flew 196 missions and shot down four enemy aircraft; with another pilot he downed a fifth enemy plane. 

George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington silver half dollar 1951

This 1951 silver half dollar was designed by Isaac Scott Hathaway, the first Black artist whose work was produced by the US Mint. It depicts George Washington Carver, who was born into slavery and became a famous agricultural scientist and inventor; and Booker T. Washington, a former slave who served as an advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now known as Tuskegee University.

Dorothy Height Bronze Medal Front. Photo by Museum of UnCut Funk, courtesy of Museum of American Finance

Dorothy I. Height was President of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) for 40 years.  She was also the only female member of the Council for United Civil Rights leadership and was one of the organizers of the March on Washington.  The NCNW national headquarters building is named after her.

This exhibit is both highly educational and fascinating.  Be sure to get to see it before it closes next January!  The Museum of American Finance is at 48 Wall Street;  the Museum of UnCut Funk is on-line.

New York From 1609 to 2050

Native American Ceremonial Club 1600’s from Johan Printz, Governor of New Sweden

Have you ever wondered about the earliest days of New York City – before it was a city?  Or how it became a global capital?  The new exhibit New York at its Core  at the Museum of the City of New York aims not so much to answer those questions, as analyze how the Big Apple came to be, examining the City’s development through four foundational lenses:  money, diversity, density and creativity.

Divided into three parts, this $100 million dollar renovation of the first floor starts with the Port City, covering the years 1609 through 1898, from Henry Hudson’s arrival to the year when the city was consolidated into the metropolis we know today.    You’ll find bays with historic artifacts organized around individual topics, such as the Lenape Indians, the arrival of the Europeans, religious pluralism…  There are also interactive kiosks where you can find out about the people and important events and topics such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, slavery, oysters…  On the back wall images of the modern day streetscape fade into a view of the same scenes from the 18th and 19th centuries, allowing you to really appreciate how the City changed and grew.

Cover of Trumpet Battle album of 1957 and trumpet owned by Roy Eldridge

The second gallery, World City, covering 1898-2012, is about not only the development of the port, but also about the lively cultural scene that had developed, in part due to NYC’s diversity:  between 1880 and 1898, there were over 1 million foreign-born people living in Manhattan and Brooklyn, who were served by papers in 13 languages.  This era also witnessed the birth of the Bowery theatres and Coney Island, which were followed in the early 20th century by the rise of Broadway and the Harlem Renaissance.  Other bays examine the decline of New York between 1960 and 1970, with the pressing issues of that period such as war, civil rights and de-industrialization. I’m happy to report that there’s also a display New York Comes Back, which examines how the City became the global capital we know today. On the back wall of the gallery, clear silhouettes parade against a background of city scenes.  Each silhouette corresponds to one of 40 influential people; you can click on their image to learn their story. 

Mapping the City display with over 100 digital maps of various demographic data, i.e., where people live, where the jobs are, how they get around

The Future City Lab was the most amazing for me, as it allows you to imagine the city of the future through five challenges:  housing, ecology, transportation, work, and diversity.  You can explore each of these areas in detail at individual computer stations, and propose your own solutions – your chance to play urban planner!  It’s a lot of fun, but it also makes you realize how hard it is to design a city. The stations will show you different neighborhoods and the current strategies for their development; you can design a street, a park or a building, and you can see how your proposals rate on various metrics such as affordability and sustainability.  Your solution is then projected on a very large screen that you can step into.  There are also display tables with general information on New York such as our religious composition, the age of the population, origin of our immigrants – 38% of New Yorkers were born abroad, and you can see how we stack up against other cities.

Future City display showing the results of a visitor’s building design

A little more “low tech” is the “What if” table, which contains blocks with questions and answers from knowledgeable New Yorkers; you can submit your own questions or solutions.

This has been a very, very brief overview of the wealth of information you’ll find in this exhibit, which is a permanent one – but don’t wait forever, get up and see it now;  you’ll want to go back!

Visiting Artist Program at Brooklyn Navy Yard – Apply Now

Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 offers an annual program to artists seeking to work on-site in any medium including, but not limited to, photography, painting, music, dance, sculpture and writing. Now entering its fifth year, the Visiting Artist Program was established in response to tremendous public interest from artists who are inspired by or seeking to connect to the Yard. Artists may apply for independent access to this high-security 300-acre facility and former military site nestled on the world-famous Brooklyn waterfront. Deadline for applications is January 11, 2017.  More information here