A Walk Along Library Way

Pedestrians traveling 41st Street in Manhattan between Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue may notice special street signs if they pay close attention – that two-block stretch is known as Library Way. Embedded within the sidewalk at regular intervals you will find 96 unique bronze plaques. The plaques were designed by sculptor Gregg LeFevre, and each one contains a literary quote. The quotes were chosen by a committee of literary experts picked by the Grand Central Partnership, New York Public Library, and New Yorker magazine. Although the plaques were installed in the late 1990s, the two blocks were officially renamed Library Way in 2003.

Library Way’s location is not an accident. The street leads straight to the main entrance of New York Public Library’s historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, which I’ve previously written about here.

Here are some of my favorite plaques. I think that many of my book-loving and library-loving friends and fellow bloggers, including Anabel of The Glasgow Gallivanter, would enjoy this literary-themed public art.

And I’ll end with this one final quote, which will be particularly meaningful for Americans enduring our current political situation.

There are many more for you to discover if you go to Library Way. I hope you have the opportunity to do so!

Summer Flowers in Stuyvesant Square

Green space is highly prized in New York City, and as you travel south along Second Avenue towards the Lower East Side of Manhattan, you will come upon one of the jewels in the New York City park system: Stuyvesant Square. In 1836, the land for Stuyvesant Square was donated to the city by Peter Gerard Stuyvesant and his wife Helen Rutherford Stuyvesant to be made into park. The new park, ultimately named Stuyvesant Square, opened in 1850. Today, the park straddles Second Avenue, and both sides are equally lovely.

Despite the busyness of Second Avenue, the park itself is a peaceful destination, the perfect place to people watch or read a book while sitting on one of the park’s many shaded benches. There’s a large dog park as well, although on the day I visited it was so hot that there weren’t many dogs playing in that fenced area, and those who were there weren’t in the mood for a run.

The summer flowers drew me to the park this time. The colors were bright, with occasional buzzing bees stopping by.

The alium flowers, always among my favorite, were almost gone for the season – but even their dried brown stems and petals were appealing.

You’ll catch a glimpse of the nearby Fifteenth Street Quaker Meeting House and Friends Seminary, to the east, as well as the spires of St. George’s Episcopal Church.

There are also two statues in the park. The first is a statue of Peter Stuyvesant, the park donor’s ancestor. The original Peter Stuyvesant was Director of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, the predecessor to New York City, from 1647 to 1664. The sculptor was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, an artist and art patron most commonly known for founding the Whitney Museum. You’ll find the statue of Peter Stuyvesant in the part of the park located west of Second Avenue.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the park’s other sculpture, a three-quarters’ perspective of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak located on the park’s northeast side. Dvorak lived in the neighborhood next to Stuyvesant Square for a few years while he served as Director of the National Conservatory of Music in America. The sculptor of this work was Croatian-American artist Ivan Mestrovic. (Since I missed this one, you can find a photo of the Dvorak sculpture here.)

Want to spend a little time in this park yourself? You will find Stuyvesant Square on Second Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets. It’s a short distance from the L train’s 3rd Avenue station, or you can take the the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, or W trains to 14th Street-Union Square, and then walk east a few blocks.

A Farm in the City: Queens County Farm Museum

One thing people usually don’t expect to find in New York City is a farm, but there are a number of urban farms. Most of the urban farms have been founded recently and are located in unique locations – small greenspaces, even rooftops. Those gardens are creative in addressing the farming challenges of a major city, but there’s still one farm, surrounded by the city, that carries on farming in the traditional way: the Queens County Farm Museum.

The farm’s website contains the following description of the Queens County Farm Museum:

Queens County Farm Museum’s history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State. The site includes historic farm buildings, a greenhouse complex, livestock, farm vehicles and implements, planting fields, an orchard and herb garden.

We visited the museum on a Spring day when not too many people were around. It was as if we had left the city entirely and traveled somewhere in rural upstate New York.

As visitors enter the farm property, one of the first buildings they come to is the Adriance Farmhouse.

The earliest parts of the farmhouse date back to 1772, although it was added onto in the 19th century. The farmhouse now has New York City landmark status.

Across the way, there’s a small shop where you can get a coffee or purchase seeds, eggs, fresh produce, or other farm-related gifts.

Let’s see what else may be discovered on a stroll around the farm. Certainly some things we might expect to see on a farm – but not so common in New York City!

There was some unusual excitement on the farm while we were there – filming for a television cooking show! (From the look of things, this appears to be for the Food Network show Chopped – one of their grilling competitions.) We didn’t get to see any of the famous judges, but we did spy the set. This photo also demonstrates that the city isn’t too far away, as evidenced by the high rise buildings in the background.

Want to visit the Queens County Farm Museum? It’s located at 73-50 Littleneck Parkway, in Floral Park. The website contains directions for traveling by car or public transportation here. As a bonus, the farm is free except for a small number of special events dates.

Visiting the Selah Exhibition at the Chesnut Gallery

I recently discovered a hidden gem on Fifth Avenue – the Chesnut Gallery at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. The small gallery is currently host to an exhibition by Bronx-based artist Laura James titled Selah. The artist is known for her religious art, and this exhibition highlights that subject matter. Each painting has a biblical influence and is done in a style similar to the Christian Ethiopian art tradition.

Here are a few of my favorite paintings from the exhibition. First, I was drawn to this painting, titled “Guardian Angel.”

This one is titled “The Original Creation.”

Here’s “Man Born Blind,” another interesting one.

I really enjoyed “Fish for Breakfast.”

I’ll leave you with one last painting, “The Image of Gold and the Fiery Furnace.”

These are just a few of the richly colored, beautifully detailed paintings on exhibit. If you’d like to see Selah for yourself, the paintings are only on exhibition at the church until July 30. The entrance to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is located at 7 W. 55th Street, just off of Fifth Avenue.

Subway Station Art: Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station

I’ve written before about the Second Avenue subway line, which opened for the first time on January 1 of this year. Each of the three new stations has unique public art. (I wrote about those stations here, here, and here.) The new subway line connects with the rest of the system at the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street Station. When the new platform was added at that station, a new entrance was added as well at 3rd Avenue and 63rd Street. MTA Arts & Design added art on three levels: first, on the platform level next to the elevators from the platform to the mezzanine; second, on the mezzanine level; and third, at the street level. All of the art celebrates the old elevated train line that was demolished in 1942.

First, the platform level. There’s a semi-transparent set of panels separating the elevator area from one end of the track. Superimposed upon those panels are stylized photographs of the old elevated train line.

On the mezzanine level is my favorite art at this station, artist Jean Shin’s installation, Elevated. Shin’s work on this level focuses on the people in the neighborhood who would have been the elevated train’s riders before its demolition.

Finally, at the street level are more of Shin’s mosaics – these showing the girders that held up the old elevated line’s tracks being torn down.

If you’d like to see this subway station art for yourself, you can take the F or Q to the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street station. Make sure you enter or exist from the 3rd Avenue entrance/exit, as the Lexington Avenue entrance/exit does not provide access to this art.

The Noguchi Museum

There are so many excellent art museums in New York City that most people fail to go beyond the most well known: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the New Museum, the Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum. All of them are great museums, and I’ve written about many in this blog. But there are others, less well known, that are worthy of a visitor’s time and attention. One of the best, in my opinion, is the Noguchi Museum. Located in Long Island City, the Noguchi Museum houses the work of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988).

One of the things that makes this museum so special is the architecture. When Noguchi decided to build his museum in Long Island City, he designed an amazing space to house his art. One part of the museum is an old industrial building that Noguchi repurposed. To that building, Noguchi added a modern structure and a walled garden. The combination of hard, industrial lines, concrete, old wood floors, natural light, and drywall showcases his work to great advantage.

The outdoor space is my favorite. There are two types of outdoor space. Part is mostly enclosed by the walls of the building, but with open spaces near the ceilings. These open spaces let in light in special ways, casting unique shadows. The day I visited, there had been some rain earlier in the afternoon. The damp floor and even slight puddling in places only added to the overall artistic environment.

The garden is a tranquil oasis, a green space that’s the perfect foil for more of Noguchi’s sculptures. There are several places to sit for a while, enjoying the beauty of the garden environment. The combination of natural materials with stone and metal is striking, and the height of the walls surrounding the garden provide a welcome refuge from the busy outside world.

Inside, there are sculptures spanning Noguchi’s professional career and utilizing a range of techniques, styles, and media. I enjoyed the contrast between different types of stone, textures, and scale.

There’s a special exhibition right now titled “Self-Interned, 1942.” As a resident of New York City during World War II, Noguchi was not required to enter a Japanese-American internment camp, but he voluntarily spent several months in the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona with the hope (unrealized, unfortunately) that he would be able to develop an art program for the camp. The exhibition includes both art and artifacts from that time period. This exhibition is only open through January 2018.

Finally, Noguchi was also known for his lamp designs, and there is a room with a number of examples of those designs.

Want to see the Noguchi Museum in person? The Museum is located at 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard) in Long Island City. If you are traveling by public transportation, you can take the N or W trains to the Broadway station, and then walk 8 blocks west on Broadway until you reach Vernon Boulevard. Turn left and walk 2 more short blocks to the museum. (You will see Socrates Sculpture Park at Broadway and Vernon Boulevard, another great place to visit.) If you don’t want to walk that far, you can also take the Q103 bus, which has stops near many of the other subway stations in Long Island City. (For specific directions, use the Trip Planner on the MTA website.)

Note: The Noguchi Museum is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays. On the first Friday of each month, admission to the museum is free – and there are also extended hours on First Fridays during the summer, as well as a cash bar.

JMZ Walls in Brooklyn

There are many different neighborhoods with rich street art traditions in New York City. You might go to Queens, to Long Island City and Astoria, which I’ve written about before here, here, and here. There’s more in the Bronx – as well as Staten Island – and I’ll explore those more in the future in this blog. In Manhattan, you can find murals in Washington Heights (the Audubon Mural Project, which I wrote about here), Harlem (here‘s just part of what’s offered), East Harlem (more on that here), Chelsea, Little Italy, Chinatown, Alphabet City, and the Lower East Side (including the First Street Green, which I wrote about here). And finally, there’s even more offered in Brooklyn – Dumbo (see here), Williamsburg and Bushwick (more on those coming soon), and others.

For this post, I thought I would focus on one particular street art project in Brooklyn, known as JMZ Walls. JMZ Walls is named after the J, M, and Z train lines which run along Broadway in this part of Brooklyn. In fact, you can find all of these murals within just a block or two of Broadway. I’ve also included a few murals from the Dodsworth Street Mural Project, an earlier mural project whose boundaries seem to overlap with JMZ Walls. In fact, it’s really hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Here is a description of JMZ Walls by its founders, taken from its website:

JMZ Walls is a group of Bushwick residents who love the diversity and identity of Bushwick. We are committed to providing a unique collaborative experience for artists and our community. We endeavor to seek out available walls for local and global artists to create pieces that will be viewed by the greater Bushwick community. Our goal is to not only beautify our neighborhood, but to provide imaginative works of art the residents of Bushwick would not otherwise have access to. We believe that the streets have the potential to be a gallery to recount the history and progression of New York and the larger global community.

There are so many murals it is impossible to feature them all in a single blog post, so I will concentrate my attention here on my favorites, as well as others that show the diversity of the art work in the neighborhood. Artists’ names – and Instagram accounts, when available – are located below each photo.

BK Foxx (Instagram: @bkfoxx)
WERC (Instagram: @w3rc)
Key Detail (Instagram: @keydetail) and Yu-Baba (Instagram: @juliayubaba)
A Visual Bliss (Instagram: @avisualbliss) and Mr. Prvrt aka Justin Suarez (Instagram: @mrprvrt)
Lexi Bella (Instagram: @lexibellaart)
Kaldea Nakajima (@kaldea)
MURRZ (Instagram: @_murrz) and JCORP (Instagram: @jcorptm)
Ramiro Davaro-Comas (Instagram: @ramirostudios)
Marcelo Ment (Instagram: @marceloment)
Marcelo Ment (Instagram: @marceloment)
La Femme Cheri (Instagram: @la_femme_cheri) and Kimmy Grace (Instagram: @magicalblahblah)
Vince (Instagram: @vballentine99)
Kwue Molly (Instagram: @kwuemolly)
Huetek (Instagram: @huetek)
Thiago Valdi (Instagram: @thiagovaldi)
L7Matrix (Instagram: @l7matrix)
Caro Pepe (Instagram: @caro.pepe)
Tee Marie/Brooklyn Tee (Instagram: @brooklyntee)
Zesoner (Instagram: @zesoner)
Fumero (Instagram: @fumeroism)
Eelco Virus (Instagram: @iameelco)
Shiro (Instagram: @shiro_one)
Adam Kiyoshi Fujita (Instagram: @adamfu)
Turtle Caps (Instagram: @turtlecaps)
Shower Scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho – BK Foxx (Instagram: @bkfoxx)

Want to explore the JMZ Walls and Dodsworth Street Murals for yourself? The easiest way to access them is from the J, M, and Z trains. All of the murals I’ve posted photos of here are located off of Broadway between the Kosciuszko Street station and Marcy Street station. You can also access them from the stations in between, including the Myrtle Avenue, Flushing Avenue, and Lorimer Street stations.

Seated Ballerina at Rockefeller Center

Recent visitors to Rockefeller Center in New York City might have discovered this interesting sculpture by artist Jeff Koons titled Seated Ballerina.

Part of what makes this sculpture unusual is that it’s inflatable nylon – not something you normally see in an outdoor public art installation. It’s scale is also impressive. As you can see from the photograph above, the sculpture towers over bystanders. It is 45 feet high, not including the wooden base.

 

What also makes this sculpture special is Koons’s intent in creating this work. Koons wanted the sculpture to bring public attention to the plight of missing and exploited children in the United States and around the world during National Missing Children’s Month. As part of that goal, efforts have been made to raise donations for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

The Rockefeller Center website provides this additional description of the sculpture:

Often referencing historical imagery and found objects, Koons based Seated Ballerina on a small porcelain figurine. The sculpture acts as a contemporary iteration of the goddess Venus, and symbolizes notions of beauty and connectivity. Its reflective surface mirrors its immediate environment and engages with each viewer.

I thought I’d leave you with one final view of the sculpture. I think this photograph shows some of the interesting details, including the sculptures structure.

Seated Ballerina was only on exhibition until July 5, 2017, so I’m afraid that if you haven’t already seen it you will have to rely on the photographs instead.

Subway Station Art: Kosciuszko Street Station

Recently I was hunting for street art in Brooklyn and took a subway line I don’t normally travel. In the part of Brooklyn I was in, the line goes above ground, and as we approached the Kosciuszko Street station I spotted a mural on a nearby building. Although I originally intended to travel a station or two further, I decided to go ahead and get off the train here. And was I glad that I did! Not only did I find numerous murals in the vicinity of the station, I actually found some subway station art I hadn’t discovered before as well.

The Kosciuszko Street station is home to a series of 16 stained glass windows designed by artist Ronald Calloway. Collectively, the installation is called Euphorbias. Upon further research, I discovered that Euphorbia refers to a “large genus of plants in the spurge family.”

The MTA Arts & Design website provides this description of Calloway’s Euphorbias:

In Euphorbias, the artist used botanical imagery as a metaphor for life and growth in the communities that surround the elevated Kosciuszko Street station. The artwork … creates the sensation of growth, as if energy is radiating outward from the center of the images to the tips of the forms. Brightly colored plants, some of which resemble the sun and its rays, are in full bloom on the platform.

Here are some examples of what you will find at the station.

 

Want to see Euphorbias for yourself? Just take the J train into Brooklyn to the Kosciuszko Street station.

NYC Pride March 2017

During the month of June communities across the United States celebrate LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride Month. As part of the month’s celebrations, many large cities host Pride Parades and Festivals. New York City certainly hosts those kinds of festivities, but instead of a parade there is an annual Pride March.

The timing of Pride each year, as well as NYC’s decision to hold a march rather than a parade, has important historical roots. American society in the 1960s was extremely homophobic, and LGBT persons often faced harassment and persecution by police and the larger society. Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village. The LGBT community in New York City, like those elsewhere at that time, were accustomed to being targeted by police, but this time the NYC community decided to push back. Over the next few days, many people participated in the Stonewall Riots or Stonewall Uprising. Today, the modern LGBT rights movement traces its roots back to those critical days in June 1969. We honor that history by celebrating and marching every June.

Last Sunday was this year’s Pride March in the city. Like the protests that form its historical foundation, this year’s march was as much about protest and communicating about important issues facing the LGBT community as it was about celebration. Don’t get me wrong, there was a fun spirit surrounding the march and much entertainment, but there were also many participants communicating serious messages.

Here are some photos illustrating the range of participants and messages of this year’s Pride March – I hope you enjoy!