Housing for Artists

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A non-profit called Artspace is about halfway through converting an abandoned East Harlem school into affordable housing, much of it for artists, and a non-profit in the Bronx has a similar idea—with the added wrinkle that the city might demolish the Bronx school before the organization can get to work on it. The city, DNAinfo explains, is so worried about the state of the Grand Concourse’s P.S. 31, which closed in 1997 and had its normal deterioration accelerated by Hurricane Sandy, that the building might have to come down, and city officials have given non-profit SoBRO a few weeks to prove that its conversion plan for the school is actually viable as an alternative to demolition. SoBRO’s president says the three engineers the organization hired to inspect the building found about two-thirds of it to be in decent condition.

SoBRO actually worked with Artspace to come up with a proposal for P.S. 31, and their plan would carve the building in 60 live/work apartments, along with public spaces that would be artsy in nature—galleries, or a theater, or rooms for art classes. SoBRO says it has financing lined up in the form of tax credits and Goldman Sachs’ backing. The LPC would have to vote on the restoration plan, and the city has promised to make its own decision about demolition by the end of October.

http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2013/09/27/bronx_nonprofit_wants_artist_housing_in_old_ps_31_building.php

Is this still Happening?

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We’ve seen LED art projects popping up left and right in NYC, and now it seems the Bronx’s Grand Concourse underpass will be joining the lightshow party. Word on the street is that artist Alison Sky and the NYC Cultural Affairs Department will decking out the 161st Street arch with shiny steel ribbons and sheets which will be gorgeously backlit with blue and green LED lights! The new design is not only formally fantastic, but also quite functional, as the arches will help guide drivers into the tunnel and even protect pedestrians walking above the underpass.

Poe Park Visitor Center features nearly 40 original works and lithographs from comic books’ golden age to the present

Bob Kane and Bill Finger were sitting in Poe Park in 1939 when they dreamed up their dark hero, caped crusader Batman.

Now some seven decades later, a new generation of comic book artists are paying homage to the borough’s ties to such iconic characters as Batman, Robin and the Joker.

The comic book art exhibit “Living in Sequence” now showing at the Poe Park Visitor Center features nearly 40 original works and lithographs from the golden age of comic book illustration to the present.

“A lot of these classic icons started in the Bronx. Being an avid comic book reader, I always wanted to highlight that,” said Ray Felix, of the group Bronx Heroes, which organized the exhibit.

Gothic poet Edgar Allan Poe would inspire future Batman episodes.

On display are original works by the late Jerry Robinson, credited with creating Batman nemesis the Joker, while living near Kane (also deceased) in the Bronx; the late Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit (who attended DeWitt Clinton High School with Kane); and cartoonist N. Steve Harris who drew Voltron, among other superheroes.

Artist Alitha E. Martinez, of Inwood, has drawn Iron Man, Thor and Batgirl. She’s now working on “New Crusaders” for Archie Comics.

“This is the first time my work been displayed anywhere. Normally, I’m just at home drawing. I’m one of those invisible people in the industry,” Martinez laughed. “I like that this (exhibit) is something very intimate and small and you actually get to see the art. I’m very excited about it.”

Riverdale Arts Festival This Weekend

RIVERDALE — The Bronx art scene will be on full display this weekend as the Riverdale Festival of the Arts takes place Sunday.

The celebration will showcase cultural groups and artists from across the borough who will exhibit their work along Mosholu Avenue, between 255th and 256th streets, and on the grounds of Riverdale Neighborhood House. 

“Many roads lead out of Riverdale, as opposed to leading into it,” said Lisa Cooper, one of the festival’s founders and the owner of Riverdale gallery Elisa Contemporary Art, which will be exhibiting the works of three artists at the event.

“A lot of people will go to Manhattan or Westchester,” for their arts entertainment, Cooper said, “not really realizing everything that we have right here in the community. We have many world-class artists and musicians.”

This is the third Riverdale fall arts festival of its kind. The event is organized by Cooper, Tracy Shelton of the Kingsbridge-Riverdale-Van Cortlandt Development Corporation and Linda Manning, a playwright and performer active on the local music scene.

Art and cultural organizations from across the Bronx will participate in the festival, including Bronx Museum of Art, Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, Dynamic Expressions Art Gallery, Blue Door Gallery and Pasos Peace Museum.

The musical line-up includes performances by singer Suzanna Choffel of NBC’s hit show “The Voice,” and classical tunes from the Bronx Arts Ensemble.

“The day will be filled with performances that enliven the spirit for all different tastes of music lovers,” Manning said in a press release.

For the kids, interactive art projects will be led by Scribble Art Workshop at Kidaroo, Hudson River Arts Workshop, Adventure Center and the Riverdale Y.

Cooper said the festival is a chance for community members of all ages to come out and experience their local art scene. And for seasoned art lovers, everything on exhibit will be available for purchase.

“It’s an opportunity to see and to look and get inspired,” she said. “And if you love something, you can take it home.”

The Riverdale Festival of the Arts will take place this Sunday, Oct. 14, on Mosholu Avenue between 255th and 256th Streets, and on the grounds of the Riverdale Neighborhood House, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Grand Concourse underpass will look a little cooler

GRAND CONCOURSE — The gray slabs of concrete that line the entrances to the 161st Street underpass below the Grand Concourse will be sheathed in steel and illuminated with colored lights as part of an art installation a decade in the making.

The entryway installations, whose designs were created by artist Alison Sky and selected by a Cultural Affairs Department panel in 2002, will be affixed to the 60-foot-high bridge above the underpass, which the Department of Transportation recently rebuilt.

The project is expected to be completed by next year.

“Someone could say it’s just an underpass for traffic, but to me it’s a gateway to the Grand Concourse,” said Sky, a noted public artist.

“I wanted to return the grand identity to the Grand Concourse.”

Sheets and ribbons of stainless steel, with a slight shimmer to reflect sunlight and the traffic below, will be mounted over the east and west entrances to the underpass. The western side will be backlit with blue LED lights, while the eastern arches will be outlined with green lights.

Curved elements are meant to evoke the original arched entryways to the underpass, which were built in 1920 then replaced with rectangular slabs between 2006 and 2008 when the bridge was replaced.  

Pieces of perforated metal will extend over the entryways to the street above, eliminating the need for the chain-link fences added along the bridge during reconstruction.

Sam Goodman, an urban planner in the Bronx borough president’s office, was a member of the panel that chose Sky’s design when plans were first hatched to rehab parts of the Grand Concourse.

Goodman said that while most of artists imagined new lighting and other designs for the underpass tunnel, Sky chose to focus on the entryways.

“This one stood out in my mind, to this day, because it was something that everyone passing by in the neighborhood would see,” said Goodman, 59, who has worked for three successive borough presidents.

The underpass runs through the civic heart of The Bronx, which includes the historic Bronx County Building and the new Bronx Hall of Justice. Its western entrance, where a flower garden was recently planted, faces the 161st St. subway station — the borough’s busiest — and sits two blocks from Yankee Stadium.

The bridge replacement completed in 2008 was part of a $52 million overhaul by the transportation department of a stretch of Grand Concourse between 161st and 166th streets, which included the addition of Lou Gehrig Plaza and planters along the Concourse.

The underpass installation falls under the Cultural Affairs Department’s Percent for Art program, which reserves one percent of the capital budget on certain public construction projects for artwork.

Sky, who spent several childhood years in The Bronx, began making public art in the late 1960s and has since designed site-specific projects throughout the US and Europe. The Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art have both purchased her work.

She said that from the time she first envisioned the installation more than decade ago to now, the Concourse went from “rundown and degraded” to revitalized.

All the while, she said, her vision for the work remained constant, even as one agency after another had to sign off on the project and teams of engineers assessed and reassessed the plans.

“It’s not a life of immediate gratification,” Sky said, “being in the public arts.”

BX CULTURE TROLLEY

The Bronx Culture Trolley rolls again on
Wednesday, August 1, 2012.

Click on the venues below for your August 1st trolley activites.

Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos

  • 23rd Annual BRIO Award Reception
  • Made in the Bronx: The Designers’ Bazaar
  • Longwood Art Gallery Exhibition Slideshow
  • Music by DJ Paulo Rojas
  • Desserts by Whoopies Miniature Desserts

Bronx Museum of the Arts

  • Book Signing with poet Bobby Gonzalez
  • Tour of the Museum’s New Exhibitions: Urban Archives: The Rituals
    of Chaos, Bronx Lab: Style Wars,
    and revolution not televised.

BronxArtSpace

  • Art Exhibition: Visions/Re-Visions

Clock Cafe & Martini Bar

  • Art Exhibition: Beyond the Hanging Garden

Flyer


Adam Davidson wrote a short piece titled “The Bronx Is Yearning” which appeared on July 15, 2012 in the New York Times Magazine. As a resident of the south Bronx, I instantly was drawn to this article. In it, Davidson focuses on the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, which bills itself as “the first City-sponsored, privately operated incubator, created to bring entrepreneurs to the south Bronx.”

As I investigated this interesting project, I also encountered some curious discrepancies. The article that I had read in the Sunday Magazine under one title also had been published five days earlier under the title, “Why Can’t the Bronx Be More Like Brooklyn?” Adding to this curious title change is the fact that, in August of 2009, Sonya Chung had written an article for The Millions under the same title as Davidson’s second piece: “The Bronx Is Yearning.” Chung’s article was more a meditation on being a writer in the Bronx, in which she concludes that the Bronx, as a “crossroads,” actually is a great place for a writer to live and gather material, even if it lacks those quaint wi-fi coffee houses of Brooklyn.

After reading Davidson’s article, I decided to supplement it, particularly for readers not familiar with the Bronx: thus this blog post.  The first thing to note is the location of that Sunshine Bronx incubator.  Davidson makes no mention that it is housed in the BankNote Building. Even though there may be plenty of nondescript architectural stock scattered around the Bronx, the BankNote Building is hardly one of these.

BankNote Building, Bronx, Hunts Point, view from southwest Everyone who has driven north on the Bruckner Expressway has seen, off on the right, its hulking mass of red brick piers and industrial-scaled, segmental arched windows. This is not a building one can ignore. For almost seventy-five years since its completion in 1911, it produced stamps, bonds, stock certificates, checks, and even the new American Express Company “Travelers Cheques;” and its customers included China, Cuba, and several South American and European countries.   The BankNote Building was designed in 1909 by the New York architectural firm of Kirby, Petit & Green, among whose many other designs were the Bush Terminal Company, the Hearst Building in San Francisco, and Dreamland in Coney Island. 




I decided to wander up to Hunt’s Point and see if I could find Sunshine Bronx in the BankNote Building.   I took the #6 Subway to Hunts Point Avenue Station, crossed under the Bruckner, and walked south on Garrison Avenue (see map).   As part of my supplement to Davidson’s article, I detoured onto Barretto Street, which borders the BankNote on the north. Barretto Street has many great murals, sponsored by The Point, and the one pictured here actually shows the BankNote Building looming in the distance behind the painted wall.
Bronx, Hunts Point, Barretto Street, Mural, 2004 BAAD! ASS WOMEN Festival I intend to write a future blog post featuring the many murals of Hunts Point, so for now this single image will do as an example of the wealth of street art to be found in the vicinity of the BankNote Building. It was done in 2004 as part of the BAAD! ASS WOMEN Festival. 

BAAD! stands for the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance.   It was founded by Arthur Aviles and, with the help of the Point Community Development Corporation, it has converted some 9,000 square feet of the BankNote Building into its performance and workshop space.

Upon entering the BankNote Building, I saw a directory and recognized the name of a painter friend of mine, Robert Seyffert, so I first visited him in his studio.  There are several studios like this one, all well-lit by those old, industrial monitor windows. I found him at work on a painting and left him after getting directions to Sunshine Bronx.

Robert Seyffert in his studio, Bronx, Hunts Point, BankNote Building Because the BankNote is a complicated, multi-storied, T-shaped structure, getting from Robert’s studio in one section to Sunshine Bronx in another necessitated first going down a floor, then across to a different section of the building from where I took an elevator up to the top floor.   On my way, I passed The Wine Cellarage.   It provides retail sales of fine wines with climate controlled storage for its customers. It moved from its original location in Red Hook, Brooklyn, to the BankNote building in 2005.  


The Wine Cellarage, Bronx, Hunts Point, BankNote Building

The Wine Cellarage stores wines for private collectors, retail shops and clients of Christies, among others, and boasts “more than 20,000 cases of the rarest and priciest glories of the vinous world, residing in a 150-foot-long, temperature- and humidity-controlled vault.”   Who would have thought!

When I finally located the Sunshine Bronx Business Incubator, it was in a brightly-lit wing (of course, most of the BankNote is well-lit) in what I think is the taller, Lafayette Avenue section of the building.  It is an elegant, well-appointed space offering a variety of modern work areas.  I talked to one of the young entrepreneurs there, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is the founder of the Brook Avenue Press. The goal of her press is to develop urban stories for kids, whether in the Bronx or in other cities, such as Chicago.

Alexandria does not yet have a webpage for her press, but here is a brief presentation that she has placed on YouTube.   She also told me that she has found her experience at Sunshine Bronx quite worthwhile and rewarding.   Unfortunately, Sunshine Bronx preferred that I not to take my own photographs of their space, and they never sent me photographs as promised, so the best I can do is offer this web site, the photographs of which don’t do their space justice.

Davidson had followed a different entrepreneur at Sunshine Bronx, 
in his article, Miguel Sanchez.  In it, he quotes Sanchez as saying “finding lunch in the neighborhood is a big problem.”  This is true, at least if the neighborhood is defined as a radius of a few blocks.  I think that one would have to walk north to Hunts Point Avenue to find lunch places; the only place nearby is a McDonalds at the corner of Garrison and Tiffany

And this is where my supplement of Davidson’s article takes us a little further south, to Mott Haven.  We Mott Haven residents certainly do have more choices in eating establishments, and our standard for years has been the Bruckner Bar and Grill.  



Bruckner Bar & Grill, Bronx, Mott Haven, seen from 3rd Avenue bridge on-ramps

Here is the place to encounter all one’s friends as well as, with some frequency, our local councilwoman and her family.  It has a back room for special occasions, and there, on Monday evenings, a group of local artists meet to draw from the model.  

However, two new venues have recently opened their doors and offer Mott Haven residents expanded choices of good places to eat. 


A block from The Bruckner Bar & Grill is The Clock Martini Bar and Bistro, which opened for business on March 1, 2012.  It is located within “The Clock Tower” on Lincoln Avenue, a building built in 1886 that once was home to the Estey Piano Company Factory.  



The Clock Martini Bar & Bistro, Bronx, Mott Haven, Lincoln Avenue and Bruckner Avenue

The A.I.A. Guide to New York City calls this the oldest remaining of the Bronx piano factories, “the grande dame of the piano trade; not virgin, but all-together and proud.”  The Clock Tower is now residential lofts and houses many artists and their studios. 


The Clock Martini Bar & Bistro, Bronx, Mott Haven, Painting by Sofia Bachvarova

This photograph of the interior of The Clock shows one of ten paintings by the artist, Sofia Bachvarova in a show curated by another Bronx artist, Jeanine Alfieri.  The title of this painting is She Often Found Herself Tethered between What Wasn’t There and What Was to Be.  Her work evokes a surreal and mystical environment in which ancient myth, literature and a suspension of time create a compelling and personal iconography.  The Clock hangs new shows each month done by local artists, and its owner, Charlie Said, is intent upon “bringing a little of downtown uptown.” 


Another block further on is Ceetay, which opened two months ago. Its owners, Alex Abeles and Amir Chayon, call it Asian Fusion, but I find their sushi, sashimi and hand rolls so wonderful that I have yet to try those fusion dishes.  



Ceetay, Sushi Bar & Asian Fusion Restaurant, Bronx, Mott Haven, Alexander Avenue

With Ceetay right here on Alexander Avenue, there is no need to look for sushi in Manhattan; and if you did, you wouldn’t find better anyway.  Here (below) is sushi chef, Dorgi Tsheiring, preparing some of his wonderful dishes. 



Ceetay, Sushi Bar & Asian Fusion Restaurant, Bronx, Sushi Chef Dorgi Tsheiring


Finally, a four block walk up Alexander Avenue from Ceetay brings us to the Bronx Art Space, an artist-run collaborative gallery space with an active schedule of art exhibitions, festivals and special events.   It is located at 305 East 140th Street in a five-story industrial building, the top four floors of which have been converted into condominium lofts. 


Bronx Art Space, Bronx, Mott Haven, 305 East 140 Street, Visions/Re-Visions exhibition, July 2012


When we consider Sunshine Bronx and the many other activities accommodated in the BankNote Building, the on-going contributions to community development at The Point (its neighbor to the north), and the proximity of Hunts Point to Mott Haven and the latter’s developing amenities, I think that we can say with some confidence that the Bronx is neither burning, nor is it yearning. The truth is, it is turning.

source: http://tykos-wassupthisweek.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-bronx-is-turning.html

New addition to Mott Haven Library

“It’s looking good,” cheered library manager Jeanine Thomas-Cross. “We’re very happy to have this here because before it was just this empty space that wasn’t being used.”

This latest addition to the Mott Haven landscape comes courtesy of the artist group, BroLab.

The collective of five artists dreamed up the idea last fall as part of the Shifting Communities art series at the Bronx River Arts Center.