As part of my fieldwork, I began a placement at the Abrons Art Center on the Lower East Side in January. Thus far, I have visited one classroom in a partnering school where a visiting artist from our StudioLab program works with high school students, and I have assisted in the progress of several in-house projects. This weekend will offer another different and very exciting time to be involved with this center, as a new exhibit, DECENTER, is opening on Sunday.
This is a very special exhibit coinciding with the 100thanniversary of the pivotal 1913 Armory Show that introduced Cubism to the American landscape. Particularly special for Abrons is that this will also mark the 50th anniversary of the relationship between Henry Street Settlement and the Art Center. In 1963 the Armory Show served as the occasion for the announcement of the Settlement’s plan to build the Abrons Art Center.
The focus of DECENTER is contemporary artwork and it’s relationship to digital media, which offers a close parallel to many themes in Cubism, including spontaneity, fragmentation, and of course, decenteredness.
I am super excited to see the work of all of the 27 artists who are attending, but particularly the artist and writer Douglas Coupland, whose work I have read since I was in high school. A few years ago, I even scoured the bookshops of France for one of his French language books!
The opening day will feature two panel discussions about the legacy of the 1913 Armory show and about the perception of art in the digital age, with working artists, curators and other academics. Attending such events not only informs my practice as a burgeoning educator and museum professional, but also allows me to recharge. Any chance I have to absorb the output of other creative minds is a chance I relish.
Though I am awfully busy with final projects, I am eager to get out and experience the best of New York City during the holiday season (instead of sitting in my apartment between classes doing what Buddy is doing below).
One of the most special sights in the city at this time of year are the window displays of the department stores along Fifth Avenue. Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Tiffany’s and Bloomingdale’s go all out, usually involving fashion designers and sometimes artists to conjure up holiday cheer. I find this to be the best concentration of windows in one area, but there is also Macys in Herald Square, and Lord and Taylor’s also on Fifth Avenue, but further south at 38th Street.
Another lovely holiday element, which one could see in the same outing as the department store windows, is the Rockefeller Center tree. It’s something everyone should see at least once. It’s also fun to watch the ice skaters below, or if you are skilled, join them!
Another outdoor event, considerably quirkier, is Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night in in Washington Square Park. This is an annual parade of “boom boxes” that traverses the city streets from Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park on Saturday, December 15th. Everyone plays the same music supplied by Phil.
If you’re not a fan of outdoor activities when the temperature is so low, there’s plenty to do indoors. Increasingly popular now are independent holiday markets, which are especially nice if you have already visited those at Union Square or Columbus Circle. Brooklyn Night Bazaar is held in Williamsburg every weekend until December 22nd. This year I am particularly excited about the Vegan Holiday Shop-Up, where there are loads of vendors selling vegan goodies, as well as crafts and gifts that are friendly to all creatures.
If you’re looking for something to do indoors that isn’t just shopping, why not spend time in a museum? The Morgan Library is hosting the exhibit “Charles Dickens at 200,” where you can see not only the original manuscript of A Christmas Carol, but also books letters and photos. Though I have to say, museums and cultural institutions often have unique gifts in their shops.
Another way to face the cold is with a hot drink. Why not look for your favorite cup of hot cocoa in the city? I have heard rave reviews about the authentic Italian hot chocolate at Eataly, as well as the version at City Bakery in Chelsea. Personally, I have to recommend the hot cocoa at Peacefood Cafe (not too far from Bank Street!). It’s my favorite vegan restaurant in the Upper West Side area, where you can get a hot beverage to go, and a sweet treat, or sit down for a full meal.
And before December ends, step back in time on the Nostalgia train, with cars from as long ago as the 1930s, that the MTA rolls out on the M line. They are much different from the trains we know today, with wicker seats and paddles fans. My favorite part is the vintage advertisements inside that give you a real sense of the time period. You can actually ride the Nostalgia Train between Queens Plaza and 2nd Avenue for the same fare as any other train.
Whatever you do to celebrate the season, I hope you have fun and take time to reflect. Maybe you’ll see me on the Nostalgia Train or one of the holiday markets!
Though I was very familiar with the Big Apple before I officially moved here, there is still a lot I have to learn. I was apprehensive about wasting money since rent and transportation can add up quickly. Luckily I am a resourceful gal, and quickly found an arsenal of websites that encourage people like me to have rich experiences in the five boroughs without breaking the bank.
Several websites, which have pages on Facebook and downloadable apps, offer discounts on food, drink, entertainment and shopping, that can be sent right to your inbox. Here are a few of my favorites.
Time Out NY– I had been reading the print version of this for years before moving here, drooling over all that this city has to offer. They do a great job of organizing things to do by neighborhood, by day of the week and by subject making exploring the city a lot less overwhelming. Scoutmob is an app that I learned about from one of my first roommates here. They offer discounts, (mostly on food and drink) with humor. Living Social, Amazon Local, Groupon, and Zozi are similar sites.
In terms of shopping for unique clothing, furniture or books I have to recommend Buffalo Exchange and Housing Works. I was an avid thrifter back home, but in the city, it’s a different ballgame. A lot of second hand shops here charge twice if not three times the amount that a real thrift store would in the ‘burbs. I have found that Buffalo Exchange is quite fair in their pricing. They operate on trade, which means you can also sell things there for cash or store credit. They always have a diverse selection to peruse, in a handful of stores between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Housing Works operates at least a dozen thrift shops with clothes, furniture and random treasures between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Housing Works also operates my favorite bookshop in the world, on Crosby Street in Soho. They also operate on donations; even the wee café in the back. I have seen musical acts perform here, and I have attended lectures that were made all the more special just by the atmosphere in this beautiful two story space lined with dark wooden bookcases and staircases. Best of all, Housing Works profits benefit people suffering with HIV and AIDS.
Sometimes the events here are free, though for the best ones, I’ve found you’ll need to buy a ticket. Another great place to catch authors and musicians is Barnes and Noble, particularly the one located on the north end of Union Square. I’ve seen Rufus Wainwright, Anderson Cooper, Sondre Lerche, Badly Drawn Boy and three of the Golden Girls at such events, among others. Yes, that’s right, I have Betty White, Bea Arthur, and Rue McClanahan’s autographs!
Another unique entertainment experience that costs nothing is attending a taping of a TV show. I have been to tapings of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (at the end of the taping he runs through the audience, and he grasped my hand for what felt like a heavenly eternity), Anderson Live (he is even more beautiful in person!), Last Call with Carson Daly, and Conan O’Brien, back when he filmed in New York. Shows like these are much easier to get tickets for than Saturday Night Live, which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try! I am one crazy person who waited in the standby line recently at 6am on a Saturday, only to get a ticket, but be turned away later that night when they reached capacity. Still an adventure – I literally bumped into Tom Brokaw! Just be prepared to wait in long lines for these tapings.
Another site I have to recommend, particularly for outdoor excursions, is MeetUp. You can find groups that take walks around various neighborhoods, or even walk around the entire perimeter of Manhattan. This is a nice alternative to meeting people with similar interests outside of the nightlife scene.
If you prefer to spend some quiet nights at home, such as on these brutally cold winter nights, you can find an enormous selection of DVDs, and of course books, at the New York Public Library. Their website is extremely useful, allowing you to organize materials and even coordinating having them sent to a branch that is convenient for you. I frequent the Morningside Heights branch located two blocks North of Bank Street, right on Broadway.They have an extensive range of foreign and classic films, as well as TV shows. Thanks to the library, I recently re-watched many seasons of PeeWee’s Playhouse!
In just my first few months at Bank Street College, I have found some favored spots around Morningside Heights. I think this is an ideal neighborhood for a graduate school, with a relaxed atmosphere, away from the madding tourist crowds that so many other areas of this city attract. There are gems in this locale worth people from far and wide trekking to.
One of my favorite spots is St. John the Divine Cathedral, just one block down West 112th Street on Amsterdam Avenue. Walking towards the cathedral – the world’s largest gothic style, by the way – is awe inspiring. In fact, it often leads me to feel like I’m in a European city. Next to the cathedral is a beautiful little park, centered around the Peace Fountain, a sculpture by Greg Wyatt, the sculptor-in-residence of the cathedral. One could sit and ponder the depth of meaning in this work for days.
Another great spot for reflection, and art appreciation, is the Roerich Museum. I recently discovered this gem, thanks to my program at Bank Street. On West 107th Street near Riverside, this former home (containing a collection of the work of Russian artist Nicolas Roerich) is a surprising sanctuary.
Morningside Heights also offers plenty of green space for exercise, or if you’re like me, for running around like you’re a kid again. During one break between classes, friends from my cohort and I took advantage of the vacant swing set in Riverside Park, just one block from Bank Street.
Luckily this neighborhood offers diverse food options for the student on the go. Even I, the vegan, have options! Maoz falafel is already somewhat of an addiction. Mostly, when I’m in a hurry, I’ll grab something from the myriad of options at West Side Market, or a bagel with a vegan schmear (non-dairy cream cheese!) from Nussbaum and Wu. That’s my favorite bagel place in the area, which also has a great environment for wiling away hours on their free wifi. It’s also a nice option for meeting someone for coffee, when the chain coffee-shops are overflowing.
I suppose I should divulge my favorite coffee secret. There is a Joe the Art of Coffee at West 120th Street, on the second level of a Columbia University building. When I have the time, I make a point of stopping their for there high octane java. There is also a beautiful patch of grass on a roof, a level above that cafe, where you can enjoy your coffee outside.
Lastly, I’d be remiss to not include Book Culture. This is a great bookshop, actually with two locations in Morningside Heights – one on West 112th Street (just next to the post office between Broadway and Amsterdam) and another on Broadway and the corner of West 114th Street. The location on 112th boast an adorable little dog as a mascot, usually to be found on the second floor.
I think Morningside Heights is a really special pocket of Manhattan. If you are considering attending Bank Street, and aren’t familiar with New York City, you should definitely visit. If you do, you’ll find that this neighborhood is not as hectic as others, and holds many charming spots that will enrich your unique experience as a student.