Wheatpaste Art in Freeman Alley

Wheatpaste Art in Freeman Alley, NYC

Every now and again people ask me how I find my street art. First off, of course, I do research online. But the problem with street art is that it’s ephemeral and can be very fragile and short-lived. Some pieces last years and others last a day or less. Online research will only point me in a direction.

However, after a couple years of street art hunting I’ve learned that where there is one piece, chances are very good there are others. So once I have a direction, street, neighborhood or what have you, I just wander around and see what there is to see. And no matter what I might have seen online, I always find pieces I’ve never seen documented anywhere else.

Wheatpaste Art by Who is Dirk – Freeman Alley, NYC

Freeman alley is down in the Bowery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s a dead end alley off of Rivington Street and it was included in an old list of places to find good street art in New York City. This is a great post about some of the history of the alley and you can see old pictures of previous art pieces. When I went yesterday, there were far fewer murals and many more pieces of wheatpaste art.

Wheatpaste art by Inmmezzure – Freeman Alley, NYC

It’s a particular joy of mine to take pictures of art pieces that may be gone by the time I post the pictures. Of all the street art forms, wheatpaste art is the most fleeting. It’s paper and paste. One good rain storm and it’s history. Perhaps its temporary nature is what makes it a good medium for political statements

Wheatpaste art by Andrea Cook – Freeman Alley, NYC

And serious artistry

Wheatpaste art in Freeman Alley, NYC

 

These pieces won’t last long. All the more reason to appreciate them before they’re gone.

WALL/THERAPY in Rochester, NY

Art by Icy and Sot – Rochester, NY

Believing in the healing power of pictures, Dr. Ian Wilson, a radiologist and former graffiti artist from Brooklyn, in 2011 initiated the WALL/THERAPY project in Rochester, NY.

“The idea behind the project last year was to inspire the youth in the community to believe in something, anything,” Wilson said in a 2012 interview with Rochester’s City Newspaper “Because so many really don’t have any belief in anything, whether it’s the value of their own life, or their future….I wanted to produce something that spoke to them specifically, to charge them to believe in something.”

Art by Omen – Rochester, NY

Untitled (Chained Eagle) by Liqen – Rochester, NY

An international, all-star group of artists accepted Wilson’s invitation to come paint, and all of the buildings involved in the WALL/THERAPY project donated their walls. The public reception was so positive that the WALL/THERAPY project has grown every year since 2011, bringing over 100 murals to this modest sized city.

Fight Club by Conor Harrington – Rochester, NY

Art by Joe Guy Allard and Matthew Roberts – Rochester, NY

And then it actually worked.

In a 2015 In-Training article depicting some of the social challenges unique to Rochester, editor-in-chief Ria Pal says, “The murals proved to be an organic way to desegregate the city, bring new customers to small businesses, create dialogue, encourage residents from different areas to take pride in their neighborhoods and rediscover the city… No one would call WALL\THERAPY a panacea, but it does seem to be one successful way to mobilize once-stagnant neighborhoods and foster stewardship.”

Art by Mr PRVRT – Rochester, NY

 

“Color creates energy, energy creates inspiration, inspiration creates change.”

– WALL/THERAPY

 

While the public art is stunning, the WALL/THERAPY project goes deeper than the surface of the beautiful murals themselves. Wilson partnered the artistic endeavor with his other business—the Synthesis Collaborative, a company dedicated to providing radiology services and equipment to the developing world.

Got that?

One lone guy from Brooklyn simultaneously is providing colorful inspiration to kids and communities in Rochester, stimulating imaginations, and providing them with hope and a sense of what’s possible, while he also facilitates X-ray images of sick people in the developing world to help provide diagnostics, health, hope, and thus a longer life.

By this equation one could say pictures + hope = possibility.

Sleeping Bears by ROA – Rochester, NY

I was born white and English-speaking in America. I have a college education and a good job and I see a lot of art, so I thought I knew what I was looking at. But after Rochester and my experience reading, researching and experiencing WALL/THERAPY, I’ll never look at public art in the same way again.

Where I once simply saw beautiful pictures, I now always will wonder about the kids walking by these murals and dreaming of a better lives, lives they always will be able to link back to a mural and their first artistic taste of a wider world, beyond the limits of their own neighborhood.

Rhapsody by Faith47 – Rochester, NY

Poughkeepsie and the World’s Longest Pedestrian Bridge

Isn’t Poughkeepsie one of the America’s strangest names? According to Wikipedia it means “the reed-covered lodge by the little-water place,” or at least it did in the original Wappinger language before we converted the spelling to something semi-phonetic. I think that’s adorable and quite descriptive.

I drove from Schenectady to Poughkeepsie mostly because it was close, the route took me through the Hudson river valley and there was a “world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge” at the end of the journey. Of course that begs the question, where’s the world’s longest non-elevated pedestrian bridge? When I get an answer to that question, you’ll see it here.

On my way I drove through Saugerties, which apparently has a historic lighthouse? I didn’t see it but I happened upon this little town during their “Shine On Saugerties” sidewalk lighthouse art exhibit.

Shine on Saugerties

Artists took the basic lighthouse construct and reconceptualized it. Is reconceptualized even a word? My spellcheck doesn’t think so.

Shine on Saugerties

Since I’ve been all about lighthouses lately, it’s fun to revisit some tiny artistic versions

Shine on Saugerties

I didn’t quite understand this vertical chess board

Shine On Saugerties

But this tiki bar is the bomb

Hudson River

The Poughkeepsie bridge or “Walkway over the Hudson” wasn’t as artistically fulfilling though the views over the Hudson are lovely. The bridge itself is a mile and a quarter long and quite wide, since it used to be a highway. It’s paved concrete and full of runners and walkers and baby strollers and dogs. It’s not so much scenic as practical and if I lived in Poughkeepsie, I’d be grateful for someplace to run that wasn’t in traffic.

So there you have it, bridges and more lighthouses. And for now, that’s the end of my northeast sojourn.

More tomorrow from the southwest. xo

Lake George in Summer

I’m in transit this weekend. But before we leave the northeast I’m going to post about two road trips I took last summer while I was in upstate new york. Since it won’t stop snowing in the northeast, the least I can do is show pictures of what it looks like when the sun is out.

Ambition Cafe

Ambition Bistro is my favorite little place in Schenectady. Super quirky, full of old signs, theatre memorabilia, signed pictures, statuary, decorations and really good food.

Ambition Cafe in Rochester

That’s the Greek omelette with spinach and feta cheese and fresh baked bread. The strawberry garnish was a like a mini dessert (although the picture makes it look gigantic!). Ambition’s owner, Marc, has written a book about being a coffee house owner called Is the Coffee Fresh? He’s a fascinating person to talk to. Ask him about Blackboots, Ambition’s patron ghost.

Driving to Lake George

Lake George is only an hour away from Schenectady, nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountain Range. The winding two lane road that takes you up to the lake is heavily wooded and twisty so take your time.

Stop in the little town of Lake George for an ice cream

ice cream

Walk down main street before taking the one-ish lane road to the lake

Road by Lake George

Which is incredibly clear

Lake George

Don’t you just want to take your shoes off and wade right in? I did too and found out it was COLD, even in June.

lake George docks

Better to sit on the dock and read a book

Lake George and Mountains

Hang out for awhile. Look at the mountains. The weather’s perfect.

The Happy Cappuccino

Then head back to the city for a late afternoon coffee and biscotti at The Happy Cappuccino. They make their own biscotti and it’s delicious. I don’t usually like biscotti because it’s so dry and crunchy but this one had a really nice tenderness to it.

A long slow drive to the lake and a really good biscotti afterwards. That’s summer.

Hot Yoga and Brunch in Albany

The Hot Spot Yoga

I had some good looking plans this morning. My friend Ryan McAlpine called me last week and after confused schedule swapping we discovered we were going to be an hour an a half away from each other while I was stopping over in Albany. He offered to drive up for brunch and I told him to come up around 11ish so I could do yoga before he got there.

I wanted to do Bikram, since I’m on a roll this week, but Albany doesn’t have a Bikram studio. However, they do have a few hot yoga places and I found one called Yoga for All Seasons that offered the Bikram method but then I got in my car and programmed the wrong yoga place in my GPS and ended up at the The Hot Yoga Spot. I spent a frustrating 15 minutes realizing that I wouldn’t make it to Yoga for All Seasons in time and I would have to wait an extra hour for a hot yoga flow class at Hot Spot, which meant changing brunch times on Ryan plus I had already checked out of my hotel so I had nowhere to go. It wasn’t even 9am and my whole morning had gone sideways.

It wasn’t the best way to anticipate a yoga class. But I waited an hour and then did the 10am Hot Yoga flow class and it was pretty hideous because I don’t do yoga, I do Bikram. Bikram is 26 yogic poses, always the same ones, whereas real yoga classes can be any one of a trillion poses in any combination. When I do real yoga I want a class where the poses are held and corrections are made and I can periodically look around at what everyone else is doing and then do something that approximates it. That is not how a flow class works. Flow classes are constant movement, changing poses with the breath more or less continuously for an hour. There’s no real time to look at the other kids papers and figure out how to cheat. This means that for a solid sweaty hour I attempted to use my peripheral vision to figure myself out and again remembered how stiff and inflexible I am right now.  Plus the only spot in the room was right next to the heater – HOTHOTHOTHOT – and the class was full of lithe young college students who clearly do yoga flow every day like it’s no biggie after which they wipe the light sheen of sweat off their foreheads and then go drink their skinny vanilla half caf lattes on the way to psych 101 classes. Not that I hate them but I’m pretty sure I’m smarter.

This is where my head goes in the heat when I’m trying to perch on a yoga block, balance my knees on my triceps and figure out crow pose.

Sigh.

Other than my incompetence it was a great yoga studio with two different work spaces, beautiful hard wood floors and those icy cold wet lavender towels as a reward for surviving class. And seriously, I’m complaining about a yoga class? I have no real problems. Let’s move on.

Cafe Madison

Brunch at Cafe Madison was good. Actually, the company  – Mr. McAlpine and Lady Allie Lin – was fantastic and the food was good. My broccoli fritatta – lower right corner – was light on broccoli and heavy on cheese but there were lots of different homemade breads and Allie’s bacon looked scrumptious. It’s a cute place with a patio. I bet in the summer time it’s gorgeous. I love Ryan and Allie for making the drive to see me. They’re good people and I’m lucky to know them.

I do have to give a shoutout to the Ala Shanghai Chinese Cuisine, a place from which I ordered takeout and expected very little and had my expectations blown to bits by the incredible food. I should have known from the menu, which looked very much like menus I encountered in China, offering things like “sea cucumber” and “lions head” and something called “yan-du-xian casserole.” I ordered the chicken and baby bok choy and it was delectable and perfectly cooked in a buttery white sauce. I wanted to go back with a bunch of people and order all the things I didn’t recognize so I could try everything.

If you’re in Albany, try the Chinese food at Ala Shanghai Chinese Cuisine and if you’re up for it, do a little yoga flow. I bet you’re super smart as well.

Buffalo to Kennebunkport

Spring is the time of plans and projects – Leo Tolstoy

Truer words…

I just left my job with Phantom of the Opera in Buffalo and took off on a road trip to Maine for a few days.  Weirdly, this trip is eerily similar to that time 3 years ago that I closed South Pacific and took a long epic road trip  at this same time of year and also from Buffalo.

It’s trying to be spring here in upstate New York. The snow is melting and the sun is out but it’s still in the 30s.

Upstate New York

Highlights from the last two days include breakfast with my friend Corey Polish on the last day of our third show together.

Spot coffee in Buffalo

SPoT coffee is an upstate New York chain ( I also like their Rochester location, which is in a converted auto show room). They do breakfast all day including excellent omelets and really spectacular coffee. If every local coffee chain was this good and this consistent, Starbucks would be out of business.

Super fresh spring rolls at a Thai food truck parked at a gas station in Brattleboro Vermont

Thai food truck in Vermont

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if it’s 30 degrees outside and people are braving the weather to order from a food truck parked at a highway intersection, you’re best off stopping and getting something to eat. It’ll be worth it.

And it totally was. That sauce was garlicy and a little bit sweet with ginger and chili. Almost anyone can make a decent spring roll but great sauce is a different story. If you happen to be driving through Vermont on Route 9, make a stop at Taste of Thai.

And then finally an arrival to Kennebunkport Maine. Happy hour with a great book and a Cormac McCarthy loving bartender (and a photo of Kennebunkport natives…)

Ramp's bar & grill

Followed by a quintessential Maine dinner of mini lobster roll and lobster bisque at Alisson’s Restaurant
Alisson's RestaurantThe lobster roll was only ok. That’s been my reaction to most lobster rolls I’ve eaten this year so maybe I’m just not a fan? I don’t get it because I love lobster and will put mayonnaise on anything but they always seem soggy and flavorless. By contrast, the lobster bisque was phenomenal, rich, lush, creamy, lobstery… Perhaps I’ll give up the roll and stick with the soup.

I’ve spent the last two driving days taking two lane roads and trying to shake off the weight of the show. I think in many ways I’m trying to capture the sense of freedom and completion that I felt on my last road trip and trying to realign myself to the rest of the world. Fortunately, the seasons are with me in my transitional space

Budding trees in Vermont

I love spring in the north where winter is giving it up but it’s not quite warm and there’s still snow everywhere. When I got out of the car to take pictures I could hear water rushing under the ice and snow. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow but there are fresh buds on the trees. It’s winter’s last gasp.

I saw a dear friend of mine, the Celt, in Saratoga Springs last night. We had drinks, gossiped about our friends and told stories and I was again most thankful for the friend choices I made in my 20s. When we parted ways he texted me and said “Normally this is a curse, but I don’t think it is for you… may your life be interesting.”

May he be right.