Category Archives: New York City

Framing New York

Framing New York

Framing New York

This past Friday I was leaving Castle Williams after doing a tour when I noticed an art installation to the immediate left. It turned out to be “Framing New York.” After a few minutes enjoying the view of the Harbor and Lower Manhattan, I struck up a conversation with the artist, D. Chase Angier. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions.

The Strawfoot: Where did you get the inspiration for “Framing New York?”

D. Chase Angier: From New York itself – the rapid rate in which it changes, its history, beauty, art, and stories. I have a deep love for this city as many of us do who have either grown up here, transplanted here, or even just visit.

Inspiration for this project came from my complicated love for New York City coupled with my deepening concern for our future. What is New York City today and how does that reflect who we are and where we are headed?

One of the elements that makes New York City unique is the unusually rapid rate at which it is changing. The rate of change coupled with the extreme density of buildings and people living in New York, creates an intense energy that is distinctive. “Framing New York” asks the audience to pay attention together to one select place in New York City at a particular time.

How would you describe your approach to your art?

I have many different approaches to art but if I need to reduce it down to one thing, I am a site specific choreographer.

Artist D. Chase Angier in front of her creation. The orange boat is the Staten Island Ferry sailing by.

D. Chase Angier in front of her creation. The orange boat is the Staten Island Ferry.

Tell us a little bit about your background?

I received my BA in Dance from UCLA and my MFA in Choreography from The Ohio State University. Basically, I am an interdisciplinary artist who specializes is site specific choreography. I am a dance professor and director of the dance program at Alfred University. I also create and perform site-specific performances, performance installations, dance-theater, and walking performances. My works have been performed internationally in Japan, the Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom and throughout the different regions of the United States.

What other “Framing” projects, if any, have you done in the past?

I framed Edgewood Farms, owned by Harold and Beverly Snyder in Alfred, New York. That was different in that it was a one time 2.5 hour event. The audience watched him hay his field. I placed ten matching white Adirondack chairs in front of the white frame for the small invited audience. The audience had to remain small and invited, in fact, because they were put on call to view this work. Certain weather conditions had to work together (wind, temp, humidity) to make it possible to hay on a particular day.

The frame captured the shapes of the tall grass contrasting the cut hay, the tubular windrows, and the spiral “floor” patterns on the field. The lighting for the work was the sometimes indirect sunlight that filtered through the clouds creating interesting moving shadows, and the sometimes direct sunlight that not only brought out the gold color and the smell of the hay but also created the heat which added to the sensory experience. All of this activity happened against the beauty of the subtly changing landscape – the clouds, birds, cows, and hills.

Framing Edgewood Farms was the first in a series: http://www.angierperformanceworks.com/index.php/projects/framing-series

Had you spent time on Governors Island previously?

Yes. I have been going almost every summer since it reopened. My favorite experience was the three day New Island Festival in 2009 with the Dutch. I enjoyed the art work, lectures, parties. It was three days of incredible madness.

Two visitors take in the view

Two visitors take in the view from the installation

You mentioned in our conversation that the New York skyline changes depending on the weather, time of day, and other circumstances. Explain.

Every day is dramatically different. The clouds, light, temperature, water traffic, people walking/biking by. The shadows crawling up the buildings – or no shadows at all on a cloudy day. How the light and sky reflect on the mirrored buildings, making some of them look as it they are disappearing. The dramatic dark thunder clouds versus a hazy hot light day. The color of many of the buildings change. The events change – Obama coming to NYC and landing close to Pier 11 as his military helicopters through the frame; the fireboat shooting out water the next day; the lack of people in the frame during the week on a rainy day, versus the crazy amount of people on the weekends.

In addition to the light, color and sky –  I have been fascinated by the choreography of the harbor. The different shapes, tempos, directions, rhythms, colors, size, levels, of all of the various boats. Tall ships, clipper ships, kayaks, repetitive orange staten island ferry, circle line, garbage boats, tug boats, oil tankers, jet skies, shark motor boats, cruise ships, etc.

It is a participatory artwork in which people can sit in the chairs and watch the harbor and skyline.

What has the public’s reaction been?

So far extremely positive. My favorite part about New Yorkers is that they like to talk to strangers (me) and they like to tell stories. I had heard a lot of stories about 9/11 as they look and no longer see the twin towers. Firemen, construction workers, lawyers, financial analysts etc. Tourists have been moved as they are seeing the city live from a great perspective (across the water) that they have only seen in movies and photos. Skeptics, teenagers, and people not exposed to a lot of art have used the word “actually” a lot, as in “I actually like this”, “This is actually cool”, etc.

For how long can visitors see “Framing New York?”

Through July 27th

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Filed under Governors Island, Interviews, New York City

Congressman Cox’s Governors Island

Here is a small interesting something. I was searching another matter in the Historical New York Times earlier today when I came across the article excerpted here.

GI copy

A quick search revealed that “Congressman Cox” was Samuel Sullivan Cox, a Tammany Democrat who represented the 6th U.S. District. Sullivan was originally from Ohio and as a Buckeye Congressman railed against Lincoln in a June 1862 speech entitled “Emancipation and Its Results–Is Ohio to be Africanized?” It is no wonder he eventually moved to Gotham and settled into machine politics.

Samuel S. Cox

Samuel S. Cox

The president mentioned is Grover Cleveland for whom Cox had served as Minister to Turkey in 1885-86. I am not sure how far Sullivan’s proposition turning Governors Island over to the New York State went, but it did not happen. (Quick history lesson: The Empire State turned Governors Island over to the Feds in 1800 when the Napoleonic Wars made European invasion of New York increasingly likely. In that decade Fort Jay was remodeled and Castle WIlliams built.)

Still, his vision for the island turned out to be prescient. It took 125 years but the Federal government returned Governors Island  in 2003. Now it is jointly managed by the NPS and NYC. I saw in his obituary that Cox is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery and that there is a statue of him in Tompkins Square. Over the summer I am going to have to search these out.

Congressman Cox didn't live to see it, but Governors Island eventually reverted to local control.

Congressman Cox didn’t live to see it, but Governors Island eventually reverted back to local control.

 (portrait image/NYPL)

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75 years of LACUNY

Kenneth T. Jackson

Kenneth T. Jackson

It was a special night tonight when the Library Association of CUNY (LACUNY) held its 75th anniversary party in Manhattan. I love being a librarian within CUNY and feeding off the energy of our  students. Many library faculty are dynamic individuals working on some fascinating projects. The keynote speaker was Kenneth Jackson, the Columbia University historian who also once ran and turned around the New-York Historical Society. He was at the Roosevelt Birthplace a few weeks ago, although I missed him and his students by about a half hour. The rangers spoke about what a good guy he was.

One my favorite projects of his was the museum retrospective a few years ago that helped rehabilitate he reputation of Robert Moses. He spoke tonight about the sociology of cities with an emphasis on what makes New York a unique place. I was so glad they got him for the keynote talk.

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Filed under Libraries, New York City

Imperiled Promise

FDR_Museum_and_LibraryThis morning I received the final details of the upcoming WW1 Centennial Commission trade show. About sixty individuals and organizations rsvp’ed. I am looking forward to the presentations and hearing what people have planned for the next 4-5 years. I know I myself intend to do a fair amount with the Great War Centennial between now and the 100th anniversary of the Versailles Conference.

It is hard to believe the New York History conference in Cooperstown was a full year ago. Alas I could not attend the 2014  NYSHA conference at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, as either a speaker or attendee. Tomorrow, however, I will be tuning in to a webinar coming from the nearby Henry A.Wallace Visitor Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. The panelists will be discussing Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, the 2011 report from the Organization of American Historians analyzing the state of public history within the NPS. I have read the report and its while it lauds some NPS successes it also highlights where there might be improvement.

Tomorrow’s panel begins at 9:00 am and will focus on history at NPS sites within New York State. This is going to be an informative and lively event.

(image/Alex Israel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Historiography, Interpretation, National Park Service, New York City, WW1

USSC

When I was at the New York Public Library last night I came across this fascinating photograph of various members of the United States Sanitary Commission. New Yorkers such as these played an outsized role in supporting the Union Cause and yet their contributions often go unnoticed. That is why I am having so much fun working on this book about Theodore Roosevelt Senior and his colleagues. Many of these individuals did so much from 1861-65 and then contributed to national life for decades to come.

(image/NYPL)

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Walking in the steps of Black History

Nicodemus, Kansas

Nicodemus, Kansas

Two years ago I contacted a particular cultural institution here in New York City about setting up a walking tour of Lower Manhattan related to African-American history, especially nineteenth century African-American history. After showing great initial excitement, the individual with whom I was corresponding lost interest; I know this because he stopped returning my messages. I found the whole thing curious, especially because it was pretty clear I would do all the work, including the tours themselves. For free. Basically, the institution would have provided its imprimatur and done a little publicity on its website. Who it was I will never say.

Over the weekend I am going to write an encyclopedia entry about Nicodemus, the all-black Kansas town founded in the 1870s by individuals from Kentucky and Tennessee. Nicodemus is now a national historic site. I have been to Kansas before, but alas never to Nicodemus. It will someday be part of the Great Driving Tour of the Midwest the Hayfoot and I take in a few years. There is no substitute for going to the places where history is made.

For Black History Month the Civil War Trust has published its top ten list of African-American places to visit. A few of them I have been to; others are on my to-do list.  One need not wait for spring. Put your parka on and go.

(image/Library of Congress)

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Filed under Heritage tourism, New York City

King on the Emancipation Proclamation

Kimg with Governor Rockefeller and Cardinal Spellman at the September 1962 dinner

Kimg with Governor Rockefeller and Cardinal Spellman at the September 1962 dinner

It is hard to believe it was almost 1 1/2 years ago that I posted about our trip to the Schomburg in Harlem to see Lincoln’s handwritten draft of the Emancipation Proclamation along with the official Preliminary EP. That and being in Gettysburg late last June have been my highlights of the sesquicentennial, so far. In that September 2012 post, I mentioned that also on display was a typewritten excerpt from a September 1962 speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. to the New York State Civil War Centennial Commission. I vividly remember seeing the many cross-outs and red ink on the King draft.

Well, incredibly, officials at the New York State Museum in Albany recently turned up an audio version of that speech that no one knew existed. Here it is, released by the museum two days ago on MLK Day:

It does not take much to understand the influence of the Civil War Centennial on the Civil Rights Movement. King was giving this speech during the desegregation crisis at Ole Miss over the enrollment of James Meredith.

In attendance at that dinner were Bruce Catton, Chairman of the Commission, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The New York State Commission did some good things, but unfortunately did not make it through the Centennial. The state legislature pulled the funding in 1963 and the group disbanded in March of that year. Thankfully we have now have their recording of one of their most important endeavors.

(image/New York State Archives)

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Filed under Centennial, New York City

The original Lombardi comes home

Several years ago your humble writer was walking though midtown Manhattan when, turning onto 5th Avenue, he saw something that made him pause. In the window display case of Tiffany & Co. was the World Series trophy. I had long known that Tiffany’s made the trophy for both MLB and the NFL. It is just not something one sees everyday. Even better for me, although I obviously had no way of knowing it that early fall evening, it was the World Series trophy the Red Sox themselves would win a few weeks later. As you can imagine, it is one of those random events that has stayed with me.

The first three of the Green Bay Back Super Bowl trophies. The team would add a fourth the year after this photo was taken.

The first three of the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl trophies. The team would add a fourth the year after this photo was taken.

In a story I have been loosely following for the past few months, I read today that another Tiffany creation–the original Lombardi trophy–has returned to Newark, New Jersey after a forty-seven year hiatus. Ulysses Grant Dietz, the gr, gr. grandson of Ulysses S. Grant, is the museum curator responsible for bringing it back. The Newark Museum is one of the great places in the New York Metropolitan area. Waking there from the PATH train, the observant walker sees vestiges of the city’s heyday in the architecture and public artwork. Among the many other things the city was know for was its silversmiths and jewelry makers. The Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl I is part of a current exhibit on Newark’s history of precious metalsmithing.

The exhibit is not entirely coincidental. This year’s Super Bowl is going to be held in New Jersey at the stadium where the Giants and Jets play. Hence, the museum’s administrators figured they would have some kind of tie-in. Shooting high, they went for–and got–the Lombardi.

On the plane from Florida the other day I had a conversation about this with the man next to me. We could not understand why they are playing in an outdoor stadium in the Northeast in February. But they are.

No, I will not be attending the Super Bowl whatever the weather. I will be making the trek across the river to see the original Lombardi trophy along with the other treasures the museum has to offer.

(image/Globe199)

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Filed under Baseball, Museums, New York City

Cleaning Tecumseh, cont’d

Manhattan's Grand Army Plaza, 7:15 am

Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, 7:15 am

Update: I was in the city running some errand or another last week and noticed that the Sherman statue in Grand Army Plaza was still covered up. I was a little surprised, as the post I wrote about this was some months ago. Still, the stature did need work and I would rather that they do it right. Today’s New York Times has more on the project, complete with video.

I was in the city bright and early this morning running to a dentist appointment when, crossing 59th Street toward 5th Avenue, I noticed that the Sherman statue was covered for renovation. I blogged about the area back in 2011. I had not been in the neighborhood for a while and this was the first I had seen or heard of the project. My first thought when I saw the fencing and signage was, The Central Park Conservancy manages the plaza, along with its Saint-Gaudens masterwork? Then again, why should I be surprised? A quick internet search reveals this New York Times article with the full story from mid-June. The short version is that the pigeons were winning the battle of attrition versus General Sherman. Apparently previous restoration efforts did not go to well; guilding applied in 1989 was too bright, giving the artwork an unnatural hue which angered and upset many in the neighborhood. I have no fears for this current project and am sure the end result will be fine. Keeping the pigeons away permanently is another story.

I am not counting on it but I would love to see a more concerted effort to preserve Civil War New York and see it presented to the public in a more conscious way.

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Filed under Monuments and Statuary, New York City

Gotham turns out for Admiral Dewey

One of the things that strikes a person when walking the canyon-like street of Lower Manhattan are the sidewalk plaques commemorating the ticker-tape parades held over the years. Such parades stretch back well into the nineteenth century. Ticker-tape itself is a thing of the past, but such parades are still very much a part of present day New York City life. They are held, for instance, when the Yankees win the World Series. I remember being in New York City for the first time in June 1990 and witnessing the parade for Nelson Mandela. Those who know the War of the Rebellion know the importance parades played in the history and remembrance of the conflict. The Grand Review of the Armies in May 1865 put an exclamation point on the Federal victory, emphasizing that the war was over  and the Union preserved. Twenty years later, in 1885, Winfield Scott Hancock, working from Governors Island, quite consciously organized General Grant’s funeral to serve the reconciliation cause. That is why Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph Johnston served as pallbearers along with William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan.

30 September 1899

30 September 1899

Today, 30 September, marks another of the landmark New York City parades, even if no one remembers it anymore: it was one this day 114 years ago that the masses turned out to salute Admiral George Dewey after his victory at the the Battle of Manila Bay. Masses is the correct word; a full two million people lined the streets to pay their respects. It was not just New Yorkers either; as the stereograph above shows people came from across the country. John Philip Sousa’s band led the procession.

Teddy Roosevelt understood the importance of these types of gatherings. He had, after all, witnessed Lincoln’s funeral procession from his bedroom window as a young boy. Dewey’s most prominent admirer was the Rough Rider himself. Teddy had ridden the popularity he had earned on San Juan Hill the year before all the way to the governors mansion in Albany. Roosevelt had good reason to be in Manhattan for Dewey’s moment in the sun; it was his machinations as Assistant Secretary of the Navy that had put Dewey in charge of the Asiatic Squadron to begin with. Admiral Dewey, aboard the Olympia, unexpectedly arrived in New York City two days early, and was left to cool his heels on the ship, which he seems to have taken in stride. It was a Who’s Who of prominent military men, including Wesley Merritt and Nelson Miles. For whatever reason the Grand Army of the Republic did not officially send a contingent, though Oliver O. Howard did organize a few thousand old soldiers, including members of Duryea’s Zouaves, to march.

These are the types of stories I am looking forward to telling when I start at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in October.

(image/NYPL)

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Filed under Memory, New York City, Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt Jr (President)