New York City’s famed Village Halloween Parade is always thrilling and fun, but this year’s was especially joyful.
There was a special energy, sense of joy after the COVID hiatus in 2020 – with crowds returning to six and 10 deep at the barriers lining the parade route, from Spring Street to 16th Street on Sixth Avenue, many of the onlookers in costume.
Understandably, some of the marchers paid homage to COVID in their costumes, but most were throwbacks, nostalgic, playful and even innocent on this night of Devil May Care – the Wizard of Oz, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and impersonating games –with uncharacteristically few political statements (except for the interruption of an actual religious protest denouncing sinners, sparking “boos” from the crowd). On the other hand, many of the displays paid homage to protecting the climate and environment.
To be sure, there were lots of Satan, the Devil and Malificent but despite the requisite scary monsters, vampires (flash mob dancing to “Thriller”), and ghouls and such, there was a sense of childhood innocence.
That’s because the 2021 theme (“in two parts”) was “Let’s Play” and “All Together Now” – and was manifested in many of the major displays, especially the giant puppets for which the Village Halloween Parade is known.
One huge group of puppets took the form of cartoon characters. And even the skeleton puppets which traditionally lead the parade seemed to have a smile on their skull.
There was even an entire circus, complete with tight rope walker.
Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director, challenged participants to “come up with a costume idea that engages the audience and your fellow marchers–so we can PLAY together once again! Think Wheel of Fortune, a Kissing Booth, Play Ball! A Deck of Cards!”
“Don’t be the ONLY GAME in Town–Join with your friends and play on!” she said. “Make up your own interactive or visually enticing game! And then, join us on our Special THEME section of the Parade!”
Indeed, there was a marching Deck of Cards, Hula Hoops, a board game float, and a Slinky Lady.
Among the highlights: Grand Marshal Randy Rainbow performing a song for the Spectrum 1 NY1 television broadcast.
It is one of the best nights for New Yorkers to show their creativity, imagination, artistry and humor. It’s the night when you can be anything you want to be, when the lines between what’s real and what’s not are obliterated – even more so than on other nights of the year.
Here are photo highlights of the Village Halloween Parade 2021:
Celebrating its 48th Anniversary, New York’s Village Halloween Parade is:
The nation’s largest public Halloween celebration
Named as The Greatest Event on Earth by Festivals International for October 31
Attended by over 2 million people, seen by over 1 million on TV
The nation’s only major night Parade
Seen LIVE on NY 1 Television
Listed as one of the 100 Things to do Before You Die
Recipient of the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s Award for making a major contribution to the cultural life of New York City
Recipient of a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of Longtime Artistic Achievement
Recipient of the Mayor’s Tourism Grant in recognition of the Parade’s major impact on the economic life of New York City and grants from the Manhattan Borough President’s Tourism Initiative
Picked by Events International as The Greatest Event on Earth on October 31, and ranked 3rd by Citysearch as the best event in New York City
Ranked by Biz Bash as one of the top 10 events in NYC
An event which has a positive impact on New York economic life, bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists and an estimated $90 million in tourism dollars into the city, providing Greenwich Village businesses and restaurants their best night of the year.
An event which has a tremendously positive impact on how people who live in or come to visit New York see and feel about this community. The excitement and goodwill that it generates is lasting.
In effect, by turning a large and complex city into a small town for just one night, the Parade has been a pioneer in the critical movement toward the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City.
Take a winter holiday stroll through mid-town Manhattan. There are many changes this year – mostly the absence of thick crowds, circles delineating social distancing for queues into shops, outdoor dining constructions bathed in warm light. The animated shop windows New York is so famous for – Macy’s, Saks (masks on the figures), Bergdorf Goodman– are more low key this year, themed around thanking all those who are getting us through this darkness and cheering on New Yorkers. Bergdorf Goodman, for many years in a row, getting my award for best, wins again this year with its stunning windows with dramatic messages of Love, Hope, Goodness, Joy and Gratitude. And there are clever innovations to spread cheer: New York’s iconic symbols illuminated on the sidewalks, like a yellow cab. Saks still has its marvelous sound-and-light show illuminating its entire façade, just across the street from the Rockefeller Center tree, but it is pared down to just a few minutes so people don’t stand around too long. And there are security controls to minimize crowding and direct people to the entrance for ice skating or tree viewing. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
transported in time, place and even space. Immerse yourself into the realm of
ideas and imagination. Come in from the heat or whatever the weather is doing
outside by taking in one of New York City’s museums. Here are just a few
highlights of summer’s blockbuster attractions:
Met Museum Welcomes ‘Saint Jerome’
Metropolitan Museum of Art is about to welcome a very special visitor: Leonardo
da Vinci’s Saint Jerome. To
commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci
(1452–1519), The Met is presenting the artist’s painting Saint Jerome
Praying in the Wilderness (begun around 1483), a special loan from the
Vatican Museums. The exquisitely rendered work represents Jerome (A.D.
347–420), a major saint and theologian of the Christian Church. The scene is
based on the story of his later life, which he spent as a hermit in the desert,
according to the 13th–century Golden Legend. The unfinished painting provides
viewers with an extraordinary glimpse into Leonardo’s creative process; a close
examination of the paint surface even reveals the presence of his fingerprints.
The display of this monumental masterpiece pays homage to one of the most
renowned geniuses of all time. Opening July 15, the painting is on view
through Oct. 6, 2019.
the oldest works of art to the first forays of civilization into outer space, ,
the Met Museum is marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11
mission with Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in
the Age of Photography, on view through September 22, 2019. Apollo’s Muse traces the progress of astronomical
photography and attempts to produce ever-sharper images of the moon,
particularly during the 130-year period between the invention of photography in
1839 and the moon landing in 1969 as astronomers and artists capitalized on
technological improvements to cameras and telescopes to create ever more
accurate visual records of the lunar surface. Exhibition highlights include two
newly discovered lunar daguerreotypes from the 1840s, believed to be the
earliest existing photographs of the moon, and works by such pioneers of lunar
photography as Warren De La Rue (1815–1889), Lewis Morris Rutherfurd
(1816–1892), and John Adams Whipple (1822–1891). A stunning photographic atlas
of the moon, produced at the Paris Observatory between 1894 and 1908 by the
astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833–1907) and Pierre Puiseux (1855–1928), will be
displayed for the first time in its entirety.
these scientific achievements, the show explores the use of the camera to
create fanciful depictions of space travel and life on the moon, including
George Méliès’s (1861–1938) original drawings for his film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune, 1902) and
a large selection of “paper moon” studio portraits from the early 20th century.
Also featured will be artists’ evocations of the otherworldly effects of
moonlight, including major works by German Romantic painter Caspar David
Friedrich (1774-1840) and American Pictorialist photographer Edward Steichen
The night of the Museum Mile Festival, I popped into the opening of this year’s P.S. Art exhibit, an annual celebration of achievement in the arts in New York City public schools. This juried exhibition of the work of talented young artists showcases the creativity of 122 prekindergarten through twelfth grade students from all five boroughs, including students from District 75, a citywide district serving students with disabilities. The exhibition consists of paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media works, collages, drawings, and video. Each work of art demonstrates personal expression, imaginative use of media, the results of close observation, and an understanding of artistic processes. Some of the works on display are completely astonishing
Met is three museums.
At the Cloisters, “The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish
Legacy,” is on view July 22-January 12, 2020. A cache of jeweled rings,
brooches, and coins—the precious possessions of a Jewish family of medieval
Alsace—was hidden in the fourteenth century in the wall of a house in Colmar,
France. Discovered in 1863 and on view in an upcoming exhibition at The Met
Cloisters, the Colmar Treasure revives the memory of a once–thriving Jewish
community that was scapegoated and put to death when the Plague struck the
region with devastating ferocity in 1348–49. A generous loan of the Musée
de Cluny, Paris, the Colmar Treasure will be displayed alongside select works
from The Met Cloisters and little–known Judaica from collections in the United
States and France. Although the objects on view are small in scale and
relatively few in number, the ensemble overturns conventional notions of
medieval Europe as a monolithic Christian society. The exhibition will point to
both legacy and loss, underscoring the prominence of the Jewish minority
community in the tumultuous fourteenth century and the perils it faced.
the Met Breuer,
“Home is a Foreign Place:
Recent Aquisitions in Context,” through June 21, 2020.
residents still can pay what they wish, by presenting proof of residence;
out-of-towners need to pay the regular admission).
The iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue, on Central Park, (definitely take a Highlights tour when you visit), The Met Breuer (945 Madison Avenue) and The Met Cloisters (99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park). Visit metmuseum.org to plan your visit.
Jewish Museum Pays Homage to
Leonard Cohen With Multi-Media Exhibition
“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect
offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets
in.” from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”
from the album The Future (1992), provides the title for the special exhibit at the
“Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything”.
The contemporary multi-media exhibition devoted to the imagination and legacy
of the influential singer/songwriter, man of letters, and global icon from
Montreal, Canada can be experienced through September 8, 2019.
Cohen: A Crack in Everything includes commissioned works by a
range of international artists who have been inspired by Cohen’s life, work and
legacy. A world-renowned novelist, poet and singer/songwriter who inspired generations
of writers, musicians, and artists, Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) supplied the world with melancholy and urgent
observations on the state of the human heart. In songs such as “Suzanne,” “Bird
on the Wire,” and “Hallelujah,” he interwove the sacred and the profane, mystery and accessibility. Collectively, it is
the oddest, most creative biographical tribute. Featured works include:
Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen) (2017), a
multi-channel video installation by Candice Breitz, brings together a community
of ardent Cohen fans who pay tribute to the late legend. Each of the 18
participants was offered the opportunity to perform and record his own version
of Cohen’s comeback album I’m Your Man (1988) in a
professional recording studio. At Breitz’s invitation, the album’s backing
vocals were reinterpreted by the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, an all-male
choir representing the congregation in Montreal, Canada, that Cohen belonged to
all his life.
Ari Folman’s Depression Chamber (2017) allows one visitor at a
time into a darkened room, where they are confronted by the demons of
depression, a theme that can be traced throughout Cohen’s body of work. After
the visitor lies down, Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” plays while
the song’s lyrics are projected on the walls, slowly morphing into letters and
icons that symbolize Cohen’s multifaceted thematic universe.
Heard There Was a Secret Chord (after the 2017 work of the same
title, 2018) is a participatory humming experience by the art and design
studio Daily tous les jours that reveals an invisible vibration uniting people
around the world currently listening to Cohen’s Hallelujah. The
work is an exploration of the metaphysical connection between people on a
common wavelength. At the Museum, real-time online listener data is transformed
into a virtual choir of humming voices. The number of voices played back in the
gallery corresponds to the current online listener count, which is visible on
the hanging numerical display. Participants can sit or lie down on the
octagonal structure, and by humming along with the choir into the microphones,
low-frequency vibrations are generated, closing the circuit of collective
resonance with their bodies.
Organized by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC), the exhibition is curated by John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator at the MAC, and Victor Shiffman, Co-Curator. Following its New York showing, the exhibition will tour to Kunstforeningen GL STRAND and Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark (October 23, 2019 – March 8, 2020) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (September 17, 2020 – January 3, 2021).
During the run of Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, the Jewish Museum will open one hour earlier than usual on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am to 5:45pm. Advance tickets are available online at thejewishmuseum.org/buy/general-admission. For questions about ticket sales, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866.205.1322.
Founded in 1904, the Museum, on Fifth Avenue’s fabled Museum Mile, was the first institution of its kind in the United States and is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world. Devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary, the Museum offers diverse exhibitions and programs, and maintains a unique collection of nearly 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting the global Jewish experience over more than 4,000 years.
Admission: $18 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 students, free for visitors 18
and under and Jewish Museum members. Free on Saturdays and select Jewish
holidays. 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, New York City, 212.423,3200, email@example.comTheJewishMuseum.org.
of the City of New York: New York at Its Core
make it a ritual to visit the Museum of the City of New York during each year’s
Museum Mile Festival. I never cease to be fascinated and intrigued by the
York at Its Core
is the first-ever museum show to comprehensively interpret and present the
compelling story of New York’s rise from a striving Dutch village to today’s
“Capital of the World,” a preeminent global city now facing the future in a
changing world. There are different galleries that tell the story, but most
fascinating is The Future City Lab, where you get to design the city of the
future, tackling the most pressing problems like housing, public spaces, water
supply. You even get to put yourself in the picture.
to be missed: Timescapes, the museum’s popular and
critically-acclaimed multimedia experience, brings the sweeping narrative of
New York City from the early 1600s to the present day. The 28-minute,
award-winning documentary explores how NYC grew from a settlement of a few
hundred Europeans, Africans and Native Americans into the multinational
metropolis of today, re-inventing itself multiple times along the way.
Activist New York, an
ongoing exhibit, examines the ways in which ordinary New
Yorkers have advocated, agitated, and exercised their power to shape the
city’s—and the nation’s—future, from the 17th century to the
City of Workers, City of Struggle: How
Labor Movements Changed New York, traces how New York became the most
unionized large city in the United States.
in the City: A 200–Year History, on
view through October 6, 2019, tracex how the bicycle transformed urban
transportation and leisure in New York City and explores the extraordinary
diversity of cycling cultures, past and present.
Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave., Manhattan, NY 10029, 212-534-1672, mcny.org.
Guggenheim: Summer of Know
in the Frank Lloyd Wright building, a major attraction in itself (just walking
through the spiral is an experience),from June 18 through September 3, the
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is open until 9 pm for Summer Tuesdays, offering
music and refreshments in the museum rotunda in addition to exhibitions on view
in the galleries. Films, conversations, and performances enhance opportunities
for visitors to engage with the museum and the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed
building that celebrates 60 years as an architectural icon in 2019. Also
starting in June, Summer of Know, a conversation series addressing urgent
issues through the generative lens of art, returns to the Guggenheim, featuring
artists, activists, and other professionals discussing topics such as LGBTQIA+
rights in a global context, environmental activism, and housing rights. Details
are available at guggenheim.org/calendar.
Biennial has long been one of America’s
foremost showcases of emerging artists. Every two years, the exhibition serves
as a bellwether for the culture, both reflecting on and mirroring the country’s
political and social moods. No surprise, then, to see that this year’s work—on
view now at the Whitney Museum of American Art—offers plenty of tension, with
pieces that focus on gender identity and race, among other issues. Curators
chose the works because they represent “a snapshot of contemporary art making”;
read on for more about a few of our favorites. (See: https://www.nycgo.com/articles/whitney-biennial-2019) (99 Gansvoort
St., Meatpacking district).
of Natural History Presents T.rex, The Ultimate Predator
At the American Museum of Natural History’s blockbuster exhibit, T. rex: The Ultimate Predator, you encounter a massive life-sized model of a T. rex with patches of feathers—the definitive representation of this prehistoric predator, T. rex hatchlings and a four-year-old juvenile T.rex; a “roar mixer”where you can imagine what T. rex may have sounded like; a shadow theater where a floor projection of an adult T. rex skeleton seems to come to life. At a tabletop “Investigation Station,” you can explore a variety of fossil casts with virtual tools including a CT scanner, measuring tape, and a microscope to learn more about what such specimens reveal about the biology and behavior of T.rex. Finally, you encounter a massive animated projection of aT. rexand its offspring in a Cretaceous-age setting. which reacts to visitors, leaving you to wonder, “Did that T. rex really see me?”
T. rex: The Ultimate Predator is the first major exhibition of the
American Museum of Natural History’s 150th anniversary celebration. Plan your
visit (you could spend weeks in the museum), check out the special programming
and events, and pre-purchase timed tickets at amnh.org.
Hayden Planetarium Space Theater, see “Dark Universe” (through December 31,
Open daily from 10 am – 5:45 pm. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, 212-769-5100, amnh.org.
Summer at New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, the oldest museum in New
York (and directly across the street from the American Museum of Natural
History on Central Park West), is presenting a Revolutionary Summer. A Museum-wide
exploration of Revolutionary War times, Revolutionary
Summerpresents outdoor events every weekend featuring characters
from the era; 18th-century art and artifacts; a diorama of the Continental Army
and a host of programs for all ages, including trivia nights, DJ evening, and Revolutionary
Drag Tea Party. On select weekends, visitors can explore a replica of George
Washington’s Headquarters Tent at an outdoor Continental Army encampment, meet
Living Historians portraying soldiers and spies, and learn about the many
facets of camp life during the War for Independence. (Through September 15,
Also on view: LIFE: Six Women Photographers showcases the extraordinary work created
by Margaret Bourke-White, Hansel Mieth, Marie Hansen, Martha Holmes, Nina
Leen, and Lisa Larsen. (through October 6, 2019); Stonewall 50 at New-York Historical Society, through September
22, 2019, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and the
dawn of the gay liberation movement; Hudson Rising explores 200 years of ecological change
and environmental activism along “the most interesting river in America” (through
The Big Picture,
opening August 23 through December 8, 2019, explores wide-angle, bird’s-eye
imagery from the 17th to the 20th century, revealing the influence that
panoramas had on everything from mass entertainment to nationalism to imperial
expansion. Through more than 20 panoramas, the exhibition presents the history
of the all-encompassing medium in New York City, San Francisco and beyond.
New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.
Spy v. Spy
Want a real escape? Visit Spyscape, which offers a different twist on spy museums, and is more of an experiential attraction, immersing you into the psychology and ubiquity of surveillance and espionage, and literally, with the ending “profile” (developed with the a former head of training at British Intelligence) showing you where you might fit into this world (I’m an analyst). SPYSCAPE, which opened in 2018, illuminates secret intelligence, from espionage to hacking, and investigative journalism. It offers a balanced perspective on big issues – privacy, security, surveillance. You get to engage in real spy challenges, including lie-detection in interrogation booths, surveillance in a 360 degree environment and test strategy and agility in special ops laser tunnels. The museum also features quite a good Spy Shop, a Book Shop, Café and multiple Event Spaces. (928 8th Avenue, entrance on SE corner of 55th Street, spyscape.com).
And in a very real Spy v. Spy scenario, a very different
experience awaits at another new entry to New York City’s museum scene: the KGB Museum. This place presents the
artifacts and history of the KGB in a kind of antique-shop setting but the
items are chilling. You realize that the spy movies, even the satirical “Get
Smart,” didn’t so much fabricate as reveal the tools and techniques and
paranoia of Cold War spying. (KGB Spy Museum tickets are available online or in
the museum. (245 West 14th Street, New York,
NY 10011, 10 am -8 Mon-Sun).
Museum of Illusions
The Museum of Illusions, which opened September 2018 in New York City’s West Village, contains three-dimensional illusions on the walls and floors which will mesmerize visitors of all ages. You might assume by its name that it is a children’s museum or about magic which depends so much on illusion. Nor can it be considered an “attraction” although many of the exhibits are interactive and you get to help create the illusions. It is really about educating about the physical and psychological science behind illusion – placards posted near each exhibit provide the explanations for what you sense. And while the museum does not explicitly delve into magic, when you leave, you will have a better understanding of how some magic tricks work. (77th 8th Ave, New York, NY; newyork.museumofillusions.us)
Cradle of Aviation Museum: Countdown to
Apollo at 50
out of this world, beyond the city limits, to Long Island: The Cradle of
Aviation Museum and Education Center is one of the great space and aviation
museums, home to over 75 planes and spacecraft representing over 100 years of
aviation history and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater. Currently,
the museum is celebrating “Countdown
to Apollo at 50”
sponsored by the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, showcasing Long Island and
Grumman’s significant role in the Apollo program. The Museum was recently
recognized and listed on New York State’s National Register of Historic Places
as a significant part of American history. The museum is located on Museum Row,
Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in East Garden City. For more information call
(516) 572-4111 or visit www.cradleofaviation.org.
Global Scavenger Hunt teams arrive in New York City for the last leg of the
Global Scavenger Hunt that has taken us to 10 countries in 23 days. Bill
Chalmers, the ringmaster and Chief Experience Officer of this around-the-world
mystery tour, in which the challenges and scavenges are designed to get us out
of our comfort zone and immerse us in a culture, fine-tune our skills as world
travelers, and most significantly, “trust in the kindness of strangers.” Back
in New York, he is delighted all 10 teams circumnavigated the world “in one
piece” without dramatic incident, in this, the 15th annual Global
Scavenger Hunt competition.
leading teams vying for the title of “World’s Greatest Travelers” as we enter
this final leg of the contest in 4th place, SLO Folks from
California with 96 points (where the low-score wins); in 3rd, Order
& Chaos, doctors from San Francisco with 81 points; in 2nd
place, Lazy Monday, computer networking consultant and think tank professional
from California with 46 points, and Lawyers Without Borders, from Houston, with
33 points, five-time winners who are competing in the Global Scavenger Hunt for
the 12th time.
is one more challenge in New York (an easy urban Par 1), and even though, based
on points and placement, the winners of the 15th annual, 2019
edition of the Global Scavenger Hunt have been determined, still the teams go
out and give it their all. Those in contention must complete at least one of
the scavenges in New York, and complete their time sheet and hand in by the 4
of the scavenges: take in a
Yankees game or a Broadway show; have one of each of following: a New
York bagel, a New York hot dog, a New York deli sandwich, a slice of New York
pizza, New York cheesecake, a New York egg cream, or an old-fashion Manhattan; -locate
five pieces from five of the nations you just visited in the Met; visit
Strawberry Fields, pay John Lennon tribute; do one scavenge in each of
the five boroughs of New York City.
native New Yorker, this is really my turf (though there is the oddest sensation
of feeling like I am in a foreign place, reminding myself of what is familiar
like language, money, streets, drink water, eat salad), and I delight in
walking up Madison Avenue to 82nd Street to the Metropolitan Museum
of Art on Fifth Avenue.
elect to take up the challenge of going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to
seek out objects from five of the countries we visited (Canada, Vietnam,
Myanmar, Thailand, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Greece, Morocco, Gibraltar, Portugal,
Spain). Greece will be easy, of course, but Morocco and Jordan (Petra), Vietnam
and Myanmar (Burma) are just a bit trickier. It is Chalmers’ way of making us
experience things on a different level, and for me, it brings together so much
of what we’ve seen, learned and experienced along the way.
first join a docent-led Highlights Tour, knowing from past experience that
these always lead me to parts of the museum I am unfamiliar with, and enlighten
about aspects of art and culture with the in-depth discussion of the pieces the
docents select to discuss.
docent, Alan, begins in the Greco-Roman exhibit with a stunning marble
sculpture of the Three Graces, showing how this theme – essentially copied from
the Greek bronzes (which no longer exist because the bronze was valuable and
melted down for military use) – was repeated over the eons, into the
Renaissance and even beyond.
Obviously, finding an object from Greece is going to be easy, and I hope to find objects from Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand in the Asia wing where there is a massive collection of Buddhist art (it proves just a tad more difficult, but I succeed). Morocco and Jordan (Petra) proved trickier than I expected, but brought me to an astonishing exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East,” with an extraordinary focus on the territories and trading networks of the Middle East that were contested between the Roman and Parthian Empires (ca. 100 BC and AD 250). “yet across the region life was not defined by these two superpowers alone. Local cultural and religious traditions flourished and sculptures, wall paintings, jewelry and other objects reveal how ancient identities were expressed through art.”
exhibit features 190 works from museums in the Middle East, Europe and the
United States in an exhibition that follows the great incense and silk routes
that connected cities in southwestern Arabia, Nabataea, Judea, Syria and
Mesopotamia, that made the region a center of global trade along with spreading
ideas, spurring innovations (such as in water control), and spawning art and
was the most incredible feeling to come upon the objects from Petra, having
visited the site (was it only 10 days ago?) and having a context for seeing these
isolated objects on display.
The World between Empires
The landmark exhibition The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East, which is on view through June 23, 2019, focuses on the remarkable cultural, religious and commercial exchange that took place in cities including Petra, Baalbek, Palmyra and Hatra between 100 B.C. and A.D. 250. “During this transformative period, the Middle East was the center of global commerce and the meeting point of two powerful empires—Parthian Iran in the east and Rome in the west—that struggled for regional control.”
The exhibition focuses on the diverse and distinctive
cities and people that flourished in this environment by featuring 190 outstanding
examples of stone and bronze sculpture, wall paintings, jewelry, and other
objects from museums in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.
Among the highlights is a Nabataean religious shrine,
reconstructed from architectural elements in collections in the United States
and Jordan; the unique Magdala Stone, discovered in a first-century synagogue
at Migdal (ancient Magdala) and whose imagery refers to the Temple in
Jerusalem; and wall paintings from a church in Dura-Europos that are the
earliest securely dated images of Jesus. Sculptures from Baalbek illuminate
religious traditions at one of the greatest sanctuaries in the ancient Middle
East, and funerary portraits from Palmyra bring visitors face to face with
ancient people. The exhibition also examines important contemporary
issues—above all, the deliberate destruction and looting of sites including
Palmyra, Dura-Europos, and Hatra.
“The compelling works of art in this exhibition
offer a view into how people in the ancient Middle East sought to define
themselves during a time of tremendous religious, creative, and political
activity, revealing aspects of their lives and communities that resonate some
two millennia later,” said Max Hollein, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Further,
in focusing on an area of the world that has been deeply affected by recent
conflicts and the destruction of sites, monuments, and objects, this show also
engages with complex questions about the preservation of cultural heritage.”
The exhibition evokes a journey along ancient trade routes,
beginning in the southwestern Arabian kingdoms that grew rich from the caravan
trade in frankincense and myrrh harvested there and used throughout the ancient
world. Camel caravans crossed the desert to the Nabataean kingdom, with its
spectacular capital city of Petra, which I had just visited, walking through
very much as the caravan travelers would have.
From here, goods traveled west to the Mediterranean and north and
east through regions including Judaea and the Phoenician coast and across the
Syrian desert, where the oasis city of Palmyra controlled trade routes that
connected the Mediterranean world to Mesopotamia and Iran and ultimately China.
In Mesopotamia, merchants transported cargoes down the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers to the Persian Gulf, where they joined maritime trade routes to India.
These connections transcended the borders of empires, forming networks that
linked cities and individuals over vast distances.
Across the entire region, diverse local political and religious
identities were expressed in art. Artifacts from Judaea give a powerful sense
of ancient Jewish identity during a critical period of struggle with Roman
rule. Architectural sculptures from the colossal sanctuary at Baalbek and
statuettes of its deities reveal the intertwined nature of Roman and ancient
Middle Eastern religious practices. Funerary portraits from Palmyra represent
the elite of an important hub of global trade. Wall paintings and sculptures
from Dura-Europos on the River Euphrates illustrate the striking religious
diversity of a settlement at the imperial frontier. And in Mesopotamia, texts
from the last Babylonian cuneiform libraries show how ancient temple
institutions waned and finally disappeared during this transformative period.
In Athens and Petra, particularly, you appreciate this synergy
between trade, migration, environmental sustainability and technology (in
Petra, the ability to control water supply was key), economic prosperity and
political power, and the rise of art, culture, and community.
It is rare (if ever ) for the Metropolitan Museum to venture into
the political, but a key topic within the exhibition is the impact of recent
armed conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen on archaeological sites, monuments,
and museums, including deliberate destruction and looting. Some of the most
iconic sites affected—Palmyra, Hatra, and Dura-Europos—are featured in the
exhibition, which discusses this damage and raises questions regarding current
and future responses to the destruction of heritage. Should the sites be
restored or will they now only exist “on paper”? How much money and resources
should go to restoring or excavation when villages and homes for people to live
in also need to be rebuilt?
There is a fascinating, if frantic, presentation of three archaeologist/historians speaking about what the destruction by ISIS and Islamic fundamentalists of Palmyra, Eura-Europos and Hatra – what it means to destroy a people’s heritage, their cultural identity. “It may seem frivolous to focus on [archaeological sites] when people are enslaved, killed…but to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people.”
upon this exhibit made the travel experiences we had to these extraordinary
places all the more precious.
is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great
civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they
fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever. Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion,
art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule;
successors blot out the culture and re-write history.
out from the American Café windows to Central Park and see sun and the early
spring blossoms on the trees, and dash out to walk through my other favorite
New York City place. There is nothing more beautiful than New York City in the
spring – brides are out in force taking photos; there are musicians and
entertainers. There is a festive atmosphere as I walk through the park toward
the Palace Hotel in time for our 4:30 pm meeting.
And now, drumroll please, Chalmers announces the
winner of the 2019 Global Scavenger Hunt: “Only one team wins. The competition
3rd – Order & Chaos, Sal Iaquinta & Vivian Reyes, doctors from San
2nd – Lazy Monday, Eric & Kathryn
Verwillow, computer networking and think tank professional of Palo Alto, California
(“I am in awe of how hard worked beginning to end – embraced the spirit,”
1st Lawyers Without Borders, Rainey Booth and Zoe Littlepage of Houston, who have competed in the Global Scavenger Hunt 12 times, and won it for the 6th time. “You embody the spirit of the event, to go out of your comfort zone.” (You can follow Zoe’s blog of her experience to get a sense of how strenuous, outrageous, and determined the team was in accumulating their points: https://zoeandraineygreatescape.blogspot.com/2019/05/gsh-2019)
We celebrate at a final bon voyage dinner.
The Global Scavenger Hunt is the brainchild of Bill and
Pamela Chalmers, who in addition to forging understanding and bonds among
travelers and the people in the destinations visited, use the program to promote
voluntourism (one of the scavenges is to volunteer at an orphanage or school
during our stay in Yangon, Myanmar, and in the past travelers visited & helped out at: Tibetan
refugee camps in Nepal, orphanages in Laos, hospitals in Cambodia, homeless
schools in India, hospices in Manila, disabled facilities in Sri Lanka,
Ethiopian schools, the slums of Nairobi) and raised money for the
“The foundation is one of main reasons we do the event,”
Chalmers says. The foundation has raised money to build 12 schools (1 each in Niger, Haiti, Ecuador, India & Ethiopia; 2
each in Sri Lanka & Sierra Leone, and 3 in Kenya), helped build the Tamensa Medical Clinic in Niger for migrating
Tuareg nomads which serves as a midwives & nurse training center too. “We
know that we saved lives and bettered the lives of hundreds. We have helped
over 2400 families in more than 60 countries (mostly women entrepreneurs) with
our interest and fee free micro-loans (96% of which have gone to women with a
Through the event this and last year, the
foundation will build 2 more co-ed elementary schools , in Ethiopia and Haiti.
TheGlobal Scavenger Hunt travel
adventure competition is aimed at returning the romance of travel while testing
IQ of the most travel savvy of globetrotters. The travelers
(who must apply and be accepted to compete) completed a series of highly
participatory, authentic and challenging cultural site-doing scavenges
in ten secret countries over a 23-day circumnavigation between April 12 and May
4, 2019 designed to bring people out of their comfort zone and trust strangers
in strange lands.
“The Global Scavenger Hunt covers a lot of
extraordinary travel bases,” says Chalmers, who dubs his mystery tour, “A blind
date with the world.”
If you really want to be freaked out by the KGB Spy Museum that opened just a few months ago in Manhattan, do what I did: come directly from Spyscape, where you learn about the whole business of being a spy, and be in the middle of reading a book like “The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West,” by Malcolm Vance.
The KGB Museum would be scarier if it were not laid out somewhat like an antique shop (but aren’t all spy centers sequestered behind something innocuous like a tailor shop?). Row by row, there are some 3500 artifacts, all of them real, many on view publicly for the first time. They date from 1910 until 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union when the KGB was replaced by the FSB. But these mundane objects – a lipstick, an umbrella, a pen – were lethal weapons; a tie pin and belt buckle were cameras; a heart reader could seek out a live person hiding even in a refrigerator. Another important tool? A thermometer to determine if a person were truly dead. And if a master key couldn’t unlock an apartment to install a bug? No matter, a transmitter could be aimed at the window from a huge distance to decipher the sound vibrations and eavesdrop anyway. There is even a letter remover which could take out a letter from its envelope, read its contents and replace it back in the envelope, without leaving a mark.
And then there is the “patient chair,”
used in a psychiatric hospital, with scary restraints, that were used for
interrogations under truth serum or other means.
It turns out that those fantastical
gadgets from the James Bond movies, and even the Get Smart spy spoof, were
actually based on the real thing. It seems that there is nothing too absurd in
the spy world.
The KGB story is really scary
though. KGB (КГБ in Cyrillic) stands for “Komitet
Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti,” which can be translated as the Committee for
State Security. The KGB was the main security agency for the Soviet Union, and
during the Cold War the KGB was in direct competition with the CIA and other
state security agencies around the world for cultural, economic, and military
The KGB was born in the Russian Revolution – one of the artifacts is the carpet
memorializing Lenin (not his real last name, it turns out) and the beginning of
the Revolution in 1917 – and was initially designed to ferret out
counter-revolutionaries, or enemies of the Communist state.
One of the
world’s largest and most sophisticated intelligence operations, the KGB served
a multifaceted role as both a spy agency outside of Soviet Union and a force of
secret police within it.
You realize how pervasive and
ruthless the KGB was (is), and sense the constant terror that the people must
have lived under, as that term “enemies of the state” was broadened to mean any
one who criticized or opposed the ruling party, the leadership or policies.
There are real doors from jail cells,
and you look through at real video of real prisoners. Those who were placed in solitary
were allowed nothing to wear but their underwear; they could sleep only four
hours, when the bed would be closed up, and fed only bread and water for 5 to
One of the
world’s largest and most sophisticated intelligence operations, the KGB served
a multifaceted role as both a spy agency outside of Soviet Union and a force of
secret police within it.
Some of the best engineering and
scientific minds were employed to devise gadgets and gizmos – miniaturizing cameras,
maximizing surveillance and detection, inventing new ways of transmitting.
undetectable, the agency used its state-of-the-art tools and ruthless methods
to seamlessly monitor the citizens’ lives and keep them in constant fear of
repercussions for any subversive behavior. The investment in the spy technology
had a devastating toll on the country’s economy yet it was deemed the most
effective and necessary way to keep the state isolated from the rest of the
world and keep the Western world out.”
operating in countries all over the world, the KGB had a vast influence on world
affairs, which reached its peak during the Cold War. KGB Spy Museum presents a
never-before-seen collection of items used in the missions of prominent KGB
agents, illuminating the strategies and methods that underlay many of history’s
top-secret espionage operations.
to perusing artifacts and learning about the history of the notorious agency, you
can read and listen to real stories from spies, witnesses and journalists as
well as explore and interact with authentic objects, such as telephone
switchboards (most of the operators who connected the calls and then listened
in on conversations were KGB), encryption machines, an interrogation chair,
designed to extract information from suspects and enemies.
One of the most interesting stories surrounds a wooden Great Seal in one of the cabinets, that was also one of the KGB’s greatest triumphs, that arose out of the famous summit in the Crimea of Stalin, Churchill and FDR. The head of the KGB, Lavrenty Beria, had a replica of the Great Seal made as a gift for Ambassador Averell Harriman, presented most charmingly by cherubic Young Pioneers (like boy scouts) as a “gesture of friendship.” But inside was an ingenious bug that used electromagnetic energy instead of an external power supply. It hung above the Ambassador’s desk in Moscow for seven years before it was exposed in 1952. “The Americans couldn’t figure out how it worked for a year and a half,” my guide, Sergey, says. (The original is in the NSA’s Cryptology Museum in Washington.)
The inventor of the Zlatoust/Receiver
LOSS, Lev Sergeyevich Termen, was a physicist
and a musician, who began his career by developing previously unseen electronic
musical instruments. In 1947 he won the Stalin Prize for Inventions of Listening
One of the objects that is literally
one-of-a-kind, is a record player made expressly for
Stalin; there is also a safe, made by the Bernstein company in Berlin, that
came from KGB HQ, still containing the currency that would have been enough to buy
30 cars. Both indications of the privilege along with the power amassed by the
Communist leadership despite their calls for a equal society.
Among the rarest objects, which are
a point of pride, also seem mundane but were “mechanical masterpieces”:
Tool set КАРОЕД/KAROED (Bark beetle): This is a manual
set of special drills and instruments for drilling very narrow holes less than
0.04 inches without any sound in the tree or plastic. Holes were needed to
listen to secret conversations with a help of secret microphones. These sharp
and pointed drills are specially machined from the very hard metal. The set
includes drill extensions, which can be used to drill holes in 3.3 ft and even
thicker walls or wooden floors. A special hand-held drill holder had a stopper to
drill holes of a certain depth to protect the drill from coming out across the
wall by making only a small, hardly visible hole. A special container collects
shavings in order not to leave any suspicious marks.
very rare: KGB secret drill ИГЛА/IGLA (needle): “It is a unique mechanical
masterpiece – the drill IGLA. This very complicated drill reflects the name
‘needle’, because it drills a very thin hole through the concrete. It drills
with the help of air compressor with abrasive dust to avoid the sound and
vibration. Even the drilling sound was designed by the constructors to simulate
that era washing machine Малютка/Maliutka. The person at home thought that a
neighbor was probably doing the laundry. The Igla drill had a hole through
which the air pressure was inflated according to the manometer readings, and
when the drill approached the outside of concrete wall, the air pressure
dropped in the drill as the air went out and the drill automatically shut off.
The hole was 0.04 inches in size. If the walls were painted or lined with
ceramic tiles, the eye did not even see the hole or dust outside. With this
drill, the abrasive powder and concrete dust were absorbed by air. Agents who
were very patient, slow and responsible were chosen to drill such a hole. In
order to drill a 4 inches concrete wall took about 4 hours, and with the
preparation – the whole day. Agents, through drilled miniature holes, installed
listening or photo devices. After the operation, they applied a hole with the
cement mixture and no suspicious marks were left.”
There’s an old fashioned
phone where you can “dial” a selection of officials. My guide, Sergey, dials
Putin and hands me the phone so I can hear Putin talking (it’s like listening
to the LBJ telephone tapes at the LBJ Presidential Museum in Austin). There are
also actual phones on display from KGB offices that would have features to
disguise the voice at the push of a button.
The two spy experiences – Spyscape and
the KGB Museum – have completely different approaches and perspectives, but they
complement each other so well, especially when visited one after the other.
Spyscape is modern, state of the art, interactive, pulse-pounding, engaging, immersive experience. KGB is old-school but so relevant today, with the Russian actively hacking elections and using social media to impact US and other elections, policy, and political discourse.
“The KGB Spy
Museum aims to present espionage and intelligence operations in an educational
and interesting way, emphasizing the importance of human intelligence and
setting out a frame of reference for the public to appreciate the great extent
to which spies have always influenced world events. The Museum has a policy of
presenting the history of espionage without political bias, thus offering
visitors a factual and balanced view of the subject. “
The Museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 8
available online or in the museum. You need about 1 ½ hours to visit. Tickets
are adults (18-64)/$25; Children 7-17, seniors, students, $20; a guided visit,
minimum 3 people is $43.99.
This spring, the New-York Historical
Society presents Hudson Rising, a unique exhibition that explores
200 years of ecological change and environmental activism along “the most
interesting river in America” through artifacts, media, and celebrated Hudson
River School paintings.
On view March 1 – August 4, Hudson
Rising reflects on how human activity has impacted the river and, in
turn, how the river environment has shaped industrial development, commerce,
tourism, and environmental awareness. The exhibition also explores how experts
in various fields are currently creating ways to restore and re-engineer areas
of the river in response to climate change.
Indeed, we tend to think of the environmental movement as
originating with Yellowstone and the national parks, but it is fascinating to
realize that the beginning of environmental activism – and the techniques –
began here. Citizens rallied to oppose the construction of a Con Ed plant on
Storm King Mountain; one of the new organizations, Scenic Hudson, sued; the
case, in 1965 set a precedent beyond the Hudson, establishing that citizens
have standing to sue on behalf of conservation, even when they do not have a
direct economic interest, that beauty
and history also merit protection – the forerunner of the Environmental
Protection Act. Later, a “viewshed,” modeled on the concept of a watershed, in
connection with landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church’s Olana, also warranted
The Hudson River raised consciousness of the importance of
environmental protection. the exhibit opens with paintings from Thomas Cole,
the founder of the Hudson River School art movement (America’s first
native-grown art movement), who worried even then about the encroachment of
development. His paintings depict an idyllic landscape, but also the
destruction of the forest to lumbering.
Much more than a body of water, the Hudson
and its surroundings have been the home for humans and hundreds of species of
fish, birds, and plants; offered an escape for city-dwellers; and witnessed
battles over the uses of the river valley and its resources. For over 200
years, writers and artists have captured the river in paintings, drawings,
literature, and photographs, and surveyors and scientists have mapped and
measured its every parcel.
has always encapsulated the tension between development and conservation. But
it was more than about aesthetics, and the need for urbanites to be able to
seek respite in the countryside: an early environmental scientist realized that
logging in the Adirondacks, which was discovered to be the source of the
Hudson, was jeopardizing the watershed supplying New York City.
Scientists at the same time discovered the critical link between
forests and the health of rivers. They realized the Adirondack forest supported
the Hudson River and aquatic animals. That begins the movement to save the
Adirondacks, including the forests. Ultimately, it leads to New York State’s
“Forever Wild” amendment to the state constitution, in 1894.
“This path-breaking exhibition explores
ideas about the environment that developed in the context of the Hudson,
examining how we became aware, as New Yorkers and as Americans, of the role
that humans played in the river’s ecological degradation,” said Dr. Louise
Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “The exhibit also looks at
the strategies we devised to address it. Spanning the entire industrial
era, Hudson Rising presents a compelling account of how the
Hudson has been an incubator for our ideas about the environment and our
relationships to the natural world for two centuries-plus.”
Indeed, we learn that Theodore Roosevelt,
before creating the first national park as president, innovated environmental
protection as Governor of New York State, working with New Jersey, to protect
the Palisades as a “park for the people” (hugely popular with immigrants who
crammed into cities, the park had 2 million visitors in 1920, many who came by
a free ferry); similarly Franklin Roosevelt, when he was New York State
governor, created what would become the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps
when he was president.
Curated by Marci Reaven, New-York Historical’s vice president of history exhibitions, and Jeanne Haffner, associate curator, Hudson Rising begins with a prelude featuring artist Thomas Cole’s panoramic five-part Course of Empire series (1834-36), a treasure of New-York Historical’s collection that depicts the transformation of a pristine landscape into a thriving city, then its dramatic decline, and the fall of civilization.
Cole railed against “human hubris” and the exploitation of nature. “The ranges of the ax are daily and increasing,” Cole said. “Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet. Shall we turn from it?” he wrote in his “Essay on American Scenery” (1836). Cole’s poetic questioning of the social costs of what was seen in his time as progress, serves as a prelude to the exhibition narrative, which begins with the industrial age and continues into the present day. The Hudson River, we learn, was the incubator for the environmental movement.
The exhibition is organized chronologically
and geographically into five sections that highlight significant places and
events in the environmental history of the river: Journeys Upriver:
The 1800s, The Adirondacks: 1870s-1890s, The Palisades: 1890s-1950s, The Hudson
Highlands: 1960s-1980s, and A Rising Tide: Today.
The exhibit is designed to meander, like the river itself, and uses actual artifacts – there is even the smell of freshly cut wood from the Adirondacks – that bring you, as much as possible to the Hudson: bricks from Haberstraw; rocks from the Palisades; iron from Cold Spring Foundry across from West Point; wood from Catskills; hemlock (used for tanning), even a fish tank with striped bath (blue eels will be added later). “The layout is a metaphor for the river,” said Ken Nintzel, the designer.
There are historical maps – one of the most impressive is a panorama map from 1847 that stretches the length of a wall, that tourists would use, “one of the great maps of American history”- photos, paintings, news clips that trace the battle to reclaim the Hudson from industrial pollution. A map from 1890s shows how the Hudson was “redesigned” to make it more navigable for shipping, changing the way the river ran, but in the process, did away with the shallows that hosted aquatic life and mitigated flooding. Another map documents how plentiful oysters used to be – New York city used to be the primary exporter of oysters and clams – until sewage in the Hudson killed off the oysters.
The painting by Thomas Cole of the Catskill Mountain House reminds
that American tourism began here in the Hudson – today, you can hike up to
where the hotel used to be and gaze out over the Hudson.
exhibits surround you, and there are various interactive elements.
Journeys Upriver: The 1800s starts with a steamboat journey up the Hudson River from
the New York City harbor to Albany, inspired by one of the great tourist guides
of Hudson River history, the Panorama of the Hudson (1847).
The detailed rendering of the river landscape led steamboat and armchair
travelers from New York City to the last navigable point of the river near
Troy, pointing out natural wonders, Hudson Valley industries, notable
individuals, and Revolutionary War sites along the way. Also on view are
paintings, industrial objects, and an important Army Corps of Engineers map
that shows how the Corps engineered the river to be a more navigable and
predictable shipping channel. Hudson River School art on display include Robert
Havell Jr.’s View of Hudson River from near Sing Sing, New York (ca.
1850) and George Henry Boughton’s Hudson River Valley from Fort
Putnam, West Point (1855), both depicting tourists enjoying the
The Adirondacks: 1870s-1890s examines the creation of Adirondack Park, established
to save the source of the river and combat deforestation in order to protect
the viability of the entire Hudson watershed. Advocates for the area included
surveyor Verplanck Colvin, who mapped the area’s peaks and lakes as
superintendent of the State Adirondack Survey and identified the source of the
river at Lake Tear of the Clouds, and Seneca Ray Stoddard, a photographer whose
images of deforestation made a case for forest conservation. On view in this
section is one of Asher B. Durand’s majestic depictions of the Adirondack wilderness, Adirondack
Mountains, New York (ca. 1870).
The Palisades: 1890s-1950s traces the protection of the forests and cliffs of
the Palisades to maintain the health of the river and preserve a place for
beauty and nature. In the late 1800s, the Palisades cliffs were being blasted
to bits by road builders who prized their rock. Citizen activists, such as the
New Jersey chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the American
Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, fought back and helped create
Palisades Park in 1909. Residents of New York and New Jersey thronged to the
park, arriving by foot, ferry, train, and car, with over two million people
visiting in 1920 alone, most of them from Manhattan. The exhibition features a
selection of tourist brochures from that era, including one with a trio of
women posed on the cliff edge, above the river.
The Hudson Highlands: 1960s-1980s explores how activism along the river helped spark
the modern American environmental movement. By the early 1960s, untreated
sewage and industrial pollutants were poisoning the river. Increasing numbers
of power plants were also rising along the Hudson, whose operations were
killing millions of fish, and whose monumental structures were intruding upon
the most treasured vistas. When Con Edison announced plans to build a plant on
Storm King Mountain, citizen activists fought back and prevented its
construction. By the 1980s, citizens could legally intervene to stop
development that put treasured natural resources at risk. On view is an
aquarium featuring striped bass and other fish native to the Hudson River,
which now thrive due to activists’ efforts to save them. Displays of
artifacts, images, and media from the environmental campaigns of the era
include a 1983 photograph featuring John Cronin, river patroller for the Hudson
River Fisherman’s Association (now called Riverkeeper) on his first day on the
job, confronting an Exxon tanker discharging polluted water into the river.
The final section, A Rising
Tide: Today, discusses the process of reimagining and reclaiming the
Hudson River in the 21st century, as experts in many fields explore ways to
restore and re-engineer areas of the river in response to climate change. The
exhibition showcases innovative projects addressing these concerns, such as a
system of “living breakwaters,” reef-like structures designed to restore
diverse aquatic habitats, lessen wave impacts, and restore the shoreline,
implemented by the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery and landscape architecture
“We hope Hudson Rising will inspire visitors to
see the river differently, and how movements like environmental activism get
born,” Dr. Mirrer said.
“It’s not a new story, but this is the first exhibit that presents
such a comprehensive look at the Hudson River as an incubator of the
As part of New-York Historical’s What the
History programs, a suite of interactive talks, history classes, art-making
workshops, and social evenings for a young professional audience illuminates
the environmental history of New York, the lasting impact of the Hudson River
School painters on the American imagination, and how contemporary design and
ideas are engaging with the threats climate change pose to the city.
Visiting families can enjoy a special guide
featuring suggested exhibition highlights to view as a family, discussion
questions, and gallery-based activities. During the April School Vacation Week
(April 19-28), Museum’s family programs explore environmental activism,
including art making using recycled materials in Museum galleries. On the
weekends (April 20-21 and April 27-28) visiting families can interact with
Living Historians portraying famous and unsung activists of American history.
On April 16, architectural historian Barry
Lewis discusses how the Victorians “greened” their homes and cities, bringing
nature into city greenbelts and private home design. On May 22, Douglas
Brinkley, New-York Historical’s presidential historian, explores how presidents
like Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt championed the protection
of the nation’s natural treasures and established a sprawling network of state
parks and scenic roadways, respectively. On June 9, author Leslie Day leads a
tour along the Hudson River exploring its rich geological and human history and
its diverse ecosystems.
exhibit is particularly timely: years of exploitation and pollution have
resulted in the entire Hudson River, from the Battery to Hudson Falls, some 200
miles, designated a superfund site by EPA. Mandated clean-up by industrial
polluters including General Electric, have significantly improved conditions.
But the Trump Administration’s EPA is moving to issue a Certificate of
Completion which would end GE’s responsibility for cleaning up the Superfund
site, despite the state’s research that shows high levels of PCBs remaining in
Cuomo issued a statement ahead of Administrator Wheeler’s visit to New York:
“In New York, we
are leading the fight to protect our environment with the most ambitious
environmental agenda in the nation. Administrator Wheeler, while you are in New
York, I urge you to visit the Hudson River, one of this country’s natural
treasures that is also one of the most pressing Superfund sites in the country.
New York has fought to restore this vital resource but the ball is now in the
EPA’s court. The EPA can either do the right thing and continue to hold GE
accountable for continued clean up, or they can side with big polluters and let
GE off the hook for its responsibility to clean up PCBs in the river.
“We refused to allow PCB
contamination to continue to jeopardize the health and safety of our
communities for generations to come. We hope and expect that the EPA will join
us in ensuring the full completion of the cleanup.”
I suggested Wheeler visit “Hudson Rising”.
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical’s mission is to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation—and one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association—which contains more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings.
for Yourself: Hike the Hudson River School Art Trail
Walk in the footsteps of the Hudson River School artists Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Asher B. Durand, Jasper
Cropsey, Sanford Gifford and other pioneering American landscape artists,
literally walking into their paintings, and appreciating their work in an
entirely new way.
See what inspired Thomas Cole, his art and his passion to save the Hudson Valley environment, when you visit his home and art studio. Visit Frederic Edwin Church’s magnificent Olana, walk the gorgeous trails and see the very first protected “viewshed” (Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534, 518-828-0135, olana.org.) Hike the trails that take you up to where the Catskill Mountain House would have stood, to Sunset Rock, to Kaaterskill Falls, North-South Lake, just as the Hudson River School painters did, often with markers that show the paintings that were created from that very same vantage point.
“The Hudson River School painters
believed art to be an agent of moral and spiritual transformation. In
large-scale canvases of dramatic vistas with atmospheric lighting, they sought
to capture a sense of the divine, envisioning the pristine American landscape
as a new Garden of Eden. Their work created not only an American art genre
but also a deeper appreciation for the nation’s natural wonders, laying the
groundwork for the environmental conservation movement and National Park
The winter holiday season may well be New York City’s most magical time of the year and gets underway with the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, continues with the iconic Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, and constantly delights with festivals, special events and attractions, and all the dazzle of holiday decorations right through New Year’s Day.
“The holiday season in New York City is a spectacle unlike any other,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon “It is a time when the vibrant energy that makes up the very fabric of our city is magnified through the joy of dozens of multicultural celebrations among New Yorkers and global visitors who make the five boroughs a centerpiece of their annual festivities.”
Highlights include landmark events and first-time New York–style holiday celebrations of a nearly endless variety for travelers to enjoy this winter. Visitors delight in historic and new shopping destinations, world-famous department store window displays (Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue), unrivaled outdoor ice-skating rinks and more scattered all throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. The five-borough-wide season wraps up in a fashion as dazzling as ever with various New Year’s Eve celebrations.
As always, three iconic events bookend the introduction and conclusion of the holiday season in New York City:
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, performances by the casts of Broadway musicals, select marching bands from across the nation and celebrity appearances—kicks off the holiday season on November 22 at 9 am. A staple of the holiday season since 1924, the 92nd edition, the line-up will feature 16 giant character balloons; 43 novelty balloons, heritage balloons, balloonicles, balloonheads and trycaloons; 26 floats; 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers; more than 1,000 clowns; and 12 marching bands (macys.com/parade).
But the event has a pre-quel, The Great Balloon Inflation, that takes place the night before, when the streets around the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West are literally flooded with tens of thousands of people coming to delight in seeing the massive balloons being inflated by hundreds of volunteers.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Manhattan, November 28, 2018: A lineup of live performers rivaled by few events all year will help light up New York City’s biggest and brightest home for Santa’s Christmas eve delivery again. The more than seven-story tree will spread holiday cheer to the millions of visitors it welcomes until the lights dim on January 7 (rockefellercenter.com).
New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, Manhattan, December 31, 2018–January 1,2019: In 1904, the former New York Times owner convinced the City to rename Longacre Square in honor of the world-famous publication. In addition to the name change and the opening of NYC’s first subway line, that year marked the inaugural Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration, and the “Crossroads of the World” has been the historic backdrop of the City’s New Year’s Eve celebration ever since. Approximately 1 million visitors are expected to gather to watch the ball drop in person again this year. This is something that should be on every bucket list to do at least once in a lifetime (timessquarenyc.org).
My favorite activity for the holidays is an evening stroll to see the holiday windows and decorations. My route typically goes from Macy’s (this year’s theme, “Believe in the Wonder of Giving”), up to Fifth Avenue to Saks Fifth Avenue which is directly across from Rockefeller Center (from which you can see the amazing light show that is projected onto Saks building) and across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral (stop in), up to Bergdorf Goodman. Separately, I will take in Bloomingdale’s (a “Grinch” theme this year, connecting with the new movie), and Barney’s downtown on Broadway.
Meanwhile, there are more than a dozen celebratory events to delight this holiday season in NYC.
23 Days of Flatiron Cheer, Manhattan, December 1–23, 2018: The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership welcomes visitors this December to enjoy contests, performances, free neighborhood walking tours, giveaways from local businesses and an interactive installation in the North Public Plaza. Other unparalleled offerings can be found in the historic 103-block neighborhood stretching from 23rd to 28th Street, bordered by Third and Sixth Avenues (flatirondistrict.nyc).
A Slice of Brooklyn Christmas Lights Tour, Brooklyn, December 1–30, 2018: Every holiday season, more than 100,000 visitors descend on Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood to view the most extravagant Christmas displays in the New York City area. This tour, operated by born and raised Brooklynites, stops by the most over-the-top exhibits of the season while telling patrons the story of how “Dyker Lights” came to be nearly 40 years ago (asliceofbrooklyn.com).
Another popular tour is the holiday edition of The Ride, “a 21st century sleigh ride” aboard patented $1.5 million travelling high-tech theaters with floor-to-ceiling gigantic glass windows featuring side-facing VIP seating making the streets of New York the stage. Original seasonal music, videos and hilarious hosts support the dazzling Holiday performances along the 4.2 mile journey through Midtown Manhattan (http://experiencetheride.com, 212-221-0853).
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Holiday Engagement at New York City Center, Manhattan, November 28–December 30, 2018: City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season will feature a wide range of performances including new productions, annual favorites, live music and Alvin Ailey’s feature performance Revelations. A special show on December 11 celebrates City Center’s opening performance in 1943 (alvinailey.org).
American Museum of Natural History’s Holiday Season, Manhattan, November 20, 2018–January 7, 2019: The museum’s cultural celebrations begin with the decoration of the Origami Holiday Tree—complete with more than 800 hand-folded paper models created by local artists—and continue through the New Year. On December 29, the AMNH will host its 40th annual Kwanzaa celebration. The festival of African-American heritage celebrates the seven core principles of Kwanzaa while exploring the rich history behind its traditions. Family-friendly activities, musical performances and an international marketplace are also included (amnh.org).
Apollo Theater Presents “Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night,” Manhattan, December 29, 2018: The legendary Harlem theater is celebrating Kwanzaa with visitors for the 12th consecutive year with a night of music and dance that honors the principles of Kwanzaa—family, community and culture (apollotheater.org).
Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker, Brooklyn, December 14, 2018: The hip-hop and ballet infused replication of the holiday classic, reimagined in various Brooklyn neighborhoods, is hosted by the iconic Kings Theatre, in Flatbush, for the first time this year (brooklynballet.org).
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical: Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, December 13–30, 2018: Dr. Seuss’ holiday classic is sure to cause audiences hearts to grow at least three sizes when they watch the story of the true meaning of Christmas come to life in this limited engagement at the world’s most famous arena (msg.com/hulu-theater-at-msg).
Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science, Queens, November 10, 2018–January 21, 2019: Since 2013, the edible village at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, has set the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of gingerbread houses and structures with each new installment. The record is sure to be challenged again this year (nysci.org).
Grand Army Plaza, Largest Menorah Lighting, Brooklyn, December 2–10, 2018: With the help of local synagogues, the Grand Army Plaza, located in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has hosted the nightly lighting of the 32-foot menorah since 1984. Visitors are invited to celebrate the holiday with concerts and gifts for children through each day of the Jewish Festival of Lights (largestmenorah.com).
Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, The Bronx, December 8–9, 2018: At this holiday craft fair, in addition to creating the usual wreaths and treasure boxes, families are invited to work on the feature project: the hamsa, or hamesh, the multicultural symbol of an open hand. Guests explore the spiritual side of the holidays as they make the palm-shaped amulets (wavehill.org).
New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show, The Bronx, November 17, 2018–January 21, 2019: The annual exhibition of classical model trains moving through a hand crafted display of New York City’s built environment is back for the 27th year. More than 175 miniature iconic city structures such as Yankee Stadium, The Brooklyn Bridge and The Statue of Liberty are replicated entirely out of plant parts and will coincide with other holiday celebrations such as a cappella performances, Bar Car Nights and more at the New York Botanical Garden (nybg.org).
TheNew York City Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, one of the most beloved and anticipated holiday classics, November 23–December 30 at Lincoln Center (nycballet.com).
New-York Historical Society Presents “Harry Potter: A History of Magic”, Manhattan, through January 27: Quite literally, the most magical place to be during this holiday season is at the NYHS. Harry Potter: A History of Magic captures the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories through centuries-old treasures, including rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library, the New-York Historical Society, and other museums, as well as never before seen material from Harry Potter publisher Scholastic and J.K. Rowling’s own archives. The New York exhibition, showcasing a selection of objects not featured in the London presentation that are on view to the public for the very first time, is sponsored by Audible. There are also a slew of special events and family programming in conjunction with this not-to-be-missed exhibit, which vanishes, poof, after January 27, 2019. The tickets are timed; you can order online. Also visit The DiMenna Children’s History Museum, created for children 8-13, which presents 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits and digital games. (New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street), 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org)
New York Philharmonic Presents “Home Alone in Concert, ” Manhattan, December 20–21,2018: The acclaimed New York Philharmonic will perform John Williams’ score live to the classic Christmas film Home Alone, for a 2018–19 holiday season special event—booby traps and lovable bandits not included (nyphil.org).
New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal Holiday Train Show, Manhattan, November 15, 2018–February 3, 2019: A staple of Grand Central Terminal during the holiday season since 2001, the train show features a 34-foot-long track where vintage trains from the museum’s collection travel through a miniature New York City and countryside scene all the way to the North Pole (grandcentralterminal.com).
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, Manhattan, November 9, 2018–January 1, 2019: Everyone’s favorite high kickers dance their way from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve and champion the holiday spirit of New York City with their extravagant costumes and breathtaking state-of-the-art production (rockettes.com).
St. Thomas Church which is famous for the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, and its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 4, 6). Also this year, “A Ceremony of Carols” by Benjamin Britten (Dec. 13). (Purchase tickets, www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts); also take a tour of this magnificent edifice, built in 1913 in the French High Gothic style. (5th Avenue and 53rd Street, www.saintthomaschurch.org).
Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue is also a highlight of the holidays and it is remarkable that you can just walk in and enjoy an inspirational service.
I personally love to close out the holiday season on New Year’s Eve at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine which presents the most magnificent annual Concert for Peace, founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984 with the idea of bringing together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music in a most magnificent setting. Indeed, the cathedral offers a rich calendar of concerts throughout the holiday season, as well as tours of this architectural jewel. Check the website for details.(The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, at 112th Street, New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7540, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.stjohndivine.org)
Favorite Places to Catch the Holiday Spirit
Central Park is magical in any season, but particularly for the holidays. In addition to the Wollman Rink (wollmanskatingrink.com), The Swedish Cottage is an enchanting place that is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the country. The cottage was originally constructed as a model pre-fabricated schoolhouse, and became Sweden’s entry in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. After the exhibit, Central Park’s co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted had it placed in Central Park, where it has been headquarters for the Marionette Theater since 1939 (West Side at 79th Street). Currently playing is “Yet, Set, Snow!”, an original story and production from the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, with performances through the season until Feb. 24, 2019. (Purchase tickets, www.cityparksfoundation.org/arts/swedish-cottage-marionette-theatre)
Other favorite venues to get into the Christmas Spirit: Bryant Park, with its massive Christmas tree, ice skating rink, festive holiday markets, cafes, and carousel (wintervillage.org) has become one of the city’s iconic holiday places. Of course, there is skating right below the magnificent Christmas tree at the Rink at Rockefeller Center (therinkatrockcenter.com). There is also skating and The Rink at Brookfield Place opens November 1 (230 Vesey St., 860-209-3459, gpice.com).
Besides Bryant Park, there are holiday markets at Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Grand Central Terminal.
For a festive place to shop: The Shops at Columbus Circle, a destination within a destination that draws more than 16 million visitors per year to its 50 shops, renowned restaurants, bars and that free priceless view of Central Park (not to mention temperature-controlled and pet-friendly). But there are some spectacular happenings for the holidays:
Broadway Under the Stars is a five-week series of free public performances from today’s hottest Broadway musicals performing on the second floor mezzanine at The Shops at Columbus Circle. Participating shows include: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Head Over Heels, Kinky Boots, The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock, Waitress and Wicked (check out theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com for schedules). Performances begin Monday, Nov. 12 and take place for five consecutive Mondays through Dec. 10. Shows begin at 5 pm and last approximately 20 minutes. (Free and open to the public, no reservations or tickets are required.)
Holiday Under the Stars is The Shops at Columbus Circle’s holiday lights display, featuring 12 massive 14-foot stars which hang from the 100-foot-high ceilings. This is claimed to be the largest specialty crafted exhibit of illuminated color display in the world. There is a 5-minute daily musical light show every half hour from 5 pm to 9 pm, through the end of the year.
Culinary Delights: Among the restaurants are six Michelin Stars: from Chef Masayoshi Takayama’s Masa, the only three-star Michelin Japanese/Sushi restaurant in the U.S., to the gastronomic jewel box that is Thomas Keller’s Per Se). The Bluebird London restaurant in London and Momofuku Noodle Bar are newly opened and join the Landmarc and Porter House restaurants.
Also, from the 150-foot-high panoramic windows, visitors can take in the breathtaking views of Central Park. It’s one of the few indoor places in Manhattan where you can enjoy this vantage point.
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Flappers and Dapper Dans packed the ferry to Governors Island for the 13th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, June 16 and 17. Take heart if you missed the June weekend festival: there is another opportunity to transport yourself back to the Gatsby Era, on August 25 & 26.
The Jazz Age Lawn Party is a chance to push back the clock to a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon of sorts. It is the best of New York and brings out the best of New Yorkers. The music and atmosphere brings out pure joy -– it is one perennial smile.
For an entire afternoon you are transported – quite literally by ferry from the tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn – to the 1920s era of hot jazz. People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s as flappers and gents, bearing wicker picnic baskets (some with tables, tablecloths and candelabra), stream onto the island, with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. It is but a stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.
Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated music of the 1920s.
There is impeccable faithful reproduction – even the cocktails are Speakeasy-worthy and if you didn’t have appropriate attire, you could rent or buy vintage at one of the stalls, take a tintype photo or a photo sitting on a blue moon with a vintage camera.
Over the years, the regulars have returned, now with babies, now with toddlers, now with their little boys in their caps and suspenders, little girls with hair bows, dresses and patent leather shoes who join in the dancing.
Interlude music is provided on vintage vinyl recordings over antique gramophones.
The only thing that bursts the illusion, to jostle your memory of what year it is, are the ubiquitous cell phones.
Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed, one-of-a-kind songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure by his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the Hot Jazz of the 1920s.
The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dancefloors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore and Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; and the Gelber & Manning Band, feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together. Also Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society have come from Philadelphia, presents wry, spry, and certifiably Hot Jazz; The Great Dubini (Gregory Dubin), the resident magician in The McKittrick Follies at The Mandeerlay Bar, presents his unique brand of classic magic.
There are fun activities as well which you can join: the event typically starts with a dance lesson (the Peabody was being taught on Sunday), followed in the afternoon by a Dance Contest; a Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age (for entry email: email@example.com), and a Children’s parade.
The afternoon starts off with dance lessons in the hottest dance steps of the time, like the Peabody or Charleston. You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; the ultimate family-friendly event also features Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior Gents and Flapperettes. There’s also a 1920s MotorCar Exhibition, where you can get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, and Antique Gramophones that reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.
And what would a Prohibition-era, speakeasy event be without booze? Julie Reiner presents her Clover club Collection cocktails and VieVité, Côtes de Provence Rosé is the official wine sponsor of the Jazz Age Lawn Party. (Take note: you can’t bring in your own alcoholic beverages to Governor’s Island.)
Break away from the music and dancing to explore Governors Island, by bike or foot.
A 712-acre island in the heart of New York Harbor, but 800 yards off Lower Manhattan and even closer to Brooklyn, Governors Island is a sensational getaway destination in its own right – historic sites like Fort Jay and Castle Williams, bicycle paths, playgrounds, art venues, and marvelous festive “happenings.”
Be one of the first guests to stay overnight on NYC’s historic Governors Island with Collective Retreats. With unique accommodations including luxury tents (glamping) and designer modular containers, guests enjoy a full-service hotel-style retreat with unparalleled waterfront views of New York City and the Statue of Liberty (collectiveretreats.com).
You can rent bicycles at Citibikes and at Blazing Saddles (which offers a free hour-long ride weekdays before noon) and delightful surreys.
The Trust for Governors Island, also offers a wide variety of programming on public access days. Visit them at www.govisland.com for more information.
Access to the island has been greatly improved and time the island open to the public greatly expanded.
This summer, you can stay late on Fridays, when is open until 10 pm (May 25-September 14); you can have cocktails and dinner at the outdoor cafes and bars; outdoor films and other events are scheduled.
Governors Island is open daily May 1-October 31, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from May 25-September 14 until 10 p.m.. You can get ferry schedules here (ferries during Late Fridays will run from the Battery Maritime in Lower Manhattan, located at 10 South Street), https://govisland.com/visit-the-island/ferry.
By Karen Rubin, Dave E. Leiberman, Laini Miranda
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
The New York Philharmonic’s 2018 Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer, provided a stunning introduction to conductor James Gaffigan, a New York native and Brooklynite, leading the orchestra in a program celebrating Laureate Conductor Leonard Bernstein’s centennial, evocative works highlighting the Orchestra’s virtuosity, and compositions by fifth-grade students in the Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers (VYC) program — the first time that VYC works have been performed in the parks concerts.
The delightful program, perfect for a summer-concert-in-the-parks, featured Saint-Saëns’s Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah; Bernstein’s Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, a love letter to New York City;andRimsky-Korsakov’s storybook in symphony, Scheherazade.
The concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park June 15 featured truly remarkable performances of 2018 works by 11-year-old Very Young Composer Jordan Millar’s Boogie Down Uptown; and 10-year-old Very Young Composer Camryn Cowan’s Harlem Shake.
James Gaffigan, a proud New Yorker who introduced the concert by asking for applause for public school teachers, showed himself to be the very antithesis of the arrogant orchestra conductor, but rather, generous of praise, encouragement and exuberant emotion.
He did not use a baton for the Scheherazade. He waved his hands and arms in grand gestures, not so much conducting as dancing, performing, acting the music, bringing his whole body into it more like an opera singer than the orchestra conductor, giving the piece a staccato-like crisp precision. He conveyed an infectious joy of music. After, he congratulated Frank Huang, the brilliant concertmaster for his angelic violin solo, and then walked into the orchestra to congratulate all the solo performers, before taking the collective bow.
The summer concert series also featured performances at Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx (June 12); the Great Lawn in Central Park, Manhattan (June 13); and Cunningham Park, Queens (June 14). Musicians from the New York Philharmonic also performed Beethoven’s Wind Sextet, Op. 71; Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence; and the World Premieres of wind sextets by Very Young Composers of New York City — 14-year-old Chi-Chi Ezekwenna’s It’s Almost Summer! and 13-year-old Nicolas Lipman’s Sriracha! — in the Free Indoor Concert in Staten Island at the Music Hall at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden (June 17).
The performances in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn concluded with dazzling fireworks.
The summer series is an amazing opportunity to bring “priceless music” to new audiences absolutely free. Since 1965, the summer series has brought joy to more than 15 million New Yorkers and Big Apple visitors.
“We want all New Yorkers to love the Philharmonic as much as we do and the concerts in the Parks are a glorious way to share the Philharmonic’s virtuosity and power,” said New York Philharmonic chairman Oscar S. Schafer, who with his wife, Didi, has underwritten the series.
Here are more highlights from the concert in Prospect Park:
Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States.
At the New York Philharmonic’s website (www.nyphil.org) you can peruse online archives and exhibits, see the concert calendar, get background on the musicians, and purchase tickets.
The summer concerts also inspire visits to see the orchestra at home at Lincoln Center (David Geffen Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, 212-875-5656). There are various subscription offers – the Philharmonic was offering an opportunity to choose four or more 2018-19 subscription concerts to get one free (promo code CHOOSE4, by June 22).