Even More Highline Coming this Spring in NYC

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The west-side  High Line has new things to come this spring as it will soon be extending its green paths uptown to 30th Street.  There’s no official date announced but it’s sometime this spring.  The High Line is open to the public until 10pm and this summer there will be food services offered by High Line approved vendors, additional visitor services and events for all to enjoy.

Star Gazing

Grab your telescopes and join star-gazing fun at the High Line Tuesday nights.  The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York‘s will have high-powered telescopes on had with instruction and generally will be offering lessons on what goes on in the sky above New York City.  So come by at dusk and join both amateur and professional astronomers every Tuesday night during High Line’s Star Gazing Event.  Unfortunately, the first ever Star Gazing night this year was cancelled due to bad weather, but the next one is scheduled for April 19th.  Let’s all hope for a clear night.

Before it was abandoned

Food was carried into New York City with the use of large freight trains which ran besides pedestrian and vehicle traffic starting in the mid 1800’s.  As most could imagine, there were many unfortunate and sometimes fatal accidents along 10 Ave. giving it the nickname Death Ave.  The city and state recognized this huge problem and decided to lift the rails 30 feet above the street level traffic.  The tracks were built bisecting avenues and giving the freight trains the ability to directly go inside warehouses and factories.  This eliminated 105 street crossing and the trains no longer interfered with street level traffic.   These trains continued to make deliveries until the last train ran frozen turkeys to one of the remaining warehouses in 1980.  The tracks were then used by club kids in the 80’s and were home to many of New York Cities homeless up until recently.

IMG_3222Here comes the Food Vendors

Visitors have often requested that the High Line offer both food and beverage options in the middle of it all.  I’m sure there is also a need for the High Line to make some revenue to keep things looking nice.   The Friends of the High Line Association announced this March that it would be taking proposals from any vendor would like to fill out an application. According to the High Line the vendors would be chosen by them after prove that they will be appropriate for the High Line Environment.  It will be interesting on who will have the honor of being a part of the  High Line landscape.

In their words: “Friends of the High Line is looking for partners who will create food that is as thoughtful, creative, and interesting as the High Line itself and who want to build a strong partnership and active collaboration with the High Line.”

The choice of vendors will be localvore in nature and ideally will encourage connections between one another and the land around them.  It will be interesting who gets in on the action and how it will enhance the overall experience of walking the High Line.  It sounds simple and a bit utopian.  Hopefully, it won’t mean eyesore scenes like people waiting long lines for a half melted ice cream cone, dirty barrels filled with trash.   The present tranquil environment of the elevated parkway may get lost amongst the hotdog wrappers and vest touting maintenance person equipped with a broom and bucket.  I’m not sure why people just can’t pack a lunch or just walk a few feet to get something to go.  They do mention on there website that the revenue accumulated will benefit in supporting the Friends of the High Line – aka they need to have a revenue stream to keep the money flowing.

Bird Watching, walking tours and more….

Those along with new walking tours, more art work to view from the pathway and festivals with will come and go throughout the season give visitors plenty to do and see on the High Line.  Here’s what is in store so far this season.   The prices are a bit steep for me but the bird walk does sound interesting.IMG_3230

Public Art

The High Line offers activities for budget minded visitors like myself.  The main one is the numerous temporary Public Art installations that are featured along the High Line.  These come in all shapes and forms and usually give those who notice a different perspective of the space around them.  My visit the other day and included listening to the bell chimes in the 14th Street passageway.  They are a part of the Public Art installation created by artist Stephen Vitiello.  My favorite things to do in NYC is visiting Public Art installations throughout the city when ever possible.   The Public Art projects along the High Line and throughout the city are one of the unique features of New York City and literally can’t be missed unless you don’t realize that is what it is.

Flowers are out along Park Ave NYC

38 rose blossoms crawling with insects bring an early spring to Park Ave NYC thanks to the Public Art fund and artist Will Ryman.

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The towering pink and red roses adored with crawling bug sculptures stand 3′-22 feet tall along the wintry grey portion of Park Ave. between 57th and 67th Streets. The roses buds themselves weigh up to 2500 lbs. Community board #8 members raised concerns with the possible hazard they could be to passers-by but artist Ryman and his business partner Konstantin Bojanov.  All was sorted out and the sculptures were approved.

The irony in all of this is that the sculptures were scheduled to be assembled in January this year.  The same time a blizzard descended on the five boroughs whose high winds left man without power, streets that were almost.  The sculptures were still installed, safely secured and put the test right away.  They are still there and no reports of them suffering any damage despite all the storms they have had to endure.

You don’t have to wait for warmer temps to see flowers in bloom in NYC.  These public art arrangements will be on display through May 31, 2011 and they will be there to ring in the new spring flower season.

Get somewhat off the beaten path in San Francisco

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After a few days of celebrating the Giants win it is time to see the city they call home.  There are the usual attractions that people flock to which include the cablecars, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate bridge to name a few, but if you have been before or just want to learn more about the city why not find an off beat way of doing it. One of the big highlights of visiting any city is exploring it by way of public art.  San Francisco has plenty of it to share and a visitor needs to do is head out, slow down a few feet per minute and look closer to your surroundings which includes what’s above you.

Many artists have made a living by making large sculptures that can only fit inside a large space like the Tate Modern and other galleries around the world or just outdoors.  The lucky ones are able to find sponsors who will provide the funds to transport, create and/or maintain great works for just the purpose of allowing the public to view their works.

There are five particular pieces that are currently on view outdoors in the city of San Francisco.  The first one is entitled Cupids Span by Claes Oldenburg and his wife Coosje van Bruggen in 2002.  The couple have been making these colossal pieces since the late 1970’s and they have been placed all over Europe, the US, England and parts of Asia.  Cupids Span in Rincon Park in the Embarcadero area of downtown San Francisco is a 60 ft. tall 140 ft. wide piece was commissioned by Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of Gap Inc., who donated it to the City of San Francisco and was installed in November 2002.  More information about the sculpture is found here.

A neighbor of the Cupid Span is a tall silver spaceship docked near the newly renovated Ferry Building on the Embarcadero.  The ship is called the Raygun Gothic Rocketship and was created by a collaboration of artists who were sponsored by the BRAF or Black Rock Arts Foundation.  This 40ft tall ship first landed on the Burning Man festival in nearby Nevada in 2009 and will be hanging around here until September 2011 thanks to money raised by the San Francisco Port Commission and varies private donors.  Another work sponsored by BRAF which made her debut at the 2008 Burning Man Festival entitled Ecstasy is currently standing in Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley (Hayes/Octavia)

Visitors who walk west to the Moscone Center and Yerba Buena Gardens don’t have to go in to SFMOMA and other area museums to see great pieces.  The park itself is filled with beautiful landscape and performing arts space such as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Sony Metreon Theater to name a couple. It is such a work of art in itself that a most visitors can find enjoyment just walking around the grounds.  It’s a great place to picnic, catch up on the guidebook or check email if you must.

There are two large public art pieces that stand out among the rest. The first one is Three Dancing Figures by Keith Haring which is located on the southwest corner of 3rd and Howard.  Kids but not adults are allowed to climb on the sculpture which was displayed in 1989 about a year before the artists’ early death.  The sculpture was one of many brought to the city by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

If you walk east from the Three Dancing Figures you will see the fancy W hotel on the southeastern corner of 3rd and Howard.  If you are standing across the street you will get a good view of the large metal wire sculpture of a woman reclining at the edge of the first few floors.  This sculpture entitled Pneumatic Dreamer by Michael Stutz can be easily missed if you were just walking by.  This particular work was installed in 2001 and was commissioned by the SF Redevelopment Agency.

Next, continue walking a little over a mile or grabbing the MUNI up Market to the Civic Center.  This is home to San Francisco’s Symphony Hall, Main Library and Asian Art Museum.  Across from the museum is a sculpture Three Heads Six Arms by artist Zhang Huan was brought to the city also by the San Francisco Arts Foundation in part of the marking of the San Francisco-Shanghai sister city 30th Anniversary.  This colossal bronze sculpture will be guarding the Civic Center and Asian Art Museum through 2011.  I unfortunately was visiting after the Giants had won the world series, during election season and after it had been victim of graffiti and climbed on.  So it was surrounded by a tall ugly wire fence.

I couldn’t find one guide online to all free public art projects but the best thing to do is just do an online search to the city you are visiting next and you will more than likely find some.  Many times you won’t even realize that something was actually commissioned like I did while researching for this article.  I also came across something online called the San Francisco Art Hunt PDF that was quite interesting and provides a start to exploring SF’s public art.  Looking for Public Art while visiting a new city is a great way to get the lay of the land and do something a little of the beaten path.  Highly recommended.

Get out of the Rain in San Francisco

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Many artists and admirers would agree that art should be free to view by the public.  Many museums, local governments, artists and their philanthropic admirers believe this as well.  Thanks to their generosity, we the public are able to view pieces for free or at a low-cost to us the viewer.

Art galleries, museums and public outdoor art is a great way to get to know a destination especially when you are on a budget.  Most cities around the U.S. these days have sponsored free or discounted nights, days and evenings at many major galleries and museums.

In San Francisco there are many opportunities to see art for free in museums or just on the Street.  I started with a visit to SFMOMA on Tuesday where they have AT&T Free First Tuesdays.  Visitors to the Bay Area are able to see its great displays of works thanks to AT&T generous $10 Million gift to the museum in late 2008.  The museum is located in the SOMA or South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco and right across from Yerba Buena Gardens.  This fall and early winter is a great time to visit SFMOMA since the 75th Anniversary is being celebrated by a showing 400 pieces of works that represent what SFMOMA has been throughout those years.  Highlights include masterpieces by Jackson Pollock, Jeff Koons and Barry McKee.  If you don’t happen to be there during a free Tuesday the museum is well worth the full ticket price and it’s a great way to spend a not so uncommon rainy day in the Bay Area.

Another wonderful opportunity to see art for free is at the Asian Art Museum‘s  during their Target First Free Sunday’s.  The 29,000 square foot museum was relocated in March 2003 into the former main Library Building in the gritty Tenderloin/Civic Center area of San Francisco. It’s new location is much more accessible then it’s previous location in Golden Gate Park and is not too far from the SOMA section of town.  It is now a 5-10 minute walk from the MUNI or BART Civic Center Station.  The area has cleaned up in the past 10 years since I lived there, but I wouldn’t suggest being there too late in the evening.  The current exhibit is a show entitled Beyond Golden Clouds:  Five Centuries of Japanese Screens is on view until January 16, 2011.  The Target First Free Sunday’s is free to for the general museum but is $5 for special exhibits like the Golden Clouds.  The next exhibit to the museum is Bali: Art, Ritual and Performance doesn’t begin until February 25, 2011 but I’m going to try to make it to it if I can get a cheap ticket from JFK next year.  Looks amazing.

Being from New York I also expected both museums to be jammed but I was wrong.  There was plenty of room and it wasn’t hard to get a good view of the works without bored and restless children and obstructed views.  Free days to museums and similar attractions can be found in many other cities.   It’s more common then you think.  If anything,  it’s a good way to save money and maybe try something new if you don’t usually find interest in museums.