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See This Bronx Museum Exhibit Before It Closes!

1 Mar

Have you ever been to the Bronx Museum of the Arts? I’m asking because I’ve asked many people — especially artists — that same question over the years and I’m surprised by how many Bronxites and others who love art, have never been there. Well, now is the time. “Bronx Calling: The Fifth AIM Biennial” (the result of a fellowship program) is still on exhibit, but only until March 20. The museum is FREE, on the Grand Concourse and close to D- and 4-trains. Here are just a couple of photos of a few dozen excellent pieces in the show. (Here’s a great review of it in Hyperallergic). And keep checking out the Bronx Museum.

Protest and Counter-Protest by Jesse Kreuzer, 8 x 32 feet Photo by Jordan Moss
This photo is of two works by artist Victoria-Idongesit Udondian: “Akaising” and “1271, 1245.” Photo by Jordan Moss

After 8 Years of Nothingness, Armory Ice-Rink Plan Ditched

17 Dec

Dec. 17, 2021 …. Breaking News (really, I’m not kidding!): After almost 30 years of fits and starts (and a lotta stops) on the future of the Kingsbridge Armory, the plan the city, and its chosen developer, got the OK on has been officially and legally ditched.

Almost exactly eight years ago — on Dec. 10, 2013 — the future of the historic site was handed over to KNIC (Kingsbridge National Ice Center) a group that was planning to turn the armory into a home for nine ice skating rinks, particularly for hockey teams, and 50,000-square-feet of space for local nonprofit community organizations. (The armory — the biggest one in the world! — is over 520,000 square feet.)

But virtually zilch has happened since.

So, earlier today, wondering where the heck things were at long after after KNIC took on the project, I wrote to the city agency responsible for the program: the Economic Development Corporation (EDC). This was their breaking-news response:

“We are disappointed the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory — a centerpiece of the Kingsbridge community — has been set back but we look forward to working with the community to rethink the uses of this historic building.”

And referring to a recent legal ruling that led to their disappointment, EDC added this:

“In a recent decision, the First Judicial Department of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York agreed with New York City Economic Development Corporation that KNIC did not provide the necessary evidence of financing for the ice center project at Kingsbridge Armory by the required deadline in 2016.  Therefore, the project will not be proceeding. We are disappointed that KNIC has been unable to realize the financing for the project, despite continued efforts since the 2016 deadline.”

It’s been almost 30 years since I and the Norwood News first covered the armory (see photo below), when the state handed it over to the city. The paper covered it relentlessly over the next few decades. That had an impact on helping get the empty historic facility some attention from local politicians and city agencies, as did the relentless activism of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

But now that we’re back where it all started, it needs much more media and political attention, like if the Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side suddenly went empty. No one wants another freakin 30 years of this (or even 5 or 10!). Let’s get it on the top of our elected officials’ priority list and make them focus on what the community wants and needs. —Jordan Moss

The state of the Kingsbridge Armory was covered by the non-profit Bronx community newspaper, the Norwood News,
from 1993 to 2013 and beyond.
Photo by Jordan Moss

Bronx Activist Karen Washington in The Times’ … Style Magazine!

1 Mar

March 1, 2021 — Karen Washington, a retired physical therapist, deserves coverage across the planet for her dedication to urban farming, healthy eating, social justice, and all the other work she has done in the Bronx and beyond.

But it was a surprise — a tad odd, but very cool nonetheless — that Washington (at left in photo below) and two other women, securing healthy food for all and fighting exploitation, were featured in the New York Times’ Style Magazine a couple of weeks ago. (Click below to read the article). I know Karen: wonderful, caring person, who is on the board of the Mary Mitchell Center in the Crotona section of the Bronx, the neighborhood where she also lives. In addition to the article below, you can read more about her here, here and here.

Leonardo’s Work at Bronx Museum Ignites Focus, Thought, and Hopefully … Action

26 Feb

Feb. 26, 2021 — The Bronx Museum of the Arts was almost empty when I was there on Wednesday, but the message of its Shaun Leonardo exhibit, “The Breath of Empty Space,” was full … and forceful. 

The reflections from the glass covering of each large piece make you walk up close and wonder why the heck the curator didn’t see the reflections when they were installed. When I walked up to the piec, I didn’t understand what I was looking at. I saw various clothed body sections but I didn’t understand the action being taken. There were even cutouts from the charcoal drawing.

All this had purpose. 

Though the head of a person was non-existent, that empty half-body-like section was filled with parts of me. No, I was not killed, nor did I kill, but the message I interpreted for myself is that I have some role in the tale, even if I was in bed, or at Starbucks or on a bike ride for the seven minutes that Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Anti-racism doesn’t mean not killing or not saying racist things. It means acting, speaking, showing up — against racism. There were other pieces created with related messages, some a little harder to interpret, for me at least, which is why I need to, and look forward to, returning to the exhibit to look, and think more. And read more about racism in general. And learn. And act. 

In a video on the museum’s site, Leonardo shares his message briefly but in these minimal, intense words he offers more than any art critique can provide. 

[It took me a few minutes (and I think my friend, Larry, pointed it out) to see that that the emptiness in this piece with my, and the exhibit’s, reflection in center, was the absence of George Floyd. What’s more powerful than that?]

“And if you experience something lodged in your body, some guttural, visceral impression, then I wish for you to stay with that for a moment, to sit with the hurt,” he said, “so that you may leave this exhibition questioning the ways that we perceive. And at the end of this experience, we may discover ways to move differently in the world and to breathe life into this history of violence.”

The show is on until May 30. Attendance is free but you must make a reservation which is rather easy. Go if you can!

Seeing Bronx Museum Exhibits Wherever You Are

31 Mar

Museums, galleries, theatres, schools, concert halls … they all might be technically closed but that doesn’t mean they can’t share their art and creativity. So many have! Here’s a Bronx Museum of the Arts show I haven’t gotten to see close up yet, but am grateful for its visual video existence. Take a look:

 

P.S. The Bronx Museum of the Arts is sharing much of its work online via videos like above.

Eastern Bloc Artists’ Exhibit at Derfner Judaica Museum at Hebrew Home (in Riverdale/Bronx)

13 May

Fremund

Richard Fremund (Czech, 1928–1969), Easter Landscape (Velikonocni Krajina), 1963, oil on canvas, 35 x 45 1/2 inches.

If you love art, you should get to know, if you haven’t already, the Derfner Judaica Museum, based at the Hebrew Home, in Riverdale. It’s free and wonderful to see. Here’s info on the exciting exhibit and opening on May 19 to check out …

“Derfner Judaica Museum + The Art Collection at Hebrew Home at Riverdale is pleased to announce its latest exhibition, From the Eastern Bloc to the Bronx: Early Acquisitions from The Art Collection, on view in the Derfner Judaica Museum from May 5–August 25, 2019. A reception and curator’s talk will be held on Sunday, May 19, 2019, from 1:30–3 p.m. in the Museum, located at 5901 Palisade Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. This event is free and open to the public. R.S.V.P. 718.581.1596 or art@hebrewhome.org. Photo I.D. required for entry at all times. 

“The exhibition is part of the Derfner Judaica Museum’s 10th Anniversary celebration, which will include several events and activities throughout the summer.” More info here

 

Rabin

Oscar Rabin (Russian, 1928–2018), Cats Under Crescent Moon, 1963, oil on canvas, 35 ½ x 43 ½ inches

love art, you should get to know, if you haven’t already, the Derfner Judaica Museum, based at the Hebrew Home,  in Riverdale. (It’s free and wonderful to see.) Here

We Need Local Civic Education in the Bronx and Beyond

3 Dec

12.3.18 — “One of the primary reasons our nation’s founders envisioned a vast public education system was to prepare youth to be active participants in our system of self-government. The responsibilities of each citizen were assumed to go far beyond casting a vote; protecting the common good would require developing students’ critical thinking and debate skills, along with strong civic virtues.” This is from a recent article at NEAtoday.org 

And Horace Mann, a famous public education advocate, stated something similar in the mid-1800s, according to an article in The New York Times the other day: He “wrote in 1847 that education’s purpose was to foster ‘conscientious jurors, true witnesses, incorruptible voters.'”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the above during, and since, the most recent local election for the New York State Senate. I volunteered in the campaign for State Senator-elect Alessandra Biaggi.  The level of civic awareness and activity was encouraging, invigorating, and inspiring. More people voted in a mid-term election (between the presidential races) than they had in about the last half a century.

But this will not continue if it’s just us over-50 folks that get more involved. There will be fewer and fewer of us as time goes on, so, yes, high school students will play a key role in our near future whether they are politically engaged or not. And maybe even us middle-agers won’t stay so focused in the near future. Trump got us to the polls (on both sides) but he ain’t gonna be around forever (thinking this is the only way I can stay sane).

So, to interest young people in getting involved and having an impact, what’s more important than high school students learning about what city and state governments do (and don’t do!) and what students can do to have an impact. Elected officials are only going to know what their young-adult constituents are concerned about if high school students connect with them.

So civic education is critical. I’m no expert on this but I’d be surprised if more than a few high schools in the Bronx, and beyond, focus on that. Even if they do, it’s probably rather brief.

There are some efforts to teach teens civics but the results aren’t promising. As NEA today reports: “Only 25 percent of U.S. students reach the “proficient” standard on the NAEP Civics Assessment.  White, wealthy students are four to six times as likely as Black and Hispanic students from low-income households to exceed that level. Here’s why: Students in wealthier public school districts are far more likely to receive high-quality civics education than students in low-income and majority-minority schools.”

Beyond learning who their elected officials are, high school students should learn about what they can do to act on their own concerns. How many students (and adults too) know that they can go to a NYC website to check out what their landlord isn’t fixing, what the level of crime is in their communities, where their local community board office is and how they can get involved. And they should also learn about local community organizations that may be working on issues they’re particularly concerned about.

Norman Wechsler, a Bronxite and former great principal of DeWitt Clinton High School (long before it was chopped up into several separate entities under the same roof) shared this thought with me: “It would be great if there were a requirement for students to actually meet all of their government representatives — at the city, state, federal level (Congressmen/women, Senators), to identify an important issue with which each is engaged, and to write a letter to each advocating for a matter important to them.”

That’s a great idea. Students could also work together on an issue they think is important in their own communities. That could lead them to connect with elected officials, attend community board meetings, and more.

Wechsler also says that there is “one required semester of Social Studies, usually in the 12th year, is P.I.G.- Participation in Government.” I wonder how much, if at all, that class focuses on local politics and community issues.

The lack of civics education is a problem nationwide, according to a recent Times article about how students in low-income communities learn almost nothing about government and politics, and that Rhode Island has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that that’s unconstitutional.

Above are just some thoughts and facts about the need for civic education. I’d love to know what you think, especially if you’re a student or a teacher. The State Senate, newly empowered with Democratic leadership is about to take office. It’s a perfect time to tell them what you think they should take on.

—Jordan Moss

22 Days to Go: Biaggi Will Attend Bronx Town Hall Tonight for State Senate Candidates. Will Klein?

22 Aug

With only 3 weeks (+ a day) to go before the critical primary vote on Thurs., Sept. 13 for staten senator, in the 34th Senate District (and others all over the city), the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition is hosting a Town Hall tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Monroe College, 2501 Jerome Ave. (near Fordham Road) for Senate candidates interested in representing a few northwest Bronx districts. Alessandra Biaggi will be there. I heard that her opponent, incumbent Jeff Klein has not RSVP’d. Anyone interested in learning where candidates stand on many critical issues — health care, housing, schools, jobs, etc. — are welcome to attend.