Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Archival Exhibition Celebrates Brooklyn Academy of Music


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When it comes to the performing arts, New York City may forever be synonymous with the Broadway musical, at least in the popular imagination.

However, while there’s a lot to be said for Broadway, New Yorkers and performing arts aficionados alike know that if you want to see the work of the most daring and innovative artists working in music, dance, and theatre today, you need to venture far away from the lights of the Great White Way. Continue reading

New Drama to Bring Roebling, Brooklyn Bridge to Stage


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A new drama Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge is in development for a New York City Equity Showcase Production to be produced by special arrangement between the author Mark  Violi and Theater to Go. Plans are underway to present this show in March 2013.

Based on the true story of the Roebling family who helped conceive, design and finally build the New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, the play has been endorsed by the Roebling Museum and by descendants of John Roebling. “Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge” brings to the stage the human drama surrounding the construction effort to complete one of the most enduring engineering icons in the world. 
The play examines the beginnings of the project to build the Brooklyn Bridge in1869, through its completion in 1883. It is a play about a forward thinking family on the cutting edge of the Industrial Revolution. The play shows how this project foreshadowed the 20th century in its huge ambition, the revolutionary construction techniques developed by John Roebling and implemented by his son Washington, and in the recognition of the invaluable role that a woman, Emily Roebling, played in the completion of this enormous project. 
“Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge” has had two widely acclaimed non-equity productions in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey. The New Jersey premier was produced in 2010 by invitation of the Roebling Museum to open the restored Roebling Auditorium and it was because of the overwhelming response to this play that plans were implemented to bring it to NYC. 
Fundraising has begun through IndieGoGo. Through a special arrangement with Fractured Atlas, Theater to Go is able to accept tax deductible contributions and has arranged to offer some incentives donated by the Roebling Museum including artifacts from the Roebling factories. With the success of the fundraising, this showcase production is seen as a first step toward a larger New York production. Theater to Go is well known throughout the Mid-Atlantic region for their  unique interactive theater events. At the helm is Ruth Markoe who has produced, directed and performed throughout the region for many years and who brought the NJ premier to the stage. 
Photo: Mark Violi and Ruth Markoe holding original cable from the Brooklyn Bridge (provided).  

New Crowd-Sourced Exhibition at Brooklyn Museum


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Each voter may nominate as many as three artists for inclusion in the GO exhibition, which will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from December 1, 2012, through February 24, 2013.

The ten artists with the most voter nominations will receive studio visits from Brooklyn Museum curators Sharon Matt Atkins, Managing Curator of Exhibitions, and Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, who will make the final selection of works to be included in the exhibition.

Members of the public will nominate the artists whose work will be considered for GO: a community-curated open studio project, an upcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, by registering online to vote and by visiting artist studios during the GO open studio weekend on September 8-9, 2012. 1861 Brooklyn-based artists will open their studio doors in 46 of Brooklyn’s 67 neighborhoods, covering Brooklyn’s 73 square miles.

Today marks the launch of a new phase of the GO website, which showcases participating artists and allows voters to register. By visiting www.gobooklynart.org, voters can create and share itineraries of artist studios they plan to visit on September 8 and 9. Itineraries can be accessed on the GO iPhone application, so voters may take their plans with them as they travel around Brooklyn during the open studio weekend.

On September 8 and 9, artists will open their studio doors to the public from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Voters must check in using either the GO iPhone app or SMS text messaging using a unique number assigned to each artist and posted on a sign in their studio. Voters can also write down artist numbers and enter them later at the GO website. To be eligible to vote, registrants must check in at a minimum of five studios. After the close of the open studio weekend, eligible voters will receive an email from the GOteam with nomination instructions.

GO studio map
The public nomination period will begin on September 12 and end on September 18. During that time, voters will have the option to comment on the artist studios they visited. The comments will be publicly available on the GO website and may be selected for inclusion in the exhibition GO: a community-curated open studio project.

The GO project launched in May with the goal of transforming how communities in Brooklyn, and beyond, engage with the arts by providing the public with the opportunity to discover artistic talent and get involved in the exhibition process at a grassroots level.

The project is co-organized by Atkins and Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology. GO: a communitycurated open studio project is inspired by two established programs: ArtPrize, an annual, publicly juried art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the long tradition of open studio weekends held each year in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO, Gowanus, Red Hook, and Bushwick.

Adirondack Tales: John C. Austin, Alive Or Dead


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Adirondack guides from over a century ago are themselves part of the lore and history of the region. Their handling of city “sports,” coupled with their great abilities in the woods, provided the background for many a legendary tale. Guides were often strongly independent and shared a great affinity for the solitude of the deep woods. So what were nearly two dozen of these woodsmen doing in a New York City courtroom in the winter of 1893–94?
They were present for the culmination of a terrific news story that had earned sustained coverage for more than two years. Dozens of American and Canadian newspapers followed the tale, which at times dominated the New York City media. A key component was its Adirondack connection.
The story centered on well-known businessman John C. “Jack” Austin, 38, of Brooklyn. Fit, trim, and very athletic, he participated regularly in team and individual sports. In industry, he was known to have enjoyed success, providing a comfortable, if not wealthy, existence for his family. Austin’s wife died in February 1891, leaving him with three young children to raise, which he was doing with the aid of their very attentive housekeeper.
The afternoon of July 4, 1891, was like any other holiday in Austin’s life, with plans to attend the horse races or go swimming at Manhattan Beach. He kissed the children good-bye and went on his way, promising to take them that evening to the Independence Day fireworks.
Nearly nine hours later, the clerk at Manhattan Beach was performing the nightly check of the safe’s contents when he encountered an envelope bearing the name and street address of John Austin. For bathers visiting the beach, it was normal procedure to hire a bath room for changing clothes, and to deposit any valuables (wallet, cash, rings, watches) in envelopes provided by the facility. The owner received a numbered ticket which was later used to recover those goods.
After finding the envelope with Austin’s name on it, the clerk searched Room #391, where he found a coat, vest, shirt, hat, trousers, and underwear. In the pockets of the clothing were a case of business cards, a penknife, some keys, and some pencils.
Since it was nighttime and Austin’s personal belongings were still present, there was only one logical explanation: the owner likely had drowned. The clerk called for help, and in the presence of the bathing-pavilion superintendent, the Manhattan Beach chief of police, and a fireman, the security envelope was opened.
Inside were items of varying value: a pocketbook containing a few dollars and some change; a ring with the letter S on it; and a lady’s gold watch and chain, studded with pearls.
The family was contacted and apprised of the situation. Joseph Austin (John’s brother), and Thomas Carruthers (John’s brother-in-law) positively identified the belongings as John’s, and a search was initiated. For two days, police and volunteers patrolled the water and the beaches, covering not only Manhattan Beach, but the nearby shores of Jamaica Bay, Plum Island, Rockaway, and Sheepshead Bay.
Veteran lawmen and experienced searchers knew what to do and where to look. Drownings were not uncommon off the shores of Coney Island, where tides and the prevailing winds routinely sent victim’s bodies to the shore sooner or later. Austin was presumed drowned, and alerts were issued to authorities on Staten Island as well as the New Jersey shore on the outside chance the body might surface there.
Over the course of ten days, nothing was found, which in itself stirred suspicions. Some suggested that a northwest wind had driven the body out to sea, but police and beach veterans knew better. Austin’s room, #391, had been rented at about 4:00 pm, and for several hours following, a strong flood tide had pushed inland. To a man, they recognized it as an unusual circumstance that Austin’s body had not washed ashore—if he had, in fact, drowned.
The family filed a claim with two insurance companies, where Austin’s coverage totaled $25,000 (equal to about $620,000 today). However, since no body had been recovered, one of the companies had already begun an investigation, despite the stellar public image of Austin as a respected, honest, hard-working family man. They wouldn’t be paying on the claim just yet.
A number of peculiarities, both large and small, were noted in the situation surrounding John Austin’s disappearance. He was known to be wearing a very valuable diamond ring, but only an inexpensive ring was found in the envelope.
The same was true of the lady’s watch that was found. Austin always wore his own watch, described as “a magnificent chronometer.” Friends and relatives said the valued watch was being repaired at a jeweler, but the insurance company discovered that the watch had been picked up on July 3, the day before he vanished. The jeweler’s shop was very near Austin’s office, but for some unknown reason, he had sent a messenger boy with a check to pick up the watch.
It was also learned that John Austin patronized Manhattan Beach regularly and was well known to many of the workers—yet no one recalled seeing him on July 4. Further, on that day it was chilly and windy, reducing attendance to about 600 on a beach that often held many thousands of bathers. Despite the sparseness of the crowd, no employees could be found who had seen Austin.
Co-workers and partners confirmed that the missing man always carried plenty of cash, almost never less than $100. And yet the envelope of his belongings held just a few dollars.
He was also known to many as a very prolific and strong swimmer, often covering extreme distances. Drowning seemed an unlikely end for such a fit and able swimmer.
Another possibility was floated: perhaps Austin had been hiding out while an imposter went to the beach on his behalf, used the changing room, and deposited the valuables (which had since been deemed not so valuable after all). That would explain why (in an unusually sparse crowd) no attendants had seen Austin. Maybe he hadn’t been there at all.
Many more suspicious developments spurred further investigation, expanding far from the confines of New York City. Austin’s three orphaned children were now living with his sister, who was a resident of Montreal, Quebec.
It was learned that their missing father was one of a great many city dwellers who frequented the Adirondacks for hunting and fishing expeditions. Since the Adirondacks were little more than an hour south of Montreal, investigators kept digging.
It was then ascertained that John C. Austin was no stranger to the North Country. To be more specific, a number of those stalwarts of the north woods, the Adirondack guides, claimed to have not only seen Austin since his supposed drowning, but had guided him in several areas, including the Saranac Lake region.
New developments caused further consternation. Of the two insurance policies which together were equal to well over $600,000 (in 2012), one had been secured by Austin on July 1, just three days before he vanished. And, after procuring the new policy, he had asked a secretary in the insurance office if it took effect at that very moment. It did seem an unusual query. With confirmation, he requested that the policy be sent to him ASAP. It was mailed that afternoon.
A few witnesses eventually came forth, claiming they had seen a man disappear while swimming well offshore on July 4. Skeptical detectives suggested another scenario. Since Austin was widely known as a powerful swimmer, they believed he swam a few miles out, where he was picked up by a boat and secreted for a time at the home of his good friend, Henry LaMarche, south of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, not much more than ten miles from Manhattan Beach.
LaMarche denied it, but his gardener and other employees stated emphatically that they had seen Austin with LaMarche in the days following the supposed drowning.
Following up on Jack Austin’s great love of the north woods, detectives found many Adirondack guides who had known him over the years and claimed to have recently seen him and/or worked for him. One of them provided a photograph, said to have been taken recently. It showed Austin in full hunting gear.
Confident now that this was a scam, the insurance companies denied the family’s claims, which were made on behalf of the children. Both sides had taken a firm stand, and the matter of whether or not John C. Austin was alive or dead would be decided by the courts.
Thus, in December, 1893, about twenty Adirondack woodsmen found themselves en route to New York City for an extended stay, courtesy of the insurance companies. They were to testify about their interactions with Austin and the range of his movements.

Next week: The conclusion―Adirondack guides from the big woods make a big impression in the big city.
Photos: Top―Manhattan Beach, circa 1900. Bottom―Headline from the Austin case.

The story of John Austin is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in
Adirondack & North Country Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

New Crowd-Sourced Exhibition at Brooklyn Museum


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The Brooklyn Museum is launching a borough-wide initiative in which Brooklyn-based artists will be invited to open their studios, allowing community members to visit and nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to be held at the Museum.

Brooklyn Museum curators will visit the studios of top nominated artists to select works for the exhibition. The open studio weekend for GO: a community-curated open studio project will be held September 8 and 9. The exhibition will open during First Saturday on December 1, 2012, and will be on view through February 24, 2013.
Web and mobile technology will be a central component bringing artists and community together to share information and perspectives on art. All participants (artists, voters, and volunteers) will be able to create a personal online profile at the project’s website, www.gobrooklynart.org. Artist profiles will include photos of each artist and their studio, along with images and descriptions of their work. Volunteers will be connected with their respective neighborhoods online, and voters will have profiles that track their activity during the open studio weekend and provide a platform on which to share their perspectives.

“GO is a wide-ranging and unique project that will transform how Brooklyn communities engage in the arts by providing everyone with the chance to discover artistic talent and to be involved in the exhibition process on a grassroots level. Through the use of innovative technology, GO provides every Brooklyn resident with an extraordinary opportunity to participate in the visual arts in an unprecedented way,” says Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman.

The project launched on May 18th with volunteer registration. Volunteers will identify and work with local groups and businesses within specific neighborhoods to engage artists and potential studio visitors. The Brooklyn Museum will also partner with the Brooklyn Arts Council, open studio organizations, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and Heart of Brooklyn to promote participation in GO. The New York City Housing Authority will also play an important role in engaging residents living in public housing developments in Brooklyn.

Artists will have an opportunity to register their studios at www.gobrooklynart.org in June. Artist registration will be followed by voter registration in August and early September. In October, Sharon Matt Atkins and Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, will make studio visits to the top nominated artists to select the work for the exhibition. Curators and community members will engage in a public dialogue about the selection of work.

GO continues the Brooklyn Museum’s long tradition of highlighting the borough’s community of artists. Since its 2004 exhibition, Open House: Working in Brooklyn, the largest survey to date of artists working in Brooklyn, the Museum has continued its commitment to Brooklyn artists with exhibitions by Fred Tomaselli, Lorna Simpson, and an upcoming exhibition by Mickalene Thomas, among others, and the current Raw/Cooked series of five exhibitions by under-the-radar Brooklyn artists.

A pioneer in crowd-sourced exhibitions, the Brooklyn Museum also presented Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition (2008), a photography show in which nearly 3,500 community members evaluated the work of 389 local photographers. More recently, Split Second: Indian Paintings (2011) invited the Museum’s online community to participate in the selection of works to be shown in an installation of Indian paintings.

The project organizers are Sharon Matt Atkins, Managing Curator of Exhibitions, and Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology. GO: a community-curated open studio project is inspired by two predecessors: ArtPrize, an annual publicly juried art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the long tradition of open studio events that take place each year throughout Brooklyn.

The project’s website will be updated throughout the process until the exhibition’s opening in December 2012.

Historic New York Beer Tastings Set in NYC


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To celebrate its summer exhibition Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History, the New-York Historical Society will host a series of beer tastings that showcase the thriving brewing culture in New York City and State.

Beer Here will examine the social, economic, political, and technological history of the production and consumption of beer, ale, and porter in the city from the seventeenth century to the present day. The beer tasting program, run by Starr Restaurants catering group, will take place in the exhibition’s beer hall on most Saturday afternoons from May 26 through August 25, 2012. Continue reading

Brooklyn Museum Plans New Museum Gift Shop


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A completely new, significantly larger Brooklyn Museum Gift Shop, designed by the architectural firm Visbeen Associates, is opening Wednesday April 4, 2012 in space previously devoted to temporary exhibitions. At 4,150 square feet, the new shop is 1,600 square feet larger than the shop it replaces. The store is part of a multiphase transformation of much of the Museum’s first floor designed by Ennead Architects that has already resulted in an extensive renovation of the Museum’s historic Great Hall and the creation of a major new exhibition space.

“The major goals of the new design for the first floor of the Museum have been to create a more coherent visitor experience, larger footprints for the Museum’s shop, restaurant, and exhibition galleries, and space to create a remarkable installation of major works from the Museum’s permanent collections,” comments Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman.

“The design for the new Museum Shop has created a significantly enhanced shopping environment for our visitors along with an exciting new approach to merchandising. The shop will offer a fresh selection of unique items related to the world cultures represented in the Museum’s rich permanent collection. An important feature will be products from both established as well as emerging Brooklyn designers and artisans,” states Vice Director of Merchandising Sallie Stutz.

The newly created store will be organized around an arc shape that will be reflected in a curved jewelry counter in the center that forms the focal point of the space and will be echoed in a coffered ceiling containing recessed lighting. Two light fixtures, created by Brooklyn artist David Weeks, will be focal points of the design. The shop will feature 225 linear feet of lightly stained oak casework with metal fittings, with additional free standing fixtures in which merchandise will be displayed.

The new space, along the east side of the front façade of the building, was originally built in 1904 and is one of the oldest sections in the nearly 600,000-square-foot landmark building designed by McKim, Mead, & White. A wider entrance to the shop from the Lobby will provide greater visual access to the Great Hall, assisting circulation, and a rear entrance will connect it to planned temporary exhibition galleries.

One of the first in a museum in the United States, the Brooklyn Museum Shop began in 1935 as a sales desk offering publications, postcards, and photographs of objects in the Museum’s collections. In 1954 it evolved into a Gallery Shop that specialized in toys and original folk art and crafts from around the world, as well as objects related to special exhibitions. In 1963-64, the Museum Shop produced the first shopping bag created by a museum, featuring a four-color graphic.

Following the April opening of the Museum Shop, the next phase of the first-floor transformation, scheduled for completion in late summer of 2012, will include a new Museum restaurant and cafe, a bar, and an outdoor dining terrace, all planned to be opened for lunch and dinner. The dining room will also accommodate special functions. Casual dining areas will overlook the Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden. There will be direct access to the various dining areas and bar from the Museum’s 350-car parking lot.

The final phase of the first-floor renovation will transform space that has been occupied by the current Museum Café into special exhibition galleries that will add 50 percent more floor space to the previous temporary exhibition gallery, the Robert E. Blum Gallery.

The first-floor renovation continues a major redesign of the Museum’s ground level that began in 2004 with the opening of the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, the Ennead-designed and critically acclaimed front entrance, as well as the renovated lobby, newly created front plaza and South Entrance, and expanded parking facilities.

Major support for the Museum’s extensive first floor renovation project has been provided by the City of New York through the Department of Cultural Affairs and the City Council.

Support has also been provided by Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin, Arline and Norman M. Feinberg, and Lisa and Dick Cashin.

Illustration: Brooklyn Museum Retail Shop Sketch by Visbeen Associates.

NYC Historic Districts Council Names ‘Six to Celebrate’


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The Historic Districts Council, New York’s city-wide advocate for historic buildings and neighborhoods, has announced the 2012 Six to Celebrate, an annual listing of historic New York City neighborhoods that merit preservation attention. This is New York’s only citywide list of preservation priorities.

The six neighborhoods were chosen from applications submitted by neighborhood groups around the city on the basis of the architectural and historic merit of the area, the level of threat to the neighborhood, strength and willingness of the local advocates, and where HDC’s citywide preservation perspective and assistance could be the most meaningful. Throughout 2012, HDC will work with these neighborhood partners to set and reach preservation goals through strategic planning, advocacy, outreach, programs and publicity.

“Neighborhoods throughout New York are fighting an unseen struggle to determine their own futures. By bringing these locally-driven neighborhood preservation efforts into the spotlight, HDC hopes to focus New Yorker’s attention on the very real threats that historic communities throughout the city are facing from indiscriminate and inappropriate development.” said Simeon Bankoff, HDC’s Executive Director. “As the only list of its kind in New York City, the Six to Celebrate will help raise awareness of local efforts to save neighborhoods on a citywide level.”

Founded in 1971 as a coalition of community groups from New York City’s designated historic districts, the Historic Districts Council has grown to become one of the foremost citywide voices for historic preservation. Serving a network of over 500 neighborhood-based community groups in all five boroughs, HDC strives to protect, preserve and enhance New York City’s historic buildings and neighborhoods through ongoing programs of advocacy, community development and education.

The Six to Celebrate will be formally introduced at the Six to Celebrate Launch Party on Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 5:30-7:30pm at the Bowery Poetry Club (308 Bowery at East First Street). For more information or tickets, visit www.hdc.org.

The 2012 Six to Celebrate (in alphabetical order):

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Elegant rowhouses, Victorian-era mansions and pre-war apartment buildings combine with parks, vibrant commercial streets and impressive institutional buildings to make Bay Ridge a quintessential New York City neighborhood. For more than 30 years, the Bay Ridge Conservancy has been working to preserve and enhance the built environment of this architecturally and ethnically diverse area.

Far Rockaway Beachside Bungalows, Queens

Once upon a summertime, Far Rockaway was the vacation spot for working-class New Yorkers. Although recent decades have erased much of this history, just off the Boardwalk on Beach 24th, 25th, and 26th Streets rows of beach bungalows built between 1918 and 1921 still stand. The Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association is seeking to preserve and revitalize this unique collection of approximately 100 buildings.

Morningside Heights, Manhattan

Situated between Riverside Park and Morningside Park, two scenic landmarks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and developed mainly between 1900 and 1915, Morningside Heights is characterized by architecturally-unified apartment buildings and row houses juxtaposed with major institutional groupings. The Morningside Heights Historic District Committee is working towards city designation of this elegant neighborhood.

Port Morris Gantries, The Bronx

In the South Bronx neighborhood of Port Morris, a pair of ferry gantries deteriorating in an empty lot may seem an eyesore to some, but the Friends of Brook Park sees them as the centerpiece to an engaging public space. Taking inspiration from other New York City waterside parks, this new park will combine recreation, education, and preservation of New York’s history for residents and visitors alike.

Van Cortlandt Village, The Bronx

Once the site of Revolutionary War-era Fort Independence, Van Cortlandt Village developed into a residential enclave in the 20th century. Built on a winding street plan designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, responding to the hills and views of the area, the neighborhood consists of small Neo-Colonial and Tudor revival homes and apartment buildings, including the Shalom Alecheim Houses, an early cooperative housing project. The Fort Independence Park Neighborhood Association is seeking to bring awareness to the neighborhood’s historic and architectural value as well as nominate it to the National Register of Historic Places.

Victorian Flatbush, Brooklyn

Located in the heart of Brooklyn, Victorian Flatbush is known for being the largest concentration of Victorian wood-frame homes in the country. The area presently has five New York City Historic Districts, but the blocks in between them remain undesignated and unprotected despite architecture of the same vintage and style. Six local groups representing Beverly Square East, Beverly Square West, Caton Park, Ditmas Park West, South Midwood and West Midwood have joined together with the Flatbush Development Corporation to “complete the quilt” of city designation of their neighborhoods.

New Civil War Novel Features 14th New York


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In time for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War Jack McGuire offers Joining Up (Self-Published, 2011), a new historical novel memorializing Brooklyn’s famous red-legged devils of the Fourteenth Regiment through fiction. The book offers readers insight into the abolitionist regiment that became a favorite of Abraham Lincoln.

McGuire evokes the powerful words of William Burleigh; “The gallant Fourteenth forget them not: our gallant boys who, for the nation’s life, stood amid the battle grime and noise and were baptized in its flames and blood,” setting the tone for the novel, which depicts the gallantry, bravery, and commitment to justice of the Fourteenth.

Joining Up chronicles the tale of two young boys, Will and Bobby, who run away from Saint John’s home in Brooklyn, inspired by the image of Will’s brother, Andrew, in uniform. The boys are inspired by the dauntless spirit of the Fourteenth, driven by the desire to become a part of their noble cause. McGuire addresses the mystique of their “red legs” as Will recounts a story that he had been told to his friend, Bobby; “The way I heard the story is they fought one battle in Union blue and got whipped good. They been wearing red ever since.”

The two teenage boys, backs still raw from a whipping, make their escape from the Brooklyn Orphanage to the Red Legged Devils of the Fourteenth Regiment.. En-route to the Civil War battlefields Bobby and Will become mule train drivers with a scalawag muleskinner who runs supply wagons for a Massachusetts Regiment. The search for the Fourteenth New York leads the runaways to the farmlands of Pennsylvania where Robert E Lee is about to launch his armies of Northern Virginia against George Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac. It’s the eve of the biggest battle of the Civil War when the runaways finally don Union Blue.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Brooklyn Museum Receives National Honor


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The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has selected the Brooklyn Museum as one of only ten libraries and museums to receive the 2011 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

The Brooklyn Museum was founded in 1823 as an apprentices’ library and is now one of the largest art museums in the United States, with comprehensive collections that span millennia and encompass almost every culture, enhanced by a distinguished record of exhibitions, scholarship, and service to the public.

From its beginnings the Brooklyn Museum was envisioned as an institution designed to educate the people both of Brooklyn and the world–as a “museum of everything for everyone.” Today it continues to serve as a vital educational and community resource through programs including its nationally renowned Target First Saturdays program and comprehensive on-site educational activities. The Museum’s exhibitions and arts education programs are specifically designed to develop and extend the cultural and art historical themes of its comprehensive collection.

“We are extremely proud to be recognized by IMLS with its National Medal,” commented Arnold L. Lehman, Director of the Brooklyn Museum. “To be acknowledged by IMLS from among the many thousands of institutions in the United States is an exceptional tribute to the Museum Trustees, staff, volunteers, and supporters. We are grateful to IMLS for this extraordinary honor.”

The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries for extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions. Recipients must demonstrate innovative approaches to public service and community outreach.

“Congratulations to the Brooklyn Museum on receiving the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The work you have done is an inspiration to libraries and museums throughout the nation,” said Susan Hildreth, IMLS Director. “With innovation, creativity, and a great deal of heart you have achieved an outstanding level of public service.”

The other institutions that will receive the IMLS medal this year are:

Weippe Public Library & Discovery Center, Weippe, ID
San José Public Library, San José, CA
Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL
Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, OH

EdVenture Children’s Museum, Columbia, SC
Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA
Madison Children’s Museum, Madison, WI
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Collegeville, MN

IMLS is the primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries. The National Medal for Museum and Library Service was created to highlight the vital role these institutions play in American society. Recipients are selected by the director of IMLS following an open nomination process and based on the recommendations of the National Museum and Library Services Board.

Power in a Union: The Story of American Labor


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There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray is an epic, character-driven narrative that moves between picket lines, union halls, jails, assembly lines, corporate boardrooms, the courts, the halls of Congress, and the White House.

Dray (NPR Interview) presents an urgency of the fight for fairness and economic democracy for working people — a struggle that remains especially urgent today, when ordinary Americans are so beset by economic troubles.

From the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, the first real factories in America, to the triumph of unions in the twentieth century and their waning influence today, the con­test between labor and capital for their share of American bounty has shaped our national experience. Dray’s ambition is to show us the vital accomplishments of organized labor in that time and illuminate its central role in our social, political, economic, and cultural evolution.

Philip Dray is the author of At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and made him a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Stealing God’s Thunder: Benjamin Franklin’s Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, and the coauthor of the New York Times Notable Book We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi. He lives in Brooklyn.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Brooklyn Museum Planning Keith Haring Exhibit


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Keith Haring: 1978-1982, the first large-scale exhibition to explore the early career of one of the best-known of American twentieth-century artists, will be presented at the Brooklyn Museum from April 13 through August 5, 2012. Tracing the development of the artist’s extraordinary visual vocabulary, the exhibition includes 155 works on paper, numerous experimental videos, and over 150 archival objects, including rarely seen sketchbooks, journals, exhibition flyers, posters, subway drawings, and documentary photographs.

“We are delighted to have this exceptional opportunity to present this groundbreaking exhibition of these dynamic works created by one of the most iconic and innovative artists of the late twentieth century as his formidable talents emerged,” comments Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman. “The works of art and the accompanying documentary material place in new perspective the development of this unique talent.”

Organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, by Raphaela Platow, Director and Chief Curator, and the Kunsthalle Wien, Austria, the Brooklyn presentation will be coordinated by Associate Curator of Photography Patrick Amsellem.

The exhibition chronicles the period in Keith Haring’s career from the time he left his home in Pennsylvania and his arrival in New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts, through the years when he started his studio practice and began making public and political art on the city streets. Immersing himself in New York’s downtown culture, he quickly became a fixture on the artistic scene, befriending other artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, as well as many of the most innovative musicians, poets, performance artists, and writers of the period. Also explored in the exhibition is how these relationships played a critical role in Haring’s development as a facilitator of group exhibitions and performances and, as a creator of strategies for positioning his work directly in the public eye.

Included in Keith Haring: 1978-1982 are a number of very early works that had previously never before been seen in public, twenty-five red gouache works on paper of geometric forms assembled in various combinations to create patterns; seven video pieces, including his very first, Haring Paints Himself into a Corner, in which he paints to the music of the band Devo, and Tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt; and collages created from cut-up fragments of his own writing, history textbooks, and newspapers that closely relate to collage flyers he created with a Xerox machine.

In 1978, when he enrolled in the School of Visual Arts, Keith Haring began to develop a personal visual aesthetic inspired by New York City architecture, pre-Columbian and African design, dance music, and the works of artists as diverse as Alechinsky, Dubuffet, Picasso, Willem deKooning, and Jackson Pollock. Much influenced by the gestural brushwork and symbolic forms of the abstract expressionists, his earliest work investigated patterns made of geometric forms, which evolved as he made new discoveries through experimentation with shape and line as well as the media. He meticulously documented his aesthetic discoveries in his journals through precise notes and illustrations. In 1980 he introduced the figurative drawings that included much of the iconography he was to use for the rest of his life, such as the standing figure, crawling baby, pyramid, dog, flying saucer, radio, nuclear reactor, bird, and dolphin, enhanced with radiating lines suggestive of movement or flows of energy.

The exhibition also explores Haring’s role as a curator in facilitating performances and exhibitions of work by other artists pursuing unconventional locations for shows that often lasted only one night. The flyers he created to advertise these events remain as documentation of his curatorial practice. Also examined is Haring’s activity in public spaces, including the anonymous works that first drew him to the attention of the public, figures drawn in chalk on pieces of black paper used to cover old advertisements on the walls of New York City subway stations.

Keith Haring died in 1990 from AIDS-related complications. His goal of creating art for everyone has inspired the contemporary practice of street art and his influence may be seen in the work of such artists as Banksy, Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, and SWOON, as well as in fashion, product design, and in the numerous remaining public murals that he created around the world.

Photo: Keith Haring, Untitled, 1978. Courtesy Keith Haring Foundation.

New Website Features ‘Big Maps’


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There is a new New York City addition to the Big Map Blog, a bird’s-eye view of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1885 made by noted print makers Currier & Ives. The image is freely downloadable by anyone at its highest resolution [8,999px × 6,293px].

The Big Map Blog was begun in March and already has a considerable number of large, unusual maps. “I came across many of the maps you’ll see on the Big Map Blog while doing research for a film I’m working on,” The Big Map Blog’s curator, who calls himself 59 King, reports. “While searching, I found thousands of old, beautiful maps that are sadly being kept from the public that deserves them — sometimes by clumsy or unwieldy government ftp sites, and other times by archives with steep fees for research, and steeper fees for reproduction. I felt strongly that something should be done about this.”

The site adds new maps five days a week. There are also several other NYC maps on the Big Map Blog, which can be found using the New York City tag.

Young Al Capone: Scarface in New York


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Many people are familiar with the story of Al Capone, the “untouchable” Chicago gangster best known for orchestrating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. But few are aware that Capone’s remarkable story began in the Navy Yard section of Brooklyn. Tutored by the likes of infamous mobsters Johnny Torrio and Frankie Yale, young Capone’s disquieting demeanor, combined with the “technical advice” he learned from these insidious pedagogues, contributed to the molding of a brutal criminal whose pseudonym, “Scarface,” evoked fascination throughout the world.

Despite the best efforts of previous biographers lacking true insider access, details about Capone’s early years have generally remained shrouded in mystery. Now through family connections the authors of Young Al Capone: The Untold Story of Scarface in New York, 1899-1925, William and John Balsamo, were able to access Capone’s known living associates. Collecting information through these interviews and rare documents, the life of young Al Capone in New York comes into greater focus.

Among the revelations in Young Al Capone are new details about the brutal Halloween Night murder of rival gangster “Wild Bill” Lovett, grisly details on how Capone and his Black Hand crew cleverly planned the shootout and barbaric hatchet slaying of White Hand boss, Richard “Peg Leg” Lonergan, insight into the dramatic incident that forced Capone to leave New York, and more.

Bill Balsamo, considered by some to be one of the premier Capone historians, has invested more than twenty-five years in researching and writing this book. He is the author of Crime, Inc. (now in its fifth printing). John Balsamo worked on the Brooklyn waterfront for more than thirty years while compiling extensive material regarding the life of young Capone.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Brooklyn Museum Announces New Trustees


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Associate Professor of Law at New York Law School Tamara C. Belinfanti, Forest City Ratner Companies Executive Vice President and General Counsel David L. Berliner, and Brooklyn-based artist Fred Tomaselli were elected to the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Museum at the June Board meeting. The election of Tomaselli marks the first time in recent years an artist has served on the Museum Board.

“We are delighted to welcome these three new Members. They bring a breadth of experience, interest, and expertise that will further enhance and strengthen our Board, working together with Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman and the Staff,” states newly elected Board Chair John S. Tamagni.

Tamara C. Belinfanti is an Associate Professor of Law at New York Law School and lives in Brooklyn. Previously, she was a Corporate Associate with the international law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she was a Clinical Intern to Professor Alan M. Dershowitz.

Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Forest City Ratner Companies, a Brooklyn-based real estate developer and property owner, David Berliner is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Madison Square Park Conservancy and a founding member of their Curatorial Committee, an advisory group that sources and evaluates proposals to commission work of contemporary artists to be shown in Madison Square Park.

A native of California, Fred Tomaselli emerged from the California art scene, creating installation and performance art in the early 1980s. In 1985 he moved to New York, where he was one of the pioneering artists of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His work has been shown worldwide in both galleries and museums and is represented in public and private collections. In the fall of 2010, the Brooklyn Museum presented a critically acclaimed mid-career survey of his work.

New Board Chair for Brooklyn Museum


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The Members of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Museum have elected John S. Tamagni, a member of the Board since 1987 and currently Chair of the finance committee and Board Treasurer, as the Museum’s Chair. He succeeds retiring Chair Norman M. Feinberg, who has served as Chair since 2006. Feinberg will continue to serve as an active Board member. Trustee Stephanie Ingrassia was elected Board President. Ingrassia has been a Trustee for ten years.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Tamagni has recently returned to the Borough after living in Summit, New Jersey, for four decades. He has had a connection to the Brooklyn Museum since childhood, coming as a visitor when his mother studied art at the Brooklyn Museum Art School (which was moved to the Pratt Institute in the 1980s). Following his graduation from Dartmouth College with a degree in economics, he served as a Line Officer in the United States Navy. After his release from active duty in 1959, he joined Blyth & Co. as an investment banker in its Municipal Finance group. In 1972 he moved to Lazard Frères & Co. as a General Partner and retired as a Managing Director at the end of 2005. He subsequently assumed control of Capital Markets at Lazard for corporate, government, and municipal securities. He is currently a Founding Partner and Chairman of Castleton Partners, a fixed-income investment management and advisory firm. He was Vice-Chairman of the Securities Industry Association as well as a Director. He was also Director of the Bond Market Association.

Tamagni has long been involved in philanthropic causes. He is also a Trustee of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and an overseer of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. He is a former Trustee of Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey and a former Overseer of the Graduate School of the New School in New York City. With his late wife Janet, to whom he was married for 52 years, he collected American paintings of the mid-nineteenth through early twentieth century.

Stephanie Ingrassia, who takes over the long-vacant position of President, studied fine arts and art history at Michigan State and the University of London, and received a B. A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York. A career in graphic design has included the design of books, magazines, newsletters, and promotional materials as well as teaching computer graphics at the School of Visual Arts. A collector of contemporary art, Ingrassia has served on the Brooklyn Museum Board since 2001. Prior to her election as President, she was a Vice Chair. She has also been a board member of BRIC Arts/Media and of Creative Time. She and her husband, Tim Ingrassia, and their four children live in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Museum Cancels Street Art Exhibition


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The Brooklyn Museum has canceled the spring 2012 presentation of Art in the Streets, the first major United States museum exhibition of the history of graffiti and street art. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, where it is currently on view at The Geffen Contemporary through August 8, 2011, the exhibition had been scheduled at the Brooklyn Museum from March 30 through July 8, 2012.

“This is an exhibition about which we were tremendously enthusiastic, and which would follow appropriately in the path of our Basquiat and graffiti exhibitions in 2005 and 2006, respectively. It is with regret, therefore, that the cancellation became necessary due to the current financial climate. As with most arts organizations throughout the country, we have had to make several difficult choices since the beginning of the economic downturn three years ago,” Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman said in a prepared statement.

The announcement follows a recent follows the limiting of Friday hours, effective July 1. The Brooklyn Museum will no longer remain open until 10 p.m. every Friday, a change resulting from what museum officials called “the challenging economic climate confronting many public institutions throughout New York City and the country.”

Broolyn Museum Programming, Hours Changes


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Open every Thursday evening until 10 p.m. since last October, the Brooklyn Museum will enhance its Thursdays @ 7 programming this fall to better meet the needs of visitors who work during the day.

However, effective July 1, the Brooklyn Museum will no longer remain open until 10 p.m. every Friday. This change is a result of the challenging economic climate confronting many public institutions throughout New York City and the country.

In a press statement issued last week, Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman said, “Although the difficult economy made it impossible to serve our visitors two evenings each week, based on our good experience with the history of First Saturdays, we believe that by focusing our resources on Thursday nights, we can more effectively serve our audience by presenting an increasingly dynamic and engaging schedule of programs each Thursday.”

The Museum will continue to be open every Thursday evening at 7 p.m. with a series of special programs including interviews, performance, film, and tours. The lineup for July and August is as follows:

July 7
Music: Winard Harper, one of the most celebrated drummers in jazz, performs with his sextet. Presented in conjunction with WBGO Jazz 88.3FM and Heart of Brooklyn as part of Jazz: Brooklyn’s Beat.

Moonlight Tour: “Nude, Naked, or Undressed? Eroticism in American Art”

July 14
Moonlight Tour: “Behind the Scenes with Split Second: Indian Paintings.”
Curator Joan Cummins and Director of Technology Shelley Bernstein discuss the curatorial experiment that resulted in Split Second. Space is limited, and reservations are required. RSVP to museum.guides@brooklynmuseum.org.

July 21
Moonlight Tour: “Visitor’s Choice”

July 28
Moonlight Tour: “Fantasy, Fashion, and Reality in American Art”

Film: POV Short Cuts (2011, 60 min.). A collection of documentary films on subjects ranging from bird watching and Tiffany lamps to Sunday school teachers and family relationships. Appropriate for all audiences.

August 4
Moonlight Tour: “Vishnu: Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior with Curator Joan Cummins”

August 11
Moonlight Tour: “The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago”

August 25
Film: Yogawoman (Kate Clere and Saraswati Clere, 2011, 90 min.). Documentary about how women are changing the face of yoga.

Exhibit to Focus on Gender in American Portraiture


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Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, the first major museum exhibition to explore how gender and sexual identity have shaped the creation of American portraiture, organized by and presented at the National Portrait Gallery last fall, will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from November 18, 2011, through February 12, 2012. With the cooperation of the National Portrait Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum has reconstituted the exhibition in concert with the Tacoma Art Museum, where it will be on view from March 17 through June 10, 2012.

Hide/Seek includes works in a wide range of media created over the course of one hundred years that reflect a variety of sexual identities and the stories of several generations. The exhibition also highlights the influence of gay and lesbian artists who often developed new visual strategies to code and disguise their subjects’ sexual identities, as well as their own. Hide/Seek considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern Americans, how artists have explored the definition of sexuality and gender, how major themes in modern art–especially abstraction–were influenced by marginalization, and how art has reflected society’s changing attitudes.

Announcing the Brooklyn presentation, Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman said, “From the moment I first learned about this extraordinary exhibition in its planning stages, presenting it in Brooklyn has been a priority. It is an important chronicle of a neglected dimension of American art and a brilliant complement and counterpoint to Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties, a touring exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum, also on view this fall. “

In addition to its commentary on a marginalized cultural history, Hide/Seek offers an unprecedented survey of more than a century of American art. Beginning with late nineteenth-century works by Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent, the exhibition traces the subject of gender and sexuality with approximately one hundred works by masters including Romaine Brooks, George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keeffe. It continues through the postwar periods with works by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, and Andy Warhol. The exhibition addresses the impact of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the AIDS epidemic, and the advent of postmodernism and themes of identity in contemporary art. The exhibition continues through the end of the twentieth century with major works by artists including Keith Haring, Glenn Ligon, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Catherine Opie.

The Brooklyn presentation will feature nearly all of the works included in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition. Among them are rarely seen works by Charles Demuth, whose better-known industrialized landscapes are on view in Youth and Beauty; a poignant portrait of New Yorker writer Janet Flanner wearing two masks, taken by photographer Bernice Abbott; Andrew Wyeth’s painting of a young neighbor standing nude in a wheat field, much like Botticelli’s Venus emerging from her shell; Robert Mapplethorpe’s photograph riffing on the classic family portrait, in which a leather-clad Brian Idley is seated on a wingback chair shackled to his whip-wielding partner, Lyle Heeter; and Cass Bird’s photographic portrait of a friend staring out from under a cap emblazoned with the words “I Look Just Like My Daddy.” The exhibition will also include David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly, an unfinished film the artist created between 1985 and 1987.

The original presentation was co-curated by David C. Ward, National Portrait Gallery historian, and Jonathan Katz, director of the doctoral program in visual studies at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

At the Brooklyn Museum the exhibition has been coordinated by Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Project Curator. Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture has been generously supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Additional support has been provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

Photo: Walt Whitman by Thomas Eakins. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Museum.

Museum Presents ‘The Brooklyn Artists Ball’


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The Brooklyn Museum will be partnering with Brooklyn artists to celebrate the Brooklyn Artists Ball, on Wednesday evening, April 27, 2011. This new twist on the Museum’s longstanding annual gala will celebrate the creativity and considerable influence of Brooklyn artists. Museum Trustee and arts patron Stephanie Ingrassia will chair the event with Sarah Jessica Parker acting as Honorary Co-Chair. “It is incredibly exciting for the Museum to enlarge in yet another way its already major engagement with the community of artists living and working in Brooklyn. The new direction of the Ball signifies the Museum’s enormous commitment to those artists, past and present, who are a cornerstone of the institution,” said the Museum’s Director, Arnold Lehman.

The Museum will honor Brooklyn-based artists Fred Tomaselli, Lorna Simpson, and Fred Wilson, as well as retiring Brooklyn Museum Chair, Norman M. Feinberg. Fred Tomaselli is best known for his highly detailed paintings suspended in clear epoxy resin, which he has described as windows into a hallucinatory universe. Tomaselli has exhibited at the world’s foremost galleries and institutions, including in a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2010.

Fred Wilson is an installation artist and a political activist who was chosen as the United States representative for the Venice Biennale in 2003. Wilson has had solo exhibitions around the world, including at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; and The Studio Museum in Harlem. He is also included in the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection.

Lorna Simpson’s work portrays images of black women combined with text to express contemporary society’s relationship with race, ethnicity, and sex. Simpson was the first African American woman to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale, had a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2007, and is the subject of an exhibition currently at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

The Brooklyn Artist’s Ball will commence at 6 p.m. with a special VIP cocktail reception hosted by Honorary Co-Chair Sarah Jessica Parker in the Great Hall, amid a space-altering, site-specific architectural installation created by Situ Studio, a Brooklyn-based creative practice specializing in design and fabrication. The installation, reOrder: An Architectural Environment reimagines the classically ordered space, transforming the scale of the hall with stretched fabric canopies and integrated furnishings that swell, expand, and augment the profile of the existing monumental columns. Also exhibited in the Great Hall will be a pulsating animated video environment by Brooklyn-based video artist and designer Sean Capone, whose dynamic and mesmerizing large-scale video projections have received critical acclaim for their breathtaking effect.

Following the cocktail reception a sumptuous seated dinner will take place in the Museum’s magnificent Beaux-Art Court. Table environments uniquely designed by Brooklyn-based artists including Aleksander Duravcevic, Valerie Hegarty, Ryan Humphrey, Bo Joseph, Jason Miller, Angel Otero, Duke Riley, Heather Rowe, Shinique Smith, Brian Tolle, Vadis Turner, Sara VanDerBeek and Anya Kielar, and Dustin Yellin will provide guests with an exceptional multi-sensory dining experience.

Tickets to the Brooklyn Artists Ball are available from $500 to $1,500 and tables range from $5,000 to $50,000. Tickets may be purchased online at www.brooklynmuseum.org. For further information on the event or ticket options please call (718) 501-6423 or e-mail emilie.schlegel@brooklynmuseum.org. Proceeds from the Brooklyn Artists Ball will support the Museum’s exhibition, education, and outreach programs.