Friday, June 22, 2007

An Open Letter to Staten Island Artists

"Hello Artists,

In the Massachusetts city where I grew up, Pittsfield in the Berkshires, the downtown Main Street had become obsolete when the malls went in on the other side of town. This quaint street was a ghost town until Maggie Mailer, Norman Mailer's daughter, took a storefront as her art studio. Now, many artists have taken storefront studios and the street has become a tourist attraction. They even organized and have become a non-profit entity so they can receive tax-free donations and incentives. More information can be found HERE.

Last year in Manhattan, the non-profit art space Exit Art had a show called "The Studio Visit". In this show, 8 artists, including me, moved our art studios to their large storefront windows for a few months. I was interviewed by Time Out about my studio window. More information can be found HERE. People loved watching us work in the windows.


while looking for an art studio space in St. George I have decided to take a storefront with a view of the water and ferry terminal. With the millions of tourists coming through, wouldn't it be great for them to stop by and look at (and possibly buy) my work? If there were more storefront artist studios for them to visit, wouldn't this be a great way to revitalize St. George? Think about the press we could receive. Already, NY1 News has interviewed me about my choosing St. George for my new studio (scroll down), indicating that the area may really be on the verge of a renaissance. If we all came together, we could be a much more powerful press presence, and we could make waves in Manhattan as well.

I'm renting a storefront on Stuyvesant Place and I'm offering to help others fine them as well. The stores could be shared and split by 2-3 artists. Most stores in the area rent from $1500 - $2200 a month. One artist has already contacted me and he is looking for someone to share a store with. Starting with two storefront artist studios is a great beginning and maybe others will follow. I can also help artists find spaces and advise them with everything that goes along with renting a commercial space. As many of you know, I have a large gallery and studio in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, so I know the ins and outs of commercial renting.

I'm also starting a Staten Island film/photo/event location leasing company, so if you take this space it could be added to my list of sites to be rented for lucrative film and tv shoots (and events if you are up for that). In addition, if any of you out there have unique houses or spaces on Staten Island that might be good candidates for films or television, please let me know -- I've already rented our house out three times for photo shoots and have received many more inquiries, so the interest is there.

Best wishes, Cynthia von Buhler, Artist, Author & Prodigal Borough Blogger"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ice Cream With Exceedingly Bad Taste

This is the Fresh Kills Landfill now after being treated and cleaned up. A park larger than Central Park is in the works. The air is fresh and clean. Its creeks and wetlands have been designated a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat by the New York State Dept of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Fresh Kills and its tributaries are part of the largest tidal wetland ecosystem in the region:

This is the troublesome ice cream:

I hesitate to give this ice cream company more press. It will only entice more people to buy the ice cream and it will bring them more name recognition. I have wriiten to them and while they were nice, they are not planning on shelving Land Fill. They said that they want to show all of New York City, including its "warts." So, if this is true, I propose that they make one negatively-named and one positively-named flavor for all five boroughs. I also propose that they add positive information on the backs of the containers with urls. For Land Fill they could have a funny blurb about how the site is visible from the moon but now there is a world class park in the works and its creeks and wetlands have been designated a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat. Let's try to compromise. Maybe we can use this to educate people.

UPDATE: The owners of 5 Boroughs have agreed to my plan. They already have a certain number of pint containers printed but I'm trying to see if they can make educational stickers until they sell out of the already printed containers. They are also going to put links and educational info up on their site. This a good compromise. Everyone reads the backs of ice cream pints and cereal boxes. Read their letter at the bottom of this post.

It is true, Fresh Kill was once a landfill visible from space. When the landfill became full it was closed and the city created an ambitious plan to turn the area into a city park. Plans for the park include a bird-nesting island, public roads, boardwalks, soccer and baseball fields, bridle paths and a 5,000-seat stadium. Today, freshwater and tidal wetlands, fields, birch thickets and a coastal oak maritime forest, as well as areas dominated by non-native plant species, are all within the boundaries of Fresh Kills. Already, many of the landscapes of Fresh Kills possess a stark beauty, with 360 degree, wide horizon views from the hills, over 300 acres of salt marsh and a winding network of creeks.

Go HERE to read more about the project, listen to the beautiful birds who now call these man-made rollling hills their home, and see plans for the park.

Perhaps when this new park is complete Staten Island residents will find the ice cream flavor quaint or funny but until then feelings are being hurt and compromises should be made. - CvB

Here is a New York Magazine article by Amy Zavatto, our friend and neighbor:

"Ice cream and politics don’t mix: Just look at the strange case of Staten Island Land Fill, a new flavor sold in stores by 5 Boroughs Ice Cream, and the source of a major hassle on the other side of the Verrazano. Things came to a head last Friday when Staten Island borough president Jimmy Molinaro urged an all-borough ban of 5 Boroughs Ice Cream. “Initially, we considered changing the name,” says Kim Myles, 5 Boroughs’ co-owner, “but then we realized we didn’t get into this to take direction from everybody else. And it’s our number-one seller!” What the two did not count on was what a very sore toothache the dump has become to most Islanders, long weary of being the Abbott to the-rest-of-NYC’s Costello.
Fresh Kills’ 2,200 acres shut down six years ago, and the Department of City Planning is well on its way to turning the former blight into a park, part of the reason Myles and her husband, Scott, thought borough residents would laugh it off. But so far, the controversy over the year-old flavor has been a big, drippy mess. “As a native Staten Islander and proud resident of the borough, I won’t buy any of the company’s products until they change the name,” says Staten Island Advance food critic Pamela Silvestri. Myles, however, who’s got Staten Island Cherry slotted as the next Island flavor to come off the conveyor belt, seems to get what a big nerve 5 Boroughs has irritated: “It’s really a sociological mirror. We got a funny e-mail from one Islander saying Staten Island should be glad we made a flavor for them and then suggesting a new one called Fake Tan Pecan. But I don’t think we’re going to use that one.” —Amy Zavatto, New York Magazine"
Fresh Kills Park Plans:

Letter from 5 Boroughs:


What a great idea! Kim and I both think this could work. What a great way to advertise what the island does offer and what the future looks like for it. The only problems I see are these:

1. There is not much space on the pints, but there is enough for a small intro that could be flushed out on the website page.
2. We have already bought and had printed the first 5000 pint cups. So we'll need to get through all those before we can add anything to the back of the pint. Not sure how long this will take.

Thanks so much for such a wonderful compromise/solution. Let's keep in touch and as we get closer to the time when we can change the pints we'll work it all out. In the meantime, I suppose we could link to a few Staten Island websites on our links page. These sites could have all the info you just sent me.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Staten Island Museum Clay Cat Workshop

The clay cat workshop and book reading at The Staten Island Museum was a big hit. We are doing another one on Saturday, August 25th at 2 p.m. For more information please click HERE.

Here is a letter from a parent who attended the Clay Cat Workshop at The Staten Island Museum:


Kodiak (age 4) is finished with the cat sculpture he started at your 5/19 clay workshop at the Staten Island Museum. The photos are attached. The sculpture is painted like one of his mom's cats.

I also blogged (with lots of photos) about the entire process at the link below. This post includes the trip to SI, sculpting at home, and painting... as well as the Prodigal/Splashdown backstory.

Thanks for putting on this workshop. I hope to get back to the museum this summer to take a closer look at your 'grownup' exhibit. Keep spreading the good word about Staten Island!

-Brian Hedden"