Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Museum of Chnese in America


I know that things are tough right now. Social distancing is the new normal and cultural institutions are closed. I hope that blogs like mine are helpful in providing a respite from the week’s news, and that they offer the foundation of your “After This is Over” to do list.

This week I am highlighting a museum that is dealing with a double whammy. We all know that, in this time of the COVID-19 virus, all museums in NYC are closed, and looking at major financial issues. While the NY Times focuses on large institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, truthfully, these major museums will survive. But smaller spaces are having a tougher time, and the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is no exception. But MOCA has a further stress. In January a fire raged through the building at 70 Mulberry street. This former school was home to several local cultural groups. It was also the storage facility for MOCA’s 85,000-piece collection. Luckily, the fire was on the floors above the storage space, and most of the artifacts survived, but there was significant water damage that will require much work, and of course money. You can read a recent NY Times article here.




Why is MOCA important? Well, let’s look at the the three exhibits on display when I visited for a reference. I started my visit with “The Chinese Helped Build the Railroad - The Railroad Helped Build America.” This historical exhibition represents the work of photographer Li Ju, who visited places along the route of the Tans-Continental Railroad, and recreated photos that were taken at the time of its construction. In this show, Li, and its curators, put the role of Chinese immigrants front and center in the railroad’s history.






In conjunction with the railroad’s history, MOCA also presented “Gathering.” This exhibit gave a history of 28 museums, institutions and historical societies from around the country. These organizations are dedicated to documenting the lives of Chinese-Americans in this country, past and present. Each group sent at least one artifact for display, and they are presented with a history of the organization.


Lama Temple incense from the Chicago exhibition in 1933

Member Book from the Asociacion Chinida Mexicali, 1918


The heart of MOCA is its permanent exhibit, “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America.” This is a chronological history of the lives of Chinese immigrants and their descendants in the United States. Starting with the first arrivals, the exhibit explores both the day-to-day lives of Chinese-Americans along with the effects of racism and racist laws on those lives. The role of Chines-Americans in the culture of the United States is displayed, from night clubs to films to celebrations of holidays. Descriptions of jobs and businesses are shown, along with stories of individuals and their lives. In all it is a wonderful exploration of the culture and lives of an often overlooked segment of American society.


Program from the China Doll nightclub, 1940's

Hazel Ying Lee - Womens Airforce Service Pilot, World War II

Postcard

Herbalist shop


I hope that as you are thinking about how you spend your post-COVID time, that you looked towards these smaller institutions, museums and galleries. I especially hope that, if you are in NYC , you will come to Chinatown and visit MOCA. And if you can, please donate to its recovery fund.

Nuts and Bolts:
Admission: Adults $12/ Seniors, Students, Educators and Children $8

Thursday, March 19, 2020

New York City in the time of COVID

Seen at Times Square

I am taking a break from my usual travel blogs to share a little about what New York City looks like as the restriction die to the COVID-19 crisis take effect.

Last Saturday I took a walk through Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Line outside Trader Joe's


I got to Lincoln Center around 11:00 AM and it was almost completely deserted.



On Tuesday morning I went back down to mid-town. My first stop was at Grand Central Terminal


Taking a break

Erin works at Sweetgrass. "It is crazy, I have gone from serving customers to giving food away"

Rachel was on her way to Connecticut to prepare for a Sept. wedding"I hope we will still be able to hold it."

Margarita and her son were in NYC for medical treatment. They were spending one last day to see the sights before heading home.

Clara, Leena, Georgina and Amber were visiting from Malaysia.


I walked across 42nd street towards Times Square

42nd street

Bryant Park

Rebuilding the lawn at Bryant Park

Times Square was like a ghost town






Empty, that is, except for the news crews out for a story



Along the way there many signs of the times




My last stop was at Herald Square



Another news crew
At the end of the day, we can get buried under all of the fear, or we can look for sign of hope, and know that, even as our government drags it feet and does as little as possible, we will get through this.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

MoMATH makes Math fun and explore its relationship to the world we live in.


Raise your hand if you think math is scary. I see you out there, your hand half raised, while you look over your shoulder to see if anyone else is raising theirs. Well, whether you love math, or are freaked out by it, there is a place in New York City that makes math fun, the National Museum of Mathematics.



The National Museum of Mathematics (MoMATH) opened in 2012, and is the only museum in North America dedicated to “enhancing public understanding and perception of mathematics.” It was founded by the former president of the Goudreau Museum on Long Island, which was the country’s previous math museum. What MoMATH offers is an interactive experience, where visitors can put math to work in an effort to understand what all those letters and numbers mean in the real world.

Mobius car track


When you enter MoMATH, through doors with a π-shaped handles, you enter a gallery with life-sized applications of math. You can drive a remote controlled car along a mobiles strip, or ride a platform that passes smoothly over oddly shaped supports that tumble and roll underneath, but maintain a constant height. You can experiment with the best angle and speed to shoot a basketball, or the best path for a car to come down a hill. You can even ride a tricycle with square wheels. Throughout the floor there are computer help stations and attendants to explain what is happening and the math behind each experience.

Coaster Roller

Help Station

Square Wheels
Tracks of Gallileo
On the lower level of the museum there are smaller activities that also explore mathematical relationships. There are machines and computers that carry out formula calculations and create tessellations. There are ways to explore geometry and there is even an interactive floor that creates patterns and shapes based on the relative position and movement of people who walk on it.

Math Square

Tessillations


MoMATH is the kind of museum that you and your family can spend several hours exploring and playing with math. It is a lot of fun, and you might get past some fo that fear you had when you started this piece.

Nuts and Bolts:

MoMATH is open 7 days/week from 10 AM - 5 PM.
Admission: Adult $18/ Child, Student, Senior $15

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Museum at FIT Displays the History of Fashion


New York has a large state-run university system. However New York City has only three small campuses. There is Downstate Medical University in Brooklyn, and Maritime College in the Bronx. But my exploration of small museums has drawn me to Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

The Fashion Institute of Technology was founded in 1945 to provide education in the fields of design, management, art and mass communication in the fashion industry, which was one of New York’s main manufacturing bases. The school originally occupied the top two floors of the High School of Needle Trades (today H.S. of Fashion Industry) on West 25th street and had 100 students in a two-year program. Today, FIT has over 9000 students taking many 4 year and graduates degrees in its campus on 27th street.




The Museum at FIT was founded in 1969, with a mission to produce exhibitions that educate and inspire diverse audiences and that advance the knowledge of fashion. It has a collection of 50,000 garments and accessories that date for the 18th century through today. The museum has three galleries, including one dedicated to shows curated and produced by current students.

I visited The Museum at FIT in February, and The Gallery at FIT was hosting a show entitled “Black in Time” which explored the history of fashion in the African American community over the past 100 years. It presented examples of clothes and culture from 1960’s Black Power, to Kente cloths, to club clothes from the disco era, using FIT’s archives to wonderful advantage.









The main galleries of the museum were hosting two exhibitions on ways that culture influenced fashion. On the main floor was the exhibit “Power Mode.” (Through May 9, 2020) Power Mode explores the interaction between simples of power and the design of clothing. It is divided into five sections: military, suits, protest sex and sexuality, and finally status. Examples of male and female fashion are presented in an exploration of the ways that designers have explored the themes and incorporated them into their designs.


Yves Sant Laurant's Military inspired dress

Pieces by Pyer and Moss inspired by the protest movements of the 2010's

Seditionaries and Givenchy explore sexuality

Balanciaga and Mochino  incorporate the status of big business


The main exhibit, in the Downstairs Gallery, was “Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse” (through April 18, 2020), delves into the ways that ballet costumes and their materials have been used by fashion designers. Original costumes, some dating back over 100 years, are displayed, along with the dresses, skirts and blouses inspired by them. Now, I am not a “fashion” person, although watching Project Runway has broadened my knowledge, but this exhibit really showed me the connection between ballet and fashion in ways that I would never have noticed.


Costumes by Barbara Karinska for the ballet Jewels

Barbara Karinska's costume for The Sugar Plum Fairy



Danskin's influence on fashion


Biker Ballerina by Rei Kawakubo



One of things that I learned in visiting The Museum at FIT is that there are very few truly original designers, and that fact is okay. What most fashion designers do, like most artists, is put their spin on traditional or new, and incorporate the world around them into their work.

Nuts and Bolts

The Museum at FIT is FREE! However it is part of a schools, and its exhibits tend to run along the calendar year, so the summer and January might find it in between shows.

Getting there: Take the #1 train to 28th street and walk one block south along 7th Ave.