All posts by Jeanine

NoMAA: Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance

The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA) is a non-profit arts service organization whose mission is to cultivate, support and promote the works of artists and arts organizations in northern Manhattan.

NoMAA’s story begins in 2006, when the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone recognized Northern Manhattan’s need for a more cohesive cultural community in which artists and arts organizations have the resources and support necessary to maximize their artistic, social, and economic potential. NoMAA obtained its official 501(c)3 status in 2007, and was incubated by the Hispanic Federation until becoming fully independent in 2011.

NoMAA facilitates the creation of new works by both emerging and established artists; strengthens the infrastructures of local arts organizations; encourages public dialogue, engagement, and collective reflection around issues that affect upper Manhattan’s cultural community; and fosters the region’s economic development and overall vibrancy.

Up Theater Company: Detained Q & A with Director Nancy Robillard and Playwright Rosel-Mary Harrington

DETAINED: Q & A

DETAINED director NANCY ROBILLARD (L) and playwright ROSE-MARY HARRINGTON take a few questions from UP’s artistic director James Bosley about this timely new play.

Rehearsal photos by Jacki Goldhammer

JAMES: Rose-Mary, what drew you to this story?

ROSE-MARY: I was compelled to write Detained in 2008 after I learned of the plight of asylum seeking families who were being incarcerated in a former penitentiary in Texas. Children along with their parents were treated as criminals. The families fled persecution and violence and threats in their home countries seeking refuge in the United States of America. When they were apprehended at the border they were shipped to Hutto, a privately-run family detention center in Texas. In Hutto they were stripped of belongings, men and women were separated, and children over seven years old confined to their own cells. Hutto was run like a prison—with counts, laser trip wires, and meager mental and physical stimulation for the children. Even stuffed toys were banned. As Captain Viv, one of the facilitators laments, “America is better than this.”  I hope this play serves as a voice for those who do not have a voice.  I never imagined how topical immigration would become ten years from the inception of Detained.

Ken Dillon (L.E.) and Laura Fois (Captain Viv)
Ken Dillon (L.E.), Laura Fois (Captain Viv)

JAMES: Nancy, what was your first impression when you initially read the play?

NANCY: When I read the play for the first time, I realized that I had a knot in my chest the entire time I was reading it. That was a good thing—it meant I’d been deeply moved by it. I felt for the characters and the situation they are in—being in detention, their futures uncertain. Some have been there a long time, with no end in sight. I wanted to be part of telling their story.

Director, Nancy Robillard
Director, Nancy Robillard

JAMES: Rose-Mary, we’ve had a lot of back and forth on the script, including a staged reading, since you sent it to us three years ago. Was there a moment during that process that really helped clarify the story for you? Was there a moment that was especially painful?

ROSE-MARY: From the staged reading in 2016 it became apparent that I needed to develop a central character. This became Maria, a teen caught in the crossfire of immigration. She is smart, endearing, and recognizable as any kid struggling with adolescence, and with her relationship with her mother. Maria now gives the play focus and cohesiveness. The moment that was especially painful to write, and now to witness in rehearsal, is at the conclusion of the play. It is heart-breaking to watch a teen so despondent due to the suffocating circumstance she finds herself in this play.

Thomas Vorsteg (James),  Nercido Mota (Paco)
Thomas Vorsteg (James),  Nercido Mota (Paco)

JAMES: What draws you to doing new plays?

NANCY: Working with the playwright is a privilege and a luxury. It is great to be able to ask the writer. “Is this what you meant here?” Rose-Mary lives in South Carolina and flew up here to be with us for the first week of rehearsal. The cast and I spent that week with her sitting around a table, reading and analyzing scenes. She made script changes every day based on what she learned from the rehearsals. As we are staging the play, we continue to discover things about the script—what is working and what is not. Rose-Mary has joined us sometimes by Skype or Face-Time so that she can watch rehearsals and continue to make adjustments in the text. At times a writer is inspired to re-write because of something specific an actor or director has done. Other times it happens simply because we have put the play up on its feet. The writer can see it and say. “Now I know how to fix the ending.” (It is almost always the ending.) So we really learn what is working and what is not. Then we bring in the audience and learn about the play from them. It is thrilling to be part of that process, and I truly appreciate UP Theater for giving us the opportunity. It is no small feat for a theater company to produce new plays, and UP does it beautifully.

Robert S. Gregory (Firouz), Rose-Mary Harrington (playwright), Natalia Plaza (Maria), Beau McGhee (Doug)
Robert S. Gregory (Firouz), Rose-Mary Harrington (playwright), Natalia Plaza (Maria), Beau McGhee (Doug)

Artist Profile – Art at Allen: Nutritional Value

Art at Allen: Nutritional Value

By Ruth Lilienstein-Gatton
Heightsites.com

In an urban community vulnerable to the effects of gentrification, the healthiness, availability, and affordability of food are major issues. Uptowners regularly focus on the quality of local supermarket fare, restaurant choices, nutritional education in schools, and food costs. In Serving Healthful Art, a new exhibition at the Allen Hospital, four artists have produced works about food and/or its consumption that have both local relevance and global vision.  This fourth exhibition presented by the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA) in conjunction with the Allen Hospital is curated by Henone Girma of Art In FLUX, a Harlem-based pop-up art gallery. The theme ties with Allen’s mission to support community health, as well as NoMAA’s commitment to showcase uptown artists in different types of venues.

 

Each of Alexis Agliano Sanborn’s four watercolors is titled after a season, in English and Japanese, and depicts actual vegetables “in season,” subtly alluding to the unnatural, year-round availability to us of all kinds of produce. Her schematic renditions of daikons, cabbages, yams, etc., labelled in both languages, have a child-friendly charm that references the artist’s personal experiences in Japan, teaching school and partaking in communal school lunches. The paintings of sweet, succulent-looking vegetables function almost like school-room charts or illustrations in a picture book, delivering a delightful message that wholesome eating habits are a concern for all ages and cultures.

Ruben Natal-San Miguel repurposes the recognizable pop icon of canned foods in his four 16” x 20” color prints of stacked cans, many prominently featuring Goya labels, forming a wall of product. As the photographer explained at the exhibit’s opening, the visual beauty of these commercial displays was something he noticed at grocery stores in New York neighborhoods where Goya is a kitchen staple. Beyond the appetizing pleasure triggered by the colorful labels, the photographs hint at social issues.  The class consciousness inherent in food snobbishness disdains canned foods as nutritionally inferior–disregarding convenience, cost, availability, and even survival. The artist pointed out that for some people recently ravaged by the hurricane in his native Puerto Rico canned food is a lifeline: portable meals which can be consumed without the use of tainted water. Viewers may also be reminded of those nuclear fallout shelters from our cold war past, stockpiled with ‘radiation-proof’ canned food.

Science blends with fantasy in Ansel Oomen’s five, delicate pen-on-paper images of the processes of consumption. Using lines composed from small, broken, train-track-like marks in a few muted colors, the artist draws human, insect, or bird shapes gently and magically sprouting botanical parts or, conversely, plants that construct fanciful human and animal anatomies.  Organisms consume and transform one another, as in the Coke bottle flowers that pour their contents into the mouth of a human-headed butterfly creature with a tree-branch for its internal structure. Oomen’s technical medical training informs his perception of how forms natural to flora and fauna mirror each other and his drawings make a splendid, yet masterfully uncluttered meditation on the interconnectedness of the ecosystem, how plant and animal life nourish and become each other in an endless synthesis.

Stephanie Lindquist’s photo collages join a concern about global issues of agriculture and sustainability to personal themes. Her mother’s Liberian roots led the artist to research indigenous foods and cultures and to uncover a complex history of transplantation of crops from their continents of origin to another.  This fascinating line of inquiry, alluded to in combined portions of paintings and photographs, raises ideas about colonialism, poverty, hunger, and nativism. On a more intimate scale the artist incorporates images from her own life, including a potato plant she is growing in her apartment. The juxtapositions underscore the micro/macro aspects of food and eating and, as with all the work shown here, make us consider health on a communal level.

The exhibition will remain in the main corridor at the Allen Hospital through the end of June, as part of NoMAA’s 2018 Uptown Arts Stroll. It is free and open to the general public, and is designed to be appealing to children and adults.  For more info: nomaamyc.org

 

Artist Profile: Andrea Kornbluth by Mary-Beth Shine

Andrea Kornbluth:
Inwood Intaglio

On view at Indian Road Café through March 3, 2018
Presented by Jason Minter and Indian Road Shows. Curated by Jeff Hoppa.

Charmed and cursed is how Andrea Kornbluth describes the process of Intaglio printmaking, specifically the plates used in the process. Intaglio is a painstaking process of chance where an image is incised onto a metal plate. The incised lines hold the ink that create the image on paper. The resulting print could work, and if so the plate is “charmed”, or could not, and so the plate is “cursed” and the process begins again. I sat down with Andrea Kornbluth recently to talk about her influences, and what led her to printmaking over coffee at the Capital Restaurant on Broadway in Inwood.

Korrnbluth’s work is a synthesis of her life experiences. She has lived in Inwood for 8 years, and while she grew up in Forest Hill, Queens, her father grew up in Inwood, on Nagle Avenue. She also spent eight years living and working in Japan, observing the work of a master conservator of lacquer work in exchange for translation services. It was this experience – the slow and painstaking work, the tools used in conservation coupled with a B.A. in Art History and Asian Studies from Cornell University and an M.A. in Art History from Columbia University that led her to an interest in intaglio printmaking, which she studied at the Art Students League in New York. Kornbluth also has an interest in American prints from the W.P.A. era. It is at the Art Students League, where she studied the Intaglio process, that she works on her prints, using their facilities on Sundays, the only time she gets during the week (Kornbluth also holds a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and is in house counsel and US representative for the firm she works for during the week) to spend time on her art.

Another of Kornbluth’s inspirations is her love of community, evident in the way she imbues her urban landscapes with a delicacy of line, like a series of visual poems to the neighborhood she has called home for the past 8 years, the same neighborhood her father called home growing up. Further evidence of her love of her neighborhood is her rose as Secretary and Acting Treasurer of the non-profit Conservancy North.

Northern Manhattan is fortunate to have Andrea Kornbluth as a member of the community for many reasons, and if my words haven’t convinced you, visit Indian Road Café and you’ll see why.

For more information on seeing this exhibit:
https://heightsites.com/event/andrea-kornbluth-inwood-intaglio-exhibit-indian-road-shows-2018-02-18/2018-02-15/