2016-01-20 / Front Page

CB 1 Gathering Recognizes Arts

By Thomas Cogan

The arts were on parade for January’s Community Board 1 cabinet meeting, as museum, theater and film studio executives made their reports in the board room of Kaufman Astoria Studios, where CB 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris presided.  The Museum of the Moving Image will open a gallery with a permanent Jim Henson exhibit in it; Socrates Sculpture Garden is hiring several persons and paying them well; and the Noguchi Museum is celebrating its 30th anniversary and mounting significant exhibitions in addition to welcoming music and musicians.  Kaufman continues to bring Netflix, Showtime and other producers’ shows to life and also to work on Sesame Street as that show celebrates its 47th anniversary; and the Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) is putting on plays short and long.

Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image, said MMI has existed at 36-01 35th Ave., in a building that was once part of Paramount Studios’ eastern production facilities, since 1988.  He expressed his gratitude to former Borough President Claire Shulman for supporting MMI’s creation and remaining a supporter even now.  But he admitted that in the beginning there was anxiety about attracting a significant and steady audience. 

These days, MMI activities include conducting tours for 40,000 school children annually and otherwise earning wide popularity, he said.  He also said that by moving a lot of material around to create a space, MMI created a 3,000 square foot gallery devoted to the career of Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets.  (Muppets are manufactured in the Standard Motor Products Building, 37-18 Northern Blvd., Goodman noted.)  Before television and movies made the Muppets a staple, Henson’s base of operations was Sesame Street, which has been produced at Kaufman, across

36th Street from MMI, since its beginning in 1969.  Some in attendance at the meeting asked Goodman and Tracy Capune, KAS vice president, why Sesame Street has moved to Home Box Office from its original network, the Public Broadcasting System.  Goodman said HBO “saved” Sesame Street by relieving it of what Capune called “the vagaries of government funding.”  Besides, it will still be broadcast on PBS.

Capune said that KAS is doing a lot of work for several producers of television dramas and comedies, such as Netflix, Showtime and, of course, HBO; and is still busy with movies made for theatres.  She said that shooting for the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black, the television comedy/drama about a women’s prison in upstate New York, will soon begin.

Pasqualina Azzarello, director of public programs for Socrates Sculpture Park, said the park is in its 30th year and those in charge of it want to cater to “people who grew up in our park.”  In addition to the artwork on exhibit, another roster of musical events—jazz and classical, including a visit by the Metropolitan Opera, she said, saying also that the park is five acres in size and kept up well by skillful and attentive groundskeepers.  She added that the park has an expanding jobs program and pays the $15 minimum.

Azzarello also mentioned Folly 16, this year’s design/improve competition, organized by Socrates and the Architectural League of New York.  It addresses the “education corridor” on the southwest rim of the park, comprising a covered open-air and tented education workplace fronted by a greenspace and a concrete road barrier.  An entrant in the competition might design and build a new covering for the open-education workspace; or build a barrier to separate the entry driveway from the education corridor, in the process including seasonal or perennial soft-scaping; or design and build small-scale systems for the education corridor that might be in the form of a solar lighting system or a rainwater catch basin for irrigation.  This competition was announced in the fall and applications to it must be submitted by Monday, January 25.

Jennifer Burlenski, deputy director of the Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd St., at Vernon Blvd., said that Tom Sachs will be the first artist other than Noguchi to have a singular exhibition at the museum.  Called Tom Sachs:  Tea Ceremony, it will feature more than 300 porcelain bowls made by Sachs, in a specially-designed Japanese garden setting and teahouse.  It opens March 23 and is preceded by Isamu Noguchi:  Functional Ceramics, which opens January 27.  Both exhibitions close July 24.  Also opening January 27 is Design into Art:  Highlights from the Collection, featuring examples of Noguchi’s ventures not only in sculpture but also furniture and stage sets.  It runs for the rest of the year, closing January 8, 2017.  Among the musical guests is pianist Sarah Cahill, who from Wednesday, February 24 to Sunday, February 28 will be in residence in the ground-floor galleries performing Patterns of Plants, a cycle of short, post-modernist pieces by Mamoru Fujieda.

Jessica Bathurst, executive director of APAC, announced a workshop production of a new musical project, Astoria Stories, to run from February 19 through the 27, and a presentation of the musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, from May 6 through the 28.  Both will be staged at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent St., at 30th Rd.  The playwriting and performance project date is Friday evening, February 19; Spelling Bee performance dates will be announced.

A creative project from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection is now in its 30th year.  A DEP spokesman told the meeting about the Water Resources Art and Poetry Contest, open to second- to 12th-grade students in watershed area schools.  Entrants can submit artwork (paintings, photos, video art, etc.) and poetry expressing awareness and understanding of the city’s shared water resources.  Water in general, the city’s upstate water supply and wastewater treatment system and the effect of climate change are possible contest themes.  The Web site, www.nyc.gov/dep/artandpoetry, presents the contest guidelines, registration and submission of entries online and past winners’ entries.  Submission of entries must be made no later than Friday, March 4.

Cara Ochsenreiter, community director for Breaking Ground, a group for treatment of the homeless, was at the meeting as she had been in December, when the late fall weather was surprisingly mild.  January weather is back to normal and harsh, so it is especially urgent to bring the homeless in from outdoors, she said.  For anyone concerned with that, the Breaking Ground contact number remains 718-360-8031.

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