March 11, 2015 By Christian Murray
Tom Finkelpearl, the Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, will be co-hosting a town hall meeting at MoMA PS 1 next Wednesday with Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
The town hall meeting was called back in December following the department’s plan to place a bright pink, 8 ½ feet tall sculpture on 43rd/Jackson Avenue. The $515,000 tax-payer funded sculpture drew much criticism when the public became aware it–since they had virtually no say in the process. The decision was left to a panel consisting of representatives from a number of city agencies and three local arts experts.
The artwork was described by residents shortly after the plans became public as the ‘Pink Panther’ and ‘Gumby’s grandmother.’ Many people still refer to it by those monikers than its proper name ‘The Sunbather.’
Van Bramer, who chairs the city council’s Cultural Affairs committee, announced that there would be a meeting with Finkelpearl in response to the outcry. He also said that he would draft legislation that would provide greater community input as to what gets erected as part of the department’s Percent for Art program.
The Sunbather is part of the Percent for Art program, where funds are specifically set aside for public art whenever capital is raised for city construction projects.
Van Bramer, however, said the town hall would not just be about the Percent for Art program. It would be a forum where the public is free to ask a wide-range of questions.
“This is a great opportunity for our community,” he said. “People will be able to talk to me as chair of cultural affairs and the commissioner at the same event.”
He said artists might have questions such as how to find affordable studio space or affordable housing in general.
For instance, he said, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in his state of the city address that he planned to provide 1,500 affordable apartments for artists and musicians over the next 10 years.
Richard Mazda, the owner of the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, said he was impressed that artists would be given an open forum to ask questions.
He said that he would be sending representatives from his theater since he has to perform that night. However, he said he would be looking to ask questions as to how the major western Queens institutions—such as MoMA PS 1 and the SculptureCenter—could work more closely with the community and grass roots organizations.
He said that could involve half-price tickets for residents—or even free entry to the major institutions during the LIC Arts Open. The major institutions do not participate in the event.
Meanwhile, Sheila Lewandowski, the executive director of The Chocolate Factory, said the event was another example of Van Bramer’s willingness to hear from artists—-whether they are individual artisans, non-profit groups or companies.
Topics that might come up, Lewandowski said, might pertain to an arts bill that Van Bramer and Councilman Stephen Levin are close to passing.
The bill, called the Comprehensive Cultural Plan, would analyze different neighborhoods and provide funding to those communities that are underserved.
The bill also aims to address the problems that artists face in getting affordable studio and rehearsal space given the city’s booming real estate market.
“He [Van Bramer] recognizes how important art is to New York’s identity,” she said. Furthermore, she added, artists from all over the city will be coming to the town hall.
Details: Town Hall
Location: MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave.)
Date: Wednesday, March 18
Time: 6:30pm to 8:30 pm