Friday, February 24, 2012

Profits for Preservation

Too many artists but not enough performance space in your city?

Heritage sites going underfinanced and underutilized in your town?

Phildalephia's preservation community has a clever solution: invite local artists to make themselves at home in the city's landmark buildings at affordable rates.

Dance, opera, classical music, lectures and exhibits are a surprising natural fit for the unique spaces in most cities.

New Century Trust in Philadelphia, for example, makes its Victorian parlors available to the public for rehearsals, lectures, recitals and more for as little as $40 per hour. Old churches and synagogues are beginning to open their doors to dance, theater and music performances.

Recently, nationally-recognized Heritage Consultant,  Donna Ann Harris, led a discussion with Philadelphia's cultural entrepreneurs that centered on the ifs and hows of partnering successfully with heritage sites. She recommended that groups approach heritage sites respectfully, with an awareness of each location's mission and history.

"It's relationship, not transaction." Ms. Harris said.

She advised all to come "bearing gifts" when meeting with heritage site directors and volunteers. Not just fees but the following:

Knowledge - When pitching an idea for an event to a heritage site show how your organization is linked to the story of the place. The more your group's history and mission match the site's the better are your chances of establishing rapport.

Awareness - Show you value the space and its treasures. Emphazise the measures you will take to ensure the site will remain undamaged. Plan to invite a curator to oversee the moving of objects and furniture when necessary.
Timing - Propose an event for a time that is unlikely to conflict with a site's calendar or schedule.

Enthusiasm - The ultimate gift is your own appreciation for the heritage site, its value and its potential to serve the community in new ways.

Inspiration - Not every heritage site director will immediately see the benefits of opening the door to new use. Inspire them to see their surroundings as versatile and full of untapped potential. Your event can bring in a new stream of funding for the building plus be a resource of new audiences for the site.

The message is clear. With mutual respect and a collaborative spirit, artists and preservationists can benefit together. Profits for Preservation!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Upper Manhattan: The Other Upper West Side

New York instinct seems to draw almost everyone on the island of Manhattan to points south of 125th Street for dining, strolling, sightseeing and general fun. Tourist maps of New York City ignore areas to the north almost entirely, ending their detailed grid coverage of the island just past Central Park North. It's no wonder locals forget and tourists skip that stretch of Broadway that extends past Morningside Heights to Washington Heights and beyond.

But isn't anyone asking, "What's Uptown?"

If you aren't a New Yorker who lives in Hamilton Heights and you don't yet know your way around Washington Heights I invite you to join me on this rainy day walk in photos to Upper Manhattan, the other Upper West Side.

You've taken the IRT 1,2, or 3 train to 125th Street and Broadway. You begin walking under steel and rumble toward destinations unknown. Welcome to the neighborhood known on tourist maps as blank space.

Salsa and reggeton spill out of stores as you move past discount shops, beauty supply houses and bodegas. You fall in step with the rhythm of the street.

A cafecito espresso and a sweet from a Dominican bake shop brightens a gray day. Smile, you are twenty blocks in both directions from the nearest Starbucks. 

Broadway may be bleak for blocks at a stretch but look up, above the sad storefronts...

and look far, down the sidestreets. There you'll find proud architecture and whispers of old New York.

Trinity Church Cemetery and The Hispanic Society of America stand atop Manhattan's steepest hill bearing witness to Broadway's long memory. Walk a tombstone garden in one then visit hushed galleries in the other.

The tang of mineral in the air reminds you there's a river nearby. You veer west to gaze at the Hudson churning under the George Washington Bridge. A playground model of it, slick with drizzle, watches for a sunny day.

What's that in the distance? The George Washington Bridge Bus Station designed by Italian engineer, Pier Luigi Nervi, in 1963.

You left quiet streets behind twenty blocks ago by the time you reach 181st Street and Broadway.

Chain stores start to outnumber mom & pop shops but the flavor is still local.

There's much more to see. Art Deco and Dutch architecture on Bennet Avenue, Fort Tryon Park and its gardens, The Cloisters Museum and Bette Midler's parkside restaurant. But what's the rush? You'll be back now that you've discovered just how interesting the blank space on a map can be.