A year ago today Hurricane Sandy struck the metro New York City as a Category 2 storm. The largest hurricane on record in terms of width – over 1,100 miles in diameter.
The Red Hook area of Brooklyn was squarely in harm’s way.
Red Hook 10/31/13

There was a thriving artist community in the area first settled by the Dutch in 1636 and named Roode Hoek. The Dutch translation of "Hoek" means the point and this point of Brooklyn sticks out into upper New York Harbor. The storm came ashore with a 9.23-foot storm surge at Red Hook.

Pioneer Works Red Hook - Back in business Fall 2013.
In the middle of all this were many artists, including Dustin Yellin at Pioneer Works, a warehouse / studio / exhibition / event space. 

One artist friend who was devastated by this catastrophe was John Gordon Gauld. 
His studio had four feet of water flow in as a toxic combination of seawater, sewage and gasoline. Nearly everything in Gauld’s life was in ruin – including his home furnishings, tools, art supplies. As John described it, “I got rashes and my skin burned from working in the water for weeks after the flood.”

Gauld Cleaning Up 12/3/12

John Gordon Gauld moved to New York after receiving a BFA from RISD (the Rhode Island School of Design) - clearly he has design in his blood, as he is the grandson of Lilly Dache, a famed French milliner and fashion designer who worked extensively in the USA. 

Gauld is in many ways more fortunate than many working artists for he enjoys gallery representation and a well-established base of collectors  and supporters, including Beth Rudin DeWoody.

Following the renovations in Red Hook, John, like so many others, faced a real dilemma.  Unable to afford to move back into their homes/studios, thereby unable to work and make a living producing art. Fortunately, John is a well connected artist and extrovert, and seems, in the past year, to be rebuilding his career. Recently I visited Salomon Contemporary Gallery which currently has a few pieces of John's paintings.

I first was introduced to John's work in 2012 at an art show opening and again at the Coalition for the Homeless ArtWalk you can go to coalition for the homeless and make a donation).

"Everything is Fine" 2012

This summer I was reintroduced through a mutual artist friend, Ellen Jong while they took a day trip to Montauk. On their way back to NYC they met me in Bridgehampton. I invited them back to my house in case it might work for him temporarily. We discussed my intention to build an Garage/Art Studio space.  I then  reached out to people I knew and who I was referred to and I called rental ads in the local papers, explaining his situation.

Gauld's Auction item for Art Walk NY
2013 "Bunny Bank"
From Sagaponack to Westhampton to Shelter Island, 
and as far East as Montauk we made calls and John 
visited many properties trying to find something suitable 
and affordable so he could cut a deal, but not with
 much luck. Not an easy task to find a home/studio
space for an artist who also has an airstream in tow.

John asked me how to best negotiate with prospective landlords who were as he described “being unreasonable”.  "Not always easy to create a meeting of the minds." 
I explained to John. The typical landlord wants 
"a reasonable security deposit and financials
such as your tax returns." 

Even with John's impressive art resume, 
and grants as a result of hurricane Sandy 
from La Napoule Art Foundation,
the Joan Mitchell Foundation
the Pollock-Krasner Foundation 
the New York Foundation of the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts,
he was still having a really  tough time finding space and signing a deal.

I met with one of John’s admirers, and an art collector in Amaganset – who also seemed to be trying to help John. John like many artists have conflicted feelings about collectors and patrons, in terms of not understanding why they are not more willing to offer them space they have in their home or in a property that is vacant. I tried to explain that these people do a lot of good and try to spread the wealth, while also having to make priorities since they are bombarded with requests. Besides, the unforeseen liabilities.

In 2012, the requests to the New York Foundation for the Arts for storm-related assistance totaled $12 million among almost 500 artists in New York and New Jersey, nearly 90 percent of them in New York, according to the executive director Michael Royce.

The Craft Emergency Relief Fund, or CERF+, said it had applications from 65 artists, most without insurance in devastated areas of Staten Island, Red Hook and Brooklyn's Greenpoint section where many waterfront warehouses have been turned into art studios.

Many artists "are still dealing with life issues and can't be thinking of earning a livelihood and are still really very fragile," said Craig Nutt, director of programs at CERF+, a national organization that helps professionals craft through personal and natural disasters.

Gauld's new home away from home.
Gauld ended up leaving for a few months to take residence in the “Beyond Sandy”  program sponsored by the La Napoule Art Foundation – located on the French Riviera in a converted castle. A wonderful and well deserved reprieve after all he had been through.

John reflected on this struggle this past year. “I do not consider myself a victim," regarding the loss of most of his belongings, he simply said, “While I do not like to over-emphasize the importance of material goods, the loss has created a hardship in functioning as an artist and as a person.”

All this seems to point once gain to the need for an east-end artist-in-resident program.
A program put in place so artists have a place to go when sudden disaster strikes or life hardships suddenly occur.

On the anniversary of Storm Sandy I asked myself again, how can I help to create a mechanism where artists can turn to for help the same way real estate brokers in NYC can? One way is supporting the exhibition that opened 10/29/13 called 
"Come Together: Surviving Sandy, Year 1" at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The show features over 300 artists including those impacted by super storm Sandy and some that were not, who are participating out of solidarity for the effected artists.

Realty Foundation of NY supporters (left to right)
Pat Frank, Larry Silverstein, Kent Swig and Jerry Cohen.
An example of a wonderful group who helps brokers in need is the 
Realty Foundation of NY - a program established in 1954 that comes to the aid of real estate brokers. I hope with the help of other patrons of the arts we can find more effective ways to help out artists who might still be in need or are in need in the future.

Another RAM adventure brought me downtown to view an uptown artist's art collection - not in his studio nor in a traditional gallery.

I can't recall ever having jumped off the 4/5 Train on Wall Street to go look at an art collection, in particular a solo show of a Harlem based artist - let alone be impressed with how it was so thoughtfully curated. It seemed to fit right in.

 Fordjour Exhibit at Sciame's Office: "Fearless Foursome"

When I arrived at the office of Sciame at 14 Wall Street, a Construction Management/Consultant/Builder company I was greeted by Derek Fordjour who explained that he works in a variety of mediums. He toured me through the space beginning in the reception area, through the foyer and the hallways, ending in a large conference room filled with amazing sculptures, each on an individual stand.

"Suspended" by Derek Fordjour 

I was tickled by how perfect this concept fit in with their corporate motto, "Where Building is Art" and mine, "Real Art Muse". The firm is known for being the builder-of-choice for highly designed and technically sophisticated projects. They have done work for the likes of, Museum of Arts and Design, Donald Judd MuseumThe Morgan Library & Museum and the Guggenheim renovation, to name just a few. I recommend you checkout their website.  I guarantee you too will be impressed with their high level of work and diverse client roster.

Speaking of impressive -- Joseph Mizzi, the President of Sciame is this super-relaxed nice guy, a contemporary art collector, and the driving force behind the use of Sciame's downtown headquarters as an art gallery space - or what I prefer to call an 
"art experience" - a well-curated corporate gallery, seamlessly executed into their Corporate HQ.

What additionally is unique is how one artist, Derek Fordjour curated and displayed all of his own artwork and then was allowed to sell his work (without a middle man) or having to give any remuneration to his hosts. As Joe said, "over 100 employees and clients get to enjoy the works first hand..." and they are all potential collectors.

Joseph Mizzi in front of his "Hot Dog w/ Glitter Mustard"

Besides construction and art - Joseph has a need to help others far away from Wall Street.  He co-founded the 
14+ Foundation with Nchimunya Wulf in 2012 to develop education programs and build schools and orphanages in Zambia, African. He is affiliated with several other local charitable organizations and on the board of the Museum of African Arts, NYC and the Bronx Museum.

I told Derek he was a lucky fella - at least lucky enough to meet Joe through his fellow artist friend, Duhirwe Rushemeza,  
who's work Joe has collected. 

Joe spoke of Duhirwe's work with me, as did Derek during the art tour at the Sciame corporate space. This showed me the mutual respect they had for each another. It was their collaboration and Joe's commitment to turn his offices into a lively space for Sciame's employees and clients, which made it feel most authentic. Joe made clear his commitment to making his office available to working artists.

The exhibit was not like other staid corporate art collections I have seen in offices, whose walls are often adorned with art by more well known artists - some like to call it "blue chip" vs. "emerging" artists.  At Sciame, there is a living and breathing relationship based on similar interests to support living artists.

    RAM w/ Derek and "Cheerleader" (mixed media)

Joe responded to Derek's work, which is why this worked. I can understand this after meeting Derek, who is not   only bright and enthusiastic, but whose talent can successfully cross mediums.

When I asked Joe why he did this, he described it as, "a fun and really great way for me to creatively connect and share art with my employees, clients and the community."

This approach is a business model well worth expanding on and further formalizing in other NYC offices. NYC is super competitive, which is why companies need to differentiate themselves. Art in corporate spaces is a creative concept that fosters goodwill and makes lasting connections. 

I have been musing about this art concept with my real estate clients, the artist community and art collectors - all of which are excited to see this idea flourish.

Turns out Harlem is closer to Wall Street than I thought! 
How great that during a walking tour in Harlem, I was exposed to some inspired new artists, that then led me to meet a highly creative and innovative patron of the arts, who's company's headquarters are based at 14 Wall Street.

All of these discoveries made during HAWT 2013 - Harlem Art Walking Tour (HAWT), billed as a community-focused event designed to attract art lovers and collectors throughout the New York City and Tri-State area.

HAWT was spearheaded by the enthusiastic Lawrence Rodriguez from Casa Frela Gallery, located at 7 West 119th Street, where he graciously hosted event participants.  The walking tour offered access to historic and architecturally interesting homes, where owners were warm and inviting, as well as many of the 100+ participating artists.

A kick-off party was held for Portland, ME based retail chain, Artists & Craftsman Supply, which opened in Harlem last summer.  I sometimes hear people describe Harlem as an "urban desert", however, after experiencing a cornucopia of art and food, including a delicious lunch at Boulevard Bistro (239 Lenox Ave.), coffee at Lenox Coffee (60 W. 129th St.), and then an afternoon snack at Papaya Seed Frozen Yogurt Cafe (171 Lenox Ave.), I couldn't disagree more.  I am looking forward to trying out the Chocolat Restaurant Lounge (2217-23 Frederick Douglas Blvd.) when I return during the        Harlem Food Festival

I scurried around Harlem in an attempt to meet as many artists as possible and ended at the home of Tirkhonova & Wintner Fine Art.  After walking up the set of tilted, rickety stairs leading to the townhouse, I was greeted by the show's curator, Yulia Tirkhonova.

With Derek Fordjour at HAWT.

What impressed me most about Yulia's curation was the interplay of large and diverse works of art, including those by an established gallery-represented artist, Yashua Klos (Tilton Gallery- NYC) as well as "free agent" emerging artists, Duhirwe Rushemeza and Derek Fordjour.

"Point Guard" acrylic, oil,
polyurethane and wood stain on
wood panel. 2013.

According to Derek, his images draw upon a variety of sources, including sports imagery to expose ideas of vulnerability, and as he sees it, the similarities between artists and athletes. He uses the imagery of athletes to remind us of their strong drive to compete and the fear of failure, while always appearing physically fit and highly capable.

I was drawn to the team dynamic and his use of rich, cheerful colors, which reminded me of a circus or carnival.  In stark contrast, the athlete's seemingly plastic, molded smiles remain unchanged, regardless of the outcome of the sporting event.  When I asked about his color inspiration, Derek told me that they came from a trip he took to Ghana - 

"...where It all came together for me. I was also motivated by memories and growing up in America which included board games, candy wrappers, carnivals, and circus toys."

With Duhirwe Rushemeza at HAWT.

Emerging artist, Duhirwe Rushemenza is a   native Rwandan and current Harlemite.  She describes her innovative approach as "urban excavation" - collecting materials such as steel and used books from around the city then applying to them a range of chemical treatments to create various marks and textures.

It was clear to me that Duhirwe's work was something that a collector who appreciate raw materials would respond to.  In my mind, Joseph Mizzi seemed the perfect choice to buy her work. Little did I know, he already had!

I later asked Duhirwe who collects her work. The concrete pieces seemed a bit cumbersome and heavy to be put on a wall.  She told me, "there is a really nice guy who works at a construction company who buys my work because he gets it" - I laughed! 

Duhirwe showed this past summer at PS 1 MOMA and MoCADA in Brooklyn, with her work contributing to their "Pattern Recognition" exhibit.

Joseph Mizzi with Duhirwe's Concrete Art.
Next stop - 14 Wall Street to visit the collector who turned out to be Joseph Mizzi, president of Sciame
a sophisticated and innovative construction management, building, and consulting firm.

Derek Fordjour, my other Harlem discovery told me that his art is currently on exhibit throughout the Sciame office. I was extremely excited to make this connection without even knowing that Joseph was the catalyst behind this unique effort.

I am grateful to the artists of HAWT who led me downtown to view an innovative use of corporate office space, turned into a quasi art gallery - or as I like to call it, an "art experience". 

This can only happen when a true visionary makes a commitment to the arts.  More about Joseph Mizzi, "the visionary", to come.

Cindy and Donna at the
Brooklyn Bridge Park.

One of my true life passions is making connections with and for other people. I have discovered that nothing rivals the power of art to help make these connections. Art often brings people together for a common worthwhile cause. My friend Donna Dodson is an example of an artist friend who excels and delights in trying to help others.

Ship of Tolerance at Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Donna connected with me at the 
“Ship of Tolerance” - a floating art gallery conceived to educate and connect youth of different continents, cultures, and identities through the language of art. 

This innovative global art project was conceived by Ilya and Emilia Kabokov.
Donna first learned of this project while working as an artist in residency at the Verbier Sculpture Park in Switzerland. The ship made a stay at Lake Mortiz in Switzerland back in 2010 for the Art Master’s Festival.

Ship of Tolerance Artists at Work.
Donna came to visit me in NYC to attend the ship’s arrival event in Brooklyn. It was held on a spectacular September day at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, as part of the 17th Annual DUMBO Arts Festival.

The ship’s sails are stitched together from individual paintings by hundreds of local schoolchildren from different ethnic and social backgrounds. They convey a message of tolerance and hope. By participating in the creation of this ship children learn about respecting different cultures and ideas while appreciating how they differ from their own.

Human beings are members of a whole, in creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain.
If you’ve no sympathy for human pain, the name of human you cannot retain.
-- Saadi, Persian poet, 12th century --
Finished Painting for Ship of Tolerance Sail.

Over the summer more than 500 local kids made painting expressing their interpretations of tolerance. Then a selection of 150 student paintings were sewn together to create the sail for the Ship of Tolerance’s stay in Brooklyn.

This project impressed me because through art it allowed local school kids to connect with a global initiative and a critically important message of practicing compassion and tolerance in our daily lives.

Ship of Tolerance Concert in NYC 
The day concluded at The Ship of Tolerance concert at the NY Historical Society  auditorium featuring 
children performers from La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York, the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, the Spivakov Foundation in Moscow and Havana.

Walking out of the concert I mused with my friend Jaies Perez who was also touched and impressed by the talented young musicians, ranging in age from 12-17 years old, who worked diligently together to add yet another artistic dimension to this worthwhile cause and adventure.

I had the chance to connect with artist and friend Donna Dodson. Based in Boston and came to visit NYC to attend the “Ship of Tolerance” event held at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, as part of the 17th Annual DUMBO ArtsFestival.

Donna under the Brooklyn Bridge with
Susanne Middelberg's "Cat Woman."

My initial attraction to Donna:s work came from seeing a wonderful work she had created in collaboration with her partner Andy Moerlein - a large Owl sculpted called the "The Seer" made from tree branch saplings. As she describes her own efforts: “‘My artwork celebrates the mystical relationship between human beings and the animal kingdom.” My personal art collection now includes Donna’s “Pink Panther” which I love because it is a panther headed goddess figure carved in beautiful pink ivory, an exotic hardwood from South Africa.

Donna and Andy are examples of a artists who had a successful artist in residence experience. She was part of the prestigious 3D 
"Pink Panther" 12" Tall. 2012
Verbier Sculpture Park residency in Verbier, Switzerland – a scenic ski resort town located in the southwest corner of the country near the French and Italian borders. The program is dedicated to creating monumental contemporary sculpture to promote art, education, and culture to international audiences.

"Baby Bringer" in Styrofoam and
cement. 12' Tall. 2011.
The Verbier Sculpture Park makes use of the breathtaking alpine backdrop of the Swiss Alps as a “Museum without walls” according to Paul Goodwin, Verbier 3-D curator. It is a popular attraction for many of the people who travel to the area for its well known “off-piste” or off-trail skiing. The stork subject was the suggestion of park co-founder Kiki Thompson - who was pregnant at the time of Donna's residency, along with 20 other women in the small mountain village of Verbier. I understand why work celebrates fertility and motherhood!

No doubt this park provides the elements that make for an ideal Artist in Residency venue: Wonderful light and an inspirational and dramatic natural setting.

Donna and Andy currently have work on display at Nesto Gallery located at the Milton Academy located in Milton, MA. This is a preview exhibit called Visions/Visiones and Connections/ Conexiónes. In February 2014 members of the Boston Sculptors Gallery together with a group of Peruvian artists will present Visions / Visiónes, at the 
Museum Saint Dominic Priory - Qorikancha in Cusco, Peru.

Museum Saint Dominic Priory - Qorikancha (Golden Enclosure) - Built atop the ruins of the Inca Empire's main temple.

The Peruvian Convent and Museum are built on the foundation of the most important Inca temple sites near MachuPicchu. The Nesto Gallery exhibits work inspired by this confluence of cultures. 

Drawings, models and work that will be shown in Peru by Boston Sculptors Gallery members will hang beside art from many notable Peruvian artists. Donna's contribution to the show is "Condorita" a Andean Condor headed female figure.
"Condorita" 23" tall. Walnut. 2013

The mystical female form, will live in a high alpine gallery, without walls, during their upcoming art show near Machu Picchu. This gives me plenty to muse about when I think of Donna and her sculptures in another naturally beautiful environment. Hope to see you all there.
Musing the "AIR" idea at the Watermill Center
with Sophie Matisse.
(Left) Talking about "RAM AIR" - Real Art Muse's "Artist in Residence" mission for the South Fork at the recent Water Mill Center show opening this summer with my friend Sophie Matisse (who donated a work for the event's auction).

I've asked many of my artist and gallery owner friends as well as real estate clients the following relevant questions:

What makes for a great art studio space?

Why is the South Fork such an ideal location for artists?

De Kooning in his well illuminated studio.

Natural Light: Often the most important consideration for any artists. Ideally plenty of natural northern exposure light, as direct sunlight changes over the course of the day and can change the way artworks can look. Full spectrum artificial lights also help extend their working hours, allowing artists to see colors and textures accurately.
Jackson Pollock at work.

Work Space: Depending on the artist's chosen medium they need adequate space to work for drafting tables, easels, big tables, empty walls to hang reference images and new work or simply lots of floor space. Good ventilation is helpful as some art supplies have strong fumes.

Inspiration: Artists need a space and a place that inspires them. For example Monet was inspired by his gardens and the way light changed and shifted throughout the day. Colors, textures and light should be available for inspiration. There are many wonderful local landscapes that influenced de Kooning's work as he spoke of and referred to.
David Salle's new studio in East Hampton.
      The Real Art Muse Hamptons artist-in-residence program will take some direction from some other social media based services such as rentasofa.com or airbnb.com that match people in need of space with property owners willing to rent it. 

Most artists are used to making do with what ever space they have available to get the job done, which if often quite modest and cramped. Imagine putting unused commercial and residential space on the East End into use for artists in need of an inspirational workspace and a roof over their head.

We have so many great local Patrons of the Arts already, and the Real Art Muse - Artist in Residence mission will be a great way to focus artists' collective energy to help grow the already vibrant art scene on the South Fork of eastern Long Island.

Now here’s a creative and ambitious idea in support of artists that just might get people talking and working together to help move this project into tangible actions 
for a worthy REAL ART cause.
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