Friday, December 14, 2012


Man, I felt like such a lucky arts blogger this week when Bright Lyons Co-Owner Paul Bright offered to take me to the shop's basement to see his private and incredible collection of zines.

About a month ago, I was originally drawn into Bright Lyons, a "modern design, art, and curiosity shop," by the sight of a great Alexander Girard tapestry hanging from the ceiling.  During that original visit, Paul pointed me to an incredible and gigantic book about Girard's work.  I instantly fell in love with this visual journal of Girard's  life and art, and came back to the store again this week to take another look at it.

Turns out that Paul and his business partner Mandy Bright  possess the largest private collection of Girard's artwork and also serve as the top dealer in vintage Girard design. Impressive!

I plan on popping into Bright Lyons when I need my Girard fix.  Thanks, Paul and Mandy, for providing some Girardian inspiration!

Monday, December 10, 2012


Want a chance to win a free copy of Melissa's book?  Leave a comment on this post.  I'll be picking one commenter at random to receive Baby Penguins Everywhere!

Congratulations are in order for Melissa Guion, whose first children's picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere!, hit the shelves on December 6.

I first met Melissa Guion at Book Court in Brooklyn.  We were both there to hear children's literature expert Leonard Marcus read from Listening for Madeleine, his new treatise of A Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L'Engle.

In her friendly way, Melissa reached out to me and asked what my connection to children's literature was.  In the course of our chat, she shared the exciting news that her first children's book was soon to debut.

Over the course of coffee and bagels, I learned more about Melissa and her fascinating journey to becoming a first-time book author and illustrator.

Melissa started our chat with a surprising fact: She used to be a hedge fund manager.  "People's eyes sometimes glaze over when I share that info," said Melissa, explaining that it's a big mental leap to process a move in between such different lines of work. 

In truth, Melissa has been writing and making art all her life.  Her work history reveals her ongoing dedication to the arts.  She has been a photographer and a member of an improvisational theater company.

So what exactly accounts for the move from hedge fund VP to children's book author/illustrator?

"All along, I was making art for myself, my friends, and my friends' children," shares Melissa. "At some point, a friend who was a former literary agent asked me 'Have you thought of doing children's books?"

Melissa got busy building a body of artwork and creating a website to make it public.  Her friend sent a link to Melissa's website to an agent at Writers House. The agent phoned Melissa and expressed great interest in her work. He suggested she try to come up with a story, then turn it into a rough 32-page picture book dummy. Melissa found it difficult to make progress on the task at hand after giving birth to her daughter, but eventually renting a studio space up the street made it easier to focus, as did receiving a modest art grant. 

Melissa's agent began making introductions between Melissa and folks in the world of children's book publishing. It was a promotional mailing initiated by her agent that got her art noticed by a wider audience.

"I had worked hard in isolation for a lot of years, so it was good for me to have this promotional postcard be so well-received," Melissa revealed.

It took a bit of time for Melissa to complete Baby Penguins Everywhere, but she did it!  And now Melissa is painting the town red as she visits different bookstores to do readings. 

My personal takeaway from Melissa's story?  It's never too late to go after a creative dream.  

I wish Melissa much success in her continued work in the world of children's literature!

Click HERE to find a listing of dates and places where Melissa will be reading her new book!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


What's not to love about Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Mariah, and young people singing (love the knit monkey hat!) This video is an instant spirit-booster.

Monday, December 03, 2012


Some of the holiday cards I've sent over the years
Sure, people love to give and get gifts this time of year.  But to me, nothing beats getting a bunch of fun holiday cards in the mail and then putting them up to look at each day.  Part of the reason I'm impartial to "real" paper-based correspondence is that I love everything related to mail  - stamps, cards, stationary, stickers, the whole nine yards.  When I was little, I would walk to the local Hallmark store and spend hours looking at cards, calendars, stickers  and scrapbooks.  I was (and still am!) in love with those tiny, free calendars they give out which list things like holidays; birthstones (I hated that mine was topaz; I wanted diamond or ruby!); birth flowers; modern and traditional gifts for wedding anniversaries. 

It's not really surprising that I love all this stuff.  I grew up in a family that prized hand-written letters.  This group included my grandma, who regularly wrote letters to me and included magazine and newspaper articles about things I was interested in.  At holiday time, my nuclear family members (mom, dad, brother, me) each wrote each other a blessing - a hand-written expression of what we appreciated about one another and what we wished for each other in the year ahead.  We started that tradition when my brother was five and struggled to form his letters.  I still have that blessing and  almost all the blessings we ever exchanged over a 20-plus year period.

When I was growing up, my dad, then a children's dentist, would send out holiday cards to at least 300 people - colleagues, patients ,family friends, etc.    The cool thing is that he would pay me a little something to hand address and put stamps on each letter.  The amazing this is that he wrote personal notes to each and every one of these people.

Thirteen years ago, I started my own holiday time tradition by sending cards accompanied by a typed letter with highlights from the year.  A few years into this ritual, I began to alphabetize the list.

Does this tradition take time?  Yes, it does!  All said and done, I invest about 15 hours.  It helps to start early, break it down into 1- or 2-hour time slots, and do some of it while listening to holiday music or having fun tv shows on in the background.

Like any other tradition that involves an investment, there's a pretty generous return on the investment.

Here's some good things that come out of it:

1.  It's so awesome having an excuse to go into a bunch of stationery and paper good stores:  I'm looking for a really festive card to send out to a bunch of folks!  Then there's the pleasure of selecting a festive stamp from USPS, ordering a great return address label, and finding a fun sticker to put on the envelopes.

2.  Making the list of highlights from the year gives me the chance to go all the way back to January and think about all the good things that happened, all the interesting things I got to do, and life's simple pleasures that I've enjoyed.  Often, I go back and read blog entries from the year to get ideas.

3.  Sending out cards reminds me of all the good people in my life.

4.  People send cards back!

5.  A bunch of folks have borrowed this idea and started writing their own list of highlights from the year.

6.  I know that people look forward to receiving this letter.  One of my friends told me that she saved the one I sent to her last year.

To summarize:  Gifts are great, but nothing beats the gift of the written word.  The investment of time is well-worth the opportunity to connect with good memories and express thanks for the positive  things that happened over the course of the year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I was so excited when I head that Leonard Marcus would be making an appearance at Book Court to talk about his new book Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L'Engle in Many Voices.  Earlier this year, I attended the 50th anniversary celebration of Madeleine's beloved children's chapter book A Wrinkle in Time. At the celebration,  Leonard got up and read from a chapter in Listening.  It was such a treat to hear from someone who had spend countless hours talking to people who had been part of Madeleine's life.

At his recent Book Court appearance, Leonard shared more details about what he had learned about Madeleine while putting together the book.

At one point, I asked Leonard what he thought made A Wrinkle in Time such a compelling read.  He responded by speaking to one of the relatable themes of the book - the quest for a distant parent.  He also mentioned that readers could identify with the highly idiosyncratic family of Meg, the main character.

Here are some other "take-aways" from his talk:
  • Madeleine (who would have been 94 tomorrow) passed away in 2007.
  • She had traveled through many countries and met many of her readers.  As Leonard said "She was an author who made house calls" who "changed the lives of millions of readers."
  • Listening is a compilation of Marcus's efforts to engage a number of people who knew Madeleine best and who were aware of the contradictions of her life.  His wish is to present a kaleidoscope view of her so that readers may draw their own conclusions.
  • Madeleine was born in New York City in the 1920s, and was born into a wealthy family.
  • Her parents weren't around a lot to raise her; she had a nanny and was sent to boarding schools. Madeleine filled the emotional void by journaling and reading. 
  • Her parents, hence Madeleine, were part of a world where "culture was of paramount importance." 
  • Madeleine, a tall woman, performed for a time on the Broadway stage.
  • She started publishing novels in her early 20s.
  • A Wrinkle in Time, rejected by many publishers,  was a hot potato because of its references to Christianity.
  • A Wrinkle was her 7th book (she wrote 60!), and won a Newbery Award. She was unwilling to acknowledge that it was a book for children.
  • The book was a combination of fantasy, realism, religion, and science fiction.
  • For 10 years, Madeleine lived in exhile with her husband.
  • For more than 30 years, she was the librarian at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine.  People would come to her there to get advice on manuscripts.  When not giving advice, she would work on her next book.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


At the crack of dawn, I found my husband catching up on emails in our home office.  He inspired me to clean out my side of the office, and to wrap up all kinds of loose ends.   I love the satisfaction that comes from doing this.  Also love how I always get fresh ideas during the process, and often come across office and art supplies that motivate me to take some kind of creative action.

This time around, I came across a bunch of thank you notecards.  It made me think about the fact that it's Thanksgiving time.  So there's this holiday with a kind of built-in reminder to be thankful for all that we have in our lives.

I do definitely like giving thanks out loud , verbally, in front of others.  And I also think that it's very powerful to put pen to paper when it comes to giving thanks.

So, this morning, I started to think about who I'd like to express thanks to with my note cards.

One person is my podiatrist, who referred me to a fantastic physical therapy venue that is filled with thoughtful people, a beautiful fish tank, and an adorable dog named Norman.  So I wrote a brief thank you to that podiatrist and will pop it in the mail today.

Now, I'm thinking of a few other people to whom I'd like to send a note. 

Here's a practical tip when it comes to writing thank-yous:  Make it easy and simple by having your supplies on hand.  Buy a box or two of thank you notes - ones that match your personality.  Invest in some return address labels (inexpensive to get on the Internet) and buy a sheet of your favorite postage stamps so you have plenty of those around as well.  Keep all this stuff handy, in one box, tray or folder.  That way, when you get the urge to thank, everything is right at your fingertips.

Trust me: In the age of electronic communication, your note will stand out.  People are more likely to keep a hand-written thank you longer than an email thank you.  And it's important to actually let people know how we feel, not just keep it a private thought in our heads.

So who in your life would you like to thank with a note?  Who has thanked you in this manner, and what impression did it leave with you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I've always had conflicted feelings about getting friends together for my birthday.  I do love seeing people and being reminded of all the good folks in my life.  But I also tend to stress about the details of planning and then feel hyper-responsible for the guests once they arrive.

Creatives need room to breathe, and let things be a little loose sometimes so that the creative juices can flow.  I realized I was falling into a trap of over-planning and over-controlling the outcome.  So this year, I took a cue from my husband, who had an informal gathering of friends, and did the same. 

With not a ton of advance notice, I invited some Brooklyn-based friends to come meet up in a local bar/community space called 61 Local.  If you've never been there before, do go!  It's a bar, but also a community space, and all food and drink is locally sourced.  There's always a ton of community-based activities, one being that folks come there to pick up their share of locally-grown produce.

The day before the party, I walked down to the Columbia Waterfront neighborhood to select some brightly-colored, whimsical hand-decorated cookies - mostly animals - from Margaret Palca Bakes.

When Mike and I got to 61 Local, we quickly moved in on a table that was being vacated by a group.It had always been my dream to have my own table to inhabit with friends at 61!  I sprinkled some shiny birthday-themed confetti over the surface and set out the fun animal cookies.  Someone walked by the set-up and remarked to her companion "It looks like a child is going to have a birthday party!"

One by one,  my buddies started to arrive.  Being at a community table in a large space allowed folks to move around easily from the eating area to the bar area and to talk to different people without being trapped in one seat.  Just what I had hoped for!  We ended up hanging out there for about four and a half hours.  Mike and I were so wiped out (in a good way!) when we got home that we fell asleep while watching the Charlie Brown Halloween special.

Several days after the party, on the day of my actual birthday, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do.  I hadn't planned anything in advance.  I decided to let go of the need to plan something specific, and just let something come to me.  I decided that I wanted a pastrami sandwich from a local meat shop.  While I was ordering the sammy, I noticed that the shop carried Steve's Key Lime pies.  I had an image of inviting my neighbors over that night to share the pie.

After lunch, I mozeyed over to the new location of my friend's very whimsical store called Grumpy Bert.  And then walked in and out of a few shops, including Paper Source and Jonathan Adler,  that were brightly decorated and stocked for the holiday season.  It was fun gathering that much visual inspiration.

That night, I did go back for the key lime pie and loved having my neighbors respond to a pretty last minute invitation to come over to share the deliciousness.   After their departure, I returned happy birthday phone calls from far-away family members, and continued to enjoy all the sweet Facebook messages coming in from folks, even people that I barely ever see.

I'm really glad I did not over-plan and over-control this time.  It left room for serendipity, and for things to happen in a more organic way that honored creativity, imagination.  It made it more possible to notice and be thankful for all the wonderful people in my life.

I'm going to remember all this for birthdays to come.

Friday, November 09, 2012


Back in 2011, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens hosted a nine-month-long exhibit about the body of work produced by film and television pioneer and Muppets creator Jim Henson.  The exhibit was such a huge success that the museum has since hosted a variety other Henson- and Muppet-related screenings and talks.  I had the honor of attending one of those gatherings, a tribute to recently-deceased and beloved Muppeteer Jerry Nelson.

Jerry (1934-2012) played umpteen different Muppet characters, including that of Count von Count on Sesame Street.
The MOMI tribute was hosted by Jim Henson Legacy President Craig Shemin, who immediately introduced the members of Jerry's family who were present in the audience.

Craig's wife and Sesame Street performer Steffanie D'Abruzzo then showed a compilation of 150 clips of Jerry's years as a Muppeteer which she personally  had put together.  Through the collection, Stephanie wanted to the "breadth, depth, and versatility" of Jerry's work.

Fran Brill, another long time Sesame muppeteer, also introduced her own selection of clips.  She talked about Jerry being the backbone of the Muppets and a key character actor with a flexible voice and vocal chords who gave the Muppets voice and soul.  Fran, who described Jerry as being "crusty on the outside, and like butter on the inside,"  also mentioned that Mr. Nelson was  an avid environmentalist and talented musician.

Muppeteer Matt Vogel talked fondly about Jerry's performances as Sergeant Floyd Pepper from the Muppet rock group The Electric Mayhem.  Dave Goelz, who performs Gonzo, talked about Nelson's work on Fraggle Rock, the devastating loss of his (Nelson's) daughter to cystic fibrosis, and the joy of the Muppet gang when Jerry married his wife Jan.

Bonnie Erickson, creator of some of the original Muppets and the Executive Director of the Jim Henson Legacy, shared excerpts of the emails, letters, and calls that poured into the Legacy's office in the wake of Jerry's passing.  She told of how Joe Bailey, a writer for the Muppets, had described Jerry as "mellow, discreet, gentle, and charming."

It was deeply moving to see such an amazing collection of clips and hear key Muppet performers and creators speak about their experiences with and feelings about Jerry Nelson. To bear witness to a performer, environmental activist, and musician being honored with such generosity of spirit simply reflected back the essence of who Jerry was.

PS - Enjoy the video of Dave's highlights of the tribute.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I've done a bunch of posts about The Paley Center for Media, formerly knows as the Museum of Radio and television.  It is a hidden gem, and has served as a sort of pop culture mecca for me since I moved to New York in 1993.  I've watched different episodes of The Muppet Show and. tv specials about the magic behind the Muppets.  I watched what I thought would be a straight up viewing of the Oscars the year that Isaac Hayes performed the theme song to Shaft, only to find that it was footageof Andy Warhol lounging around with his friends while filming the Oscars.  Weird, right?

And what a treat to get to attend the premier of the VH1 rock dock about the history of Soul Train. I've seen that doc a bunch of times since then, and never fail to be inspired by it.

This summer, I needed a little break from the heat and thought of Paley.  I went to their digital viewing room - an amazing resource, esp. if you want to see old episodes of just about any tv show ever made.  The Center's permanent media collection contains nearly 150,000 television and radio programs and advertisements.

I chose a 1984 television special called Henson's Place: The Man Behind the Muppets.   This is a quiet, thoughtful, and totally captivating piece that has lots of good interview bits with Jim Henson as well as with people who worked with him.

I also enjoyed viewing The Muppet Show starring Paul Simon.  Looooove the bit where he sings Scarborough Fair with the Muppets and it devolves into chaos.

I ended my visit to Paley by watching the musical numbers of Elton John's guest appearance on The Muppet Show.  As the Muppets close out that episode, they are all wearing sparkly, feather-adorned glasses.  Reminded me of what a great place the world is. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Hello Friends of Creative Times!

I hope this note finds you staying cool and enjoying your summer.

I am the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill Neighborhood Coordinator for The Brooklyn Museum GO open studio weekend.
  72 artists from the 3 neighborhoods I represent will open their studios to the public on September 8-9.

GO is a new project at the Brooklyn Museum, taking place in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn. During GO, Brooklyn-based artists will open their studios to the community on September 8–9, 2012. Community members registered as voters will visit studios and nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to open at the Museum on Target First Saturday, December 1, 2012.  Visit the GO website to learn about how you can take part in this borough-wide project:

To view artists in Carroll Gardens, click HERE
To view artists in Boerum Hill, click HERE
To view artists in Cobble Hill, click HERE

Here is a list of 7 ways to get involved in GO.  Please email me if you would like to help with any piece of this project.

1.  Help staff the Information Spot.  Spend an hour (or two!) giving out maps and helping people register to vote at a local cafe or restaurant. 

2.  Get a group of friends together and lead a tour of some of the local artist studios.  You can even filter the studios for child-friendly ones!  Make the outing extra fun by ending it with a trip to a cafe or ice cream parlor!

3. Recruit other friends to lead tours.

4.  Encourage friends to log onto the GO website to browse artists, register to vote, and create an itinerary.

5.  Put up GO posters in local store and restaurant windows. (I have a ton at my house and can pass them along to you.)

6.  Share info about GO and the local artists who are participating through email, Facebook, blog, Twitter, word of mouth - whatever you are comfortable with! 

7. Identify local blogs who could give coverage to the event as well as to the local participating artists

If you would like to help with any of these things, shoot me an email.

I'm so excited to be working with neighborhood folks to make this a fantastic weekend for everyone!
Many Thanks,
Eleanor Traubman
GO Brooklyn Art Neighborhood Coordinator
Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill
Follow GO on Twitter
Get GO News via EMail

Friday, August 03, 2012


When I read a New York Times article  about the arrival of a brand new magazine about Brooklyn, I was intrigued.  I went to the website of this new mag, where the project got introduced like this:

"Welcome to Brooklyn Bound—a new take on the city magazine for the new American city. And not just any American city, but Brooklyn, New York, a community on the cutting edge of music, food, technology, fashion, art, culture and more. This is where New York lives, the heart and soul of the city young and old, steeped in tradition yet forever facing forward."

After getting my hands on a copy, I wanted to know how and why this new magazine was launched, so decided to interview its Founding Editor, Benjamin Meadows-Ingram.  Check out the following Q & A.

Q:  What was the impetus for starting Brooklyn Bound?

A: Over the course of my career, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing media professionals. These people are writers, editors, photographers, illustrators, and designers ,all working across all platforms and doing amazing work across the board. Through the years, we've worked together on a variety of projects and for a variety of outlets, often national in reach. But as time has gone on, it felt like one arena we really hadn't had the opportunity to tackle was the local market, which in New York is no small arena, obviously. So that felt like an exciting challenge.  And then when you look at the history of New York-centric media outlets, especially those that are lead by or identified by their magazine property, it felt like it might be time for a new voice in the conversation. It's been years, if not decades, since a strong voice developed to participate in and possibly drive and shift the conversation about the city and the community. So there's been an opportunity to take a different look at today's New York and to present information in a new way, to give the new New York and certainly today's Brooklyn a brand and a forum to call its own. And that's what we've set out to achieve with Brooklyn Bound, a new voice for the new city that is being built and shaped around us everyday.

 Q: Who is your target audience?

A: We like to think that anyone who lives in Brooklyn certainly is. Also, anyone in the greater New York area and beyond  who has an interest in how the city works and where it's headed is an ideal reader/user base for the Brooklyn Bound brand. But we do know that our sweet spot is a New York reader who's say 18 to 44. As a new brand, we're obviously a young on. In addition, our contributors fall mostly in this cohort, and I think it's pretty safe to say that our voice and our sensibility reflects that.

Q: You are currently involved in leadership positions with two other publications - Billboard and Respect.  How do you find time to lead the efforts in a third publication?

A:  Ha! Well, I'm not going to say that it's not a challenge, because it is, but I believe in the missions of all three brands and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with such amazing and talented people at all three outlets. All three projects are ones that I truly believe in and am challenged and inspired by on a daily basis, so even as the juggling can get quite intense at times, I consider myself lucky to be faced with having to find my way through it all. As they say, in this instance, any issue I might face while working on three magazines is a good problem.

Q:  What are your personal favorite past times when you're not working on the three magazines?

A: I really enjoy making art and a year ago or so I spent three semesters in a SVA continuing ed figure drawing class that I really enjoyed.  Still, I've struggled recently to find as much time to devote to art. I like biking and I swim for exercise on as regular of a basis as I can maintain. I spend as much time as possible seeing live music, which is both a personal and professional interest, and every visit to an art museum or gallery is a treat (as well as an opportunity to think that I should make a point of going more often). I love food and enjoy exploring the city's restaurants and cooking at home as much as possible. And, honestly, meeting new people who are passionate about their projects and working to make a difference and build something meaningful and especially innovative in their field - almost no matter the arena - is always great.

Q: What kind of picture of Brooklyn do you hope your readers will take away from Brooklyn Bound?

A: Our biggest goal is to create a sense of connection and engagement. To bring everyone into a conversation that is filled with the voices of the community, puts faces and names to those voices, and helps us all realize that this city is ours and that we're all a part of it and play an important role in shaping the way it is and what it will continue to be. There are real challenges facing the city and this community and real opportunities as well. We hope we can bring those challenges and opportunities to light and help to push the conversation forward about what the city of today and tomorrow can and will be. 

Q: Any plans for creating outlets, online or otherwise,  for dialogue with your readers?

A: Certainly. The magazine is just one piece of the brand we are building. The issue we published in June - Issue 00 - was a greeting card, so to speak, announcing the arrival of our brand and offering a glimpse into the kind of brand we're working to build and the types of conversations we're interested in having and planning to host. As time goes on, we anticipate developing several products that reflect and expand upon this sensibility, from digital properties to more tangible products and events. We're excited about the opportunities we've already identified and we look forward to opening this conversation beyond the print product and building from there. 

Monday, July 30, 2012


Did you know that more than 1800 Brooklyn artists will open their studios to the public on September 8 & 9?

72 of these studios are in Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, & Carroll Gardens.

GO is a new project at the Brooklyn Museum, taking place in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn. During GO, Brooklyn-based artists will open their studios to the community on September 8–9, 2012. 

Community members registered as voters will visit studios and nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to open at the Museum on Target First Saturday, December 1, 2012.  

Visit the GO website to learn about how you can take part in this borough-wide project:
To view artists in Carroll Gardens, click HERE
To view artists in Boerum Hill, click HERE
To view artists in Cobble Hill, click HERE
To get involved in the GO open studio weekend:
  • Share your itinerary via Facebook,Twitter, email, or blog
  • Gather your friends, neighbors, families and colleagues and lead a tour of studios in one or more local neighborhoods
If you live or work in Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, or Cobble Hill and you are interested in leading a tour of neighborhood studios during the September 8/9 weekend, please contact

Eleanor Traubman
GO Brooklyn Art Neighborhood Coordinator
Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill
Follow GO on Twitter
Get GO News via EMail

Monday, July 16, 2012


For two nights in a row, the audience sprang to its feet to cheer, yell and stomp in a standing ovation for "Paying Homage," a hip-hop piece choreographed by Akira Armstrong for the dance group Pretty Big.  People were psyched out of their minds to see this tribute to female MCs from the last two decades, a list which included Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, Da Brat, and Queen Latifah. The mood of the piece was joyous and celebratory, but also proud; never over-smiley, the dancers wore facial expressions that read "We are the real deal and we take ourselves seriously."

"Paying Homage" was one of many outstanding dance numbers presented in the 8th Annual Ladies of Hip- Hop Festival, an event brought to New York by Michele Byrd-McPhee.  Women came from all corners of both the U.S. and the globe to compete in a Ladies Battle, participate in two days of dance workshops, and dance in two consecutive nights of performances.  A full agenda for sure, and reflective of the many dance forms that fall under the umbrella of hip-hop, including waacking, krumping, dancehall, popping, house, and flexing.

Ms. Byrd-McPhee gave form to the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival out of an awareness of "the narrow opportunities for women in Hip-Hop" and a desire to create "a safe space, a neutral zone where the art does not get lost or stifled because of complexities of male/female relationships. Spaces were it is okay to be women as you define it, not as defined by others. " (Source: LOHHF website.)

Everything about the two nights of performances showed that creating a space in hip-hop where women can define themselves has enormous payoff.

First, there was the overall spirit/mood/vibe of the performance nights.  The host, Shernita Sofly, put the audience at ease with her hugely funny and off-beat humor, and ability to connect with what the audience was doing and feeling in the moment.  By cutting loose and having fun, she set things up so the audience could do the same.

Then, there was the awesome diversity of how the women presented themselves - playful, raw, rough, angry, sensual, sexual, graceful, defiant, athletic.  Yet all of this never seemed forced or externally imposed; every feeling and image conveyed seemed to come from within.  The dancers fully inhabited their bodies, quite a departure from the way much of dance for females is structured so that we are treated as the vessels for someone else's vision or are put out there just to please or pacify a crowd rather than to challenge the audience emotionally or intellectually.

You could see from the backstage and off-stage interactions between the dancers as well as the interplay between audience and performers that all of this was a team effort; everything in the festival was about women backing other women.  Also: whenever Michele, the LOHHF Founder and Director got up to speak, she made sure to credit all the other women who supported her and were part of her team.  She made it clear that it took a village to raise a festival.

Women from the audience (including other dancers) cheered fiercely and joyfully for women onstage.  Choreographers designed pieces so that dancers visibly pulled for each other while performing.  A great example of that was "Gracefully Strong," choreographed by Valerie Chartier for the krumping crew Buck Swans.  While each krumper stepped forward for her solo, the others would surround her and emotionally and physically validate what she was expressing through her body. The effect was gripping.

In sum, a clearly-defined space for females in hip hop to lead other females and be led by other females looked good on everyone involved - both performers and the audience.  Right there in the theater, I could feel the effects of racism and sexism melt under the intelligence, leadership, and serious artistry of a mighty army of women.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Photo courtesy of Wendy Todd at Cocoa Popps

Wow, is top chef Marcus Samuelsson ever making the rounds to promote his new book Yes, Chef. I didn't want to miss out on all the excitement, so I went with Mike Sorgatz (of the blog Art in Brooklyn) and Wendy Todd (chief pop culture writer over at Cocoa Popps) to hear fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi interview Mr. Samuelsson at PowerHouse Arena in DUMBO.

For starters, I loved the way Wendy went right up to Mr. Samuelsson to ask for a video interview (which he granted!) and also asked Mr. Mizrahi for a mini interview and photo opp. at the end of the formal part of the evening.  Love her courage and forthrightness when it comes to approaching the celebs! 

Wendy, Mike and I sat in the front row, just a few feet away from where Isaac and Marcus were sitting in comfy living-room style chairs with a lamp in between them.  Close enough, in fact, to admire Isaac's glitter-polished toenails and Marcus' uber-fly gold and black Basquiat high tops.(!)

Right off the bat, Isaac addressed the lonely tone of the book and Marcus' life story, commenting to the effect of "You've chosen to devote your life to food at the exclusion of almost everything else."  Marcus did not deny this fact. 

"What would your advice to young, coming-up chefs be?" Isaac asked of Marcus a bit later in the dialogue.

"Love the craft, love the craft, love the craft," was Marcus' response.  And: "Work 18 months in each place and travel for exposure."

Recalling some his own adventures in travel, Marcus shared the time that he went to an underground source for purchasing blow fish with the only cash he had.  Underground, he explained, because when you eat blow fish you run the risk of ingesting poison. "It was a beautiful [kind of] broke", reflected Mr. Samuelsson.

"What inspires you?" asked Isaac of Marcus, to which Marcus replied: "My neighbors, artists, the photographer Gordon Parks, and young people's energy - the kind you see in the people who ride their skateboards to work."

"What are the main components of being a chef?" asked Isaac.

Marcus: "Craftsmanship. Artistry. Authorship.  Manual labor.

Isaac: "What motivates you?"

Marcus:  "There is always more to add to the food conversation."


I was excited to hear that tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith was going to appear at The Joyce Theater.  I had seen him on stage  during the 90s when he was a teenager - eons ago it seems - in Broadway's Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.

I was pretty much obsessed with tap in those days.  I saw Bring in 'Da Noise/Funk umpteen times, and I also traveled to Manhattan  jazz venue Swing 46 in the days when tap legend Buster Brown hosted tap jam sessions.  There was a live jazz band and anyone who wanted to - from young children to elderly folks - could put on their tap shoes, tell the band what song to play, and hit the dance floor.  Sometimes, cast from Bring in 'Da Noise would show up, and that's when things would get really exciting.

Coming off of choreographing and starring in Bring in 'Da Noise, tap pioneer Savion Glover performed in both solo shows and with his troupe - NYOT (Not Your Ordinary Tappers), of which  Jason was a member.

After the 90s, I did not track the tap scene as carefully.  So it was great to have this opportunity to be pulled back into the tap world vis-a-vis a  tap production choreographed by Mr. Smith.  I liked that he included three women lead dancers, plus another former Bring in' Da Noise/Funk cast member, Bakari Wilder.

Mr. Smith formulated the idea for the show back in 2006 when he performed in the world premiere production of Imagine Tap! At that time, he developed the idea to "transpose the music of Charlie Parker into tap dance" (Program Note).  Out of this idea, he choreographed Charlie's Angels: A Tribute to Charlie Parker and Chasing the Bird, both of which were showcased at the recent evening at The Joyce.

For more information about the extremely accomplished Jason Samuels Smith, click HERE.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Want to gain more visibility for your art?

Want to be part of an epic, borough-wide open studio project of The Brooklyn Museum?

Come On Over This Saturday, June 23rd


Brooklyn Workshop Gallery

from 4 – 7 pm for a

GO Meet and Greet Information Session
sponsored by Workshop Gallery Artists Foundation
393 Hoyt Street (Between 3rd and 4th Streets) 
Meet Eleanor Traubman, a Neighborhood Coordinator for GO,
to learn how you can be part of
a new, much-publicized community-curated open studio project.
Artists can register at until June 29.
Community members registered as voters will visit studios and
nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to open at
The Brooklyn Museum
on *Target First Saturday*, December 1, 2012.

RSVP to at or 718.797.9427

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Host John Tartaglia sings with some of the Fraggles.
Photo Credit: Richard Termine

Earlier this year, when I first got wind of the news that there would be a tribute to the musical world of Jim Henson, I knew I had to be there.  If you've watched  any of Jim Henson's films and television shows, you know that MUSIC played an integral role to his productions. Plus, how often does a person get to see the whole lot of the Muppets perform alongside of the New York Pops and singing group Essential Voices USA? 

As the big day of Jim Henson's Musical World approached, the excitement ramped up.  Since the original posting of the event, Carnegie had added a long list of special guests and performers, including comic Rachel Dratch;  Avenue Q performer John Tartaglia (who hosted the event); Elmo's Muppeteer and Sesame Street Co-Producer Kevin Clash; singer/songwriter Paul Williams; past and present cast of Sesame.

Carnegie Hall, here I come!

On the way over to the show, my husband and I both recognized Tau Bennett, the boy who appeared in Being Elmo because he had been mentored by master Muppeteer Kevin Clash. Tau was walking toward Carnegie Hall with his family.  Something about seeing Tau, and knowing he had traveled from Atlanta to be here for this occasion, caused a wave of emotion to wash over me.  Seeing him made me think about the way the branches of Henson's legacy continue to reach out and out and out into multiple generations, into so many homes, hearts, and lives, into hundreds of countries around the globe.

After spotting Tau, Mike and I walked into a small cafe for a pre-show snack.  There, we saw two children and their mom talking excitedly about all the Muppets they would be seeing.  Also eavesdropping on the family were two young men, who, judging by their matching all-black outfits, would be singing in the show.  I approached them and struck up a conversation.  "It really didn't hit us what we were going to be part of until we saw them [the Muppets] coming onto the stage today," they said.  "Yeah," Mike and I replied,"You should see the huge crowd of people waiting in the lobby!"

Once seated in Carnegie Hall,  I could see some of the folks from the Jim Henson Legacy milling around, including the show's writer, Craig Shemin.  I imagined he might be kind of nervous, seeing as how this was a never-been-done before kind of performance with lots of people waiting to see what would happen.

What did happen was absolutely magnificent.

Jim Henson's Musical World  began with footage of Muppet Rowlf the Dog's appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1965.  Then, good old Rowlf appeared in the flesh (or should I say in the fur), saying how he was glad to be back after 47 years.

Other folks eventually joined Rowlf, including Maestro Steven Raneke and the show's host, John Tartaglia.

Muppets Statler and Waldorf made an early appearance from their seats in the balcony, doing what they do best - heckling folks on the stage!

Here are some of the highlights from the rest of the show:
  • The theme song from The Muppet Show, performed by Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.
  • Footage of Jim Henson
  • The Fraggles singing Pass It On
  • Cookie Monster Singing C is for Cookie
  • Ernie and friends crooning Rubber Duckie (with Elmo providing the "Squeak! Squeak" sound of the duck)
  • Muppets & humans singing Just One Person  (a song sung at Jim Henson's funeral)
The real tear-jerker came when a whole bunch of people and Muppets sang Rainbow Connection.  There were few dry eyes in the audience.

I was elated to be at this monumental event where Muppets and people from all arms of Jim Henson's legacy came together to carry his message forward through music.

I have a feeling this is only just the beginning of more great things to come.

For more coverage of Jim Henson's Musical World, check out these articles:

Muppet Wiki: Jim Henson's Musical World
Entire Muppet clan reunites for "Jim Henson's Musical World" concerts at Carnegie Hall
Can You Tell Me How to Get, How to Get to Carnegie Hall?

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Speak Clearly * 24 x 36 * Acrylic on Canvas *

Brooklyn artist Mike Sorgatz's paintings appear in the new HBO series Girls, in Welcome to the Set.  For more of Mike's artwork,

Mike also promotes other Brooklyn artists on

Congrats, Mike! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Shuffle Culture

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Produced by BAM

Apr 19, 2012 at 8pm (Best availability)
Apr 20, 2012 at 8pm

“Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson just might be the closest thing we have to a hip-hop Zelig... expanding the assumed limits of hip-hop...” —Pitchfork

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the charismatic drummer and producer of the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop group The Roots, comes to BAM with an immersive musical experience. Enlisting a stellar lineup of artists, Questlove and musicians perform a free-flowing playlist—a kinetic mix of songs and sounds from unexpected musical bedfellows—that celebrates and
reflects our current shuffle culture.

Conceived and curated by Questlove

Directed by Annie Dorsen
Conducted by Andrew Cyr

Featured Artists:
Jeremy Ellis
Sasha Grey
D.D. Jackson
Reggie Watts
Kenny Muhammad
Willis Earl Beal (Friday show only)
Gray (Friday show only)
Metropolis Ensemble:
Conductor: Andrew Cyr; Violin: Kristin Lee, Annaliesa Place, Elly Suh, Emma Sutton; Viola: Juan Miguel Hernandez, Danny Kim; Cello: Ashley Bathgate, Hiro Matsuo.

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
Tickets start at $25

Stage Design by Samantha Sleeper
Sound Design by Jon Smeltz
Lighting Design by Joe Levasseur

Monday, April 02, 2012


Me, Elmo, and Devora Reiss Hanging Out at a Sesame Photo Shoot

My journey down Sesame Street began with a wish to meet and interview Kevin Clash, the Muppeteer of the show's wildly-popular Elmo and the co-author of Being Elmo: My Life as a Furry Red Monster. The wish became reality and I found myself sitting across from Kevin at Sesame Workshop, listening to him talk about his amazing life story.  At Kevin's suggestion, I went on to interview longtime Sesame cameraman Frank Biondo. Having worked on set since the show's inception, Frank had endless and wonderful stories to tell.

From Mr. Biondo, also called The Mayor of Sesame Street, I moved on to interview a bunch of other folks who have been integral to the success of Sesame - Carroll SpinneyFran Brill, Bonnie Erickson, Martin Robinson, and Annie Evans.  Through various visits to the set of the show out in Astoria, I developed an immense appreciation for the amount of physical labor, teamwork, and attention to detail that goes into each of the episodes we see on television.  Quite astounding is how the Muppeteers perform in awkward and often tedious positions, pretzeling their bodies into impossible shapes and configurations. They do so with grace, humor, respect for one another, and complete adherence to the highest professional and production standards imaginable.  

Recently, in yet another chapter of my Sesame adventures, I developed a new level of admiration for the people who work behind the scenes to create this global juggernaut. (Sesame is broadcast in more than 140 different countries.)  When last on the set (in Mr. Hooper's store!) I had the pleasure of meeting Louis Henry Mitchell, Associate Design Director of Special Projects.  When Louis invited me to visit an all-day Sesame Street photo shoot, I was thrilled, and viewed it as an opportunity to see another wing of the work that makes Sesame Street all that it is.

When I arrived at the studio, a friendly Australian shepherd named Betsy greeted me at the door.  I followed her back two rooms and found a group of people, including Louis, who were setting up and taking still shots of various Sesame Muppets sans their Muppeteers.  I immediately saw a familiar face - Lara MacLean - who had demonstrated puppetry for television at the recent Jim Henson exhibit at MOMI.  We exchanged hellos and she briefed me a bit on her history with the show.
Lara and Louis were part of the team that worked together to create flawless photos of the characters that are watched daily on television.  Similar to the filming of Sesame Street episodes, it took a village to create the final product.  There were folks who expertly set up the shot, literally splitting, brushing, combing, and arranging hair and fur to make the Muppets look their absolute best.  Another set of people sat behind computer screens, looking at the shots and making suggestions on how to improve them. They would request that a Muppet's head be moved forward or back, or a gaze raised or lowered.  There was a lot of conversing, a lot of give and take.  Lots of minds and hands and eyes working in conjunction.  The results were always gorgeous.

An hour into the shoot, another guest walked in and the day got even brighter. Devora Reiss, a student at F.I.T., showed me photos of a whole line of puppets, mostly marionettes, which she had designed and built.  Devora and I had a great conversation about religion, family, puppetry, and the importance of surrounding yourself with people who back you in going after your dreams.

During the lunch break and some relaxed late-afternoon moments, I got to chat with individual members of the crew and find out about their lives and their connection to this work. (Ask someone on a set "How did you find your way to Sesame Street?" and you will inevitably get a memorable answer.)  Folks who are part of this show come from different walks of life, but they are all firmly invested in Sesame's mission. 

At one point, one of the crew came over and gave me a Rowlf the Dog keychain, a great memento. It was a small gesture, but it meant a lot.  Every time I look at it, I will think of how much fun I had that day, and how I walked away with an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the hard work, teamwork, creativity, and attention to detail it takes to keep the magic of this show alive.