Culture

Thursday Spotlight: Sustainable Work Blooms at Greenpoint’s Flower Clvb

Flower Clvb at the Greenpointers Spring Flower Power Market
Our Thursday Spotlights often feature the multitude of painters, ceramists, and cartoonists in our colorful neighborhood. But Greenpoint’s cultural scene reaches far beyond visual artists, and florist Grace McDonald more than proves that with her small business, Flower Clvb. A sustainable, creative medium, floral designs are a vital part of many a celebration, as Grace below outlines. Get to know her work — and favorite flower — below!
Greenpointers: How long have you been in Brooklyn and where is your businesses based out of?
Grace McDonald: I have lived in Brooklyn since 2013 and I am a studio florist based in Greenpoint.

Flowers is such an interesting and lovely medium, how’d you get into this type of artistry?
I come from an arts administration background where my primary duties involve connecting contemporary artists with youth. Floral design combines my love for art, nature, and coordinating as I administer an experience for clients that brings out the full expression of who they are. Working with my hands and in a medium that grows from the earth is deeply satisfying to me.

What kinds of requests would you say make up the bulk of your business?
Most of my clients are brides, however I am beginning to receive more inquiries from companies who are interested in planning a fun team building activity or who need flowers for corporate events.

Where do you source your flowers from?
During spring, summer and fall, I try to source as much of my flowers as possible from local farms and supplement with beautiful blooms I find on the 28th Street Flower Market. There are also great local blooms at certain wholesalers at the market as well. During the winter months, I primarily buy from the 28th Street Flower Market or from a local wholesaler in New Jersey that is often able to find me blooms that are American-grown, if not local. I have also found the Union Square Greenmarket to have really incredible and affordable local flowers in the summer.

Are there any kinds of projects you love working on?
I love experimenting with challenging large-scale installations. I am always looking for interesting alternatives for installing without floral foam since floral foam is so bad for the environment. There is almost always a foam-free solution, it just might take a little time, creativity, and the hands of a great team.

One more question: what’s your favorite flower?
I absolutely love poppies. I love how hairy the stems are and how their blooms are often covered in little pods when you buy them. They are a flower that surprises you when they emerge from their pods and I think there is something mysterious and whimsical about them.

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Toast to Greenpoint, MatchaFam Summer Disco, The Other Art Fair, Secret Brooklyn — What’s Happening, Greenpoint? (5/1-5/7)

WEDNESDAY 5/1

* We Got You: Meeting Your Guardians and Guide @ Devi Collective (191 Nassau Ave), 8pm, $40, experiential group healing circle that uses gentle breath work and movement to open into an expanded state of awareness—to sense and feel the presence of your guides in your field, Buy Tix
♫ Dervisi@ TROOST (1011 Manhattan Ave), 8pm, FREE, Bittersweet melodies of passion and hashish from
the old-time Greek Rembetika underworld, More info

♫ MatchaFam Summer Monthly Disco 001 @ POnyboy (632 Manhattan Ave), 8pm, FREE,the fam gathers in the name of matcha, and the eternal disco energy it inspires within us, More info
♫ Come Get Sum: Dance Party & Cipher All Style Battle @ Silver Factory BK (270 South 5th St), 10pm, $15/20, a dance battle and party all in one with the best of hip hop, dancehall, afrobeats, breaks, deep & tech house. 10 slots sign up list to battle for cash prize, More Info


Starting Thursday, May 2nd raise a glass to Greenpoint! Take 25% off at local restaurants, bars and wine stores from May 2-12 with code TOAST25 when you pay with Cinch, a neighborhood exploration app. Discover a new cuisine, try out a new wine pairing, enjoy a local craft brew, and do it all within walking distance. [sponsored]


THURSDAY 5/2 Continue reading

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ARTISTS: Register For Greenpoint Open Studios—Last Day For Early Bird Price!

Greenpoint Open Studios is happening again this year on Saturday, June 8th and Sunday, June 9th!

GOS is an un-curated event where local artists and creatives open up their studio doors to share their work with the public. Last year more than 400 artists participated and tens of thousands of art lovers swarmed our beautiful neighborhood to weave in and out of art studios and spaces. And again this year, throughout the inspiring weekend there will also be parties, artist-led workshops, talks and guided tours.

Who should register? Artists of all mediums, designers, crafters, fabricators, performers, and anyone who has work or work-in-progress to show in Greenpoint.

Today (May 1st) is the last day to get the $15 Early Bird Registration price! After today, the cost to sign up will go up to $40.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up to register your work and location of your space (your studio, your home, or wherever you are able to show your art and host visitors).
  2. Your address will be on the publicly available GOS online map and a printed guide that is distributed all over North Brooklyn
  3. Registered artists open their doors on June 8th and 9th to visitors, from 12pm-6pm each day

*Note: You can also sign up if you are a Greenpoint artist without a space to show your work. A few local venues have generously offered up their space to show artists’ work during GOS. You can let them know you’re interested by signing up on the forms here.

GOS 2019 poster

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The Tragic Death and Lasting Legacy of Five Pointz

(courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Just across Newtown Creek in Long Island City stood an abandoned industrial site that many considered the world’s greatest treasury of graffiti art. Tragically demolished in 2013, the world-famous Five Pointz consisted of twelve factory buildings ranging in height from a single story to five floors. The name Five Pointz referred both to the five boroughs of New York City and to the notorious 19th century Manhattan slum of the same name. Five Pointz grew so famous that tourists from around the world journeyed to Long Island City to photograph the amazing examples of graffiti art that adorned its many exterior walls, but the famous complex would not have a long life and would die a tragic death.

(courtesy of Jules Antonio/Flickr)

Located at 45–46 Davis Street, the buildings, which were constructed in 1892, once housed a water meter factory, but the water meter plant was long by the early 1970s when developer Jerry Wolkoff bought the abandoned factory and leased space inside to industrial firms. In 1990, hungry for new tenants, Wolkoff granted permission for artists to cover the exterior walls with art and by the 1990s artists attracted to the area by the low rents began to rent interior spaces in the building. Soon, aerosol artists began to cover the exterior walls with their colorful and creative murals. Initially called the Phun Factory, the building was renamed “5 Pointz” in 2002 when graffiti artist Jonathan Cohen began curating the exterior murals. The murals’ fame spread and Cohen even conceived plans to turn the huge complex into a museum of graffiti art. The former industrial complex attracted elite aerosol artists who arrived from all over the United States and even around the world, including famous graffiti artists such as Stay High 149, Tracy 168, Part, SPE, Dan Plasma, CORTES and TATS CRU.

The tags at Five Points (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

While Five Pointz fame was spreading around the globe, Long Island City was also changing. Due to its proximity to Manhattan, the area started to become a magnet for high-rise residential towers and Wolkoff became increasingly aware of his site’s multi-million dollar real estate value.

(courtesy of FunGi_ (Trading)/Flickr)

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Greenpoint Film Festival Returns Thursday 5/2 – Sunday 5/5

The Greenpoint Film Festival is back this week for its 8th edition with four days of film screenings — spanning topics from environmentalism to displacement and gentrification — and panel discussion with directors and local experts. Tickets are available here, along with the festival schedule which runs May 2nd – May 5th.

This year the festival kicks off on Thursday May 2nd, at the Wythe Hotel (80 Wythe Ave.) with a 7 p.m. screening of “100/100” and “Rodney Dickson,” which invites the view to “look inside the studio, routines and life of Brooklyn-based artist Rodney Dickson as he works “along the edge” of art and seeks to push the boundaries of how it can and should be experienced.” A kickoff party will follow at the Wythe Hotel from 9 p.m. – 12 p.m.

On Friday night, a focus on experimental film brings screenings of  “Proliferation,” an isometric animation short, “Blue Reverie,” which presents commentary on internet personas, and “The Washing Society” an “intimate sociohistorical portrait of an urban laundromat using the people who worked there for decades,” from filmmaker Lynne Sachs.

The narrative feature “Doing Money,” kicks things off on Saturday at 2 p.m. with a drama based on a true story that tells the story of a Romanian Woman who is “snatched off the streets of London in broad daylight, trafficked through a series of pop-up brothels in the UK.”

The narrative shorts “Picket Fence” and “You Look Great” follow ahead of “Barney’s Wall” that recalls the life of Barney Rosset, “the American publisher of Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, among hundreds of other subversive, radical and vital literary works.”

Saturday’s programming at the Wythe Hotel wraps with the documentary feature “Jacob,” that follows  Jacob M. Appel, who “is a recognized professor, doctor, lawyer, bioethicist, and published creative writer.”

Also happening on Saturday as part of the festival is the Pratt student film screenings taking place at Film Noir Cinema (122 Meserole Ave.) starting at 7 p.m.

The spotlight turns to the festival’s namesake neighborhood on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. with the screening of a short on Manhattan Avenue’s Cato’s Army and Navy Store that owner Ed Veneziano opened over 40 years ago, and “A Letter From Greenpoint,” which traces Jonas Mekas move from SoHo after 30 years in the neighborhood to Greenpoint. Continue reading

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How McGuinness Boulevard Was Created

 

(via Forgotten NY)

Maybe it is just me, but I find McGuinness Boulevard ugly. Huge trucks and streams of traffic wiz by the four-laned, soulless traffic artery. The newer apartment buildings lack the quaint charm of many of Greenpoint’s other streets, but this was not always so.

McGuinness Boulevard (via Google Maps)

Once McGuinness Boulevard was not a boulevard at all, it was named Oakland Street; a narrow charming cobblestoned lane lined by wood frame 19th-century homes typical of our area.

Oakland Street would become a victim to a vision of New York City as a city of cars and trucks. The destruction of Oakland Street was only a small piece in the grand scheme of Robert Moses who built the BQE, the Tri-borough Bridge, and the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Thousands of homes across the city fell victim to Moses’ vision.

(NY Public Library archives – Greenpoint map 1880s)

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Take a Historic Stroll at Jane’s Walk This Weekend

Domino Sugar factory in 2013 (courtesy of Christopher Camp)

The Municipal Art Society of New York is bringing back Jane’s Walk NYC, which is part of “a global festival of free, volunteer-led walking conversations inspired by urban activist Jane Jacobs,” with tours happening in all five boroughs this weekend. See the tours happening in Greenpoint and Williamsburg:

Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.:

Domino Refinery Walk:

Join author of ” The Rise and Fall of the Sugar King” Geoffrey Cobb as he explains the history of the Domino plant, which was the largest sugar refinery in the world and the linchpin in the “Sugar Trust.” The tour focuses on the brutal conditions for the thousands of workers who toiled and died working in the landmarked building now undergoing a controversial luxury renovation.

Saturday at 11 a.m.:

Rezoning Brooklyn: “Where’s Our Park?!”:

Written into the rezoning of the Williamsburg-Greenpoint’s waterfront was a promise of a park. Ever since area residents have steadily chanted; “Where’s Our Park?!”

Join Lynn del Sol, a native New Yorker and twenty year resident of the area, in a discussion about the rezoning North Brooklyn’s waterfront and what happens when city government, private interest, and community residents duel over two miles of land.

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Elionne Inspires to Create Soul Nourishing Spaces

How do you balance having a full time job, starting a business, and having a family in Brooklyn? For the answer, visit Greenpoint’s newest lifestyle store Elionne (71 West St), where local fashion designer and momtrepreneur Huong Pham shares the things she loves with hope that others will find as much joy and comfort in them as well. With a focus on local products, indie makers, and emerging designers from around the world, the carefully curated selection of clothes, homeware, books, and art inspires you to create your own soul nourishing environment.

With a bright and airy aesthetic, the space has been tastefully put together with the help of a small cadre of talented friends and family. From the hand-built 20′ table by her designer friend Josh Farley to art work by Huong’s husband Jeremy Lawson, there are touches of laborious love everywhere.

As a young college student in Melbourne, Australia Huong got her first taste of success when at 19, she made cargo pants and tops for a designer concept store, which ended up selling out in two weeks and the orders kept coming in. She expanded to more stores and ended up establishing her own line while still in school. At 21 years old, she was invited to Sydney Fashion Week, and had her own shows. She finished college and jumped right into running her own brand in her own shop. Life in NYC is different from what it was back then – she is married with two kids, working full time for a different label. And yet, she says “There’s something inside me that keeps drawing me to having a shop and creating a special place, seeing someone try on a dress and it making them feel good, seeing the expression on their faces, it just makes me happy.”

Happiness is finding beauty in the everyday or as Konmari-ers might say, what sparks joy. Here, you don’t discard but you discover through the discerning eyes of Huong – “I love creating and crafting so most the books focus on crafts or cooking or gardening. I find these areas very calming and meditative and helpful for New Yorkers who are constantly on the go, we are all looking for that quiet and restful time and for me these areas have really helped so I offer these resources  at the shop.”

Hudson Naturals

Like Hudson Naturals’ hand-cut and wrapped soaps. “They smell unbelievable and the candles are one of our best sellers. Her bubble bath and coffee scrubs are my favorite for ‘me time’ with a glass of red.”

Having a brick & mortar store isn’t easy these days but it’s still the only way we can have that sense of community and real life interactions that online shopping doesn’t offer.  “I would love for Elionne to become a neighborhood store, to get to know the locals by name and for people to feel comfortable to browse and stay for a chat. I’ve been so many awesome customers already and it’s just the beginning,” says Huong.
Having a physical storefront and space is about making that personal connection, experiencing a space, being part of a neighborhood and a community. In that spirit, Elionne will also be hosting workshops by different artisans and crafters. Follow @elionne.boutique  to stay updated on upcoming workshops and activities. Mention Greenpointers and get 10% off!


 Elionne is located on 71 West Street. Hours are from 12-6PM (Wednesdays & Thursdays), 11AM-7PM (Fridays & Saturdays ), and 11AM-6PM (Sundays).About: Opening its doors in December of 2018, Elionne is a long time dream come true, for fashion designer Huong Pham. A lovely casual lifestyle store, located in the historic Rope Factory, in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

Elionne is home to emerging designers from around the world, we seek out their unique stories and welcome their craftsmanship and attention to detail. Showcasing a beautifully curated assortment of clothing, home and books.

At Elionne we love meeting our customers the most and we have already met so many wonderful neighbors and locals, as well as far flung travelers. The stories you tell us are most treasured and the stories we hope to share with you, is what makes this experience worthwhile.

Thank you Elionne for supporting Greenpointers and sponsoring this article!

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Williamsburg Roots of David Smith, Who Made First Welded Sculptures

David Smith in 1942 (via Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

For a working-class industrial area, North Brooklyn has played an outsized influence on American sculpture. The great Western artist Fredrick Remington cast many of his iconic western sculptures at the Roman Bronze works on Green Street in Greenpoint.

The famous Wall Street Bull and the Iwo Jima Memorial were also cast on India Street at the Bedi-Makki Art Foundry. As if those two accomplishments were not enough, there is still more. One of the giants of abstract metal sculpture, and one of the greatest American sculptors ever, David Smith, lived in Williamsburg and mastered his technique on a pier in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

He was born in Indiana in 1906. Perhaps, metal was in his blood. He was, ironically, the great-grandson of a blacksmith, and the artist even as a child had a fascination for heavy industry saying, “we used to play on trains and around factories. I played there just as I played in nature, on hills and creeks.”

Smith attended college for a year, but dropped out in 1925, to work at the Studebaker automobile factory in South Bend, Indiana where Smith learned soldering and spot-welding techniques that he would later use to create his sculptures.

Smith came to New York City in 1926 and he soon met his first wife, the sculptor Dorothy Dehner. Smith enrolled in The Art Students League, where he studied painting and drawing over the next five years. Smith and Dehner settled in North Brooklyn because as artists they could not afford to live in Manhattan.

Though Smith never received formal sculptural training, one of the instructors at the Art Students League, Jan Matulka, encouraged him to start adding three-dimensional elements to his paintings. Matulka also introduced Smith to the abstract art of innovators such as Picasso and Kandinsky.

Smith was on the verge of an artistic revolution at the start of the 1930s. Wanting to master metal work, he set up his workshop in the Brooklyn Navy Pier in New York in 1933, sharing the space not with artists, but with professional welders and others who worked with metals.

At that time, most sculptors worked in a bronze foundry, a marble quarry or a conventional studio. At the Navy pier, Smith mastered the technical aspects of cutting and welding different kinds of metal. In the unlikeliest of places, Smith became the first American artist to make welded metal sculpture. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: How Litter Inspired the Playful Erik’s Paper Route

Erik’s Paper Route took part in our Spring Market earlier this month!
Hard times makes for progressive art, and boy is Erik Jacobsen having fun with our current political bonanza. His small business, Erik’s Paper Route, takes the litter of candy wrappers and transforms it into something that — all at once — is vibrant, quirky, and pointed. Below, he explains the birth of his company and his hopes for the future, but to see his work in person, join him at the upcoming Greenpoint Open Studios!
Greenpointers: You’ve lived in Greenpoint for a couple years. How has the nabe and community treated you?

The neighborhood felt like home immediately. My downstairs neighbor Jean had, until recently, lived in the same apartment for 50 years, and her love for Greenpoint was infectious. She was the first to welcome me and my fiancé to Brooklyn, and she always insisted on giving us fresh bread every week from a local Polish bakery.  

I’ve met lots of wonderful creatives in the studio space at 108 Bayard who have been incredibly supportive and friendly. It’s inspiring seeing people pursue their passion full heartedly in the fields of fashion, photography and design.

Erik’s Paper Route is such a lovely name. This may seem random, but did you have a paper route as a child?

Sadly no! Having grown up in the Jersey suburbs I did ride my bike constantly as a kid to get around and there was always a freeing feeling associated with it. “Paper route” is a play on words for me as I head in a new direction with a new medium. Paper routes exist to spread the news and Erik’s Paper Route was created out of a need to express my reaction to it.

Can you discuss the origin of your company?

Moving to Brooklyn three years ago was a pivotal moment for me and represented a dream fulfilled. Having lived in DC for 10 years prior, I was surprised by the volume of discarded candy wrappers on the sidewalks and streets of NYC — and I loved it. DC was an amazing city to live in but my old neighborhood didn’t offer me the grit or beautiful chaos I found in Brooklyn. 

Erik’s Paper Route started in January 2018 as a reaction to seeing a lot of perfectly filtered photos and influencer social accounts on Instagram after a long day at my day job. As great as social media can be at giving people a platform to share their work, it can also be overwhelming and make you question, “Am I doing enough creatively?” or “Why am I the only one who hasn’t been to Costa Rica?” It’s all really silly when you think about it but it was a natural response for me. Sometimes you just need to take a break from your phone and that’s when I saw a stack of multi-colored paper staring at me on my desk. I started to rip it up into letters that spelled out the phrase “Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else” and that’s the moment when everything changed for me and this new route began.

Your work has a strong political bent, but also a nostalgic one. Can you discuss how those ideas coalesce?

Everything stems from a loss of innocence I experienced growing up — learning that everything is not what it once may have seemed. A lot of my work relates to repurposing food and candy packaging from my childhood. The sheen of a candy wrapper has lost its luster to me seeing it dirtied on a Brooklyn sidewalk, which I also see as a metaphor. I’m nostalgic for a time where I would buy airheads for 25 cents at my local pool during hot summers — but relating it to my life now — the white mystery airhead flavor represents our current president. A “what’s that airhead gonna do next” type of mentality. I try to imbue a playful and mischievous tone into my work to address serious issues that have become more apparent to me as I’ve gotten older. 

A former art teacher told me that altering one minor component to a project can drastically change the meaning of something entirely. I’ve kept that in my mind as I work. 

If you eat too much sugar you’ll get a cavity and I like to play with the idea that these sweetly package treats should be consumed with care. Don’t believe everything you see just because you saw it online or heard it on the news. 

Politics is not something I thought of as much growing up. As I got older and went to college in DC I couldn’t help but become hyperaware of what was going on in my backyard. I am extremely fortunate to have grown up in a time where, as a gay man, I’ve seen my rights increased precisely at the times I truly wanted them. When same-sex marriage was legalized in the US in June 2015, I visited the White House that night to see it emblazoned in the colors of the rainbow. That was a moment of great hope and validation to know I was good enough to make my voice a little louder as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

With this current administration there’s a lot more at risk, and my artwork is the best route I know of to vocalize my disapproval of Trump. 

Your work is on paper — what instruments do you use for your drawings? Is there a digital component?

I use an X-acto knife to cut all my pieces. Sometimes I’ll get stubborn and won’t change the blade for a couple weeks which causes it to get more blunt and harder to use — but working with my hands and the paper medium has allowed me to release myself from the expectation of perfection. And to be honest, supplies and blades are expensive so I really like to let the tools run their course til I absolutely need something new. I’ll just roll with what I’ve got til my next payday. It’s forced me to not be as wasteful and I love that. There’s no such thing as messing up to me with the medium — only happy accidents — perfection is boring. 

The digital component comes only when I photograph the pieces to create prints. I’d like to experiment with a laser cutter to mass produce my pieces. The idea of creating something I first made organically by hand and then mass producing it is fascinating to me. Time is money. I’m constantly thinking, as a small business, how I can work smarter, not harder. 

Any projects you have coming up? Anything else you’d like to discuss?

I am working on a new series that involves the idea of chance. I love the concept of games like checkers and chess and how the small moves you make can have a huge impact on your end goal. I’ve learned the most successful people have made lots of small moves in the right direction over time, and I want to do the same as it relates conceptually to my work.

I’m moving away from candy and food packaging at the moment and experimenting with new subject matter that involves scenes from everyday life made from paper. I’ve always found inspiration from everyday ordinary things.

Greenpoint has been the perfect home and launch pad for Erik’s Paper Route. I’ll be participating in the Greenpoint Open Studios June 8 and 9 and am looking forward to sharing my work with more people in the community.

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