Thursday Spotlight

Thursday Spotlight: Meet the Wizard Behind Brooklyn Airlines, Ertac Uygun

Perhaps you’ve seen his I Don’t Hate New York tote. Or the hilarious, oddball Brooklyn Airlines tote. No, the borough does not have an airlines, but it does have a prolific creative who started that very company and its addicting, delightful brand. Graphic designer Ertac Uygun keeps busy not just with this company but a host of other clients in the music, event, non-profit, and fashion sectors. Here, Greenpointers catches up with the local artist to discuss his career and favorite spots to nosh.
Greenpointers: Do you live in the neighborhood, and if so for how long?
Ertac Uygun: I’ve lived in South Williamsburg since 2012.  The neighborhood doesn’t have the same energy from seven years ago but I’m still optimistic; Williamsburg is an incredible place to live. Full of creatives and good vibes.
What got you into graphic design?
Vintage magazines. I came across a box of vintage magazines when I was about 13. I recall being amazed and impressed as a kid by their colors, patterns, and illustrations. Also, drawing and doodling were my favorite crafts during my younger years.  After I  graduated from high school I worked as an intern for an outdoor advertising company where I developed my photoshop and illustration skills and learned how to do a design for prints. I worked for the same company until I graduated from college.

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Paul Kielmanowicz, a Polish Poet and Native Greenpointer

Native Brooklynite Paul Kielmanowicz with his book of poems

It’s high time we celebrate the hometown hero: Paul Kielmanowicz is a Greenpoint poet, born and raised, with the purest and most New York of stories: he writes on the subway and distributes his art communally. His book of poems, A Carefully Curated Chemistry, isn’t quite for sale — but he’ll tell you more about that. His poems simultaneously possess the largeness of mythology with the smallness of our fragile lives on this planet; indeed, his poems often discuss the earth and its natural splendor. Patient and probing, Kielmanowicz — who writes under the name P. E. Warren — captures in his work a delicate spirit rarely found in the competitive grit of New York. Get to know the local artist in our interview below:

Greenpointers: You grew up in Greenpoint, yes? What has it been like to see the neighborhood evolve? 

P. E. Warren: I sure did. Grew up on Russell Street, between Nassau and Norman Avenue, until the age 17. My parents purchased a single-family dwelling in Glendale, Queens, while I was entering my senior year of high school. My mother and father arrived in the New York as immigrants; they’re now citizens. My brother and I were born New Yorkers. I’m of Polish decent — 100% — but I tend to label myself as “Brooklyn,” when asked of my ethnicity. That might be perceived as foolishly amusing to some, but is fully sufficient for me. As a first-generation New Yorker, and Greenpointer, the city and neighborhood’s changed. It’s tough for me to use “evolution” to describe the happenings. Modification. I think modification’s fitting. Well. It has been an adjustment. Money is a dominance. It’ll be until it no longer is. It’s disappointing, to me at least, how intense of a power to influence or direct people’s behaviors it encompasses. But nonetheless, truthfully, the neighborhood’s safer from the days of the 90s, making it all right. Folks seem to be encountering less of the roughness. My motion, whether it be solely derived from a common aspect of adolescence most experience I cannot be sure, however, I find that I’m rarely walking out from our three-story low-rise rowhouse’s entrance vestibule onto the stoop and peering up and down the block before taking that last step down to hit the sidewalk and go about my day. The beauty of the neighborhood: we, the locals, are the living landmarks. I’ll forever put Greenpoint before myself, before my own name.      Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Director Dina Vovsi

Dina Vovsi

When we discuss the art scene in Greenpoint, we often focus on the Pencil Factory’s many inhabitants or the other visual artists working out of their studios, homes, and even in our neighborhood parks. But North Brooklyn has always been teeming with artists of many different stripes, including versatile theatermakers like director Dina Vovsi. Dina has worked in collegiate and Off-Broadway theaters, crafted plays centering on immigrant experiences, and created immersive experiences in outdoor settings. Below, we get to know the Greenpoint-based director while discussing her career, the importance of affordable housing, and — of course — her dog Bruce.

Greenpointers: How long have you lived in Greenpoint, and what brought you here? 

Dina Vovsi: I’ve lived in Greenpoint for about two and a half years. Before moving here, my partner and I were in Kensington for a year, and before that, I lived in Williamsburg for six years, so I’ve spent a lot of time in North Brooklyn. I am super lucky — my name was drawn in the affordable housing lottery for an apartment in a brand-new, mixed-income building, which has made being an artist significantly more possible over the past couple of years. It’s been a financial game-changer, and I can’t stress enough how everyone needs to be submitting for these buildings on NYC Housing Connect; I know quite a few people who have been selected recently, so it’s really not as impossible as legend says. We live in the quieter, north end of the neighborhood, and I love being near the water and walking our dog, Bruce, to Transmitter Park and Greenpoint Landing. More people know his name than mine, which I’m totally fine with. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet The Artist Behind That Winning G Train Doodle

Nadeesha Godamunne’s all-too-accurate doodle.

We’ve all rushed for the G train, but few have captured its whimsy and hysteria as winningly as local artist Nadeesha Godamunne. (Mokshini, the mononym you may know her by, is actually her first name.) Her post on Instagram, combined with its repost on Greenpointers, received almost 3,000 hits, and in this Thursday Spotlight, Greenpointers got to know Nadeesha, her artistic ethics, and the importance of “putting humor into something that most people get frustrated with.”

Greenpointers: Do you live in the neighborhood, and if so for how long?
Nadeesha Godamunne: No, but I’ve always been a fan of the artisan vibe of Greenpoint, and recently got my art studio right by Transmitter Park — I love it! 

On Instagram, you wittily calls yourself a “professional doodler.” I’m wondering, given how much artists need to work to stay afloat, how much of your doodling is for your own enjoyment, like the G Train piece?
Every artist finds this a challenge. It’s about striking a balance between the money jobs that pay the bills, but perhaps don’t inspire you as much, and the ones that fulfill you and bring joy. I draw for myself every day and maintain a journal of experiences and things I see. I try not to share this journal with people or on social media. This is vital because it reminds me to create first and foremost for me. A lot of these doodles inform the illustrations that you see on Instagram. 

Nadeesha Godamunne at work

Did the impending shutdown in any way help inspire this G train piece?
Absolutely! It’s amusing to me that the G train is so short. I find myself sprinting to catch the train and laughing at the same time because the whole situation is just so ridiculous. Putting humor into something that most people get frustrated with just keeps things fun and relatable.

Your art has a wonderfully textured and vivid style to it; can you discuss how this came to be part of your brand and whether or not you have any influences?
I try not to take myself too seriously, and i think that’s what comes across in my work. My style is constantly evolving; currently, I’m going through a bolder, more playful phase. I’ve noticed a shift since I started freelancing. It’s interesting. My focus when I draw, however, is not so much about the style — it’s about the message. I try to push the ideals of fashion illustration with whimsical yet relatable characters, satirical fashion storytelling, and humor. Some of my favorite artists are Rene Gruau, Toulouse Lautrec, Kenneth Paul Block, and Egon Schiele.

Central Park by Nadeesha Godamunne

Are there any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
Really excited about an upcoming collaboration with Vans, where they showcased my art and personal journey in a video format. We did a time lapse of me drawing and some animation work too. Should turn out great!

Do you have a favorite cafe, restaurant, or locale in Greenpoint?
I love Ovenly for their amazing pastries, the Stuart Cinema and Cafe for their soup, and Alameda and Citroen for their cocktails! There’s too many!

Nadeesha Godamunne
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Thursday Spotlight: Kimia Kline on Leading The Wythe Hotel’s Art Program

Photo of Kimia Kline by Carmen Chan

Since officially kicking off its hotel art program with artist and curator Kimia Kline at the helm, Wythe Hotel has cultivated an impressive permanent collection featuring artists such as Katherine Bradford, Chris Martin, EJ Hauser, Steve DiBenedetto, and Yevgeniya Baras. Along with Rachael Petach, Kimia heads the hotel Residency Program, offering independent artists further opportunities to develop new pieces and share their work with broader audiences. 

The hotel’s permanent collection consists of unique works in each guest room, a tribute to the Brooklyn local creative community and the diversity of talent to be found in the storied neighborhood. The collection primarily focuses on sketchbooks and in-process pieces, emphasizing the alive and fluid creative process. Wythe Hotel’s hope is to foster a connection between its guests and the wider creative community of Brooklyn, and Kimia continues to help foster that. We caught up with the local artist and curator to learn more about her unique work and process.

Greenpointers: Do you live in Brooklyn, and if so where and for how long? 
Kimia Kline: I’ve lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for the past six years.
How did you first get connected to this Artist Residency Program, and why did the Wythe feel like a good fit as a venue?
After building the visual art collection in the hotel over the past four years, I was excited to expand our programming to include performance art and new media as well. After lots of conversations regarding how to better serve our creative community and activate the beautiful and unique spaces in the hotel, we came up with the parameters of the residency and put out an open call. We’ve been thrilled with the interest from both artists and audiences and realize what a need there is for this kind of exhibition opportunity in Brooklyn.

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Thursday Spotlight: Mano-A-Mano’s Jill Folino and Wven Villegas

You could call Jill Folino and Wven Villegas handy people — their company, after all, is named Mano-A-Mano. Folino and Villegas have crafted bespoke signs for Citroen and holiday decor for our holiday market — to name just a few recent examples of their work around the nabe — but it is their communally-sustained relationships they seem to prize most. As our interview illuminates, the crafty mavens behind Mano-A-Mano not only support each other but local establishment after local establishment. They see their projects as a way to artfully represent a company’s vision while also planting themselves knee-deep in the ethos of all they collaborate with. Below, we caught up with the two artisans to discuss their creative backgrounds and favorite projects.
Greenpointers: Introduce yourselves!
Jill Folino: I work with a partner, Wven Villegas, and we created Mano-A-Mano. Our work varies from mural and sign painting, sculpture, woodworking, type and creative direction. We model building and anything else we can conjure up. Together we share a tool box of skills that we are constantly juggling.
Do you both reside in Brooklyn?
Wven has lived in Greenpoint for over 13 years, while I was born and raised in Staten Island where I once again currently reside. We work out of a three-car garage we converted into our studio behind my apartment so we have more than ample room to spread our creative wings. It’s also enough space to build some sizable pieces. It’s our creative lab we dubbed “Pop Art Garage.”
Let’s dig into what people might be most familiar with: your work at the Polar Vortex Holiday Market. How’d that come together?
When we were asked by our good friend JD to lend some props for decor at the market, we didn’t hesitate. We love that this market is a platform for artisans and other creatives like ourselves to present their creations. We hope to be vendors at a future market.
The castle was created a few years back for a children’s birthday party, but we gave it an icy makeover, changing it from it’s original cream colored/pink and Disney-esque paint job. The snowman on the other hand, has been around for more than 20 years. He’s been a fixture in our studio, just hanging around changing hats and costumes. We felt it was time for him to get out into the world and get a real job, hehe. The Out Snapped photo booth was his first modeling gig!

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Thursday Spotlight: Donaldo Prescod on his Films, Brooklyn, and Making an “Entertaining Social Thriller”

Donaldo Prescod, right, at the Bushwick Film Festival
Filmmaker Donaldo Prescod represents the heart of a Brooklyn artists’ work ethic: scrappy with refined taste, industrious with a collaborative attitude. His Bushwick Film Festival-celebrated thriller Black People Are Dangerous brought him greater notoriety in our borough and has propelled him to create more works. Greenpointers talked with Donaldo about his career, aspirations, and — of courses — the best spots to eat in Brooklyn.
Greenpointers: How long have you lived in Brooklyn?
Donaldo Prescod: 11 years.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood bar, park, or restaurant?
That’s tough, I love Fort Greene and I love Bushwick equally for various reasons. You see a lot of seasoned black folks in Fort Greene and you can tell Brooklyn lives in their bones. Bushwick has a grit and grime DIY vibe to it that makes for a better artist. Restaurant: Lil Mo, some of the best Vietnamese food BK has to offer.
Tell us how you got involved with Bushwick Film Festival.
I submitted my film and thanks to the film gods one of the people assigned to watch shorts loved it immensely. As it got passed along to everyone else in the festival they too took a liking to it, no questions asked.

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Thursday Spotlight: The Wizard of Inlet Park, Stacy Levy

Street artists trace the Bushwick Inlet’s underground stream into the surface

Stacy Levy is an internationally known artist who specializes in creating artful, site-specific interventions and engagements with water ecology. This past Saturday, she led an interactive family workshop in Greenpoint, where she and her volunteers mapped the historic Bushwick Inlet directly onto the hardscape using chalk paint: a mixture of chalk powder and water. Greenpointers caught up with Stacy to discuss her activism and the aquatic wonders of our local inlet.  Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Greenpoint Comedian and Actress Mary Houlihan

Full disclosure: Mary Houlihan and I used to carpool. The guest star on “Difficult People” and I would be shuttled to Brookside Middle School by my neighbor’s mom, but it was always a mystery whether or not Mary would join us on a given school day. Hers was the last house on our carpool journey, and — after a few car honks — Mary emerged, or didn’t. I was always grateful for the mornings she did. Even then, she had a stupefyingly offbeat wit — generous but dry, subdued but bonkers. Chipper as we were bitter with her tardiness, Mary would enter the car and chime, “Good morning, friends.”

We once shared a commute; we now share a neighborhood. Houlihan embodies the best parts of Greenpoint in her life and career — she builds community, as with her Three Chickies musical improv series, and maintains a signature self-awareness, even as careers (and neighborhoods) change. I’m happy to have caught up and discussed the comedy scene with the sly wizard behind “Learn To Paint With Mary Houlihan!“.

Greenpointers: How long have you been in Greenpoint?
Mary Houlihan: About six years. When I first moved here I lived off the Myrtle/Willoughby G stop in Bed-Stuy, then I moved to a big building that flooded in Hurricane Sandy after living there for just a month. Then I moved in with my parents in New Jersey. Then I moved to a green house off Calyer Street, then I lived near Grandma Roses, and now I’m in my current location. I’ve moved a lot.

The neighborhood’s treated you well?
It’s treated me well, me likely. It’s quiet. It’s hidden but not insane.

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Thursday Spotlight: Catalina Kulczar on Capturing the Light in Others

Melissa and Aneesha from Catalina’s Let Love Reign series
Catalina Kulczar is the best kind of photographer: selfless. Her portraits illuminate the beauty in others, and her projects — individually crafted and triumphantly executed — are marked by a social justice bent that lets underrepresented voices sing. Her many and diverse photography series have included moving portraits of girls celebrating their quinceañera and portraits, both loving and poignant, of same-sex couples awaiting marriage equality. That last project is the inspiration for a new book she discussed with Greenpointers — a queer-affirming anthology she’s looking to publish with the help of a Kickstarter. We caught up with the local photographer to discuss her passion projects, inspirations, and favorite neighborhood hangouts.
Greenpointers: How long have you lived in Brooklyn?
Catalina Kulczar: I have lived in Brooklyn since 2011 — three years in Fort Greene, then we moved to Greenpoint in summer 2014.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood spot?
I love going to Brooklyn Label. I love how much natural light fills the place year-round, and the staff there is always friendly and welcoming.

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