Three cheers for the Bronx

Woodstock’s Kleinert hosts “Bronx Memories” open-mic event this Saturday

by Paul Smart
June 16, 2011 01:13 PM | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Karen Whitman & Rick Pantell
Karen Whitman & Rick Pantell
What is it about the Bronx? For anyone who has visited the place, it’s an endless urban landscape – punctuated, of course, by some of the world’s leading parks and waterfronts. The place is made up of various neighborhoods, but few with the culinary allure of a Brooklyn, a Queens or even a Staten Island. Its etymological roots are as Swedish as Dutch or Native American. We think of Bronx Bombers and Bronx cheers instead of the fact that at one point, the borough was home to 61 piano factories and hosted some of the world’s largest cinemas, located along the Grand Concourse said by some to be the Champs D’Elysee’s equal. Larry Rivers, Eric Holder, Carly Simon, Don DeLillo, Grace Paley, Ed Koch, Ace Frehley, Woody Allen, Anne Bancroft, Stanley Kubrick, Stan Getz, Colin Powell and both Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren are from the Bronx, as is much of doo-wop, salsa, rap and hip hop.

“Last year, someone talked about being together with people from the rest of the City, and someone suggested everyone take cabs,” painter/printmaker and musicmaker Rick Pantell said this week of a speaker at the first annual “Bronx Memories” open-mic event last year, on the eve of the popular gathering’s second annual outing at the Kleinert/James Arts Center in Woodstock this Saturday evening, June 18. “But as we all know who grew up there, people from the Bronx always walk. You don’t need to be driven anywhere.”

Pantell’s printmaking and music-making partner Karen Whitman, who was born in the borough but later moved on, noted how they got the idea for such an event after recording their long “The Bronx Song” in early 2010 – an epic that she describes as being “like the ‘American Pie’ of the Bronx.” “We had asked some friends if they knew anyone from the old neighborhoods to sing with us, and it turned out a lot of artists we know up here are from the same places,” Pantell adds. “We never know what to expect.”

The evening, expected to add to a great soul-sharing experience last year at Woodstock’s Colony Café, will include musical sets and old Bronx émigrés sharing stories. “We’re hoping to see kids and grandkids there,” Pantell says, “along with our mothers and fathers.”

Stories will be kept to five minutes this time around. Each of the two sets will open and close with a song, including “The Bronx Song.”

“The Bronx has gotten a bad rap…but it holds such rich memories,” Pantell says of the place where Yankee Stadium and Alexander’s held sway, of a time when summer dance parties and a world where everyone hung out on the street, the older women yelling out their windows with hair in curlers, still haunts him and his friends. “People all knew where they were from. And it just happens to be the only place in the English-speaking world where we speak without an accent.”

It all goes down at the Kleinert, located at 34 Tinker Street in Woodstock, starting at 8 p.m. this Saturday, June 18. For further information call (845) 684-5476, e-mail or visit

@ Paul Smart

Shapes of things to come

Unison launches Sculpture Walk at Water Street Market in New Paltz with crafts fair this Saturday

We told you about the opening of the annual sculpture show over at Unison Arts’ garden setting on Mountain Rest Road just west of New Paltz two weeks ago. This Saturday, not only does the big regional sculpture park at Art Omi, known as the Fields, open up with an afternoon reception in Ghent (, but the stalwart Unison also expands its own sculptural grasp on the area into town and augments a scheduled Sculpture Walk at the Water Street Market with a Crafts Fair that promises to be far beyond the usual and expected.

The first-ever crafts event, which will take place outside with a Sunday rain date, will provide a keen focus on 15 top-of-their-game craftspeople exhibiting a wide variety of work in clay, wood, wearables and jewelry, from Leonie Lacouette’s ostensibly surreal art clocks through Alexa Ginsburg’s felt wearables, bags and folk dolls to soapmaker Kirk Timperio’s sweetly scented and luxuriant goods. There will be carefully turned cutting boards and other wood creations, Annie O’Neill’s playful-and-useful ceramic vessels, some gorgeous raku and porcelain pieces and a host of jewelry, art clothing and knickknacks.

The new Sculpture Walk, featuring pieces by ten area artists placed around the Water Street Market, augments the larger show at Unison’s main space just west of town. It all runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, with the sculpture pieces remaining up through the coming season. For further information, call (845) 255-7736, visit or just head down to the Water Street Market at the end of Main Street in New Paltz, just before you hit the bridge over the Wallkill.

Picture perfect

Painter Vincent Connelly of High Falls wins Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant

The first time I met the Scottish artist Vincent Connelly, who recently won a coveted Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for 2010/11, his studio in a barn up at Mohonk Mountain House was see-your-breath cold, and as big a mess as I’ve seen any creative space get. Connelly was still working as a plumber for the historic resort at the time; the Parkinson’s hadn’t gotten that bad yet. He talked a great deal about his surprise journey into the arts, his love of pastels and paint – and then he started handing me notebooks filled with works. Every page was a masterpiece of subtle, spot-on originality.

“While the other kids in the projects were playing cowboys-and-Indians, I was trying to figure out how to get to the museums in Glasgow to see Rembrandts and Dalís,” Connelly recalled. “Sometimes I wonder if I am painting Nature or not… Sitting in a field or on a roadside, I see my work as a vehicle to go from one place to another. Whether it be a large field or barn, they are both the same.”

He now works out of a home studio in High Falls, and has since had a growing stream of solo exhibitions throughout the Northeast. This summer he’s showing in Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the Barn Museum at Mohonk, at the High Falls Studios and as part of the upcoming “Hudson Valley Artist 2011:Exercises in Unnecessary Beauty” compendium exhibition of regional talent at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY-New Paltz, opening June 25.

You couldn’t ask for a more deserving recipient of such an award.

@ Paul Smart 

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