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Articles By: elizabeth abbarno

Elizabeth Abbarno, Events Columnist-New York: Born in Buffalo, Elizabeth grew up in Dallas, Texas and identifies strongly as Texan. She holds a B.A. in Art History from The University of Oklahoma and a masters in Museum Studies from New York University. Elizabeth works in the arts, traveling the country installing exhibitions. She spends her spare time hunting for bargains, staring at art, looking for something to eat and drinking tea.

The smell of tater tots in the air. An intense game of four square. It’s fall…this must mean it’s back to school. But wait-it’s Saturday night. There’s something different happening in this school yard. This school isn’t quite a school anymore. 233 Mott Street, otherwise known as The Old School, was New York City’s first parochial school, associated with Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral. After the last classes were held here, the school traded school books for party looks. Now a venue for art exhibitions and launch parties, The Old School returned to its roots on October 7.

In their own way, hip glasses purveyor Warby Parker sought to bring the students back to The Old School, with the launch party for their collaboration with education focused not-for-profit Pencils of Promise. With frames in traditional pencil hues of black and marigold, Warby Parker advocates for Pencils of Promise’s mission to bring education to all. For each pair of sunglasses sold, Warby Parker will donate $30 of the $95 purchase price directly to Pencils of Promise to support their initiative to open their 100th school by the end of 2012.

The launch party for the Pencils of Promise sunglasses encouraged its attendees to act like kids, using the details from The Old School’s past to bring the event to life. The old four square court was reanimated, games of connect four were waged on the picnic tables in the courtyard, and guests smiled like schoolchildren for yearbook pictures in the photo booth. The spirited response to the Warby Parker x Pencils of Promise glasses almost made it feel that there could be children clogging the halls of The Old School, eagerly running to class.

While the pencil inspired frames were in attendance at the launch party, they will be available exclusively online. Launching on October 9th, these frames are limited edition. Only 500 pairs were made, and once they’re gone, they’re gone! Don’t be tardy!

Theaster Gates,  Low Backs (Brown and Black),  wood and metal, 2010

The beginning of March is a smorgasbord for art lovers. Packed with options, this is one smorgas that may be too rich for some tastes-how to choose among the many art fairs and events that pack the weekend of March 8-11? This guide will give you a compass to power through with tidbits about each fair so you can choose which is right for your taste.

Before we get started an important note: I recommend purchasing advance tickets whenever possible. Many art fairs allow for advance purchasing through their respective websites (which are all listed below) and some also offer promotional pricing to those who purchase beforehand. Already having your tickets in hand is a great way to avoid lines the day you attend, which will only make your life easier.

The Art Show

We’ll start at The Art Show at the Park Avenue Armory, which is considered  to be the longest continuously running art fair.    The Art Show is organized by The Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA). Featuring museum quality exhibitions by leading art dealers and galleries, The Art Show specializes in art from the 19th and 20th centuries with some 21st century works mixed in. This year marks the first time in almost a quarter century that The Art Show is expanding its roster of exhibitors, welcoming five new galleries.

Details:  The Park Avenue Armory, noon-6p every day. $20 admission benefits the Henry Street Settlement


For something contemporary-minded, try  SCOPE NY. SCOPE is opening its  11th  year in New York City, but this is the first year it will be located near the Armory Show in a pavilion at 57th   Street and 12th   Avenue. The proximity to the largesse that is the Armory Show (see below for full details) may change the face of this exhibition, but this is yet to be seen.  SCOPE is known for exhibiting emerging contemporary art from all creative disciplines including art, design, fashion and music. Contributions featured at this fair come from innovative galleries, artists and curators. New York is SCOPE’s flagship fair, however, it represents only one of this show’s iterations-SCOPE also takes place in Miami, Basel, London and the Hamptons.

Details: 57th Street and 12th Avenue,11a-8p everyday except Sunday, which closes at 7p. $20

The Armory Show

If you are interested in seeing a variety of modern and contemporary art-and lots of both- the Armory Show is gigantic and not for the faint of heart. Spread over two piers,  the Armory Show, now in its 11th year, is considered to be the leading show of modern and contemporary art. It’s breadth, depth and influence are why this weekend of art fairs is commonly referred to as Armory Arts Weekend. The Armory show is divided between Pier 92, which features modern works, and Pier 94 which showcases contemporary art. This separation of the modern and contemporary work is a recent addition and improves the conversation between these two moments in time. Pier 92 is dedicated to international dealers specializing in historically significant modern masterpieces and is intended to illustrate how these works engendered the new developments on view at Pier 94. A $30 general admission ticket offers entry to both piers, and for an additional $10, visitors can purchase a ticket that is also good for the Armory’s sister show, Volta.

Details:  Piers 92 and 94 (55th Street at 12th Avenue) $30, noon to 8p, except Sunday which closes at 7p. $15 for students and seniors. $ 40 for joint ticket with Volta.


Volta’s art fair offering is slightly different than the others, as it is an invitational show of solo projects. This creates a more focused scope for visitors, which the organizers liken to a “series of intense studio visits.” A spin off of the Basel version from 2005. Tickets are $15, but a $40 ticket offers access to this show and the Armory show. A complimentary shuttle bus runs between the two venues. If you are doing both perhaps this is the place to start since it is closer to public transportation than the piers on the Westside.

Details:  7W 34th   Street, 11a-7p everyday. $15 general admission or  $ 40 for joint ticket with The Armory Show

Fountain Art Fair

Largest exhibition space ever for this fair, which will feature over sixty galleries and a large public art installation. Considered the most avant-garde, independent fair, Fountain has always featured a significant public or street art component. Duchamp’s Fountain is the symbol of the fair and it seems fitting that the show is exhibiting at the site of the original 1913 Armory show where Duchamp’s piece was unveiled for the first time.

Details:  69th   Regiment Armory, 68 Lexington Avenue @ 25th   Street, 1-7pm daily.  $10


Sponsored by Frere Independent, PooL is inspired by the 1863 Salon des Refuses, and is dedicated to showcasing unrepresented artists. The first edition of this fair took place in the year 2000 under the name New York Independent Art Fair. This is the first year that PooL has accepted applications from contemporary art dealers, emerging galleries, curators and non-profits so it may be different in tone than in years past.  However, the fair requires that all applicants still remain true to the spirit of exchange and collaboration that PooL was founded on.

Details:  The Flatiron Hotel, 9 W 26th  Street, 3-10p daily.  $10 suggested donation.

Moving Image Contemporary Video Art Fair

While other art fairs feature some video and media work, Moving Image is all about this artistic medium. A selection of commercial galleries and non-profits have been invited to exhibit single channel videos, single channel projections, video sculptures and other large video installations. This fair aims to give video art its due, allowing it to be seen as it was meant to be.

Details:  Waterfront New York Tunnel, 269 11th   Avenue @ 27th Street, 11a-8p. 11a-4p on Sunday. Free

Other fairs that are free of charge are Independent and Dependent. Free doesn’t necessarily mean inferior art-in fact it can mean exactly the opposite. These two fairs are definitely worth a look. Keep in mind that unlike the other shows, Dependent is only open on Saturday from  12-8p.

The RedDot and PULSE  art fairs have been held over this weekend in the past, but enthusiasts will have to wait until May this year. Both shows will take place May 3-6, 2012. PULSE will return to its home at the Metropolitan Pavilion 125 W. 18th  Street. Advance tickets are already available. Despite the change in date of the fair, PULSE maintains a presence during Armory Arts weekend with a Chelsea gallery walk on March 8 from 6-8p. This event is free, and further details can be found on PULSE’s website.

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Does anyone enjoy going to the laundromat?  The Laundromat Project (LP), based in Brooklyn, is trying to reverse this trend. Founded by Risà « Wilson in 1999 and incorporated in 2005, LP seeks to make trips to the once dreaded laundromat bright spots in people’s lives. LP activates quotidian spaces like the laundromat by bringing public arts programs to communities around New York City. The organization aims to make the most difference by focusing its efforts on low-income communities, those that tend to be underserved by museums and cultural centers.

The LP brings its mission of building community by providing an outlet for creativity with two programs: Works in Progress (WiP) and the Create Change Public Artist Residency. These initiatives represent an amalgamation of art, social justice and community building. These multi-pronged efforts earned the LP an Echoing Green  fellowship in 2009, when they were recognized as a notable art-based social justice startup. Initiatives have included projects like archiving residents’ thoughts about the changes in their neighborhood as artist Karina Aguilera Skvirsky executed in her community.

The WiP program was initially designed for a Harlem neighborhood, providing free arts education workshops for the community at the local laundromat. WiP takes place every weekend afternoon from late summer to early fall at The Laundry Room at 116th street in Harlem [Map]. LP places folding tables outside the laundromat, filling the tables with supplies-paper, markers, feather, and glitter. WiP Teaching Artists and volunteers invite passersby to explore their creative side and make some art.   The volunteers of LP play an important role in engaging the public, as many of them are arts professionals and have a background in education, which allows participants to get the most out of their experience.

During the winter, the WiP program doesn’t lie dormant. Events like the Romare Bearden Collage and Portraiture Workshop held at The Studio Museum in Harlem on January 15th keep LP engaged with the community outside the Laundromat. This event honored Bearden as well as civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Attendees tried their hand at Bearden’s brightly colored, visually textured collage techniques to create a representation of the person they aspire to be.

LP’s second initiative, Create Change, is an annual program that gives artists an opportunity to create projects at Laundromats that engage their community and engender interest and participation in the arts. This program allows for seven New York and Philadelphia based artists to create works of art, but gives an additional fifteen artists access to professional development. These sessions give artists an opportunity to discuss their work with their peers, the LP staff, as well as professionals in the arts and social justice sectors in the hope of creating more socially engaged works of art. Applications for this year’s Create Change cycle will become available on the LP website in the coming weeks, with final proposals due on March 23.

In the future, the LP hopes to be able to expand their reach by offering in-school programs and expanding their current roster of drop-in workshops and courses. The major goal for LP is to one day purchase a laundromat that will function as the organization’s home and as a community arts center. To raise funds for the purchase of a laundromat that would serve as the organization’s home base, the LP has hosted benefit auctions for the past two years, featuring artist editions for sale by upcoming and established artists. With accessibility in mind, event tickets were priced at $25.  To learn more, or to support LP’s programs visit their website–and get out to the laundromat!

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Untapped Cities recently visited the offices of Warby Parker and met with Online Media Manager Brian Magida, who offered the backstory about the vanguard eyeglasses retailer.  But this is no ordinary eyeglass shop. With every pair of glasses purchased, Warby Parker  provides glasses to those who cannot afford a pair, directly or via funding to partners.

The company was launched in February 2010 while its four founders–Neil Blumenthal,  Andrew Hunt, David Gilboa and  Jeffrey Raider–were still attending Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. Only one had experience working with eye wear: Neil had previously been involved with Vision Spring, a company that is now one of Warby Parker’s collaborators. At the beginning, David’s cell phone would be notified when orders came in and it soon began ringing off the hook. Within two days the entire inventory was sold out, and in three weeks, the entrepreneurs had met their sales target for the year.

It became clear with this type of demand that selling glasses out of their apartment was not going to cut muster. While the desired strategy was creating a person-to-person interaction with customers, the company needed more space. Warby Parker secured an office on 16th  street in Manhattan after a brief stint using Rachel Lee Jewelry as their showroom.

Since then, it has been a whirlwind. The burgeoning company launched a website that deals with a flurry of sales on a daily basis. Additionally, Warby Parker has expanded its workforce and moved offices to SoHo’s historic Puck Building which boasts an on site showroom.   The goal of Warby Parker is to be open, collaborative and fun, which they accomplish in spades. Customers can make an appointment to drop into their offices to look at and purchase glasses frames. The business is mainly an online retailer but it places a high level of importance on customer interaction and satisfaction in comparison to the often faceless online industry.   There are showrooms in Oklahoma City, Portland and Seattle as well as pop-ups in Austin, Boston and Los Angeles which re-double the effort.

The collaborative spirit of the brand is also echoed in their partnerships with fashion label  Suno  and human rights group  Invisible Children. Read more about the Suno x Warby Parker collaboration  here.

What’s next for Warby Parker? Look for a new, highly curated collection of glasses in the near future as well as a retail store and community center in NYC. For now, check them out in the Puck Building or online at warbyparker.com.

Filled to the brim with performances, DIY showcases and all things scientific and artistic Maker Faire 2011 did not disappoint.  Sited at the New York Hall of Science and its environs, the organizers of the event made sure there was something to see at every turn.

Hailing from Houston, Texas, the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir was a hard act to top. It was quite a sight to behold-a Volvo covered in singing and gyrating bass and lobsters, complete with a “Fish Texas” license plate. The fish had an extensive repertoire, singing opera, rock and pop while we watched. The vehicle is outfitted with over 300 pounds of batteries and 31 custom circuit boards, with a total of over five miles of control system wire. Not bad for some singing fish that had been relegated to performing solo from a wall plaque in a former life.