This week, get to know contributing reporter, writer and photographer for Untapped Cities, Erika Stark. Erika is a Kansas City native and enthusiast who is just about to head into her last year at the University of Missouri where she’s planning to graduate (fingers-crossed) with degrees in Journalism and Classical Humanities. Alongside her studies, Erika enjoys playing the piano, painting, and dancing (both in the studio and on the streets for her room and board). She’s been told she rivals Carrie Bradshaw in eccentric style, and she’s notoriously sarcastic.
What’s your favorite Untapped spot in your city?
A difficult choice, but I would probably have to go with the New York Public Library and all its nooks and crannies. I really enjoy the buildings nod to ancient Greco-Roman architecture along with all the ornate detailing and extremely high ceilings. Then of course there are the hidden spots that tell the stories of the people and time periods past that give it a real sense of history and evolution. It’s also the largest marble building in the United States — I’ve got a bit of a thing for marble.
Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped:
My time at Untapped had me traveling to a lot of different places and meeting so many interesting and fun people, but probably my favorite overall piece would be the one about the felt bodega pop-up installation in the Standard Hotel. Not only was the shop really something amazing, but the artist, Lucy Sparrow, was actually there and had such an interesting story to tell and such a cool vibe. All the colors and the movement of the people in the bodega also made for some really great shots, which make it probably my favorite photo story of my time at Untapped as well.
What’s the most memorable thing that happened while writing for Untapped Cities?
Getting to go across all five boroughs for various stories made everything pretty memorable for me, but my most memorable moment would either have to be getting to zip line at the Bronx Zoo, or making two 60-year-old potato vodka farmers (and a woman named Tequila in a red bucket hat) take an 11 AM celebratory shot with me at the reopening of the World Trade Center Greenmarket on my 21st birthday.
What’s the most surprising and/or valuable thing you’ve learned while at Untapped Cities?
This was my first time ever living in a big city like New York for any extended period of time– unless you count Kansas City, but people usually just ask if I have cows (which I do not), so you probably don’t. So, I think that by Untapped throwing me into the deep end with coverage of anything and everything as a one woman show, the most valuable lesson my time here has taught me is how to be unafraid in the face of new travels, new places and new faces. I also learned how to scale a fence with all my belongings on my shoulder and a camera in my hand, so there’s that too.
What’s your favorite Untapped place you’ve visited while traveling?
A few years ago, my family took an amazing trip to visit our relatives in Norway. We saw wild cows chilling on a beach, took the winding kings road from Oslo to Bergen to see all the breathtaking fjords, and we got to zip line across the 1952 winter Olympics ski-jump. Our family really helped us to “untap” their country in a way I’ll never forget.
Where do you want to visit next?
Next, I’d love to travel throughout Spain — well, gorge on tapas and sangria all throughout Spain.
What’s your favorite obscure fact about your city?
There are too many times I’ve literally laughed out loud at a New York fact I’ve come across during the writing process, but the one that comes to mind right now is the fact that Washington Square Park goers are leisurely hanging out on top of buried, unidentified bodies. That’s extremely morbid and a bit sad, but I enjoy the irony.
Craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Two years ago I lip-synced Tina Turner’s Proud Mary (with corresponding dance routine and gold lamé outfit) in front of a theater full of University of Missouri students and alumni. Don’t ask me why anyone thought I would make a good Tina because I have no idea, but I tried to do her proud (pun unintended).
Best celebrity sighting?
Oh easily Grace Coddington, longtime cat fanatic and creative director at large for Vogue, with her fantastically witchy long, red hair outside her Chelsea brownstone.