Thursday, June 10, 2010

"The Evolution of An American City"

No one ever wants to go to court, but today was an exception. The Newburgh City Court held a dedication for the courthouse murals painted by artist and designer Bryan Guglielmi. The series, named "Newburgh- The Evolution of An American City" depicts scenes of Newburgh during different phases of time.

I had previously seen the murals and asked to take pictures, but cameras aren't normally allowed in the courthouse. I happened to be picking up some forms, and being that it was a press free-for-all, I had my chance to get some shots. The work is beautiful, and the artist is a sweetheart. He was easily approachable, and gave me the opportunity to capture him and his work with a few photos.
Even the staff at the courthouse was in high spirits, which I'm assuming was because of this event. Come 4PM, everything usually comes to an abrupt standstill, but today was an exception. The event started at 3PM, but I was allowed to linger well after 4. It seemed like no one was rushing me out, no one was in a rush to end their day, and everyone was just enjoying the moment. Seeing these murals is definitely worth a trip to court!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Awe of Awnings

Do little things make a difference? Are these small efforts contagious? I hope so.

Driving down Broadway the other day, I noticed an awning over what I thought was a storefront. I think it’s new, but I can’t say for sure. It wasn’t a commercial sort of awning you’d expect to find over a store with a bright color and the store name screaming out at you. This was a subtle awning with deep red and beige stripes and coordinated perfectly with both the color of the brick and the pointing between the bricks.

However a small a detail this might be, it brought to mind images I had seen of the Palatine Hotel (opened in 1893, and demolished in 1970). When I first came across a picture of this hotel years back, I fell in love with it. I couldn’t understand how they could tear it down, but that was exactly the imagery I wanted to see when I’d think of the future of Newburgh.

In writing this, I was looking for a picture of that grand hotel. When I found one, I realized why that new awning reminded me so much of the hotel, it was practically identical to the hotel’s awnings in both style and color The Palatine must have left a positive impression on someone else, too, enough for them to want to mimic the style of the former hotel’s awnings. I hope this triggers some similar thoughts in someone else’s head, and they in turn do something small in nature to remind us of how great Newburgh was, and so on, and so on…

I still don’t understand how you could let such a structure fall apart and get torn down. The Palatine may be gone forever, but to me, this small insignificant awning symbolizes the return of what was once great.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Color Me Happy

In the area, kids have a hard time finding something to do and often can't really entertain themselves. I was curious to see how receptive they would be to simple activities. The art influence is rapidly growing throughout Newburgh, and every great artist had to start somewhere. With that thought in mind, I brought a number of small  art/craft  projects. The cost of these items were extremely meager, each being about a dollar and I figured there's no harm in a little coloring.

A group of four small kids were running up and down the block. I asked them if they wanted to have a little contest, and that got their attention. I pulled out coloring kits comprised of a drawing and a set of crayons. They quickly ripped the packaging open and when right to work. They had questions like if they could color them any way they wanted, to which I answered yes. They finished their masterpieces in no time and we very eager to show me and see who won the award. They were all very proud of their work, and not wanting to choose, they each won, the prize being little origami books with several projects and detailed instructions in each.

Another girl was just sitting on her stoop and I mentioned how she looked bored. I asked what she liked to do, her reply being swimming. Being that I couldn't help with that at that given moment, I asked if she liked drawing. She said yes, and I pulled out a small engraving kit comprised of a coated silver foil page and a scratch tool. I explained how it was done, and she also went to work right away. She seemed to take her time on the pre-printed seahorse design and seemed to pay attention to detail. About half an hour later, she was still working on it when another girl came out and started calling to her. She didn't respond to her friend right away and just kept working. After a bit, she went inside with her work and came right out. I was pleased to see she brough her kit inside and not just discard or abandon it on the stoop.

This tells me it really doesn't take much to make these kids happy, they're willing to try different things, and they welcome the chance to do so. They even said thanks!

I hope to help them find things they enjoy doing and provide a positive outlet. If we encouragement them now, hopefully they will find something they love doing, hopefully that something will make a difference for them, and hopefully that difference will make us all better off.

More Than a Facade

Having a place in what's referred to as the "Historical District", I think too much emphasis is put on the structures and what people passing by on the streets see of these old time buildings. These places have a lot to offer, but we can't always see past those facades, and it's an appearance that does not look so promising to the naked eye.

What should be the focus is what's behind all that brick and mortar: the people who live within those walls, the mindset around these places, and the perception of the neighborhood to others. The biggest obstacle is finding a way to make everyone living in these once great places care about where they live. Even though the majority of occupants are renters, we all need to take ownership of where we spend our time. This isn't necessarily financial in nature. It could be a matter of something as simple as picking up a soda can littering the sidewalk, and tossing it a garbage can that's just a few steps away.

I'm noticing people are starting to feel passionate about the area, myself included, and I hope that passion is contagious. A giant face lift is taking place within the city, but that's only the beginning. Fresh ideas are coming through by way of new visions, new places (homes, stores, restaurants) and even new faces. The true beauty is coming through, and I see great things are already in the works!.

What do you see for Newburgh and what are your ideas?