President’s Letter: April 2024

Monthly observations and insights from MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein

April 30, 2024

As I read the news each morning, the conflicts of the day seem to get sharper. We seem to be doing more yelling at each other than listening. It makes me wonder what the perfect conditions for dialogue are. There are plenty of examples of what we shouldn’t do. Are we better prepared now to listen to each other deeply? We pride ourselves on tolerance, but then some conflict threatens that idea in a surprising new way. Is our tolerance just a superficial thing, or is it deeper than that?

These thoughts make me appreciate the walking conversations that characterize the Jane’s Walk Festival here in New York City every year. There is richness in hearing the stories our walk leaders share, especially when it prompts us to look at New York in a new way.

I am excited to explore parts of the city I know well through a fresh lens or ones I don’t know at all. I am delighted to see a neighborhood or hear of a history that I have missed in my own patterns of exploration.

I had a chance to meet some of the walk leaders at the Jane’s Walk kick-off event in Washington Square Park this past weekend. What a wonderful group of people! It was a stunning day, and the park was full to the brim with regulars and visitors. Honk, the Brooklyn-based band helped attract a crowd and provided a spirited musical accompaniment to the event.

"Relive Life Under the Chinese Exclusion Act," a Jane's Walk from 2022. Photo: Cameron Blaylock. Modifications: photo cropped.

I hope that you will join me this weekend to explore the city. Thanks, as always, for all the support you provide that allows us to invite the city to take a walk! What a lovely gift that is.

In one of exploration of my own making recently, I joined friends for a visit to some of the new galleries that are popping up in Tribeca. There is a wild world of contrast on the walk from the subway at Canal Street, from the edges of Chinatown and the fringes of the courthouse district to the more rarified heights of white walled galleries with stories of strife and serenity, just doors steps away from one another. This part of Tribeca is teeming with young people now-a-days. SoHo has spilled south. And even though the area long ago converted from manufacturing to residential, it used to be relatively empty. Not anymore.

We saw an exhibit of Si Lewen’s Parade. The 63 drawings were done in 1950 and clearly recall the feeling of watching the rise of Nazism from the sidewalk and the trenches. Lewen made the work after he fled Berlin to New York City in 1935, then returned to Europe in 1942 as a United States enlisted man.

Next door we saw a show of profoundly serene pottery by Toshiko Takaezu. Her glorious vessels seem an impossibility. Some are spherical and rise 2-3 feet high. There is no opening at the top as you would normally expect with ceramic work. The pieces make you slow down and wonder about the maker and the process.

This small collection at the Walker Gallery coincides with a significant retrospective of Takaezu’s work at the Noguchi Museum in Astoria. I haven’t seen that show yet, but I love the Noguchi Museum for many reasons. I love his work and the Museum is a tantalizing combination of indoor and outdoor spaces. I was last there on one of the hottest days of summer last year with a friend from out of town. It was a peaceful experience for both of us, despite the horrendous heat. Or maybe that just made us more languid! But I also love the idea that the Museum has the authentic feel of Noguchi’s studio. One can imagine the stones laying around the space. It feels both hardy enough, and contemplative enough, for someone who produced such delicacy out of stone.

I have many wishes for the city I love, but the one at the top of my mind is a place for each of us to find space for a dialogue with people who see the world differently. Hopefully, this year’s Jane’s Walks will help make that wish a tiny bit more of a reality.

Elizabeth Goldstein Signature

Elizabeth Goldstein
President, Municipal Art Society of New York

Thanks to the 7,000 who joined us Jane’s Walk Weekend.

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