Monday, November 9, 2009

The New Yorker's Passport to the Arts

I have to say the New Yorker Magazine is one of those institutions that more than ever helps to make life in New York especially lively and exciting. For one thing, the magazine itself is pretty good, better than ever in my humble opinion. But now they are sponsoring a lot of other stuff that enriches the city. Not too long ago, they held their annual New Yorker Festival that featured a lot of terrific events - sneak previews of artists' studios, panel discussions about lively subjects, tours of obscure New York neighborhoods, special outings to little known restaurants, and many others. Unfortunately, this festival has become so popular that even if you call the very minute that they begin taking reservations, you get shut out, unless you know David Remnick, the New Yorker editor, personally, and even then there's no guarantee.

So, I was very glad to see another opportunity come through the New Yorker that was a little bit easier to take advantage of. It is called Passport to the Arts and it offers participants the chance to visit a variety of leading art galleries mainly in the Chelsea neighborhood, to get a peek at one artist at work, and to take part in a reception at the end of the day that includes a silent auction and plenty of good food and wine. We participated last Saturday afternoon and found it all to be everything we had hoped for.

Of course, at the heart of the thing is a cheap and simple gimmick. Every studio participating made a stamp that reflected in some way the show they were displaying. Patrons would go from gallery to gallery getting their stamps in a kind of passport book provided by the New Yorker. At the end of the day, if you went to all the galleries, you would have a passport book full of charming stamps. Which is exactly what we did. I might add that the end of the day party turned out to be every bit as good as expected, too. Endless wine and incredibly tasty treats, topped off by some amazing brownies, all served in a very large but also very crowded 13th story room overlooking the city on 27th street just west of 11th Avenue. Of course, as we ate and drank, we quietly wrote in bids for the various items that were being auctioned. We bid on a pile of art books, an espresso machine, and a close-up picture of Jackie Robinson's hands gripping a baseball bat. We were not successful in purchasing any of these things, but guess which one attracted the most bidding and the highest price?

Correct. Jackie Robinson's hands.

There was one other special treat that only the New Yorker Passport patrons were able to take advantage of. On 24th street, between 10th and 11th Avenues, right in the heart of Chelsea, a modest little cart held two large containers of hot chocolate that anyone displaying the New Yorker passport could use. It was some of the best and richest hot chocolate I have ever had. What a terrific bonus! Oh, and some of the art was pretty good, too!

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