August 2015 | Arts in the City

♪♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪♪ >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Welcome to Arts in the City I’m Carol Anne Riddell We’re in sunny Battery Park on the southern end of Manhattan We’re enjoying a much needed summer break from the fast paced flow of New York City So we wanted to bring you a few of our favorite segments Our first story is about Will Ellis, a photographer who captures beauty in some of the city’s most remote locations forgotten by time Here’s Tony Guida’s story from this past May >>>TONY GUIDA: Will Ellis looks through his camera lens and sees the past Ellis is a photographer and urban explorer rummaging through New York’s ruins to learn the tales they have to tell us >>>WILL ELLIS: And this is New York City farm colony >>>TONY GUIDA: In the middle of Staten Island remnants of a civilization that flourished one hundred twenty years ago and passed into history A campus for the city’s poor >>>WILL ELLIS: So the idea was they worked the land in exchange for their room and board- it all pretty much looks like this >>>TONY GUIDA: What it looks like is Dickensian So these partitions would have been, what, rooms >>>WILL ELLIS: Yeah this is where the residents would actually live so you can see really close quarters but it was either that or you know living on the streets >>>TONY GUIDA: At the dawn of the last century as many as two hundred residents grew enough vegetables here to feed thousands But as the country prospered the poor found better jobs, replacements for the farmers aging workforce became scarce The farm colony was abandoned in 1975 >>>WILL ELLIS: This place, like more than any other, has become almost like a public space The teenagers coming in here and doing graffiti, the paint ballers out there building you know obstacles for their games So it’s interesting to see what the public will do with the space when it’s totally neglected and you know kind of left up to them to decide how to use it >>>TONY GUIDA: Voices of another extinct population echo in this once abandoned railroad tunnel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In the 1980’s and 90’s this was the home of New York’s Mole People >>>WILL ELLIS: There were hundreds of people living down here at the time, they had some pretty intricate living spaces, they had pets some of them, places to cook, electrical hook ups So it wasn’t a bad place to live at one point >>>TONY GUIDA: A documentary was filmed about the mole people There were countless television stories and at least two books one by a journalist, another by an anthropologist The Mole People became celebrities but when Amtrak resumed running trains here the society of mole people ended We’re in a tunnel but if we were standing here eighty years ago, we’d be at street level, there would be no roof >>>WILL ELLIS: And it was actually called Death Avenue at one point because so many people would get killed just crossing the street and be struck by trains >>>TONY GUIDA: To turn this slum into Mayfair, Robert Moses covered the train tracks, added tons of landfill and created Riverside Park Few visitors realize trains run below them in a tunnel that is famous as an iconic image of underground New York >>>WILL ELLIS: This area was once called Barren Island >>>TONY GUIDA: On a stretch of Brooklyn shoreline lies an isolated area whose history Ellis calls ghoulish with a ghastly name of Dead Horse Bay >>>WILL ELLIS: There were horse rendering plants where the city’s dead carriage horses would be sent to be turned into glue and fertilizer >>>TONY GUIDA: That was in the 1850’s By 1900 this became a landfill accepting all of the city’s garbage. The landfill was capped in 1953 but sixty years of tides have uncapped it, revealing in bones and bottles and all manner of debris, the history of a grim period in New York Will, you find beauty in decay >>>WILL ELLIS: Yes I think it’s safe to say that I think it has to do with this kind of- with death in a way, how we’re kind of simultaneously attracted to it and repulsed by it And for some people that just makes things more interesting and they can find beauty in that >>>TONY GUIDA: Ellis has written a book about his explorations called Abandoned NYC It contains dozens of his exceptional photographs, a timeless record of a city that is constantly changing >>>WILL ELLIS: I think that’s why it’s important to you know take a moment take stock of what we have or what we’re losing You know it’s important to document these places and remember their stories >>>TONY GUIDA: I’m Tony Guida, for Arts in the City >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: In April we profiled Bulletproof Stockings, an all female rock group whose members also happen to be Hasidic Jews

Tinabeth Pina interviewed these convention-breaking women >>>TINABETH PINA: Crown Heights is a neighborhood where its men and women strictly observe the laws of Judaism and out of this community comes a women’s band who’s trying to combine a rock and roll with their Hasidic beliefs. Let’s meet Bulletproof Stockings >>>PERL WOLFE: What else are we going to call an all-girl Hasidic rock band? Bulletproof Stockings I think it pretty much tells you what it is right off the bat >>>DALIA SHUSTERMAN: There’s a joke that people tell, it’s kind of this derogatory term about women who wear these very thick opaque stockings, so thick that they’re bulletproof and these are Hasidic women and I’m like, okay, I’m embracing this lifestyle I’m going to totally own that joke We’re using the rock and roll language, per se, but we’re infusing it with everything else that we’re about which is like, we are Hasidim you know that’s how we live our life So it comes out through the music >>>PERL WOLFE: Being a Hasid means living in the real world and bringing these positive elements and bringing the spiritual down to earth >>>TINABETH PINA: How does Hasidic music infiltrate your music and your sound? >>>PERL WOLFE: Nigunim Yeah, Hasidic melodies >>>PERL WOLFE: If you listen to our music and you know Hasidic melodies I think you can easily see the influence It’s old world, it’s got a kind of a little bit of a classical sound in some respects. Very soulful, it’s a little bluesy, and I think that comes through in the music as well Being a Hasid is awesome because every single day is about doing better than yesterday and every single day it’s like yesterday was good How can today be better? How can I make the world a better place and spread more light and joy in the world? So it’s just awesome >>>TINABETH PINA: Yeah and how does an all girl Hasidic rock band form? >>>PERL WOLFE: After my second divorce I started writing music, which was very unexpected and happened really naturally It just started flowing out I had no previous experience on stage before this so it’s kind of like really putting myself out there >>>DALIA SHUSTERMAN: I’ve been on stage performing drums since I was sixteen and even like the first time I ever touched a drum was on a stage I had just gone through a huge life change, you know brought my kids–moved my kids here Just rebuilding, you know after losing my husband, and I was getting a lot of calls for doing a lot of music things, which is beautiful, but I definitely didn’t have like extra energy to like devote to anything until I met Perl >>>PERL WOLFE: It was an instant connection Right away it was like, alright cool, let’s do this, we’re forming a band. It was like an unspoken thing We knew that it was going to be big and we knew that we were going to play for women and we were just like all right let’s take it on >>>TINABETH PINA: Why do you guys perform only for women? >>>PERL WOLFE: We want to create a space where women to rock out and be themselves People commonly confuse it because there is a Jewish law for men saying that Jewish men aren’t supposed to listen to the voice of a woman singing who is not an immediate family member It does shape what we do in some ways but >>>DALIA SHUSTERMAN: It’s a very special thing to have an environment where it’s just you and your sister Jewish girls, non-Jewish girls, they’d all be into it >>>PERL WOLFE: It’s such a rush and it’s such a spiritual experience to be on stage and to it’s really the energy from the women that makes it >>>DINA GIELCHINSKY: I love their music but I also just love what they are, you know and ultra orthodox alternative rock band that’s gone mainstream >>>TERRI LEVY: I think they totally blew us away They rocked, totally rocked >>>FAITH SHEIBER ELKOBI: Really fun, it’s relaxing, you sort of don’t have the same energies that go on sometimes when men are there and women can really sort of let loose and sing and dance >>>TINABETH PINA: What would be like your ultimate dream? Where do you see you guys performing? Madison Square Garden? Headlining? What’s your biggest dream? >>>PERL WOLFE: Headlining Madison Square Garden >>>DALIA SHUSTERMAN: Yeah or even having like a festival, like a whole like women palooza kind of thing, you know what I mean? Like having a travelling festival that we can take everywhere with all the you know female talent that’s out there for women to celebrate all around the world >>>TINABETH PINA: I’m Tinabeth Piña for Arts in the City >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Run D.M.C

and Nitorious B.I.G., they are just a few of the names who have called New York City home In January we ran a story about how the city can claim hip-hop as its own through the words of the artists themselves >>>GRANDMASTER CAZ: Hip-hop created a musical landscape in the 70’s and early 80’s by giving New York or the Bronx, especially the Bronx, a musical foundation or a new start because we were just coming off the 60’s where the entire city was bankrupt That environment kind of gave birth to hip-hop Hip-hop is a culture based on four foundational elements DJ’ing, emcee’ing, or rap, graffiti and breakdancing >>>XAVIER JERNIGAN: People use the terms interchangeably rap with hip-hop whereas hip-hop is the bigger culture Rap is something you do Hip-hop is something you live >>>GRANDMASTER CAZ: Coming from the disco era, you know what I mean, we were inner city kids We couldn’t get into discos so we had to recreate that disco and that’s what basically hip-hop started out as like the bastard child of disco I mean it was our rebellion against that and our recreation of it at the same time >>>XAVIER JERNIGAN: The turntables became our instruments, like, so, a lot of people in inner cities they didn’t have money for instruments so you had to find those sounds somewhere So you dug through your pop’s crate of records and you’re just listening for these different instruments and sounds and then you pull from those different sounds and made a total new creation People forget that the DJ is the backbone of hip-hop That’s where it all started DJ spinning at parties >>>DEBRA HARRIS: Kool Herc is actually documented as the father of hip-hop When he was playing the type of music he was playing and maybe the way he was playing it, it brought out a different type of energy than ever experienced from that demographic at that time >>>GRANDMASTER CAZ: And he just started putting one drum brake behind the next drum brake and you would just go to Herc’s parties just waiting for those brakes >>>CRAZY LEGS: B-boy and B-girl comes from cool hurt, B meaning break Okay. Break boy You dance on the brake. That’s it >>>DEBRA HARRIS: It all ties into dancing and really going off during a break beat of a song at a party back in the day >>>XAVIER JERNIGAN: And then it was different parts of the record where you could talk over it and then the beat still going but you don’t lose the attention of the record or the main part of the record That evolved to emcee getting on a mike and just saying things to keep the party going, which evolve into actually rhyming and rapping because these different emcee’s will have little sayings that they said >>>A teenager named Afrika Bambaataa started the Zulu Nation at the Bronx River Projects It was a new type of gang, which focused on music and dance >>>GRANDMASTER CAZ: Bambaataa the first guy to say, hey let’s all come together You can all play on my set So he was integral in uniting hip-hop and in ’82 when Planet Rock came out became a universal hit that just added to his prominence and his outreach to the rest of the world The connection between hip-hop and graffiti, it’s an urban thing though it was here before the actual rest of the elements of the culture the people involved and graffiti were directly involved in hip-hop as well >>>MICKEY FACTZ: Fab Five Freddie was the bridge between hip-hop and graffiti He brought the South Bronx and the people from Harlem downtown to the hipsters, with Keith Haring and Madonna were hanging out. Before he was a DJ he was on Yo! M.T.V. Raps He was a graffiti artist >>>XAVIER JERNIGAN: M.T.V. made hip-hop global It broke it out of being a niche kind of music or something like these black kids or Latin kids are doing in certain urban areas to an actual viable genre of music that reached middle America and mainstream America Particularly Walk This Way was the record that took hip-hop to the next level on M.T.V That collaboration with Run D.M.C and Aerosmith was just perfect

That was really the moment the hip-hop became global and M.T.V. played a big part in it U.K., South Africa where you know English is one of their major languages, you see it in Brazil, you see it in Japan, you know, they’re big into the culture man and you’ll go to a concert in Japan man and they’re rapping every word in English and then they don’t speak a word in English >>>JERRY WONDA: Hip-hop connected the world and music together. This is what The Score did. This is what Puffy Doctor Dre did some of this stuff too I reckon that’s been done for Shakira. Hello It’s the hip-hop and the pop together, you know >>>XAVIER JERNIGAN: I think institutions are trying to preserve hip-hop when you see places like art galleries, you see it in fashion, you see it in business, I think that’s preserving hip-hop even when people don’t realize that’s actually preserving it >>>Welcome to Hush Tours. The original and the only hip-hop sight seeing tour on the planet >>>DEBRA HARRIS: Hush Tours is a hip-hop sight seeing tour based on the culture as guided by the pioneers of hip-hop and we take people around the city to different places that were relevant to the development of culture Nashville celebrates country music New York City needs to celebrate the birth of hip-hop >>>XAVIER JERNIGAN: We created something from nothing and hip-hop was the first art form that spoke to me People who look like me, people like to look up to, the way he put these words together and tell these stories about places that look like where I live and that’s just like what hip-hop is all about It’s just evolving and staying ahead of the curve and being something aspirational >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Another art form that blossomed in this city is graffiti We spoke to some of its earliest pioneers who developed their craft underground with the subway system as their canvas Here’s the story from our first season >>>MAGALIE LAGUERRE-WILKINSON: The newest exhibit here at the Museum of the City of New York is called City as Canvas, showcasing the expansive collection of 70’s and 80’s graffiti art amassed by artist and collector Martin Wong, a mentor to many of those budding artists Charlie Ahearn, the filmmaker of the iconic film Wild Style about that era, talks about its unforgettable and often illegal beginnings >>>CHARLIE AHEARN: The city was bombed by 1971 surfaces all over New York City were covered with inky drippy tags of various people’s names The question was, What is this? It’s just like a complete horror to people in New York because the city was in a state of free-fall financially Neighborhoods were in a state of collapse. Buildings were empty Fires were raging and it was a tragedy of unspoken scale There was a kind of new movement in New York, which started with graffiti, which centered on teenagers being free and doing things to make themselves felt in the world >>>MAGALIE LAGUERRE-WILKINSON: At first it was just naming, or tagging as they called it, on the subway It was dangerous but they say worth it. Lee Quinones, or Lee as he was called, started at fourteen >>>LEE QUINONES: It was exhilarating I mean, it was reconfirming yourself in a very very loud distracted environment >>>MAGALIE LAGUERRE-WILKINSON: Lady Pink was fifteen, one of the few teenage girls who dared to do it >>>LADY PINK: Well when you see your name rolling by on a subway train, they’re dirty, they’re loud, they’re gigantic, it comes rumbling into the train station and there’s your name in full living color, it’s very addictive and empowering. The fame, the glory >>>MAGALIE LAGUERRE-WILKINSON: Then it was not enough for these young people to write their names all over the surfaces of the subway They had to create a style to stand out >>>FUTURA 2000: Don’t even use the term street art because these words were not introduced yet Plus, it was graffiti, it is really writing, we were writers I mean strangely enough we probably couldn’t even read very well but we considered ourselves writers and it’s kind of a joke but later graffiti artist because then trying to transition into, hey, we’re a little more creative than that >>>LEE QUINONES: This was a first of its kind and it’s never been done to that scale and that kind of composition, composed colors and all, and this was the first time that literally above ground the artwork stakes the flag of that we have a right >>>SHARP: If you look at over here you know you can see this is a subway car from 1983 and this was a really traditional way that we painted our names on the sides of the train These sketches were drawn out previously and then you know sit down and map out the color scheme

Often choose like you know these different characters to either put in the center to sort of augment the lettering but then at a certain point it was time to like you know build on that >>>MAGALIE LAGUERRE-WILKINSON: Sharp developed his style into abstract lettering Futura 2000 they created a unique figurative style. Another emerging artist from that time with his own style was Daze >>>DAZE: I was really influenced by Mad Magazine, underground comics and the music and culture of the early1970’s >>>CHARLIE AHEARN: These are highly personal works They are coming from something very very deeply either joyous or dramatic, real personal stories >>>LADY PINK: The painting I have here titled The Death of Graffiti shows a little naked woman standing on a pile of spray paint pointing to the subway trains saying that graffiti will die soon It will be all over This great thing that we have all loved for so long through the 70’s and such will come to an end and eventually the war was lost and the Transit Authority cleaned all the subway trains by 1989 >>>MAGALIE LAGUERRE-WILKINSON: Downtown art galleries had already encouraged these young artists to paint on canvas so they could be shown in their galleries Artist Martin Wong also saw the promise of their work He nurtured their art on canvas and collected the best of it >>>CHARLIE AHEARN: People in Europe began to know about this and they thought of it as the new pop art from America Like, you missed the last wave from New York City, that was pop art, now it’s too expensive but you can afford a Lady Pink or a Daze or a Lee Quinones >>>MAGALIE LAGUERRE-WILKINSON: Teens from around the world also flocked to Ahearn’s movie Wild Style starring Lee and Lady Pink and Henry Chalfant’s Style Wars They wanted to be cool too and express themselves through this new art form Many of the artists who you see in this exhibit went on to global artistic and commercial fame >>>SEAN CORCORAN: And ultimately, illegal or not, they affected the city They changed the way the world looked because trains are clean now We don’t see this work on trains anymore But we see it everywhere else We see it in graphic design, in advertisements It’s all over >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all those books you’ve been meaning to read Last October I sat down with a mother daughter author duo whose books you’ll want on your summer reading list >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: I loved hearing you guys talk about Guilt. Talk to me about Guilt a little bit >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: She thought of the title >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: I think Guilt is like the muscle behind love, you know what I mean? Guilt is what makes you do things And especially with mothers and daughters and probably women in general I mean I think in general we should all guilt ourselves less, like only women can get themselves so well. Ah, I feel I ate that- >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: We really are experts aren’t we? >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: Right Like, let it go because your mother is there to guilt you so you don’t have to do it yourself >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Francesca, I loved your essay about getting over your now married ex and reaching the zone of unwashed hair, which you know been there- >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: Right? And now like this modern technology, I mean, when I saw the first of my ex boyfriends got married on Facebook- like that’s just a level, like I was over it. I thought I was over it and I was but seeing you know an altar kiss photo pushed the boundaries That’s unnatural. Nobody has to see that So yeah, that was rough and that was, maybe you did know, just how nutty I was getting with that, but yeah >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: That’s not nutty. I don’t think it’s nutty You’re allowed to have emotions about that >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: And so speaking of the exes you’ve got Thing One and Thing Two, which I found hilarious >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: Thank you >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: And I loved what you talked about, you said, you didn’t really miss marriage but you miss the diamonds right So you took care of that >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: I totally missed the diamonds I did and I went and I said you know what it was one of these moments where I was like, in seriousness, the thing about being someone like me and believe me there’s a lot of women out there who are divorced and single or widowed and you say if you’re middle aged like they’re not knocking down the door I’m just going to be realistic with you and so you’re on your own. Now are you going to fold up the tent? No You’re going to live your life but what can happen is you become a little disengaged But so what I did was I said don’t be disengaged, remind yourself to stay engaged so I bought a ring for myself It was an engagement ring, get it? I have the money to buy myself a diamond I don’t need a guy to buy it and it’s just a little reminder to say, you’re still in life. Don’t hide out. Stay engaged >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Speaking of money and careers it wasn’t as easy when you started out right? There’s a story about when you first decided to leave

the law profession and really go for it as a writer Tell me about that >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: Right Well I got single at the same time and so you know you get a divorce and this is the thing you don’t try at home, like try to become a writer and also get divorced with a small baby who’s adorable and I never regretted it honestly. I gave myself five years to, and I lived on credit cards the whole time My favorite rejection letter from an agent in New York who said we don’t have time to take any more clients and if we did we wouldn’t take you Now I go to Book Expo every year, I spoke at it, and I see him now I’m like, I remember you dude Twenty years later Don’t come near me >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: I feel so lucky that I got to see her build her writing career brick by brick That it didn’t fall into her lap easily and that, I mean, I remember when she wrote her entire first novel and tried to get it published and it didn’t happen And she just wrote another one and I don’t even remember that as a time of turmoil or great grave disappointment in our lives because she just moved on and I feel so lucky that I was born to, not to a best selling author, but to a beginning one because I got to see that work ethic and that perseverance that went into it >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Talk to me about Mother Mary She is so wonderful She’s such a wonderful character and interesting and I was so sorry that I just heard that she passed away >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: That was a heartbreak for us- Mother Mary is my grandmother and her mother who we’ve written about so much and she was the youngest of nineteen and- >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: No >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: Yes And like dirt in the Philadelphia like Italian American and I think she probably never got the attention, you know in nineteen children, she never got the attention that she knew she deserved and she just was always had always been a wonderful storyteller and with a fiery sense of humor and just absolutely hilarious so it was like you couldn’t not write about her I mean she was a star long before we gave her a stage >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: There were so many anecdotes I was just like laughing out loud over the eggplant Can you recount the eggplant where she knew you were lying about the eggplant- >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: Well it’s very bad when your mother, your mother can always tell you lying even if it’s over the phone. How scary is that? We’d make eggplant parm because I love eggplant parm, we both love it- >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: It was one of her signature dishes >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: -And long story short she’s always insist you have to cut the eggplant and let it drain overnight You get this much eggplant water. What am I draining? I have to wait and plan, so I stopped doing it and then one day I called her and she’s like, did you drain it? I’m like yes What’s more embarrassing than if I lied to my mother at my age or that she knew? >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: And then she busted you >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: She totally busted me >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: We have to talk about the animals because you two are a couple of Dr. Dolittle’s >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: Pip is my dog I act all cool like, oh I’m not in any rush to get married or have kids but really it’s just because I already have a child and his name is Pip >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: And a husband all rolled into one >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: Whoa. I’m not going there >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Now, what about your dogs You have, I knew you had one you had puppies and you- walk me through it again >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: I have five >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: Do you think that cats and dogs can in some moments replace husbands and boyfriends? >>>FRANCESCA SERRITELLA: I think love is love, you know I mean, no, I don’t think they can replace those types of relationships >>>LISA SCOTTOLINE: We look at everything with humor but the truth is I think there is something to when you’re kind of on your own in life, how do you make yourself happy You know and whether it’s you buy a ring or you rescue a dog or you’re kissing on the lips and yes they’re kissing on the lips, who’s to say there’s anything wrong with that? It’s a good thing You’ve got to learn in this life that no matter which way your path goes how to make yourself happy and whole >>>CAROL ANNE RIDDELL: That’s our show for today. We’ll see you next month with all new stories on the season premier of Arts in the City. I’m Carol Anne Riddell. Thanks for watching ♪♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪♪