Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post-Hurricane Sandy NYC Arts Update

Hurricane Sandy Flooding East Village 2012 2
The East Village, NYC flooded during Hurricane Sandy, shortly before the power went out in downtown Manhattan for several days. Photo by David Shankbone, via Flickr.
I hope any readers on the East Coast made it through Hurricane Sandy safely. Despite my location in New York City I was largely unaffected. Other New Yorkers were not so lucky,  especially in Staten Island, the Rockaways in Queens, South Brooklyn, and Lower Manhattan. Many galleries in West Chelsea, including the non-profit Printed Matter (which focuses on artist's publications) were very hard hit and are still cleaning up now, over two weeks after the storm. Artists with studios in coastal or low-lying areas also suffered damage. Beyond the arts community, thousands in the city and throughout the region are still without power and some don't know when it is coming back. Though my own day-to-day has returned to normal the picture is much more grim for many.

But despite this devastation I am happy to report that the arts community is pitching in to help those in need. The Delaware Art Museum and the Newark Museum both offered free admission in the days immediately following the storm. Newark set up free wifi and charging stations for visitors without power. And Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 (a fabulous contemporary art institution in a former public school building in Queens, sort of a "little sister" to MoMA) has been a tireless advocate for the Rockaways, mobilizing his staff and others to volunteer in cleaning up the flooded that is still without power. I recommend you follow his Twitter feed if you are interested in keeping up with what is going on out there and, if you are in the tri-state area, how you can help.

If you are interested in further information on how Hurricane Sandy has impacted the arts in the tri-state area, I encourage you to follow Hyperallergic.com's coverage, which has been tireless and comprehensive. It includes updates from museums, galleries, art spaces, and individual artists from during the storm as well as the aftermath and how individuals and organizations are helping cleanup and relief efforts. **UPDATE: This ARTnews piece also has great information including how Klaus Biesenbach has helped out in the Rockaways and information on a Queens Museum of Art fundraiser.

If you want to help the arts community, I suggest donating to Printed Matter, Smack Mellon, or the South Street Seaport Museum, which are all non-profit organizations that were hard hit by the storm. And if you want to help beyond the arts community, I suggest a purchase from Occupy Sandy's "wedding" registry, a wish list of needed items for relief efforts throughout the city. (No matter what your thoughts are on the Occupy movement, Occupy Sandy has been doing incredible on the ground work to help New Yorkers affected by the storm - like getting nurses into high-rises without power to make sure elderly and incapacitated residents receive medical treatment.)

A final thought - more than ever, the aftermath and cleanup from Sandy has driven home for me the importance of creativity and problem solving skills. In the past I have talked about those skills in the workplace, but what about for disaster relief? Some of the most effective relief efforts here in New York have come not from the usual suspects but from creative upstarts like Occupy Sandy and the New York City Food Truck Association, who, in a stroke of genius, have been serving food to hungry and powerless areas of the city. Times like this are not just when we need art's power to soothe but also creativity's power to help rebuild.

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