Observations on Arts Night 2014

I have been trying to get myself to Macaulay’s Arts Night for the last two years. Inevitably, something comes up every year: an exam, a paper, etc. This year, I vowed that I would submit a piece and attend the event. On April 26th, I put on a polka dot dress and tights (I always feel like I should look a bit fancy when I go to the Upper West Side), and I headed out to the train that would take me to the Macaulay building.

Since it was a Saturday night, the train was packed with all kinds of people heading to the city for a fun night out. There was a tangible electricity inside the train car as people talked, laughed, and daydreamed. The feeling increased as I stood at the 1, 2, and 3 train platform in Times Square. The platform was packed with people going every which way and sizing each other up. That’s what we do best in New York when we’re bored waiting on a humid and crowded train platform. We observe.

Finally, the train arrived, and within a few minutes, I stepped out onto the streets of the always busy UWS. This is one of my favorites areas of the city because of its constant artistic and glamorous, yet unpretentious, vibe. There are some great cultural institutions here: the Metropolitan Opera House, the American Folk Art Museum, Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, ABC News, Thirteen, and Juilliard just to name a few. I love knowing that everyone comes here to create and enjoy some fantastic art. On this particular Saturday night, there was a light rain falling, and the streets were filled with tourists, sophisticated elderly couples, small children and their moms, and people on their own, just like me.

I arrived at the Macaulay Building just before the 5 p.m. starting time for Arts Night. The entrance was decorated with signs advertising the free art that was on display. Every time that I walk into the building, I always feel lucky that we have this beautiful place as our “headquarters.”

I think I was the first person to sign into the event that night. I made my way over to the main room on the first floor and started looking at the visual art on display. There were some great pieces that pulled me in and made me think deeply about what I was seeing. Since this year’s theme is “In the Underground,” the decorations were inspired by the NYC subway system and underground culture. The walls were decorated with subway lines and signs like “If you like something, write something.” There was “Caution” tape across some of the doors and stairs. There was even a door down in the Cabaret that read “Tunnel Dance Party.” When I opened the door, I was welcomed by strobe lights, lots of color, and Dubstep.

After checking out all of the visual art and decorations, I noticed that more and more people were coming in, and the building was slowly but surely coming alive with the sounds of laughter and the sight of people quietly contemplating the different works on display. I knew that there would be performances throughout the night, so I stayed down in the Cabaret and took in a few of them.  Some memorable ones were Sylvia Zaki’s performance of a Les Miz song, mixed in with an Arabic song and her spoken word poetry; Kelsy Hillesheim’s performance of a song she wrote on guitar; Alex Hajjar and Emily Paolilo’s performance of “Falling Slowly” (I love this song and the movie Once so this was probably my favorite performance); and the Musician’s Collective’s performance of some awesome jazz music that made me want to get up and dance. I only stayed for the first half of the night, so I didn’t get to see the other performances, but I’m sure they were great.

I left at about 7 p.m. because I had another event to attend, but before I left the area, I ventured over to the fountain in front of the Metropolitan Opera House and snapped a few pictures. The fountain is one of my favorite places to hang out in the city because you can sit on the bench that surrounds it, eat your lunch, and people watch. On this night, the area where visitors usually sit was wet from the rain, but there were still people congregated around the fountain taking pictures before they went in to enjoy some opera.

Overall, I had a great time, and I highly recommend Macaulay students to attend at least one Arts Night during their time at Macaulay. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see the enormous amount of talent and creativity that is present in the Macaulay community and to immerse yourself in art that will make you think in a different way. It might even inspire you to create some art of your own.

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