When I was a college student in Cleveland, one of the events my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed was the annual Chalk Festival held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The festival is an homage to the old Renaissance street art tradition, and participants pay a small fee for a square around the museum’s garden, a box of chalk, and a sponge for blending. Our first year we sat around doodling, then afterwards we walked around the garden checking out everyone else’s work. There was a scatter of seascapes, comic book drawings and personal messages. Then we came across an exact replica of Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night. In chalk.
Every once in awhile, Conde Nast Traveler or some other travel magazine will publish an article on “How To Not Look Like a Tourist”. And without fail, it leads to a spirited discussion in the comments section and on social media. It’s not difficult to understand this ambivalence towards tourists. New York City received approximately 58 million visitors last year, and locals simply have to accept that it’s a part of city life. Yes, you’ll encounter those five tourists who decide to walk side-by-side and take up an entire sidewalk. But 2014 statistics show that visitors generated a record $61.3 billion in overall economic impact, supporting 359,000 tourism related jobs and $21 billion in wages.
Personally, I’ve never shied away from the label and all its connotations. So I get excited about visiting somewhere new. And maybe I don’t look like I fit in. Isn’t that part of the experience? There’s a different energy buzzing inside you when you first embark on uncharted territory. Your senses are heightened, ready to devour everything you encounter. And so I shamelessly wander, camera in hand. There are certain areas in New York City that feel like designated tourist spots which locals avoid like the plague, but I think it’s fun to visit them every now and then. It can be invigorating to play tourist in your town, and we did just that recently at Battery Park.
New York City is experiencing a seemingly unending heat wave which is taxing both our spirits and our wallets. Many of us duck indoors, finding solace in brick-and-mortar purveyors where we trade goods and services we don’t really need for the air conditioning we desperately do. But the brief reprieve often does little to slow the faucet of sweat rolling down our scalps and backs. Raphael Pope-Sussman wrote a wonderful piece for Gothamist about the ghosts of heat waves past where he revealed that many New Yorkers once slept on their fire escapes to avoid the stifling heat inside their apartments. I couldn’t help but immediately think of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The movie — one of my favorites — starts with the view from L.B. Jeffries’s Greenwich Village apartment in the midst of high summer. It scans a courtyard and introduces us to his neighbors, the rising mercury level enabling our voyeurism, since “nobody seems to pull their blinds during a hot spell like this.”
“I’m not interested in oversized inflatable rabbits,” I said… never.
When I heard about Intrude, Amanda Parer’s public art installation at Brookfield Place, I hopped on over as soon as I could (sorry, had to do it!). The Australian artist first debuted her work at the 2014 Vivid Festival in Sydney (where she’s originally from) and the display has since traveled the world, making its way from London to Sweden to Turkey. While the large rabbit sculptures — made of nylon, inflated and internally lit — may come off as whimsical over-the-top Easter decorations, like most good art, it actually carries greater significance.