“Exhilarating!” –a friend’s comment on our recent art event in Staten Island, ART BY THE FERRY 2009.

A large group of Staten Island artists showed their work over the last two weekends.
It was a big show, a lot of work –distributed over three separate buildings, fairly close to each other.
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It was a lively show –painters, sculptors, ceramicists, photographers –many others.
And –book makers.
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Over the four days I had many conversations…all interesting; some of them special. Memorable.
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Some of them putting their finger on something very important.
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It occurs to me: we live our lives by significant conversation; measure our lives by significant conversation.
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A woman came into our building –70, Bay St.– on Saturday.
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I recognized her face at about the same time that she recognized my books.
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We exchanged smiles, then she fell to looking at what new stuff I had on my table…
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It had been some time.
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She was a supporter of small presses.
Was herself a poet; had written poetry all her life.
In one respect –one very important respect– you could say her life was measured out by her own poems.
Special occasions.
Special conversations.
Special recognitions.
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She had, she told me, written her most recent poem that very morning.
It was a poem about death.
About Friends…disappearing. They are there, and then…they are not there.
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I asked her about the poem.
She wasn’t ready to talk about it.
She would send it to me.
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Which she did. It was a lovely poem, a powerful poem. A poem of acceptance.
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In her email she wrote some kind words…about my books, about our conversation, which I much appreciated.
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Then she wrote about the pleasure of seeing the whole show, of her response to the work of all the participating artists that she had zeroed in on, one by one…
Their work. Their talent. Their skill. Their…art.
Their desire to share; to engage…
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She summed it up in one word; a word one doesn’t hear too often; certainly a word that one doesn’t hear enough…
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“Exhilarating!”
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The poet had picked the right word. It was exhilarating –to see the work of the individual artists, displayed in a prosaic and nondescript building that had been brought to life by art, by artists. (The landlord –who had been trying without success to sell the building– popped in the first morning of the show and could not believe his eyes at the art-transformation that had taken place.)
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There was another aspect to the show, over and above the individual artists. These were all Staten Island artists, many with long careers, some of them just starting out.
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From my conversations with the people who had come to see the show over the four days, it had become clear to me that people also had become aware of “a community of artists”, of local, island-artists….
It was the community feeling that they were also responding to; a diversity of art…all under one roof…the roof….
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…of a transformed building.
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As my old friend Annamay said:
“Exhilarating!
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