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Gold Coast Arts Center 'Pho-To-Graffs' pays homage to 5 Pointz, urban culture

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Exceptional photographers pay homage to graffiti artists and particularly the now defunct 5 Pointz, in this new exhibit at the Gold Coast Arts Center (formerly the Great Neck Arts Center), in the village of Great Neck Plaza, Long Island.

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"Pho-To-Graffs: images of Hip Hop, Graffiti and Urban Culture" The photographs record the diversity of the city as canvas, documenting the impermanent art forms of hip hop and graffiti, while also championing urban artists.

Several of the photographers were on hand at the opening reception, Sunday, March 16 - their different styles, artistic and journalistic philosophies and approaches to their subjects on view.

But in each case, the photographic images stand as art, themselves, doing what photographs do best: capture a fleeting moment, often one that is pure serendipity.

Many of the photographers, though, sought to memorialize for all time the astonishing graffiti artwork at 5 Pointz, a massive building in a section of Long Island City in Queens that is undergoing gentrification.

5 Pointz was for decades an American outdoor art exhibit space considered to be the world's premiere "graffiti mecca," where aerosol artists from around the world painted colorful pieces on the walls of a 200,000-square-foot factory building. It began in 1993 as the Phun Factory - a place where graffiti artists could legally express their art.

The graffiti artists did not just help fill the building with art studios, but brought tourists from far and wide. The building - because of 5 Pointz artists - was even featured in the recent movie, "Now You See Me."

Probably the most significant of these has to be an amazing, large-format work by Jay Hirschfeld which is the very opposite of "serendipity". The photo is methodically thought out and uses a high-tech program that essentially takes 240 individual photos- producing a 270-degree view - and stitches the photos together into a stunning mural of the entire face of 5 Pointz.

When we encountered Hirschfeld at the gallery, he was talking with Meres (the artist Jonathan Cohen who was the curator of 5 Pointz since 2002 where he had some spectacular images of his own (Meres did whole walls of graffiti at the arts center for the show).

You could see the emotion Meres felt in what was lost when the art was whitewashed.

Before the art was lost, there were efforts to save it - how there was talk of landmarking the building, even buying the building.

Much of the art could have been saved - parts were on boards and on the metal rolling doors and on windows. Instead, the building owner - probably fearing the building would be landmarked and he would be restricted in what he could do with it - had the graffiti art whitewashed.

It was like death to the creators.

The building's owner, David Wolkoff, had initially welcomed the artists - many who also had studios in the building. But when he became concerned that the artists might win landmarking for the building, interfering with his plans to demolish the building and replace it with a $400 million residential complex, in the middle of the night had the artwork whitewashed. The artists, who had hoped to have notice in order to remove the art (much of it was on wood or the metal doors), felt betrayed - and in fact, cheated out of the opportunities to sell or exhibit their works.

Much of the art could have been saved - parts were on boards and on the metal rolling doors and on windows that easily could have been removed, and whole walls could have been saved (since the intention was to demolish the building), just as they saved huge portions of the Berlin Wall (on view as an exhibit at the Newseum). Instead, the building owner - probably fearing the building would be landmarked and he would be restricted in what he could do with it - had the graffiti art whitewashed.

Graffiti is getting proper respect in the art world - the New York Museum has an exhibit.

Instead of having something to exhibit, the remaining evidence of their work are in these photos.

In contrast to Hirshfeld's methodical preparation and 45-minute long process, other photographers pointed to serendipity that works its way into their shots:

Hans Von Rittern, relates the setting of his photo, "'I Like to Think of it as Gerry". He recalls how he caught a picture of Meres gazing for almost the last time, realizing it would be destroyed, and hearing him mutter to himself, "I like to think of it as Gerry".

In another shot, "Marie Gets to the Point," Marie, the other curator of 5 Pointz, was just walking down, her silhouette and stillettos on the pavement, just walking into the light at just the moment when the light hit the painted building where he wanted: a finger.

He says he rarely photoshops his shots.

Barry Stern, also tells me it is the "luck of the shot" that makes for his shot which captures an intriguing motion of a hand when most of the rest of the photo is locked in time. Just the hand moves.

Stern tells me he got an MFA in photography - spent a career as a professor, ran a museum and a gallery, but it is only in his retirement that he is now making art for himself.

Farbeon has a different career trajectory - he is a youth organizer and a dance MC in addition to bringing a photojournalistic style to capturing hip hop and urban culture. "I understand the beats and the moments. The moment of creation. Be a fly on the wall and capture that moment."

Pho-To-Graffs is on view through April 27.

Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Road (entrance from the Maple Avenue parking lot), Great Neck Plaza, NY, 516-829-2570, gallery@goldcoastarts.org, www.goldcoastarts.org.

The Gold Coast Arts Center is dedicated to all forms of visual and performing arts and arts education. Upcoming programs include:

Big Break Finals, April 5

Coming up, on Saturday, April 5, is the finals of "Big Break," a series where young performers have a chance to win an opening performance slot with a national act at a show at the Space at Westbury; a video recorder from Zoom North America; a recording at Dream Studios, feature on Revernation.com, and gift certificate from All Music Inc., plus consultations with music producers and recording artists. The finalists were selected first from 1,000 online submissions from which 16 musicians, ages 12-25, were selected for two semi-final performances.

The finalists who will perform are: Taylor Belle, Natasha Lubczenko, Little Red Men, Angelica Joni and Katie Zimmer.

(Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults).

Wade Preston Concert Celebrate Billy Joel's Birthday

On Saturday May 3rd, 2014 at 8pm, The Gold Coast Acoustic Café invites you to celebrate Long Island's favorite son Billy Joel's Birthday as we sing along to his many smash hits with the renowned “Piano Man” Wade Preston (of "MOVIN OUT" on Broadway), at the Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck NY 11021.

Wade played the Piano Man role in Billy Joel and Twyla Tharp’s Broadway hit Movin’ Out for its entire 3 and a half year run, and starred in the national tours for the next few years. He still does concerts with the Movin’ Out Band. Wade did virtually all the rehearsals and sound checks for Billy Joel’s historic Last Play at Shea performances, job description "Stunt Billy". Wade also performed at the PA Inauguration Ball in Washington D.C. for President Obama, Vice President Biden and PA Governor Rendell.

(Doors open at 7:30 PM for General Admission, show starts at 8pm; $15 advanced sales $20 at the door. Cash bar and refreshments available. Free Parking. For ticket Reservations call (516) 829-2570 or log on to www.goldcoastarts.org).

GCIFF Presents: Celebrating Musical Legend Ervin Drake

This April, legendary songwriter and Great Neck, Long Island resident Ervin Drake will turn 95. To mark the occasion, on Friday, April 25, at 8 pm Musical Director Jon Weber will lead the tribute to Ervin’s illustrious career with Host Charles Grodin and a star-studded cast** including: Dee Dee Bridgewater, Anita Gillette, Jeff Harnar, T. Oliver Reid, Steve Ross, KT Sullivan, Stacy Sullivan, Leslie Uggams, Sal Viviano.

An inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, Mr. Drake has written some of the American Songbook’s most beloved classics, including: "It Was a Very Good Year, ( as made famous by Frank Sinatra)" "I Believe," "Tico Tico," "Quando Quando Quando," “Perdito” and “Good Morning, Heartache.”

2014 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Broadway production of Drake’s "What Makes Sammy Run" (starring Steve Lawrence) which featured songs "A Room Without Windows" and "The Friendliest Thing."

This very special event will benefit the Gold Coast Arts Center and Landmark on Main Street, two non-profit arts organizations in the Town of North Hempstead, where Mr. Drake has lived for many years. The Gold Coast Arts Center and Landmark on Main Street are committed to promoting and supporting the arts in our region and helping foster a deep appreciation for the Great American Songbook to ensure its preservation for generations to come. This special event is produced by Sandi.

Tickets can be ordered through Landmark on Main Street’s box office 516-767-6444 or on-line www.landmarkonmainstreet.org.

The Gold Coast Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach which just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Center also is responsible for mounting an annual Gold Coast International Film Festival, now in its 4th year; Furman Film Series which provides sneak previews of new films plus filmmaker Q&As; concerts and lectures; School for the Arts, which offers year-round classes in all visual and performing arts to students of all ages and abilities; a free public art gallery; outreach programs, which each year bring artist residencies, after-school programs, school assemblies, teacher training workshops and parent-child workshops to students, senior citizens, teachers and others in underserved communities throughout our region. The Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F Kennedy Center for the for the Performing Arts: Partners in Education Program and National Gallery of Art, both located in Washington DC.

Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Road (entrance from the Maple Avenue parking lot), Great Neck Plaza, NY, 516-829-2570, gallery@goldcoastarts.org, www.goldcoastarts.org.

Karen Rubin, Long Island Eclectic Travel Examiner

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