I love coming to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Private Members Nights. It is one of the perks that I enjoy of being a member for the last thirty years. The museum closes at 5:30pm to the general public and we as members get to roam certain parts of the hall on our own for almost three hours. It gives us a chance to visit halls that we have not seen or have not visited in a while and have special discounts in the restaurants and gift shops. There are also special lectures and talks in all the galleries and it is nice to talk to the curators and docents.
I just like the time that I can stroll around the museum at my own pace. We have the same thing when it is open to the public but here you are with other members who really are…
The NY Transit Museum Gallery inside Grand Central Station on the first floor
It is amazing to be in a building a record number of times and miss a small gallery that makes an impact on a visitor. This is how I felt when I entered Grand Central Station recently and discovered the New York Transit Museum Gallery. This little gem is tucked into a corner away from the ticket booths and Grand Hall and is free to the public.
The Gallery is a branch of the larger New York Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn. This smaller space can be toured in about an hour which is perfect in case you need to spend some time in the terminal before your train.
The Gallery was showing an exhibition entitled “Transit Sketches” by six artists who were based in New York City over the last 100 years. It was nice to see different perspectives of the artist though the overall theme was still the same.
“Transit Sketches” at the New York Transit Gallery
Video by Burning Hammer Productions
Tired people going to and from work. Works featured were from artists Ebony Bolt, Marvin Franklin, Naomi Grossman, Joseph Solman, Amy Tenenouser and Hank Virgona. Each artist represented a different time in the subway system, and it was nice to see that nothing really has changed over the years with the exception of the iPhone has replaced the newspaper as a place to do your work on the subway.
Each artist had their own mini gallery show in each section of the museum gallery and all the works showed people after either getting to work in the morning or after a long day at work. It showed the human side of riding the subway and just wanting to get to our destination.
Artist Ebony Bolt created a series entitled “The Bolt Dairies”, where she drew sketches of people either reading or sleeping on the subways and most of the faces were looking down. I took this that she was secretly drawing them while they were content being distracted by whatever means possible from the other riders and the books were full of overlapping faces.
Artist Ebony Bolt on her work on the inspiration of the people on the subway
Artist Naomi Grossman show her works with an interesting approach of capturing the moods of the passengers as they spent their time on the train almost wishing to get off at the next stop. It was a way of looking at the patrons and capturing them after a long day at work.
Artist Marvin Franklin was an MTA worker who worked the lines as a track worker who died on the job in 2007. He was on the job with another worker picking up a non-working dolly on the track whose lights were out and the train operator who hit them did not see them (NY Times.com). His vision to see the people who disappeared after work and became part of the fabric of the City. He showed their stories in his art.
Artist Amy Tenenouser’s work also gives the patron a Birdseye view of average people living their lives and capturing them in a moment in time. She has a good view of the riders on the subway and a whimsical approach.
Hank Virgona’s work shows people in a state of mind
Hank Virgona’s career goes back to the Great Depression, and he captures like many of the artists in the exhibition the everyday person on the subway. Being a native New Yorker, he looks at the riders keeping an uncomfortable position keeping their space. I liked his work on the written word.
The newest exhibition is on the tunnel extension from Grand Central Terminal called the “Grand New Connection”:
The plans for the new tunnel in 1968
The East Side Access program
The new plans for the tunnel
The updates and pictures of what the tunnels are going to look like when finished
The exhibition was interesting at looking what progress in transportation can be in the modern age of New York City. The new boring machines can do a lot more that manmade labor was able to accomplish at the same time. It was interesting to see all these pictures.
In the corner of the gallery there is a very extensive gift shop that features hats with subway numbers and letters representing the routes they take, games, puzzles and books that are all railroad themed catering to both children and adults. It has a nice selection of products to choose from.
The best part of the New York Transit Gallery is that it is free and a nice way to spend the afternoon while waiting to get on your train.
The gift shop at the NY Transit Museum Gallery
The History of the Transit Museum:
(From the museum’s website)
Founded in 1976, the New York Transit Museum is dedicated to telling and preserving the stories of mass transportation-extraordinary engineering feats, workers who labored in the tunnels over 100 years ago, communities that were drastically transformed and the ever-evolving technology, design and ridership of a system that runs 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Housed underground in a authentic 1936 subway station in Downtown Brooklyn, the Transit Museum’s working platform level spans a full city block and is home to a rotating selection of twenty vintage subway and elevated cars dating back to 1907.
Visitors can board the vintage cars, sit at the wheel of a city bus, step through a time tunnel of turnstiles and explore changing exhibits that highlight the cultural, social and technology history and future of mass transit.
The New York Transit Museum is a self-supporting division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Friends of the New York Transit Museum, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization was established in 1995 to promote and raise funds for the Museum’s operations and programs.
It is always nice when you discover a new museum. In all my years of walking around the Upper East Side, I had never noticed the Society of Illustrators, nor had I heard of it, but I am glad I have now. The museum is home in a stylish brownstone on a residential block away from the traditional “Museum Row” on Fifth Avenue.
The exhibits were on the main and lower floors of the main building with the special exhibitions on the third and fourth floors. The museum also had a very nice restaurant with an open terrace when it got warmer on the fourth floor. The restaurant has been closed since COVID closed the museum, but the bar is open for a drink.
On the first floor and lower level, the exhibition “Illustrators 64: Advertising, Institutional, Uncommissioned, Surface/Product Design categories”. The exhibition is a presentation of outstanding works of the year by leading contemporary illustrators worldwide. This exhibit had all sorts of interesting pieces ranging from advertising art to pastels and drawings of all sorts of subject matter. There was everything from animals skateboarding to commercial portraits. There were also unique works based on national brand companies and New York City themed works.
The second floor was the “Eric Godal: A Cartoonist’s Fight for Human Rights” exhibition that had cartoons that are still prevalent to today. As I read and admired the works by the illustrator, I can safely say that his works are just as contemporary now as they were then dealing with antisemitism during WWII in Europe. His works ridiculed the party and the Third Reich’s power over people who they deem “unsatisfactory”. He also showed the rise of the labor movement and big businesses reaction to it.
Artist Eric Godal’s works on social justice
In the fourth-floor restaurant, was the “Kent State: 4 Dead in Ohio” exhibition on the May 4th, 1970, incident on the Kent State campus. The college students there like college students all over the country were protesting the war and there had been many incidents over the months leading to the shooting.
The illustrated story boards tell the whole story of the four people who had been killed and how the whole incident had happened. It was fascinating to see how each of the people involved how their lives came about during that time and how it led them to that horrible day.
The “128 Bar & Bistro” is currently only open at certain hours and the bistro part of the restaurant is currently closed and according to the bartender being revamped. It has not been that busy before the pandemic, so they have the bar section open only.
The outdoor terrace with its breathtaking views and planted edges will make for a nice place for a cocktail in the warmer months. The space is a nice place to relax after a long afternoon of touring the museum.
This is one of those rare museums in New York City that is fun to find and explore.
The Dining Room/Lounge that is a bar area for now
The History of the Society of Illustrators:
(From the Museum Website)
The Society of Illustrators’ mission is to promote the art of illustration, to appreciate its history and evolving nature through exhibitions, lectures and education and to contribute the service of its members to the welfare of the community at large.
The Society of Illustrators is the oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of illustration in America. Notable Society members have been N.C. Wyeth, Rube Goldberg and Norman Rockwell among many others.
On February 1st, 1901, nine artists and one businessman founded the Society of Illustrators with the following credo: “The object of the Society shall be to promote generally the art of illustration and to hold exhibitions from time to time.” This simple dictum has held true for over a century.
At the time when illustration was in what has been called its Golden Age, the first monthly dinners were attended by prominent artists including Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parish, N.C. Wyeth, Charles Dana Gibson, Frederic Remington, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy and special guests such as Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie.
Our museum of Illustration was established in 1981 under the stewardship of them president John Witt. We offer year round themed exhibitions, art education programs and annual juried competitions. Our Permanent Collection houses 2,500 pieces that are cataloged for scholarly use and displayed periodically. In 2012, we created the MoCCA Gallery with a focus on curated exhibitions of comic and cartoon art.
The Society of Illustrators is an organization of many layers, one which provides illustrators a center to discuss, demonstrate and exhibit their work, contributes to future artists and to the community at large, honors its preeminent practitioners, takes a stand on legal and ethical issues affecting the profession-and has a great dining room to boot!
As it faces the challenges of a swiftly changing future, the Society will continue to “promote generally the art of illustration,” as its founders dictated.