Would you a weld a steel rose for Valentine’s Day?

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this review first appeared in Quail Bell Magazine:

The couple that welds together stays together. Certainly, I felt bonded with my partner (and frequent collaborator) Aaron Gold the night we hit up Craftsman Ave. in Gowanus for the “weld a steel rose” date night. We entered this gritty workshop fully expecting to try something new and get our hands dirty. And by “we,” I mean me. I hadn’t given Aaron too many hints about our destination because I wanted it to be a surprise. Surprises make date nights all the more thrilling! He knew we would be doing a couples activity and I had warned him to wear sturdy shoes and old clothes. Nada más. Upon our arrival, Aaron and I were warmly greeted by Chris Jeffries, owner of Craftsman Ave. and our instructor for the evening. He escorted us to a private workbench in a romantic little nook, separate from the rest of the small group in the cozy school and event space. Chris said he liked to give the date night couple their alone time and that he’s not one to hover. Even better? Chris kept his promise and let the workshop remain a secret until absolutely necessary. When the right moment came, Aaron was floored by the big reveal. Chris flashed several samples of gorgeous steel roses fabricated in that very workshop. Soon it would be our turn.

Craftsman Ave. is a place where beautiful but practical craft happens. We felt honored to not only witness the magic there but to conjure some of our own. It all happened step by step. Chris showed the group what to do and he made the rounds to ensure we were all on track. I’m the craftier of the two of us, so it was important to me that Aaron didn’t feel left out. That was the beauty of the process: Each step required different skills and could be improvised and personalized to some extent. Honestly, he was better at some steps than I was and it was satisfying to see a new side of him. It’s worth noting, though, that there is no “right” way to weld a steel rose at Craftsman Ave. There’s plenty of leeway to make your creation a unique expression of your love. Without the pressure of perfection, Aaron and I had a lot more freedom than I had realized we would when I booked this date night. Phew! And yay!

It wasn’t long before we got a hang of the basic process and were able to replicate the steps sans Chris. That’s where the lovey-dovey stuff came in. We had time to flirt, goof off, and just have fun together in a new environment. At a good stopping point, we enjoyed a bottle of wine from Gowanus Wine Merchants and a pizza from Table 87, which Chris had delivered. There was a comfy lounge at the front of the shop, away from the welding action, where we dined.

This was the first time either Aaron or I had ever welded. I had only done minor soldering in jewelry class about a decade prior. Welding and soldering are similar but different processes. Trust me—my “experience” barely counts. Despite being first-timers, we made something beautiful and felt totally safe doing it. After a relaxing four hours, we finished our first rose together! We even got to engrave and paint it, too.

We found this date night so remarkable for a few reasons:

1. We picked up a skill that looks super intimidating but, with the power of trust and love, is actually pretty manageable.

2. Chris is a delight. He knew when to pipe up and when to leave us be. Having some level of privacy is essential for date nights. That’s how you get to know each other better!

3. The food came to us. The menu was simple, delicious, and involved zero hassle in filling our bellies without derailing our craft project.

4. WE GOT TO TAKE HOME OUR CREATION AT THE END OF THE NIGHT!!! So many date nights revolving around crafts make you come back another day. For a variety reasons, this isn’t always practical. By the time we drove home, the rose was dry and ready for display.

5. None of our friends have done it! It’s truly a unique date night worth telling folks about. Everyone will want to see photos.

The verdict is in: You and your sweetie should consider welding a steel rose at Craftsman Ave. in Brooklyn. You’ll end up with a cute story and an eye-catching keepsake.

Find out more about this unusual date night idea at CraftsmanAve.com.

Brooklyn Poetry Feature: Madeleine French

The following appeared in the Feb. 8, 2024 print edition of the newspaper:

This week, we feature the talents of poet Madeleine French:

“Geode”

As we reached Tompkins Avenue, a Dave Brubeck tune tinkled from a restaurant,

while a little further down a breeze unfurled yellow, orange and blue

embroidered skirts on the sidewalk outside a vintage shop.

Our restaurant patio shone with subdued light through an opaque white roof.

Even the butter lettuce gave a side eye to our muted words, as if it could tell

a melancholy errand brought us here. And our smiles might have been

a little stilted, until the gelato melted in our mouths and made them real.

Home now, I’m not summoning up the charming little bookstore,

with its colorful titles lined up on shelves and tables.

(New and used together, just as you’d have arranged them)

Or remembering the bass beat blasting from a block party’s speakers

as we walked by, vibrating with the breath in my chest.

I’m not picturing the toddler in pink tulle, holding her daddy’s hand,

reflecting the uncertainty of each hesitant step in her comical frown—

exactly as you once did.

Instead, I’m thinking of the shimmering quartz you parked on

your new white windowsill, just until you find the right place for it,

sparkling silvery diamond white next to your African violet.

Something beautiful in you might just be breaking open, too.

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

“On Brooklyn Bridge”

Look at us, dressed for two different days

as if we’d watched dueling forecasts

I’m in a quilted jacket with jeans

while your flannel shirt

flaps in the breeze

over your tee and shorts

Puffy clouds cover the sky

like some preschooler went rogue

with the Elmer’s and cotton balls

Whatever, it all works

—even if no one can make you as mad

as I can—

Just keep walking over these wooden slats

as the bridge slopes toward South Street

the dark river glittering in the gaps

where the sun pokes its fingers

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

“Your Heart, Across Prospect Park”

Pondering

blush-orange clouds

crackled over Sarasota Bay,

Maybe

I met six-thirty

from the wrong side.

In this dreamlight, I see you

Tramping

your sidewalk’s crusted slush

in Brooklyn,

Maybe

you’ve just set off

(chin tucked,

black hood bobbing)

Bearing

your battered heart

across Prospect Park.

Maybe

it’s a matter of timing

that’s all—right now, it’s

neither wrong, nor right

Crossing

Seventh, wrinkling your nose

at exhaust fumes   

Maybe

you’ll lift your eyes

when my rosy clouds paint

your rooftops

Living

a movie, as a new dawn

slaps your cheek:

“Snap out of it!”

Maybe

you’ll see it’s day breaking,

flushed and undone

Not

your heart.    

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

Madeleine French lives in Florida and Virginia with her husband. A Best of the Net nominee, her work appears in ONE ART, Dust Poetry Magazine, West Trade Review, Roi Faineant Press, Door Is A Jar, and elsewhere. She is working on a full-length poetry collection.

An LGBTQ Love Story in ‘Public Obscenities’

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

The following ran in the Feb. 8, 2024 print edition of the newspaper:

Abrar Haque (Choton) and Tashnuva Anan (Shou). Photo by Hollis King for TFANA.

A slow burn, Public Obscenities is a touching story about a Queer Studies PhD candidate who returns to his family home in Kolkata with his African-American boyfriend, a director of photography. Over the course of this 2-hour-and-40-minute play, the couple leans into many layers of pleasure and affect, discussing identity and exploring both the troubles and beauties of translation. This bilingual play, written and directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury, is performed in English and Bangla. The run, which began on Jan. 17, continues through Feb. 18.

Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) is the producer and presenter of this show. The venue is the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, which TFANA calls home, and is located at 262 Ashland Pl. in Fort Greene.

Remaining Show Dates:

Feb. 8, 7:30pm

Feb. 9, 7:30pm

Feb. 10, 2 & 7:30pm

Feb. 11, 2 & 7:30pm

Feb. 13, 7:30pm

Feb. 14, 7:30pm

Feb. 15, 7:30pm

Feb. 16, 7:30pm

Feb. 17, 2 & 7:30pm

Feb. 18, 2 & 7:30pm

‘Teaching On Borrowed Time’: The Voice of an Adjunct Professor

By Laurence C. Schwartz | [email protected]

Editor’s Note: In our sister paper, the Queens Ledger, reporters Charlie Finnerty and Celia Bernhardt have been covering the last-minute layoffs of more than 20 faculty at Queens College-CUNY. This week, we are profiling a book related to adjunct injustice, including intense schedules and financial challenges, as well as some of the rewards of the job, with mention of Brooklyn.

The following is an excerpt from the book Teaching on Borrowed Time: An Adjunct’s Memoir by Laurence C. Schwartz of New York City, reprinted with permission here. The book guides the reader through his thirty-plus years of teaching part-time as an adjunct lecturer on the university circuit. Always unpredictable and never dull, Schwartz’s journey will take him to twenty different colleges and to twenty-three different subjects. Given that 65 percent of the nation’s undergraduate faculty consists of adjuncts, who have uncertain job security, Teaching on Borrowed Time gives voice to the adjunct community as well as those who stubbornly forge ahead in their professional quests for the sheer joy of the work.

You will find two passages about the author’s time teaching at Kingsborough Community College, part of the CUNY system:

Sometime after the first of the year, I was speaking with a Dr. Mortimer Becker in his office in the Western Cluster of Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York. The Aspen Institute College Excellency Program ranked KCC among the top four community colleges in the nation. Dr. Becker chaired the Department of Communication and Performing Arts. From what little time I spent in his office, I concluded that I was in the presence of a true gentleman. When I attended Dr. Becker’s ceremonial dinner some months after my interview, one of the department’s secretaries referred to his “quiet dignity.”

One day, about halfway into the spring semester, I went to the Department of Communications and Performing Arts to check my mail. Dr. Becker emerged from his office. When he hired me, it was his last semester before retiring. During my first semester at KCC, Dr. Becker still used his office, but he already named a Dr. Cliff Hesse as the new chairman. After Dr. Becker emerged from his office, he smiled at me and, with the wave of his hand, gave me a lyrically dismissive gesture. On hindsight, I interpret this gesture to mean that I was way too young and clueless to really understand mortality. I think that when he made the gesture, he knew he didn’t have a long time left in this world. Dr. Becker died a few months later.

I was referred to Dr. Becker by Dr. Spector at LIU. I believe that during our interview, Dr. Becker was evaluating and assessing me, trying to sense if I had the strengths needed to teach a public speaking course at a reputable community college. At LIU, Dr. Pasternak just wanted to meet and make sure I was a well-spoken young man. I very much liked Dr. Becker. He made me feel welcomed. Mind you, I still tasted ash in my mouth from waiting tables and working in tense environments. Perhaps you can understand why I was so impressed by Dr. Becker’s gentleness and “quiet dignity.” When one works for curt and cold managers, one can tend to overappreciate plain humanity.

When I sensed the conclusion of my interview with Dr. Becker, I asked him, “So can I teach a course for you?”

“I’ll give you two. Come with me.”

He stood, came around from behind his desk, and made a gesture befitting a nobleman that parlayed that I was to lead the way. He certainly had a way of gesturing, Dr. Becker did. When he followed me out of his office, he placed his hand on my shoulder and said to his secretary, “Larry will be joining our adjunct faculty.” Then he turned to me. “Like to fill out the paperwork now?”

“Of course.”

Then Dr. Becker nodded to his secretary, cuing her to begin the process.

This was style!

“Welcome to Kingsborough,” his secretary said. And she meant it. She was a sweet elderly woman. There was another elderly secretary in the office who was just as sweet. I have since come to learn that among faculty and administration in academia, sweetness can be a welcomed surprise; eccentricity, a find for the ages. A cool and distant politeness is the norm.

I’ve always regretted not having the opportunity to get to know Dr. Becker. I suppose I could have learned a good deal from him about a great many things. He was the kind of man who, if you poked your head in his door and asked to see him about something, he would stop whatever he was doing and give you his time. Dr. Becker’s replacement, Dr. Cliff Hesse, was no different. A good man was chosen by a good man.

•••

Another small victory at KCC was introducing a couple of students to two of the books that I loved. One of the students was a jittery yet lithe Hispanic with a pencil-thin mustache. There was a restlessness in him that I recognized on the very first day of class. To this young man, I introduced Time of the Assassins by Henry Miller. This is Henry Miller’s tribute to French poet Arthur Rimbaud. You can appreciate it on more than one level, not the least of which is ecstatic appreciation one writer has for another. Another level is Miller’s dissection of the poet’s role in society. Another is Miller’s facile psychological analysis of Rimbaud. And, too, there is the sheer buoyancy of Miller’s prose. There are enough goodies on the plate to choose from.

When I handed the young man the book, he immediately turned to the first page and began reading.

“Thank you,” he said, “but why me?”

“Why not you?” I rejoined.

Another student to whom I introduced one of my more exciting and informative reads was a rotund young man with a jolly disposition. If he’d been dressed in red velvet and had a white beard on him and a red stocking cap on his head, he could have easily played Santa Claus’s young understudy. Why would I give a copy of Jean Paul Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew to such a young man? Like Time of the Assassins, you can appreciate Anti-Semite and Jew on more than one level, not the least of which is its probing examination of the bigoted and racist mind. In the spring of ’92, news of the Brooklyn killing of Yusef Hawkins and the Crown Heights riot were still fresh. Racism in America would always be a fresh topic of discussion, even if dishonestly approached. I was sure this young man could take something away from Sartre’s work. Anti-Semite and Jew was terrifically accessible.

Both young men thanked me when they returned the books, and both told me they enjoyed it—small but sweet victories.

Laurence C. Schwartz is a New York based theatre director and educator. He recently directed for the New York Theatre Festival. Last spring he directed Sam Shepard’s “True West” for the NYPL’s Special Event Series. He is currently directing for The Secret Theatre’s Short Play Festival. Laurence is an Adjunct Lecturer at Mercy University in Manhattan where he teaches Communications Arts and Cinema Studies.

Teaching on Borrowed Time can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, LibroWorld.com, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, and eBay.

Letter from the Editor (Feb. 8, 2024 edition)

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

The following appeared in the Feb. 8, 2024 print edition of the paper:

Dear readers,

On the cover of this issue, you will find a photo of a man named Francis. I met him in 2018 while living in Crown Heights and he was one of many neighbors whose photo I took. There is something so intimate about taking someone’s portrait: asking for a few moments of their time, maybe longer, and trying to capture something about essence. Maybe it is their essence. Maybe it is the essence of an era or a mood. The objectives can change from portrait to portrait, assignment to assignment, project to project. I do not know anything about Francis and his life now. I know that our paths crossed in late winter a few years ago, when I was still finding my footing in Brooklyn as a hopeful transplant. I also know that he is a Black man and that representing people of color and marginalized groups in our borough is part of my duty as community editor. There is no one way to be a Brooklynite. I am proud to wish you all a happy Black History Month. In last week’s issue, the love in honor of this annual observance began and in this week’s issue, the love continues.

One person I am excited to profile for Black History Month is Jada Bennett of Bay Ridge. Jada and I met in the theater world while working on a production together in 2022. It was through that relationship that I learned that Jada is not only an actress but a dancer, singer, beauty pageant queen, and an invaluable member of the Brooklyn Cyclones staff. This Minor League Baseball team plays out of Maimonides Park in Coney Island. Jada is captain of the team’s Surf Squad, sings the National Anthem at their games, and more. I interviewed her for “Badass Lady-Folk,” my Manhattan Neighborhood Network TV show, and transcribed part of the episode here for you to read.

Speaking of contacts from the theater world, I am also thrilled to introduce you to Laurence C. Schwartz, a director I have worked with since 2021. He wrote a book about his experiences as an adjunct professor. One of the many institutions whose classrooms he has graced is Kingsborough Community College, part of the CUNY system. An excerpt about his time there appears in this issue.

Now, onto reading!

Yours in all things BK,

Christine Stoddard

Brooklyn Community Editor

‘Believe the Hype’ Column by Christine Stoddard: Revering African Artifacts and New Mexican Fare

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

I stand corrected. In my previous column, I cited statistics about Brooklyn’s Black population using numbers provided by Brooklyn.org. While there was nothing wrong about those numbers (to my current knowledge), Matt Sollars, vice president of the non-profit communications firm Anat, sent me an email about Brooklyn.org. In my column, I wrote that Brooklyn.org was run by the Brooklyn Community Foundation. This was because, at time of press, the website’s footer, Brooklyn.org lists this: “© 2024 Brooklyn Community Foundation DBA Brooklyn Org.” But notice that there is no period between “Brooklyn” and “Org”–and if you didn’t know, DBA stands for “doing business as.” Sollars explained that last fall, the organization underwent a name change. Thus, Brooklyn Community Foundation became Brooklyn Org, and still runs the website Brooklyn.org. In his message, Sollars wrote: “The name change is driven by the org’s mission to engage with all of the borough’s communities and to open up philanthropy to all of its people. Brooklyn Org wants to be a platform and hub for Brooklynites to organize and support efforts to help each other and build the borough.”

It is exciting to receive emails like this for a few reasons: 1. I see that people are reading the column. 2. I get the chance to correct or clarify statements to better serve readers. 3. I learn more about our borough. 4. I feel invited to improve upon future columns.

An Overdue Museum Visit

Since the last edition of “Believe the Hype,” I have stopped by the Cultural Museum of African Art – The Eric Edwards Collection. Or at least “stopping by” was my intention. It ended up being a full-fledged visit, cut short only by other appointments. Every day for months, I have walked past this museum. The grand opening took place on November 18, 2023 only a couple of blocks from my home. This event happened prior to my coming on as community editor of the Brooklyn Downtown Star and Greenpoint Star. Had that not been the case, I might have joined some of the illustrious folks in attendance: Dr. Eric Edwards, founder and executive director of CMAAEEC; Stefani Zinerman, NYS Assemblymember, District 56; Rodney Leon, architect of the African Burial Ground National Monument, the “Ark of Return” at the United Nations, and CMAAEEC; Ambassador Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai of Sierra Leone; Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, chairman of the United African Congress; and others. Opening a museum is a political game that requires funding, which Eddie Gajadar, strategic project manager for CMAAEEC, told me has been a process for the institution.

A view of artifacts on display at CMAAEEC. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

By the numbers, CMAAEEC is an impressive collection (re-read last week’s edition for the stats), but, more importantly to me, it is a moving one. I am more likely to be swayed by art than data. The confusing jaunt around Restoration Plaza and to the office space above the Applebee’s was all worth the trouble when I saw the exhibition. African sculptures, masks, and objects of veneration that have been collected with care from across the continent are a rarity. As Gajadar mentioned, much of the African art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is from East Africa, not spanning the whole continent. Yet Dr. Edwards, founder of the collection, which originated from his home in the 1970s, has taken great care to give these pieces a respectful public resting place. Gajadar told me that Dr. Edwards was a successful AT&T engineer and global salesman, achieving results that were largely unthinkable for an African-American man in the 1960s. African art became his investment—and obsession.

The CMAAEEC space is minimal, quiet, and full of light, allowing for reverence, reflection, and joy. That is the power of intentional design. I personally felt very peaceful looking at the works and then out the windows (yes, all of them), onto the bustling Fulton Street, one of the many arteries where Brooklyn street life pulses. It is fitting that CMAAEEC, a tribute to African ancestors, exists in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the capital of Brooklyn’s Black cultures.

Santa Fe BK

Another place that recently brought me joy and evidenced intentional design was Santa Fe BK in Williamsburg. John Watterberg, who owns the New Mexican restaurant with his wife, Melissa Klein, told me that what he hopes patrons most feel at their establishment is love. Watterberg, a native of Albuquerque, and Klein, a native of Milwaukee, first met in Brooklyn while working as a bartender and waitress, respectively. “We fell so in love in Summer 2007,” he said. And that love infuses the restaurant, which is warm and evocative of Southwestern aesthetics and hospitality.

My partner and I ordered (and highly recommend) the following: the Watterburger, Taco Salad, Chicken Flautas, and Chips & Queso. For drinks, we shared three cocktails: A Good Margarita (which is more than good), Queensmoot, and The Dornishman’s Wife. For a future visit, I am curious about the Enchiladas, as well breakfast burrito options available from 8am to 3pm, or “until they’re gone.” Note: I capitalized the names of the aforementioned dishes to indicate their exact names on the menu so you can order those specific things should you wander over to Santa Fe BK. Maybe for, say, Valentine’s Day.

Melissa (left) and John (right), the married couple behind Santa Fe BK.

While the restaurant has romantic vibes, Watterberg assured me they have a high chair and do serve families, with many dining before 7pm. Watterberg and Klein are parents themselves, with a 9-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl. Their children’s favorite item on the menu is the Bacon Burrito, without the Green Chile so beloved by many adult patrons.

One of my favorite touches at Santa Fe BK? Complimentary Sopapillas with honey. The fried pastries reminded me of the family-style restaurants of my Northern Virginia childhood—Uncle Julio’s in Arlington and Anita’s in Fairfax, for any other NoVa transplants reading this.

“Badass Lady-Folk TV”: Jada Bennett of the Brooklyn Cyclones

The following is an excerpt from an episode of the TV talk show “Badass Lady-Folk,” featuring guest Jada Bennett, a dancer, singer, actress, and Brooklyn Cyclones entertainment coordinator based in Bay Ridge. Hosted by Christine Stoddard and filmed at Manhattan Neighborhood Network, “Badass Lady-Folk” is a feminist talk show that originated on Radio Free Brooklyn, where it airs on Fridays at 9am.

This transcript has been edited and condensed for print purposes:

Christine: You’re  watching  “Badass  Lady  Folk.”  I’m  your  host,  Christine  Stoddard  and  this  episode,  my  guest  is  Jada  Bennett.  Hi,  Jada!

Jada: Hi,  Christine!

Christine: It’s  so  wonderful  to  have  you, Jada.  Actress,  singer,  Brooklyn  Cyclones–what  is  your  title  there?

Jada: [I’d put it as Entertainment Coordinator and Captain of the Surf Squad.]

Christine: Yeah,  so  we  met  at  “The White  Blacks” [at Theater for a New City]  which  is  a  production  that  has  come  up  on  this  show  a  couple  different  times  because  I  had  Melanie  Goodreaux, the  writer-director  on.  When  I  met  you  at  that  production,  I  was  immediately  struck  by  your  range  because  you  played  a  couple  different  characters and you  also  sang  beautifully in  it.

Jada: Thank you.

Christine: No  one else  really  sang in that show,  so  it’s  nice  to  have  some  singing.

Jada: Yeah,  I  had  to  sing  in  the  audition  for  that  show.

Christine: Were  you  told  you’d  be  singing?

Jada: No,  not  initially. I  auditioned  for  that  show  [in 2022],  and  I  came  in–I  knew  that  the  show  had  already  been  done  before  and  that  I  was  coming  in  and  I  wasn’t  sure  how  many  people  had  done  the  show  before  that  were  coming back.  I  wasn’t  sure how  everything  was  gonna  work  but  I  went  in  and  I  knew  that  I  would  be  playing  a  couple  of  characters,  but  I  also  didn’t  know  the  extent  of  all  of  that. So  I  read  for  both  Raunika–no,  Raunika  doesn’t  have  lines–I  read  for  Gladys  and  Patricia,  only  one  scene  for  each  one, and  they  were  very  different  from  each  other,  and  I  was  like,  “Okay,  all  right,  let’s  roll  with  this.”  That show definitely  tested  how  much  I  could  do  at  once.

Christine: Yeah.  (laughs)

Jada: Because  even  though  I  had  smaller, shorter  time  on  stage,  I  knew  that  I  had  a  lot  to  convey  in  that  short  amount  of  time.  So  I  was  just  making  sure  that  when  I  was  in  that  character, I  was  in  that  character  just  living  in  that  person’s  world  and  making  that  world  as  big  as  I  possibly  could,  so  that  the  words  that  I  was  saying  still  had  the  story  behind  them.  Yeah,  that  was  a  lot  of  fun. I  would  do  that  show  again  in  the  heartbeat.

Christine: Yeah,  that  was  a  beautiful  show.  So  then  during  the  audition,  they  were  just  like,  “Hey,  can  you  sing?”

Jada: Yeah,  so  I  was  reading  for  Patricia  and  there’s  a  story– you  and  I  are  in  the  scene  together,

Christine: I’m the mean  white  girl.

Jada: You  were  a  passé  blanc  in  the  street  and  I  knew  you  and  knew  who  you  were. So I  had  to  read  that  in  the  audition.  And  it  said,  “The  hills  are  alive”  because  I  was  singing  “The Sound of Music.” And  so  I  just  went  for  it  and  sang  it, and  they’re  like,  “Fantastic,  great.  So  you’re  gonna  really  sing  this then.” She  was  like,  “Can  you  sing  it?  Can  you  do  it?” So  I  just,  I  sang  it, and  I  went  for  it,  and  she’s  like,  “That  really  did  it  for  us.  So  now  you’re  doing  this  on  the  show.”  I  was  like,  “Sounds  great.”

Christine: So  how  did  you  get  into  acting?

Jada: Oh,  I  mean,  I  have always  been  doing  it  since  I  was  little.  I  was  always  that  kid  that  was,  like,  doing  performances  for  my  stuffed  animals  and  for  my  family. Like,  I  did  it  all  the  time.  I  made  my  little  brother  do  it.  So  I’ve  always  been  around  art.  I  started  as  a  dancer  first.  And  then,  when  I  really  got  into  acting  and  shows  would  have  been  my  fifth  grade  year. I  had  just  moved  to  a  new  town  and  I  met  some  people  and  they  were  doing  the  school  musical  and  so  I  decided  to  do  it  as  well.

Christine: Aw,  so  you  would  have  friends?

Jada: Yeah,  correct. It  was  “Cinderella”  and  I  got  the  fairy  godmother. Ever  since  then,  I  did  every  school  musical,  like,  from  then  on  till  I  graduated. In sophomore  year  of high  school,  I  was  doing  “Hairspray” and  decided  that  I  just  wanted  to  do  it  forever.  So  here  we  are.

Christine: Aw.  So  what  kind  of  dancing  did  you  start  doing?

Jada: I  did  what  every  little  girl  who  did  dance  as  a  little  kid did.  I  started  at  like  two,  three  years  old,  and did  the  same  tap /ballet  combo  class: half  of  the  class  is  tap  and  half  of  the  class  is  ballet.

That’s the end of the excerpt! Watch the full episode at Youtube.com/@badassladyfolk or below. Find out more about Badass Lady-Folk at BadassLadyFolk.com.

The Whimsicals: Mosaic Artwork That Delights and Amuses

An Interview with Stained Glass Artist Sandra Forrest

By Meagan J. Meehan | [email protected]

Sandra (“Sandy”) Forrest is the creator of vividly-colored mosaic artwork which immediately grabs attention due to its vibrancy and equilibrium between abstract and figurative work. In her translucent glass pieces—which expertly use color, texture, shape, and light to create a cohesive composition—human figures lounge in pools, fly through the sky, or fan themselves femininely, typically surrounded by backgrounds of shapes and patterns and colors that hark back to abstract expressionist approaches to art. She is arguably best known for her “Whimsicals” series of multidimensional opaque glass mosaics that feature humorous scenes. This collection, more than any other, is a direct reflection and extension of Sandy’s book illustrations, which is another medium that she is passionate about.

“Lady With a Fan” by Sandra Forrest

Sandy is currently associated with the Brooklyn Artists Waterfront Coalition (BWAC) in Red Hook but she started her career in California where she earned a B.A. in Graphic Communications at San Diego State University. Upon relocating to New York, she earned an M.A. in Art Education from Brooklyn College.

Sandy recently granted an exclusive interview where she discussed her experiences working as an artist and creatively thriving in Brooklyn.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in art and how did you get into book illustration and stained glass?

Sandra Forrest (SF): I was a graphic design major in college and an illustration minor. I was an art director in children’s magazine and book publishing, including Golden BooksWeekly Reader, and others. I have illustrated over 60 books and co-wrote three, two of which are graphic novels. The mosaics, especially the Whimsicals, are a direct extension of my book illustrations, just using a new medium. Glass is a fascinating medium since light is one of the materials I use.

MM: You are known for your “Whimsicals” which are art pieces with a humorous edge. What are some of the most memorable pieces in this series?

SF: I made (and sold) several versions of “Coney Island Midway,” which are fun because of the characters, some quite real. One hot July day ten years ago I drove to Coney to take pictures of real people and turned them into ceramic. Also, I sent you a favorite called “Lady With a Fan After Klimt” which is a mix of ceramic and metallic mosaic pieces. I love the mix of colors and textures, flat and bas relief.

MM: How do you think visual art and humor can inform one another?

SF: I don’t see much humorous art in shows and galleries. Maybe if it’s humorous it’s not taken seriously, which is a shame. We all need more laughs.

MM: You are part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (BWAC) in Red Hook. So, how did you get involved with that organization and how have they helped you further your work?

SF: BWAC has provided a strong and supportive venue to show and sell my work in member and juried shows. It’s exciting and rewarding to be a part of that art scene and being around other artists. We all work in such different ways that it’s thrilling to see new work from friends, especially when we reopen the gallery in April and we have had a chance to work over the winter. I am the Vice President, so the winter is also really full getting organized for the 2024 shows, there were six Zoom meetings last week alone. So much goes into the background: member committees work on publicity, grant-writing, exhibitions and events, membership, governance issues, and strategic planning. Once the show season starts there isn’t as much time to do all that. We also do a lot of community outreach, such as with the Red Hook Business Alliance, Brooklyn Public Library events, Park Slope Windsor Terrace Artists, and more.

MM: Do you feel that the vibrancy of Brooklyn—especially Red Hook—inspires you and what’s your favorite thing about being a Brooklyn-based artist?

SF: Brooklyn overall has become an exciting and, as you say, vibrant art scene. It seems that wherever you go—Provence, Rome—everyone knows Brooklyn is a cool, creative place. You don’t even have to say Brooklyn, New York. Just Brooklyn is enough. Red Hook has an outlaw vibe which I really like. It’s in New York but in some ways, not really. I look at the Civil War-era warehouses where the gallery is and wonder what crazy/wonderful and large work is being done there. Artists come by and tell us they are making big wood sculptures just down the street, or baby clothes! It’s all about having the space. And the visual drama of the area is just inspiring. The sunsets! OMG!! That statue! As far as visual inspiration, I have made many mosaics of the bridges but finally moved on to other subjects.

MM: How do you go about finding opportunities to exhibit your work?

SF: Ten years ago, I applied to every craft fair within an hour of Brooklyn: New Jersey, Connecticut, Brooklyn, Westchester. Sometimes eight or ten a year. I sold well in those shows and it was fun talking to customers, but many were held outdoors, and expensive so when it rained it was a disaster. Putting and taking down the tent was difficult. I stopped doing that this year. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has a new shop with a gallery show in Industry City. Fifteen BWAC artists were featured, which is very nice. Also, I am in a Salon Show at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center which opens today.

MM: Be honest, out of all of your creations, do you have any particular favorite piece?

SF: “Lady With a Fan After Klimt.” I sold it, but regret selling it. “The Path,” a translucent mosaic of a path through birches with strong shadows. “Aerial View of Manhattan” as seen from a plane at sunset, at sunset.

MM: What would you say has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?

SF: I always think the highlight is whatever I just finished. The graphic novels were really fun because I worked with my two best friends (both writers). “Franceso’s Fountain” and “The Mysteries at the Vanished Villa” required several trips to Rome, Venice, and Naples, not as a tourist this time, but with a purpose.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

SF: The challenge is always asking myself: what’s the next idea? Right now, I’m trying to come up with another ceramic/mosaic concept. I can’t copy myself as that’s boring.

Throw an axe with your beau or belle for Valentine’s Day!

By Aaron Gold | [email protected]

Aaron Gold posing after hitting a bullseye. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

When people make fun of Brooklyn hipsters, one of the go-to things to cite (after craft beers, underground music, and ironic tattoos) would be axe-throwing bars. But there’s a very good, very deep reason why axe-throwing has become such a staple of the scene: It’s really, really fun.

Even the less violent of us can feel a rush of pride and adrenaline as a steel hatchet leaves your hands, rotates end over end, and finds purchase in a wooden target. It’s marksmanship to the level of lumberjack. It’s darts with bladed weapons. It’s a unique experience for anyone who doesn’t have a penchant for chopping firewood or acres of wooded land, but does have a bit of free time.

When approaching Kick Axe Throwing in Gowanus, you’re immediately greeted by a large statue of a bull. Because, why not? Once you get through the people who are taking their pictures beside it (don’t judge, you know you’ll be doing the same when you leave), you’re treated to a vibe that is clubhouse meets escape room. There is a nice lounge area with couches that are actually comfortable, alongside plenty of games like Jenga and beer pong. If you have to wait for your appointment, you will not be left bored, as there is plenty to fuel either your Instagram feeds or your desire for social connection.

The bar is not quite as well stocked as one might hope, but that’s understandable, considering the majority of the establishment’s patrons will be spending their evening chucking hatchets. Still, the beer selection has enough to appeal to both those looking for the classic cheap drinks, as well as those with a thirst for microbrews. A few canned cocktails and wines are also available for those with more discerning palettes, but the options there are limited.

The staff seems to genuinely enjoy working there, as everyone we interacted with was effortlessly charming and sociable. They welcome both newbies and seasoned axe throwers alike, embodying the aura of “Everyone’s here to have fun.” Once you’ve signed your safety waivers, you’re free to hang out at the bar or the aforementioned lounge while awaiting your turn at the lanes, each of which are notated by a different Harry Potter Hogwarts house.

Before you begin throwing, your attendant will walk you through the safety measures, complete with a few rounds of practice throws. Our attendant was very giving with the feedback, providing tons of positive encouragement and helpful tips without hovering. He had to attend to another lane at the same time, but was there with us for seemingly little over half of our stay. After he introduced us to the two people sharing our lane (who were a couple of friendly firefighters, so we knew we probably didn’t stand a chance) he introduced us to the first of our three games. 

The entire experience truly felt like high stakes darts, and was a lot more accessible than one might think. For a feel of the way Brooklyn exists now, this was a terrific experience, and serves as a wonderful way to show out-of-towners a treat they are not likely to find outside of the city.

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