Last Wednesday evening I boarded the Bronx Culture Trolley for a tour of spots to see art in the Mott Haven and Bruckner Antiques District of the South Bronx.
The Trolley runs the first Wednesday of the month and makes a loop of the lower Grand Course beginning and ending at the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos Community College on 149th Street. The Trolley ride is free, as well as admission to all the venues featured on the tour.
We rolled up the Grand Concourse with tour guide Ellen pointing out the points of interest: the main Bronx Post Office with floor to ceiling murals in the lobby, Franz Sigel Park, the Bronx Borough Hall and Court House, the two Yankee stadiums and Joyce Kilmer Park.
On board, a young woman started singing and was joined by the soft beat of drums. They were Jose “Dr. Drum” Ortiz with two young people, Marilyn and Wilson, all musicians from BombaYo. Not a permanent fixture on the trolley tours, they had joined the tour like everyone else and this evening they were sharing the Afro-Puerto Rican rhythms of Bomba with us. They sounded great and provided the perfect sounds for our tour. Ellen was delighted to have them on board.
The first stop was The Bronx Museum of the Arts. On trolley nights, the museum is open late and hosts book signings. A few passengers got off and more riders boarded.
Then we turned the corner to the Bronx Blue Bedroom Project, an art gallery in the actual blue bedroom of artist Blanka Amezkua.
We sipped cool tamarind juice while looking at the featured installation “Pillars/ Uptown Nannies” by artist Gabriela Alva Cal y Mayor. Every month the exhibit changes (The Bronx Blue Bedroom Project, however, is closed in August). From there, a few of us walked down to the Alexander Avenue Antiques District. We stopped into Books, Notes and News at 137 Alexander Avenue, a book shop owned by Ben Cobbs. He has many rare as well as general titles. In building our own book collections, he advised us to buy two copies with dust jackets and to keep the dust jackets clean. “You’ll keep one copy for yourself when you sell the other one,” he said. And just upstairs, well up five flights, in apt. 10 is LR Studio, in the home of photographer Luis Rosado. This artist single handedly transformed a crumbling floor-through apartment into a gallery space where he also lives. Next door is Alexander’s Cafe, where I was told by one Bruckner Ave resident that it is perfect for taking dates.
On Bruckner Blvd, we stopped in Haven Arts Gallery where on exhibit are photographs by twenty New York press photographers. One memorable photo is of a recoiling Mayor Giuliani seated in the back of his limo when a homeless man approaches the car.
By this time it was dark and we still had a couple of more stops to make. A half a block away, we could see the lights in the windows of the Bronx Museum Project Space where visual artist Darcy Dahl had just installed his show “Insula”. He uses video projections and various scrims to bend the images and reflect the light around the walls of the space.
Our last stop was to the Bruckner Gallery in the rear of the Bruckner Bar and Grill. The gallery is exhibiting “Departure” the work of five photographers who met at The Point, a community arts organization in Hunts Point. They formed a collective and their work is about exploring social issues in their communities. We arrived in the middle of the opening night party and the space was pumping with music from the band, Chewing Pics, whose lead singer Naima was a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. Our group had since missed the last trolley pick up back to Longwood, but no worries, we walked to the subway and said our goodbyes.