Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Week Eight: Dewey Library, University at Albany-Albany, New York

Stained glass windows and murals
I’ve worked at five different libraries in Albany, and the Dewey Library at the downtown campus at the University at Albany, is my favorite when it comes to architecture.  The Dewey Library serves the graduate students of the University at Albany but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop in and see the beautiful stained glass windows and murals.

When I was first a graduate student, I assumed the Dewey Library was named for Melvil Dewey, the developer of the Dewey Decimal System.  I was mistaken.  The library is actually named for Thomas Edmund Dewey, who was a three term Republican governor of New York from 1943-1955.  He ran for president in 1944 and 1948 but did not win the election.  While in office, Dewey implemented the NYS Thruway and improved public library systems.

What you first notice when you walk inside the library are the beautiful murals.  Painted by William Brantley Van Ingen in 1937 and 1938, these murals stretch for 4,500 square feet, encompassing the walls on the first level.  These murals were a part of the depression era’s Works Progress Administration, which was a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program.  This program employed thousands of artists, commissioning them to improve the interiors of public buildings.  Van Ingen painted the murals in his New York City studio on 23 different 13’x14’ canvas panels.  He was eighty years old.  For more pictures and information on the Dewey Library murals, please visit their website at https://library.albany.edu/dewey/murals/history.

The middle window was donated by the class of 1910.
The stained glass windows are another reason to stop in the library.  Donated by various graduating classes of the State Normal College and the New York State College for Teachers, the stained glass windows are breathtaking.  The first window was donated by the class of 1910. "Finis Coronat Opus", or "The end to a crowning achievement," are the words that accompany a woman wearing robes and holding a scroll.  It is likely that this window was created by The Chapman Stained Glass Studio on Quail Street.

I love all of the windows but my favorite is the one donated by the glass of 1923.  This is a beautiful scene of white trees and yellow flowers, and I love how the colors change throughout the day and night.  To view a full description of the stained glass windows at the library, you can go to their flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ualibraries/sets/72157601326137704.

As I said before, you don’t have to be a student to enjoy the beautiful murals and stained glass windows.  Anyone can stop inside and take a look at the artwork.  Booklets on the murals are available at the library and if you have any questions, you can always ask the librarian at the reference desk!  If you live in Albany or are just passing through, take ten minutes to walk around the first level and enjoy the library’s beauty.
Piece of the Dewey murals

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Week Seven: "Zoratellers-The World of Zora Neale Hurston," College of Saint Rose-Albany, New York

On Friday, I went to see “Zoratellers-The World of Zora Neale Hurston” at the College of Saint Rose.  It was a fun and interesting way to celebrate Black History Month.  The play documented parts of Hurston’s life up until she wrote her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  I read the book and learned about Hurston in high school and remembered a few things about her life but “Zoratellers” taught me even more.

Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama but grew up in Eatonville, Florida.  Eatonville was the first incorporated black community and Hurston’s father was mayor.  Zora’s mother died when she was thirteen and her father soon remarried. 

Hurston received an associate degree from Howard University in 1920.  She then went on to publish several short stories before attending Barnard College in 1925.  At Barnard, she studied anthropology and after graduation she did field work in Harlem, published several more stories, and married Herbert Sheen in 1927.  They were officially divorced in 1931, although their relationship ended in 1928.  “Zoratellers” depicted her failing marriage and showed her trips to the Bahamas, Haiti, and Jamaica.  In 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God was published.

“Zoratellers” was an informative and often funny play about Hurston’s earlier life.  Alive, she was an influential anthropologist and writer but never made more than $943.75 from any of her books.  When she died at the age of 69, there was not enough money for her funeral.  Neighbors had to take up a collection to pay for the funeral but it came up short of what they needed for a headstone.  Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave until 1973 when Alice Walker paid for a headstone.  “Zoratellers” began with Walker looking through a snake-infested cemetery for Hurston’s unmarked grave.

This quote from Hurston’s autobiography shows what a remarkable woman Hurston was:
“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

There are several free events going on in the area to celebrate Black History Month.  You may want to attend:

February 22nd The Ira Aldridge Theater Ensemble debuts in “Bid Em Speak—Black History through Poetry and Literature.”  Hudson Valley Community College at 6:30pm.

February 25th “The Motown Story—The Golden Years 1959-1965.”  College of Saint Rose, St. Joseph’s Auditorium at 7:00pm.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Upcoming Free Event: "Zoratellers: The World of Zora Neale Hurston"

It's Black History Month and I definitely wanted to do something relevant in the month of February.  "Zoratellers: The World of Zora Neale Hurston" is a free play being performed on Saturday, February 18th at the College of St. Rose, St. Joseph's Auditorium at 7:30pm.  This play focuses on Hurston's life from childhood through 1937 when she wrote her amazing novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.  Come join me at this free theatrical performance.  If you can't make it but want to read Their Eyes Were Watching God, check it out at your local library!

Week Six: University Art Museum, University at Albany-Albany, New York

Sorry I didn’t write about my free thing last week; I reminded myself to do it several times and but kept forgetting.  On Friday (February 10th) I went to the University Art Museum at the University at Albany.  It was my first time at the museum which is pretty sad because I’m an alumnus and now work for the university.

The museum is currently housing Material Occupation, an exhibit that features artwork on a variety of different canvases.  Materials such as bleach, tape, and recycled objects are all showcased in unique interpretations.  The art is very modern and abstract and definitely an interesting and fun exhibit.  My favorite work of art displayed pieces of tape in a beautiful design.

These are pieces of tape!

The University Art Museum is a bright and spacious two stories.  Located right on the uptown campus, this is a great stop for undergraduate students.  It’s quiet and a nice place to relax and get away from all of the noise on campus.  Definitely stop by if you’re a UAlbany student, staff, or faculty member.  Parking is free on the weekends and would be a fun and different Saturday excursion for people not affiliated with the university.  It’s open on Tuesday from 10:00am to 8:00pm, Wednesday through Friday from 10:00am to 5:00pm, and Saturday Noon to 5:00pm.  Material Occupation runs until April 7th.  From May 4th to May 20th the museum will be showcasing the Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition and from June 28th to September 8th the 2012 Artists of the Mohawk Hudson Region will be displayed.
Bleach can be pretty

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Week Five: 1st Friday-Albany, New York

Civil War exhibit
I’ve lived in Albany for almost three years and I’m ashamed to say that last night was my first ever 1st Friday experience.  Part of the reason was because I never understood what 1st Friday had to offer.  I knew it was a celebration of the arts on the first Friday of every month but the rest of the details eluded me.  How did you know where to go?  Is it free?  Well, after doing some research (which was as easy as Googling 1st Friday Albany), I found my answers.  The 1st Friday website http://1stfridayalbany.org/ has all the information you need.  The events and times are listed with a coordinating map, making it easy to decide where you want to go.  Most of the events are free and if they aren’t, there is a price listed.

I decided to start at the Albany Institute of History and Art with plans to go to other places on Lark Street.  I thought only part of the museum was open for 1st Friday, since it was a free event, but it turned out that the entire museum (including the gift shop) was open to the public from 5:00pm-8:00pm.  Mr. Free Albany and I had such a great time at the museum, we ran out of time to go anywhere else.

We started off with the Medical Matters Albany and the Civil War: Medicine on the Home and Battle Fronts exhibitThis was a very interesting perspective on the Civil War that I hadn’t learned about before.  Did you know that in 1861, Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth both visited Albany on the same day?  There was also an amazing picture drawn by a 9-year-old Albany boy depicting the funeral procession that came through Albany in 1865.  This exhibit runs until February 26th and is definitely worth checking out.

Old school Easy Bake Oven
We then lost ourselves in the exhibit Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood.  This is an amazing exhibit and is a must-see.  It runs until March 4th and is a celebration of toys from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.  Vintage models of toys such as Barbie, Twister, Slinky, and Easy Bake Oven were on display with their histories explained.  Modern versions of many of the games were available to play with, and Mr. Free Albany and I had a blast playing with toys we hadn’t seen since we were kids.  There was also a running compilation of toy commercials from the ‘50s-‘70s which were fun to watch.

First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington was our next stop.  This exhibit runs until May 20th and is an interesting tribute to our first president.  Did you know that the picture of George Washington on the one dollar bill was created by an Albany artist?  I had no idea!  

We made it through the George Washington exhibit with 7 minutes to spare before closing.  We then checked on the Albany Mummies which were brought to Albany from Cairo, Egypt in 1909.  It’s amazing seeing two people who lived thousands of years ago so well-preserved.  The Albany Mummies are a part of the permanent collection, so you can see them any time you visit the Albany Museum of History and Art.

Now that I know what it’s all about, I plan on going to many other 1st Friday events and will share my experiences with you.  Thanks for following me and reading about my adventures!
Albany Mummy