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Monday, May 18, 2015

                                              May City Beat 2015

We spoke with Lenny Bazemore, Manayunk’s unofficial mayor, about his gallery on Main Street, and whether being a businessman has affected his own work as an artist. Lenny, who rarely seems stressed, told us that the gallery has allowed him to expand his skills to use design as a medium in addition to his painting, sculpting, drawing and photography. “Having the gallery, gives me tremendous joy in helping other artists promote their work,” he says. “My focus on developing the gallery and working with other artists has diverted my attention away from doing my own art.  Now that I have a full-time sales person in the gallery, I intend on devoting more time to engaging in my own artistic endeavors.” Lenny sees The Bazemore as a “peaceful space where all people can come and experience diverse forms of art,” and says that this is reflected in the gallery’s programming. But while The Bazemore seems to have it all, what about longevity in a world where galleries close everyday? The answer may have something to do with ownership. “Owning the building,” Lenny says, “has helped us have a more sustainable business model.”  Be on the lookout for Lenny’s new endeavor, an organic juicery and café called The Juice Merchant. “We will serve juices, smoothies, salads, soups, sandwiches, wraps, hummus and specialty deserts. Our mission is to provide organic, healthy food options that are affordable.  The Juice Merchant team will be led by our head chef and manager  Monica Sellecchia. Monica is a holistic foods chef who trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. Her speciality is in all-natural, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free eating.   

  Can Love Park’s flying saucer building, or the Fairmont Park Welcome Center, be saved? In the 1970s this Mid-Century modern structure, then called the Philadelphia Hospitality Center, was a “first aid” station for stranded travelers who needed emergency cash and/or a one way ticket home. This iconic, quirky UFO building opened in 1960 and represented Philadelphia’s crawl out of Blue Law obscurity and downtown blight, when the City of William Penn boasted that it did not have a night life. City Officials today anticipate the reconfiguration of JFK Plaza but they’ve left the door open for bulldozers to level the Saucer if a new purpose for the building can be found. Mayor Nutter and Council President Clarke both say that the Saucer “may or may not be included in the final design.” That doesn’t sound hospitable to us at all.  

New York Magazine’s senior art critic Jerry Saltz had audience members howling at the normally sedate Barnes Foundation. The ex-truck driver’s salty critique of art and life included Zen advice bombs like: the worst thing any artist could do is to feel envy or jealously at another artist’s good fortune. It was while driving cross country that the self educated Saltz realized he could call himself an art critic. This was easy to do, he said, because the art world is so disorganized that nobody in it knows what they are doing. He mentioned the excessively macho and alcoholic Abstract Expressionists and Andy Warhol. Warhol described the Expressionists as “hard-driving, two-fisted types who’d grab each other and say things like ‘I’ll knock your f--king teeth out’ and ‘I’ll steal your girl.’ The toughness,” Warhol wrote, “was part of a tradition; it went with their agonized, anguished art. They were always exploding and having fistfights about their work and their love lives.” Despite his soft voice, Warhol never ran from a confrontation. This is why his pals dubbed him Drella, a name that was a mix of Cinderella and Dracula.

At UArts Art Unleashed 2015 we hung out with E-Moderne Gallerie’s Edward Fong who told us he needed to escape the bands of roving artists tracking him down for exhibition space. Fong joined us in an obscure nook near the kitchen where the food servers congregated. He told us he was looking forward to E-Moderne’s world class Haiti exhibit in May but expressed reservations about why Philadelphians buy the kind of art they do. International art doesn’t go over big in Philly, he said; what sells in Berlin or Paris stays unsold on the wall in Philly, but put up a casual art show and these popular pieces fly off the wall. “I don’t understand it,” he mused, just as another artist drew him out of hiding. What to say to this fine man from China besides hang in there, baby?  Will “Don’t flee to New York yet, Ed!” work?       

The National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration will culminate with a Constitution Center exhibit (Speaking Out For Equality). There will be panel discussions and festivities from July 2-5 near Independence Hall. The movement’s come a long way since the 1970s when protestors shouted down passage of the city’s first Gay Rights Bill with cries of, “Gays have rotten teeth!” We find it strange that most of the panelists like Bishop Gene Robinson, Judy Shepard, Marc Stein, Eliza Byard, Michael Long and Eric Marcus are out of towners. They may be substantive voices, but a “localized” event of this magnitude should employ a few locally based historians, activists and writers.  

 When ran a story about a protest at a college lecture because of that lecturer's views on rape, we wondered why the protestors were angry.  Left out of the report was a crucial element:  what were the lecturer's views that made her so controversial?  How could any reporter miss such a thing? The reader finished the story not knowing what made the protesters angry.  We also have problems with what passes as "breaking news” these days.  Do we really need to know about every high school teacher who exchanges mash notes or who has a love affair with one of his or her older students? Are these really mega stories on par with the latest ISIS attacks? Journalism, it seems, has yet to find a respectable middle ground when it comes to this topic.

We headed over to the All That’s Jazz Art in City Hall exhibit to find more than a hundred people gobbling up chicken gumbo, French fries, cookies and boxed wine. This was Philadelphia at its grassroots finest, despite the Moroccan street bazaar atmosphere. Curated by Richard J. Watson, we were delighted when the dead poet Allen Ginsberg “returned” in the form of a Philly artist, Alan Ginsburg, with his “java Jive,” a coffee table sculpture, and a charcoal drawing, “The Piano Movers,” inspired by a crowded, impromptu happening in a performing space.