Shirley Fiterman Art Center, Brooklyn Manhattan Community College

Edification value  2/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 17 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Marc Andre Robinson creates graceful, biological forms out of pieces of cast-off furniture, adapting curves that once graced chair and table legs to more organic purpose. “Flight” looks like a giant jellyfish or cephalopod, drifting through the air on some errand of great importance.

Marc Andre Robinson at BMCC's Shirley Fiterman Art Center
Marc Andre Robinson, “Flight,” 2017, reclaimed wood furniture

Shirley Fiterman Art Gallery BMCC CollegeBefore I started this project, I never realized how many of New York’s city-run and community colleges have a space for art somewhere on their campuses. Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) adds another to that list.  BMCC has had its campus in Lower Manhattan since 1983. Fiterman Hall, the college’s flagship building, was severely damaged on September 11, and needed to be entirely rebuilt.

I can only imagine the challenges of fundraising and working through layers of both academic and civic bureaucracy that entailed. However, the college finally prevailed and rebuilt Fiterman Hall, with the new building opening in 2012. Designed by Pei, Cobb, and Partners, the new Fiterman Hall includes the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, a smallish gallery space. Continue reading “Shirley Fiterman Art Center, Brooklyn Manhattan Community College”

Queens College Art Center

Edification value  2/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  
Time spent 19 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Milanese designer Silvia Giovanardi’s samurai dress. Her work incorporates natural fibers and a lot of Japanese influence.  I don’t recall ever seeing a fashion riff on samurai armor before!

Fabric of Cultures at Queens College Art Center
Silvia Giovanardi, Samurai Dress
Library at Queens College, Flushing
Brutal in its efforts not to be Brutalist

The Queens College Art Center occupies a glassed-in hallway on the sixth floor of the fairly depressing, blocky library building on Queens College’s campus in the far reaches of Flushing.  This building doesn’t want to be Brutalist and standoffish, but its efforts to be welcoming are so forced and artificial that it ultimately feels even less welcoming than if the architects hadn’t tried in the first place.

The guard at the front desk may not exactly know that the library even houses an Art Center on its sixth floor. But based on my experience, if you’re nice about it and confident about where you’re going he will happily wave you on into the library, no need to show an ID or sign a guest register or anything. Continue reading “Queens College Art Center”

Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 23 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned This picture book of famous men who loved cats.  Beautifully illustrated and funny and reminded me how much I don’t want to be one of those single guys with cats.  

Cat Book at Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College
Sam Kalda, “Of Cats and Men,” 2017

The entry on William S. Burroughs begins, “In a gentlemen’s club such as this, there are bound to be a few scandals.”

Klapper Hall, Queens College, FlushingQueens College started collecting art in the 1950s, and today holds a collection that, according to their website, encompasses over 5,000 objects from across history.  That makes the Queens College art collection more comprehensive than that of the Queens Museum, and the most encyclopedic in the borough.

As that collection grew, the college eventually decided to create a venue to curate and display it. Founded in 1981, the museum takes its name from its founders: art historian Frances Godwin and art restorer Joseph Ternbach. The Godwin-Ternbach Museum today consists of a medium sized space in the very institutional-looking Klapper Hall.  The museum has a flexible, open floorplan, with super high ceilings and a small mezzanine level overlooking it on three sides.  With its pretty parquet floor, the space reminded me oddly of a basketball court for art. Continue reading “Godwin-Ternbach Museum”

Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  2/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 44 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned The Fordham Museum’s ancient coin collection came from a literal buried treasure. While serving in Italy during World War II, Thomas Marrone stumbled on a trove of ancient Roman coins in a shell-hole. After the war, rather than keeping them or selling them off he gave them to Fordham.

Fordham Museum's Coin CollectionThe wall text observes that since the 1954 Hague Convention, walking off the battlefield with lost coin collections is no longer Kosher. So it’s lucky Fordham acquired its when it did.

Fordham Museum of Greek Etruscan and Roman ArtTucked away in the main library at Fordham University’s Bronx campus is an  unexpected little museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art, which opened in 2007.  William and Jane Walsh donated their collection of about 270 objects to the school, the thought being that having a small museum of classical antiquity close at hand might inspire students pursuing a liberal arts education.

Walsh Library, Fordham UniversityAs a Columbia alum, I’m slightly jealous. I can imagine the resonance of reading  Sophocles, Thucydides, or Cicero in the presence of objects from the cultures that shaped those works.  Then again, our library is a neoclassical masterpiece by McKim, Mead, and White, whereas Fordham kids get a thoroughly style-less late 1990s building.  Just sayin’.

Library architecture notwithstanding, Fordham did a fine job crafting its museum space.  From the design and library layout, I suspect that it took over one of the reading rooms to do so.  If so, then undergrads’ loss during finals prep is art’s gain. The Fordham Museum has ample windows opening onto the campus, which I like a lot. It makes you constantly aware of the academic environment, providing a distinctive context for the art.

Fordham Museum, Bronx, New York

The Collection

The Fordham Museum’s collection is diverse and well curated. It includes a lovely Venus (Roman copy of Greek original, from the third century AD), bits and pieces of other statuary, and a wide array of pottery.  The ceramics span a wide variety of styles, not just the typical red-black-and-white painted Greek wine jars. And it includes some impressively large and distinctive pieces.

Fordham Museum, Bronx, New York
Child-Sized Sarcophagus

It also has a poignant child’s casket, whose former occupant was the two-year old son of an early Roman policeman.

And a single small but nice vitrine full of Roman glass.


Roman Glass at the Fordham Museum

As seems to be the case whenever I see ancient Greek art, I learned some new words, among them:

  • thymiaterion: incense burner
  • strigilated: decorated with curves in the shape of a strigil, and
  • Gnathian: of or originating from…Gnathia?

The museum sets aside an alcove for special interpretations. This offers a way for the curators to take parts of the collection and temporarily do a deeper dive, or look at them differently. When I visited it examined Etruscan terra cotta votive heads and a couple of feet.  Interesting and well described. People purchased these votive sculptures to invoke the gods’ aid in the case of injury or illness.  Perhaps an idea whose time has come again given the state of U.S. healthcare regulation.

Votive Heads, Fordham Museum, Bronx New York
Votive Heads (and Feet)

Two Criticisms

I admire the Walshes for picking an unconventional place to gift their collection, and the museum for organizing the collection a logical and educational way. At the same time, it misses an opportunity to discuss the Walshes as collectors and connoisseurs.  It left me curious why they acquired what they did — what caught their eye, what they liked and didn’t. 

Also, considering the times, the Fordham Museum should discuss  provenance.  The coin collection origin story touches on the subject, but the museum says nothing else.  I hope the Walshes got all their stuff on the up-and-up. But if so, the wall texts should say something about that.

Venus, Fordham Museum, Bronx, New York
Venus was her name…but where did she come from?

Who Should Visit?

Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art, Bronx New YorkThe Fordham Museum offers a quiet, competent display of an interesting collection in a beautiful academic setting.  It’s great if you like communing with art solo: a kid studying was the only other person when I went.  And a guard popped in briefly to make sure I wasn’t pilfering votive objects.

Who should visit? Students of antiquity, or even just fans, will find it worth their time. If you live closer to Fordham than to the Met or the Onassis Center, you should definitely consider visiting for a Greco-Etrusco-Roman art fix.  And Fordham students have no excuses about going.

More general audiences may wisely hesitate about making the journey just to see the Fordham Museum.  But you could combine it with something else.

  • The Fordham campus happens to be conveniently close to the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage — he walked over to visit the Jesuits when St. John’s College was new. Following in Poe’s footsteps after visiting his humble abode would offer a nice double bill. 
  • It would also pair well with the nearby New-York Botanical Garden.
  • Finally, Fordham is close to the Bronx’s Belmont neighborhood, also known as Arthur Avenue.  Combining Classical art at the Fordham Museum with shopping and a meal there creates a mini Italian vacation.

For Reference:

Address Walsh Library, Fordham Rose Hill Campus, 441 East Fordham Road, The Bronx
Cost Free
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Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture


Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  2/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 19 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz in the guise of a fierce warrior queen, with over-the-top makeup and headdress.

Hostos Community CollegeLike many instutions of higher learning around the City, Hostos Community College has a small art space where they periodically mount public exhibitions. 

Hostos Community College Art Gallery
Next Door to the Swimming Pool

Hostos’s small gallery resides on the ground floor of Building C,  just past security, to the left of the door to the swimming pool. The small space boasts good lighting, high ceilings and large windows looking out onto the Grand Concourse.

Continue reading “Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture”