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Flux Art Fair, Harlem

I noticed them right away – two giant heads at one of the east side entrances to Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. I stopped jogging to take a closer look. Neither figure resemblance Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born black nationalist after whom the park was renamed in 1973. Maybe, I thought, the likeness was of Pelham Fritz. Fritz, the former assistant commissioner of recreation at the Parks Department was a regular at the park. Following his death in 1988, the park’s recreation center was named for him. 

I checked but there were no plaque, no sign, nothing to indicate why they were there. I was intrigued. I took a few photos. As I did, another jogger stopped and asked if I knew who they were.

Flux Art in Harlem
(E)scape – New Faces, Bob Clyatt

I was jogging again the following week when I spotted this colorful totem-like piece just north of the basketball court.  I decided to finish my jog and go into the park to take a closer look. By now, there were several more pieces and all had plaques. In addition to the artists’ name and the title of the piece, each indicated this was a Flux Art Fair.

Flux Art Fair Harlem
Golem, 2013 Jordan Baker-Caldwell

According to their website, Flux Art Fair “embodies Harlem’s creative spirit and cultural significance” and is a collaboration with NYC Parks, NYC Department of Transportation’s Art Program and the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance.

Flux Public Art Project, Harlem
Urban Structure, Kurt Steger
Flux Art Project Harlem
Sprout, Sui Park
Flux Public Art Project, Harlem
Big Head (Harlem Rose), Montserrat Daubon
Flux Art Project Harlem
Surge, Lucy Hodgson
Flux Public Art Project, Harlem
Bed of Flowers, Leah Pollar

Located in the Mount Morris area of Central Harlem, Marcus Garvey Park is bounded on the north by 124th Street, on the south by 120th Street, on the east by Madison Avenue and by Mount Morris Park West (Fifth Avenue). The park was previously called Mount Morris Park.

Flux Public Art Project Harlem
The Odyssey, 2016, Stan Squirewell
Flux Art Fair Harlem
Trompe l’oeil, 2016, Capucine Bourcart

Flux Art Fair features work by over 40 artists. Most will be on display at Marcus Garvey Park until May 31st. According to their plaques, Big Head (Harlem Rose), Surge, Sculpture Love, Outdoor Indoor, The Odyssey and (E)scape – New Faces will remain until August 1, 2016. The exhibition is free, however there are several paid events around Harlem, including talks on May 21 and 22 and a family brunch.

What do you think is the value of public art?

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations host. Be sure to stop by to view other photos from locations around the world.

Budget Travelers Sandbox

A Return Visit to Harlem’s The Cecil

One of the best things about living in New York area is the variety of restaurants the city has. At any given time, if you’re so inclined, you could eat your way around the world with just your Metrocard as your passport. (Of course, you’d also need to take your credit card along.)

With so many restaurants, it’s sometimes difficult (for me, at least) to settle on a favorite. But I have. The restaurant I can’t get enough of is The Cecil. I go there every chance I get, recommend it to others and take visiting friends and family.

Located in Harlem, The Cecil is the creation of businessman Richard Parsons, formerly chairman and CEO of Time Warner, and chef, restauranteur, and author, Alexander Smalls.

The menu boats an eclectic fusion of African, Asian and American ingredients. Dishes are spiced with or accompanied by ingredients as varied as kimchi, piri piri sauce, tamarind, ginger, and coconut.

A Return Visit to Harlem's The Cecil
With Lorraine at The Cecil

When my cousin, Lorraine, told me she was coming to New York on business, I knew right away where I wanted to take her. She’d taken me to her favorite Thai restaurant when I was in Toronto on business earlier this year. Now it was my turn to reciprocate.

For days before her arrival, we exchanged text after text about the restaurant, the menu and finally which day we’d go. She was as excited to go as I was to take her and even though she twisted her ankle the day we planned to go, not even that stopped her.

Here’s what we had:

A Return Visit to Harlem's The Cecil
Portuguese Sausage Dumplings from The Cecil
A Return Visit to Harlem's The Cecil
Crispy Soft Shell Crab
A Return Visit to Harlem's The Cecil
Jollof Rice with Shrimp
A Return Visit to Harlem's The Cecil
Citrus Jerk Golden Snapper
A Return Visit to Harlem's The Cecil
A Return Visit to Harlem's The Cecil
Avocado Crema


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An Art Walk in Harlem’s Historic Strivers Row

The Strivers Art Circuit (SAC) is a free, self-guided walking tour that will take place on October 8th and 9th, in the Historic Strivers Row area of Harlem (130th street to 145th street, 5th Ave to St Nicholas Ave).

The Circuit allows participants to view some of Harlem’s visual and craft artists at work in their galleries and studios.

The Strivers Art Circuit was created to develop a hub of arts activity and thereby gain increased visibility and exposure for SAC participants.

Strivers Art Circuit

Opening reception: Friday, October 7th from 6:00 p.m.

Tour Dates: Saturday, October 8th and Sunday, October 9th from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The event is free to the public. However, if you plan to attend, click here to RSVP. Strivers Art Circuit Participants

The Harlem Arts Alliance is a sponsor of the Srivers Art Circuit.



Harlem’s Cotton Club

I heard about the Cotton Club long before I moved to Harlem. It was one of the places I knew I wanted to see. But the Cotton Club I saw was not the one of legend.

The old club was located at 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue, the site of the Club De Luxe, which was owned by the black boxing champion, Jack Johnson. Owney Madden, a well-known mobster and bootlegger, bought the Club De Luxe in 1923 and renamed it the Cotton Club, an interesting name given the kind of clientele the establishment would serve.

Continue reading “Harlem’s Cotton Club”

Soulful Sundays – Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington

Born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C., Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was a musician, bandleader and a prolific composer who has more than a thousand compositions to his credit.

His parents, James Edward and Daisy Kennedy Ellington, both pianists, nurtured his artistic abilities. Duke, who got his name from one of his friends, began taking piano lessons at age seven. In high school, he studied art and was awarded a scholarship to the Pratt Institute but turned it down.

Influenced by ragtime musicians, Duke began performing professionally at age 17. In 1923, he moved to New York City where he began playing in clubs. From 1927-32 and 1937-8, he played at Harlem’s Cotton Club.

Continue reading “Soulful Sundays – Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington”

Things I Love About Harlem, Pt 2

A few days ago, I posted a list of ten things I love about Harlem and promised to share a few more. Here they are:

  • Harlem Stage – A performing arts center that “celebrates and perpetuates the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture.” Harlem Stage is located on Convent Avenue at W 135th Street, across from the Aaron Davis Hall, a 750-seat theater, experimental theater and rehearsal studio that’s used by the New York City Opera National Company, Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, the Emerson String Quartet among others.
Duke Ellington statue
Duke Ellington Statue

RIP Nicholas Ashford

According to news reports, Nicholas Ashford of Ashford and Simpson passed away yesterday here in New York.

Ashford, who was born in South Carolina grew up in Michigan. He moved to New York City in the early 1960s and met his future wife, Valerie Simpson in Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church. They began collaborating musically with Ashford writing most of the lyrics, Simpson composing. They also recorded together. But it’s their work as songwriters for performers such as Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson and others that made them legendary. They also received writing credit on Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own.”

They also co-owned the Sugar Bar where live performances are a big part of the menu.

Continue reading “RIP Nicholas Ashford”

Harlem Eats – Where to Find Good Food in Harlem, Part 1

When I moved to Harlem more than 10 years ago, you could count on one hand the number of restaurants and banks on 125th Street and surroundings and still have fingers left over. Now, I can sample Senegalese, Jamaican, Cuban, French, American, Italian, Ethiopian, Chinese, and some new fusion foods without having to take a subway downtown.

Oh, and now I have my pick of several branches of the major banks just on 125th Street alone.

Here are a few of my favorite restaurants, the same ones I recommend to friends who come from out of town.

  • Red Rooster – Chef and author, Marcus Samuelsson, brings his award winning cooking uptown to Red Rooster, his new restaurant which features traditional American fare. The restaurant got its name from a Harlem speakeasy that was located on 138th Street and 7th Avenue where Harlem’s glitterati like Nat King Cole, Adam Clayton Powell and James Baldwin used to meet and eat. Samuelsson was a Top Chef Masters winner, and guest chef at the first State Dinner of the Obama Administration. Red Rooster, 310 Lenox Avenue, 212.792.9001. I’ve been for lunch and brunch. The food was excellent but be prepared to wait. Reservations recommended for dinner.
  • Chez Lucienne  – Next door to Red Rooster at 308 Lenox is Chez Lucienne. Before Red Rooster popped up, Chez Lucienne was the spot to go for good French food without the downtown prices. I’ve taken friends and clients here for lunch and dinner and was never disappointed. I’ve been promising to order the whole red snapper next time just so I can watch the waiter debone my fish. Drop by on Friday nights for the jazz as well. Chez Lucienne’s owned by Jerome Bougherdani, who worked at Le Bernadin and Daniel, downtown establishments. Chez Lucienne, 308 Lenox Avenue. 212-289-5555.
  • Ristorante Settepani – Opened originally as a café selling scrumptious pastries, Settepani underwent extensive renovations and reopened as a restaurant serving Mediterranean fare a little over a year ago. I fell in love with the seafood pasta dish that was cooked in parchment paper – had it several times — but it doesn’t seem to be on the latest menu. Not to worry, the owners, Leah and Nino Settepani, have maintained the same attention to detail as they did at the original café. Ristorante Settepani, 192 Lenox Avenue, 917-492-4806.
Ristorante Settepani
Ristorante Settepani
  • Native – Funky and unpretentious Native offers an excellent variety of foods – for vegetarians and those who still love some fried chicken or burger.  Native Restaurant, 161 Lenox Avenue, 212-665-2525.
Native Restaurant, Harlem
Native Restaurant
  • Mobay Uptown – Billed as a “Caribbean soul fusion” restaurant, Mobay Uptown has been in Harlem for about 8 years – one of the first upscale restaurants to open in the community. Combining Southern, Caribbean, Chinese cuisine, Mobay and its owner, Sheron Chin-Barnes, have been featured on Bobby Flay’s Throwdown. Mobay Uptown Restaurant, 17 West 125th Street, 212-876-2300
  • Melba’s – When I’m feeling for some comfort food, I head down to Melba’s Restaurant, named after owner Melba Brown. Melba’s been a fixture in the neighborhood since 2005 and is famous for their Southern Fried Chicken and Eggnog Waffles. Melba’s Restaurant, 300 W 114th Street, 212-864-7777.
  • Le Baobab Restaurant – Generous portions, good prices. Whenever I go to Le Baobab, I always have left overs. My favorite – the fried fish, whole fish fried crispy with a sauce on the side. I usually back that up with some couscous and friend plantains and top it off with a glass of their homemade ginger drink. Le Baobab Restaurant, 120 W 116th Street, 212-864-4700.
  • Amor Cubano – Yucca fries, ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, mojitos, and other traditional Cuban fare is on offer at Amor Cubano. So until the embargo on travel to the island nation is lifted, if you want a taste of good Cuban food, Amor Cubano is the place to go uptown. Amor Cubano, 2013 3rd Avenue, 212-996-1220.

Last week, the buzz was about Cedric, a new French bistro that had its grand opening on Monday night. Named after Cedric Lecendre, the general manager at Le Bilboquet, an eatery on the Upper East Side, Cedric is the latest chef to open an outpost in Harlem. Word is that on opening night, uptown and downtown, including Chris Noth of Law and Order, and Sex in the City fame met at Cedric.

If you ever come uptown, make sure to check out one of these restaurants. I’ll share more in another post later this week.

Bon Appetit!