One month into the AAP NYC program and there are two things I know for sure: there are very few qualities as essential to a New Yorker as anonymous optimism, and that time really does move faster in New York City.
While I’m willing to bet optimism is not what instantly comes to mind when envisioning a real New Yorker, its atypical presence is deeply rooted. It has taken four weeks of casual observation to pick up this underlying perspective, hovering within the unceasingly chaotic architecture, avenues, and underground stations. As someone who believes she’s picked up enough local language, both body and lingo, I can attest that this type of optimism is anonymous and incurable.
Anonymous in this sense doesn’t mean secret; it means incognito. Beyond anything else – except maybe being unbothered by absolutely everything – New Yorkers are resilient. When faced with a challenge or trauma of any degree, they react by looking at it objectively and realistically. While someone might make the assessment that something is wildly problematic, and outwardly react with an attitude of stress or tendency to overthink, a New Yorker reacts with this sort of muted confidence – that they have the attitude that they’ll prevail regardless of the situation. That’s the optimism that relates to resilience.
Resilience is crucial in a city like New York. As the world’s capital of finance, the arts, media, and more, moving in and trying to figure out everything is like decoding the world most complex Rubik’s Cube. Each side a different borough, each square a different neighborhood, each color a different aspect of the city, mixing and locking together as you repeatedly attempt to find your way. I’ve come to believe that residents of New York belong to a cohort of individuals who succeed, even excel, in these types of complex circumstances. In this way, the resilience they conserve isn’t anything special, it’s just life. It is probably – definitely – audacious to assume that I’ve cracked the code of New York and its residents. Regardless, me and my new New Yorker friends can pretend to know what we’re talking about. And even though we’ve only been here for a month, we all agree that the time has flown by.
So why does it seem like time moves faster in New York City? This subconscious feeling may be better understood when considering the popular time warp paradox proposed by physicist Garble Headweak back in the thirties. Headweak predicted that the flow of chronons – a quantum unit of time – were significantly slowed in areas where the density of New Yorkers was higher.
This phenomenon isn’t limited to the New Yorkers while they’re in New York. For instance, a Boston sportscaster once stated that when the New York Yankees played the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, it seemed like the games simply “go faster.” Perhaps it is bold to assume the chronons of the human body are partial to those who live within a certain geographical vicinity, however, whether you disregard the chemical physics of time or not, it is undeniably evident that in New York City, there is a very real presence and perception that time is constantly on high speed.
My first month at AAP NYC has flown by. Right when I finally feel like I am fully settled and can stop to take a breath, I find myself running to catch up with something I didn’t even know was going on. Here is a swift recap of the first four weeks!
Week 1: Moving in
Moving into The House at Cornell Tech was a great experience. The staff were extremely welcoming and helpful, and it didn’t take long after unpacking to feel like I was really at home. (Blog post about life at The House coming soon!) Orientation was a fantastic way to meet my professors, get to know the area around 26 Broadway, and become closer with my new classmates. We’re a small group this semester (only 6 B.F.A. students – four sophomores and two juniors), but we quickly realized how beneficial this size would be. Following AAP NYC icon and atlas of knowledge, executive director Bob Balder, we toured the Financial District, popping inside the Skyscraper Museum, the Oculus, Brookfield Place, and admiring the natural beauty of Battery Park, Bowling Green, and the river that borders the southern point of Manhattan. We had the rest of the week to get settled, taking time to explore other parts of the city, individually and as a group.
Week 2: Getting settled
By week two, we all felt like we were ready for whatever the city could throw at us. It was our first full week of classes, and we were eager to get our academic semester started. On Monday, we met with Visiting Lecturer Masha Panteleyeva at 26 Broadway for our history course, titled Media Space: Art and the City in the Age of Modernity. Although it was an introductory class, we were able to get into a deep discussion about the city as an imagined environment, and how New York can be a physical/political body. After a group lunch at our favorite dining place (Dig Inn on the corner of Broad Street and Stone Street), we began our studio class with Visiting Critic Beverly Semmes. After some social introductions, we got started working on a still life drawing. It had been a long winter break and drawing the still life was a nice way to warm back up into the basics. Tuesday and Wednesday are free days without classes to accommodate students with internships. We are all working in progress to confirm ours, so we used these days to explore a bit more of the city and visit some New York staples, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thursday morning we had another studio class with Beverly, where a model joined our class and we had the opportunity to do some live figure drawings. That afternoon we met with Linda Norden for our Professional Practice class. We visited three galleries in one class – an overwhelming amount of material for the first day! While we were blown away by Linda’s knowledge alone, she took it to the next level by getting us invites to the threeasFOUR fashion show at the Guggenheim Museum that evening. After class we stopped for a dumpling dinner together in Morningside Heights and then proceeded to the show at 7pm. It was an incredible experience and we all left the show feeling both amazed and thankful. On Friday we met with Visiting Lecturer Jane Benson at the Hudson River Park Pier 66 for our New York City Seminar class. We got to explore on the Fireboat John. J Harvey, which had been transformed by artist Tauba Auerbach in an abstract, red-and-white marbleized pattern. It was a whirlwind week and we couldn’t believe how much we’d experienced after only one week.
Week 3: I’m settled
Week three was like the part in a movie where the hero thinks they’ve cracked the case and its smooth sailing from there. We really believed we’d figured everything out – we knew the subway, knew when to leave to make it to class in time, could confidently zone out while walking about. The expectations we had built of our classes the first week were surpassed, with a week of enriching experiences built upon a more solid relationship with our professors. Highlights include the visit of Juan Iribarren in Beverly’s studio class, where he assisted teaching our figure drawing session, adding in unique challenges and collaborative drawings. We found great success in the collaborative sessions, sometimes having all six of us working on one drawing, sharing our own strengths and creating a multi-dimensional piece. It was a grand success and we were excited to invite Juan back for another class down the line. Another highlight was the opportunity to volunteer one evening at a fancy benefit at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise for an organization that serves as the art and music program for a number of under-served NYC public schools. Inside the beautiful Harlem gallery spaces, we assisted with providing whatever the opera singers needed, as well as supervising the silent auction, while casually networking with the guests of the benefit. After our volunteer duties were complete, we were able to listen to the speakers and singers, which was a real delight. Beyond the additional excitement that came from out-of-class experiences, we all believed that we were finally settled into the fast-paced New York City life. We complained about train delays, walked at a slightly faster pace, and called our families at home to brag about how we were “basically locals.”
Week 4: Ok, now I’m actually settled
Week four was a wake-up call – okay, now we’re actually settled. There was no longer a lingering feeling of hyper awareness everywhere we went; we felt like we could exhale and properly blend in with the constant chaos. Falling into routine was an amazing thing, as we could stress less about the small things and focus on our education and time in New York more broadly. Highlights since week four include February Break, which we all used as an opportunity to unwind and check out some of our own interests at our own pace, as well as hosting friends from Ithaca, going to the Whitney Museum of American Art to see the new and iconic Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again exhibit, and an incredibly moving and transformative workshop experience with artist Shaun Leonardo at the Pratt Institute, organized by Jane Benson and attended by surprise guest Professor Renate Ferro.
Tackling the grand move to New York, has been, fairly stereotypical. Marching in with the strongest sense of determination, pride, and excitement, is quickly morphed into something of a survival mode – from small things (how do early do I have to leave to make the train in order to make it to class, what does it mean when the cashier asks me if I want to “carry out” groceries, remember to stand to the right on the escalator) to bigger things (what happens if my wallet gets stolen, how do I safely navigate this city if my phone dies at night)? Grand, sweeping statements and plans and goals are churned into realistic objectives once the facts of city life are realized.
I’m not about to proclaim I’ve solved the Rubik’s Cube that is New York, not even close. But there’s something so exquisitely exciting about sliding each row each day and gradually discovering more and more about this grand place, and in part, about myself.