Museum Mile

Museum Mile in Manhattan.

I love free things and I love museums, so the Museum Mile Festival last Tuesday was a great collision of everything in one wonderful evening. Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street to 105th was closed off to traffic, and the nine museums along it were open late and free. Pedestrians took over the usually busy street and covered it in chalk drawings, while musicians stood under fancy apartment awnings and one man swallowed fire despite the dangerous wind.

Conservatory Garden in Central Park.

I got there a little early, so I stopped in Central Park’s Conservatory Garden at 105th Street. I had never been there before, and as the only formal garden in Central Park, it really is like suddenly stepping into a meticulous European landscape. I will definitely go back there to more thoroughly explore. I only saw the Italian-style center (shown above), but to the North is a French garden and to the South is an English. For someone who is absolutely awful at keeping plants alive, I have a real love for beautifully landscaped gardens. Maybe there’s some fascination there with keeping whole acres green with living plants. It seems so impossible.

Chalk Cat, drawn by someone awesome on Fifth Avenue during the Museum Mile Festival.

I met up with Eszter at the Museum of the City of New York. It was also a new place for me. As you may guess from its name, the museum is dedicated to the history of New York City. We spent the most time with an exhibit called America’s Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York. I wasn’t all that familiar with Mayor Lindsay, but the exhibit was really interesting and covered a lot of New York history from the mid-1960s to early 1970s. I especially liked the aggressive campaign videos, with Lindsay out on the street railing against problems, breaking the fourth wall. I also learned about the Bread and Puppet Theater, a politically radical puppet group that protested the Vietnam War in New York and apparently has since moved to Vermont, and is still getting out to conventions and parades with giant, somewhat unsettling puppet creations. Well, whatever works. I did see these at a strike in France.

Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

Our next stop was the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, where we saw the National Design Triennial. Its theme is “Why Design Now?,” and the “why” definitely seemed to be because our planet is headed to environmental ruin. I liked the light bulb powered by dirt, the solar powered umbrella/lamp, and a map that showed disease outbreak in real time. The disease one was a little scary, although Tasmania seemed to be safe from plagues and pestilence. I guess I should start looking for a ticket now. Okay, I just checked…who wants to loan me $2,000?

Guggenheim Museum.

We continued walking down Fifth, past the Guggenheim where there was a huge line and then by the Metropolitan Museum. Our Museum Mile evening ended with bagels in a shop overlooking a subway exit, which meant excellent people watching. The crowds climbing up the stairs from the metro tunnels are sometimes slow and dazed, other times quick and rushed like animals let loose from cages. I think I’m usually somewhere in the middle, trying not to stumble over my feet when uncaffeinated in the morning, or hurrying out of the dark underground when work is over and the day is mine.

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