American girl, a new flagship store at 75 Rockefeller Plaza

If  you were a nine-year-old girl at any point during the last 30 years, you are almost certainly familiar with American Girl.  In 1986 a line of 18-inch (46 cm) dolls was  released   by Pleasant Company, founded by Pleasant Rowland.  Rowland, who was working for an educational publishing company at that  time, took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg,  a living-history museum   in  Virginia.

History and education were her passions,   and Pleasant had an idea.  Rowland sent a postcard detailing her plan to her friend Valerie Tripp, a children's author.   "I've been down in Williamsburg this week and had an idea. What do you think of it? A series of books about nine-year-old girls growing up at different times in American history." 

Three periods of American history were chosen with three characters- Molly McIntire,  growing up during World War II, Samantha Parkington from Victorian age and Kirsten,  who immigrated to US in the middle of  the 19th century. 

These  three first    dolls were made by  the company Götz in West Germany.
Götz has been producing dolls  since 1950, when Marianne and Franz Götz founded Götz Puppenfabrik in Rodental. The first dolls were made of paper mache and were crafted with the help of five family members and sold directly to the public by Franz Götz

 These three dolls, Samantha, Kirsten and Molly had a number of historically accurate outfits and accessory sets which tied into and were depicted in the various stories.

For example,  Samantha's Winter Amusements set  included a pair of ice skates. The doll also can have a 3-Wheeled Bicycle, stereoscope, winter hat  and muff.    The goal was to make history personal and also to fill a gap in the market: there were baby dolls and Barbie dolls, but no dolls designed to be the age of girls who were actually playing with them.

The first store, American Girl Place, debuted in Chicago in 1998. "From its inception, it was a doll company, a toy company, a clothing company, a publishing company, and a direct mail company all at once," Rowland told the 25th anniversary crowd. "But in truth, from its beginning vision, it was a company that was bigger than the sum of all those parts. It was a girl company, and anything that was good for girls, was ours to give them".

As of 2017 there were about 20  shops, with the only one outlet store  opened in 2018 in  Tanger Outlets Hershey.     Each  American girl doll has a different combination of face mold, skin tone, eye color, and hair color. A wide variety of contemporary clothing, accessories, and furniture was  available
Less than a year ago a  new American Girl Place    opened at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. The 40,000-square-foot store is filled with popular products, including a large selection of American Girl dolls, accessories and hundreds of fiction and advice books.

There are two levels on this store: the first floor and the lower level (accessible by escalator or elevator). The first floor is the place to be with many of the  dolls scattered about, including a huge display for   the doll of the 2018 year,  Luciana Vega, an 11-year-old "aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars " . There is also a  new salon which offers services like ear piercing, nails and hair-dos not just for dolls but now also for girls. Your girl and her doll can even get their ears pierced and manicures together.

Downstairs there is  a huge assortment of books and DVDs and historical dolls. The best part of the bottom level is the brand new restaurant cafe two private party rooms both with flat screen giant TVs. Now let us take a look at the prices.   Be prepared to spend $$!  A basic American girl doll starts at $115, the hair and nails are around $75, kid's meals were $20 and only for kids under 10, $3.75 for a soda and  no drink refills.   Flight Suit for 18-inch  Luciana, the doll of the year, is $28.00  and here Space Suit is $75.00! 

Double Check, the only piece of art to survive 9-11

Double Check   is the life-size bronze of a businessman sitting on a bench as he sifts through his briefcase, seeming to make final preparations for an upcoming business meeting in a nearby office building.  The sculpture was made   in 1982 by  John Seward Johnson II, an American artist known for his trompe l’oeil  painted bronze statues.  Johnson founded   in 1992   Grounds For Sculpture, a   park in New Jersey  to display work completed at the Johnson Atelier and other outdoor exhibitions.

Shortly after  Double Check   was completed, the work was installed in Liberty Plaza Park, now  Zuccotti Park , in lower Manhattan.  The park was created in 1968 by Pittsburgh-based United States Steel and  named Liberty Plaza Park because it was situated beside One Liberty Plaza building. The park was one of the few open spaces with tables and seats in the Financial District, its northwest corner is across the street from Four World Trade Center.

Double Check  became a fixture in the downtown landscape and, for nearly twenty years, was  symbol  in honor of the thousands of people who worked every day in New York City’s financial district.  

The park was heavily damaged in the September 11 attacks and  was covered with debris.    Some $100 million worth of art, including works by Calder, Miró and Nevelson were damaged or destroyed on Sept. 11.    ''Double Check,''   was the only piece to survive intact. The sculpture was so vivid that, while it was covered in white dust in the aftermath, firemen tried to save him.

Later, ''Double Check'' became a makeshift memorial -it was  decorated with candles, flowers, teddy bears, rescue company emblems and crosses by passers-by. People covered the statue with flyers printed with the names of the dead and missing.
New York Times wrote in 2004 about Double Check in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

"With everything in ruins, one figure remained in Liberty  Plaza  across the street from the World Trade Center. He was sitting hunched over staring in his briefcase, a businessman who seemed to be in shock and despair. Rescue workers it was reported, approached him in the chaos to offer assistance, only to discover that he was not a man at all, but a sculpture. Afterward, this sculpture became an icon, as newspaper and magazine photos showed it covered erect in ash and, later, by flowers, notes, and candles left there by mourners and rescue workers. Double Check was a memorial to all those who perished. It was also a fitting metaphor for the city: though the sculpture had been knocked loose from its moorings, it had endured."  Johnson has called his sculpture an iconic “stand-in” for those who didn’t make it.

There were seven originally   casts of  "Double Checks,"  five of which have been sold. The damaged "Double Check"  was on loan from Johnson when the planes hit the towers.

Moved by the tributes, Johnson recalled the copy which had been on display in Germany on 9/11, and had it returned to the U.S. via Rome where it was briefly turned into a memorial for Italians to leave notes of support for New Yorkers. He collected a number of the post 9/11 tributes added to Double Check, cast them in bronze and welded them to the piece exactly as he had found them. Dubbed the Makeshift Memorial, it was installed in  Liberty State Park, overlooking the WTC site from across the Hudson in New Jersey (…….)

       In 2006, the original sculpture was returned to its original location.  The statue  bears all the scratches it sustained on that day.  

In July 2018, Double Check    was relocated to the northwest corner of Broadway and Liberty

You can see  copies of the same sculpture in the "Grounds of Sculpture" in New Jersey

Nereids and Tritoins near Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is  22-acre   complex of 19  limestone buildings in midtown Manhattan.    The complex is  one of the most popular attractions in NYC. The group of skyscrapers was built between 1929 and 1940 and designed by a team of architects headed by Henry Hofmeister, H.W. Corbett, and Raymond Hood.  Constructed during the Great Depression’s worst years, the project gainfully employed over 40,000 people.  John D. Rockefeller Jr. decided that Rockefeller Center should include buildings dedicated to the trade of specific countries.
 The British Empire Building (620 Fifth Avenue)   and  its twin, La Maison Francaise, located on the corner of 49th were built in 1933.  To link the two buildings, the architects designed a  narrow area,  200-foot promenade between two buildings that leads from 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center.  

The promenade was  named Channel Gardens,  because  of the English Channel  ( or   in  French: la Manche)  than  separates England from France.  At the beginning    New Yorkers constantly congregated in the Channel Gardens,   as something new was always happening.   In 1941 Rockefeller Center transformed its promenade overnight, transplanting crab-apple trees in full fruit and over 2000 red, bronze and yellow chrysanthemum blooms in celebration of their autumn festival. 

The Channel Gardens has six pools with fountains.   During the winter, the Channel Gardens' fountains are  shut off and are decorated with Valerie Clarebout's sculptures of angels.  Each pool has a large fountainhead sculpture, designed by Rene Paul Chambellan.
 Chambellan was born in West Hoboken, New Jersey and spent the first part of his life in and around New York City.   While serving with the Army Corps of Engineers in World War I as a sergeant he endured a gas attack but survived with wounds to lungs.  After the war  Chambellan studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  His most productive period   lasted from 1922 to 1939.  His sculptures    grace more than 30 buildings in New York.  Chambellan worked closely with Raymond Hood, the architect of the Rockefeller Center. 

Unlike most architects  Hood  implemented his vision   not through  progressive iterations of sketches but from small-scale models. And  among Hood's generation of  Architects Chambellan was cherished for his models. 

  Chambellan created these six 33" by 26" by 47" sculptures from the Channel Gardens that were cast at the Roman Bronze Works and  installed in 1935.  

Three female figures are Nereids and three male figures are Tritons.  The Nereids were sea nymphs in Greek mythology, fifty in total, daughters of Nereus and Doris.  Their name simply means, Children of Nereu. They helped sailors on their voyages when they faced fierce storms.   The oldest mention of the Nereids comes from  Plato,  a philosopher in Classical Greece and the founder of the Academy in Athens.  When Plato was describing the Temple of Poseidon on the central island of Atlantis, he said that there was a golden statue of Poseidon with one hundred sculptured Nereids riding dolphins around the base of the statue.

The actual idea of a race of tritons actually came from the Greek God, Triton, who was said to be the son of Poseidon.  Like his father, Triton carries a trident. However, Triton's special attribute was a twisted conch shell, on which he blew like a trumpet to calm or raise the waves. Its sound was so terrible, that when loudly blown, it put the giants to flight, who imagined it to be the roar of a mighty wild beast. 
 Each figure  either  one of Tritons or Nereids   is depicted riding on the back of a sea creature and represents an attribute that has enabled mankind's progress (from Fifth Avenue towards the lower rink): Leadership, Will, Thought, Imagination, Energy, and Alertness. 

Marionette Theater in Central Park

     If you enter Central Park from West 81 street  you'll see one of the best-kept secrets of New York for kids:  Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. 
The Swedish Cottage is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the United States. Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre was founded in 1939 and today the company continues to fashion its own scripts, make its own puppets, and produce its own shows.
     The house was originally  constructed as a model schoolhouse and was  transported to Philadelphia to be shown as Sweden’s entry in the 1876 Centennial Exposition. 
    Central Park co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted liked  the  rustic building and at his urging the cottage was disassembled and transported to Central Park. The cottage was used as  the nature study center for children and an entomological lab before it became headquarters for the Parks Department’s Traveling Marionette Theater. 

The theatre holds up to 100 people and has a party room. You have to arrive half an hour before the show to be able to pick of the  seats.

The theater is a 5-minute walk from 79th and West Drive Central Park entrance. There are signs guiding you there. It is next to the Shakespeare Garden

"Neverland: Peter Returns"  runs several times a week through September 2018.

Based on J.M. Barrie’s iconic Peter Pan tales, Neverland: Peter Returns is the Swedish Cottage’s spin on the beloved children’s classic. Leaving their parents behind, the Darling children follow Peter Pan back home to Neverland for the adventure of a lifetime. When the cunning Captain Hook turns Peter’s pals Tiger Lily and Tinker Bell against him, the children team up with the Never Boys to save the day, learning the value of forgiveness and friendship (….)

The price is $8 for children and $12 for adults
You can reserve tickets  by phone:(212)988-9093. Address : 830 5th Ave  New York, NY 10065 Buy Tickets online Theatre Web Site

 This is also  a place  where children celebrate their 3/4/5 year old birthdays. $800 fee (for three hours)  includes private showing of current production, usage of party room for up to 75 people , equipped with child-size furniture, small microwave, small refrigerator, one large table and five small  tables.  An additional hour can be added onto the  party for the cost of $200. 

Wake on Times Square

On July 11 in a major partnership with Times Square Arts  a new  artworks opened in Times Square. 
Wake by the artist Mel Chin  is a 24-foot-tall installation that evokes the hull of a shipwreck crossed with the skeletal remains of a marine mammal. Adjacent to the shipwreck is a  21-foot-tall sculpture. 
Mel Chin was born  is Houston, Texas  and moved to New York in 1983. Chin places art in landscapes, in public spaces, and in gallery and museum exhibitions. In 1984 Mel Chin was   Artist-in-Residence   in Bryant park,   then suffering from criminal activity and lack of use. 

MYRRHA P.I.A in Bryant Park
The artist   constructed his piece "MYRRHA P.I.A. (Post Industrial Age)" in the park, during the summer and fall of 1984. Chin used  nineteenth century fabrication techniques to create a three-dimensional figurative sculpture of a female set on a wood pedestal, and placed in the center of the lawn. Chin's Myrrha was heavily based on Doré's engraving of Dante's portrayal of Myrrha in Divine Comedy. 

Chin once stated: “Making objects and marks is also about making possibilities, making choices—and that is one of the last freedoms we have. To provide that is one of the functions of art.”

 The sculpture on Times Square based off of a figurehead of 19th-century opera singer, Jenny Lind.
  Nicknamed the ‘Swedish Nightingale’, Jenny Lind (original name Johanna Maria Lind) was a soprano whose voice was admired by Chopin, Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann. 

People loved her, and she became one of the most adored singers of the 1800s. Lind made her debut  at Stockholm in 1838 , first appeared in London in Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable in 1847  and    in 1850 toured the United States under P.T. Barnum’s auspices.  From the moment of her arrival in New York, Lind was a sensation.  The New York Tribune summarized her popularity: “Jenny Lind’s first concert is over; and all doubts are at an end. She is the greatest singer we have ever heard”. All told, Jenny Lind’s tour is believed to have netted Barnum close to a half-million dollars, an astonishing sum in 1850.

USS Nightingale
The  figurehead was  mounted on the 19th Century clipper ship, the USS Nightingale.   She was built originally to carry passengers across the Atlantic to the Great Exhibition in London, and was then to be exhibited in the Thames with her large saloons and luxurious cabins. Unfortunately money ran out before the fittings were completed, and the Nightingale was sold at auction in Boston. During the Civil War, she served as an armed cruiser for the Federal Navy. 

After the War, the Nightingale was the flagship for the Western Union Telegraph Company’s Pacific project.

 Nightingale`s last homeport had been Kragerö, in southern Norway. The figurehead was lost .  It was rediscovered  almost a century later and ended up in the hands of a Swedish antique dealer in 1994.  He spent 13 years researching its history.  In January 2008 f ship's figurehead once used as a scarecrow on a Swedish farm has been sold at auction at Sotheby's in New York for $100,000. 

Daily News Building

Just a block and a half from Grand Central Terminal, 220 East 42nd Street, also known as the Daily News Building was constructed in 1929-1930 for the newspaper of the same name, owned by Joseph Patterson. Joseph Medill Patterson was  one of the most significant newspaper publishers in the United States, founding New York's Daily News and introducing the tabloid. His grandfather was the founder of the Chicago Tribune and a mayor of Chicago, Illinois. 

 The New York Daily News was founded  by Peterson in 1919 and was the first U.S. daily printed in tabloid format - a compact page size smaller than broadsheet, usually 17 by 11 inches. New York's many subway commuters found the tabloid format easier to handle, and readership steadily grew.

One of the slogans of the newspaper was  "The Eyes, the Ears, the Honest Voice of New York".  First  the newspaper was based at 23 Park Place, a block from City Hall, and two blocks from Park Row, the traditional home of the city's newspaper trade. By  1927 Daily News was the nation's biggest newspaper and it was ready to enlarge the space.

 To build a new home for his newspaper  Patterson chose architect Raymond Hood to build hid first  fully modernistic freestanding skyscraper for the newspaper. Hood had designed the magnificent Chicago Tribune building, which was owned by Patterson's grandfather, Joseph Medill.

Construction of the 36-story tower began in April 1929, and for all that year Midtown East was dramatically transformed day by day as the News Building climbed into the sky alongside its equally showy new  neighbors the Chrysler and Chanin buildings.
 The building was finished  by February 1930 and the  giant rotating globe in the lobby  took a few more months to install.

 The  enormous partially sunken globe surrounded by a black glass hemisphere, is one of New York’s most unusual and dramatic public interior spaces.  The globe is 12 feet in diameter and weighs 4,000 pounds. It is housed in a mirrored circular pit beneath a black glass dome, and is lit from below. A sunburst, inlaid into the terrazzo floor, radiates out from this spherical beauty, with text marking the direction and distance to major cities around the world.
The giant globe was featured as part of the fictional Daily Planet in Richard Donner's Superman films in 1978.

"Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination", Metropolitan Museum

The Costume Institute  in the Metropolitan Museum began as the Museum of Costume Art, an independent entity formed in 1937. In  May 2014 the redesigned Costume Institute space reopened  after a two-year renovation as the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Anna Wintour, a trustee of the New York Metropolitan Museum , editor-in-chief of American Vogue and the artistic director of Condé Nast, is widely regarded as the most influential figure in fashion.

The Costume Institute organizes a spring exhibition each year, the opening of which on the first Monday in May is accompanied by The Met Gala – one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the annual fashion calendar.
The Met's 2018 Costume Institute exhibition, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”  is organized by the museum's Costume Institute in collaboration with the department of Medieval Art. 

 This is the largest exhibit for both the Costume Institute and for The Met in museum history. The show spans two locations — The Met Fifth Avenue, in the Byzantine and medieval art galleries, as well as in the Anna Wintour Costume Center — and continues at The Met Cloisters in upper Manhattan. 

In all, it's comprised of 25 galleries and 60,000 square feet, with ample support and participation from Catholicism's front office, the Vatican, 4,200-odd miles away.
"Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination"  explores the relationship between fashion and Catholicism, explores how the religion's imagery and symbolism has impacted contemporary haute-couture and ready-to-wear designs.

Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, gave “Heavenly Bodies” the blessing of the Catholic Church. “Think about it just for a moment,” said the archbishop on the Church’s role in the exhibition . “It’s because the church and the Catholic imagination, the theme of this exhibit, are all about three things: Truth, goodness and beauty. That’s why we have great schools and universities—to teach the truth. That’s why we love and serve the poor, to do good, and that’s why we’re into things such as art, poetry, music, liturgy—and yes, even fashion—to thank god for the gift of beauty.”

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, dress has affirmed religious allegiances, asserted religious differences, and functioned to distinguish hierarchies as well as gender,” writes Andrew Bolton, the exhibit’s curator. “Although some might regard fashion as a frivolous pursuit far removed from the sanctity of religion, most of the vestments worn by the secular clergy and religious orders of the Catholic Church actually have their origins in secular dress.

Serving as the cornerstone of the exhibition, a collection of over 40 papal robes and attire borrowed from The Vatican archives and Sistine Chapel Sacristy, dating from the mid-18th to early 21st century  is  on view shown  n  the Anna Wintour Costume Center.

The delicately embroidered garments and intricately decorated crowns and tiaras   are the first pieces from the historic collection to be displayed at The Met since 1983 – and some have never been seen outside The Vatican before.
Fashions from the early twentieth century to the present are shown in the Byzantine and medieval galleries, part of the Robert Lehman Wing, and at The Met Cloisters.

“Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”    is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters from May 10 through October 8, 2018.