By Christina Soriano

Summer Fridays. Long, light afternoons and even longer romantic evenings. Perfectly pedicured toes. We’ve all gained a touch of color on our cheeks. 

This is summer in NYC. 

In the song, “Manhattan,” there’s a line that goes, “It’s very fancy down on Old Delancey Street, you know…” While the lyrics were written by Lorenz Hart in 1925, it still holds true. There’s so much happening on the Lower East Side, you’ll rekindle your love for the same streets you’ve been walking for years and discover something new around the corner.

A natural wanderer, I create soundtracks in my mind as I walk. I hear The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” and Blossom Dearie’s enchanting version of “Manhattan.” Walking down to the Lower East Side prompted me to contemplate all the spaces that are no longer but delight in the new ones that have arrived (including more than 100 galleries in the neighborhood!) – the perfect companions to all my favorite restaurants, cafes and shops. 

Picking up an iced latte down at Irving Farm on the corner of Orchard and Broome, I noticed something in the window that I thought I was imagining – a Picasso?! Could this be real? Was the heat getting to me? Turns out there were three Picasso etchings hanging at Chief Architect Premier X9 software Mayson Gallery, and at the time Director Ronnie Anderson was representing a collector from Malaga (Picasso’s hometown) who was selling them exclusively through the gallery. Anderson started her career at Sotheby’s and opened Mayson Gallery two and a half years ago. Citing the Lower East Side as one of her favorite neighborhoods, her decision to open a space was strategic as, “it was the last frontier of inexpensive storefront space in Manhattan.” Regarding her curating process, Anderson mentioned her tendency to show “young emerging artists because they have a sort of ethereal optimism – I like their vision and passion.” 

Whoever dwells on the “old NY,” Anderson’s outlook is positive and focused on the present: “I think this area has a great cultural vibe; the restaurants, shops and galleries are a definite draw – especially with The New Museum, The Tenement museum, and The Warhol Museum that is supposed to open in the next few years.” 

Stop by this summer for Opposites Attract, a group photography show where each artist – including Emmy Award winner Milo Hess – was asked to contribute two bodies of work with contrasting themes, images or colors.

Heading south on Orchard is a veteran gallerist who started with a space in Williamsburg, then moved to Chelsea and found a new home on the Lower East Side in a recent move in September 2013. You may do a double take as you walk past Monya Rowe Gallery, since the exterior says something reminiscent of “P&P New Fashion.” Rowe left the original sign and brass façade of the former hosiery shop to “foster individuality from other spaces on the block.” In this intimate space, Rowe works with a small group of artists “with a unique voice, [each of whom] are contributing to the contemporary canon” – those like Angela Dufrense, Ann Toebbe and Jake Longstreth. 

When asked about the move, Monya explains she was happy to join the community. “It’s been great to join the diverse community on the LES. There are a lot of galleries opening too. The actual spaces are unique here. They have less of a homogenous feel and a unique eye. People like to be able to distinguish one gallery from another.” Through July 18, don’t miss Vintage Violence, which features a range of work that explores violence in complex and often personal ways with artists Carroll Dunham, Dasha Shiskin and Vera Iliatova.

A few blocks away is Gallery Molly Krom, a new space on Stanton Street. On a recent visit, I noticed engaging works on paper by Rebecca Raue and textile-inspired pieces by Argentine artist Florencia Walfisch. Director Molly Merson describes her process by noting, “the artists I show come from different parts of the world; they are at the different points in their careers and personal development, of different age and gender. I am looking at their art – that is where it starts, continues and sometimes ends.”

Merson agrees that the sense of community in the neighborhood is thriving, as she participated in the cutlog art fair this past May. Its mission was to foster new relationships between international galleries, collectors and art institutions, forming a collaborative platform for building new perspectives on contemporary art. 

I was curious where the “Krom” in “Gallery Molly Krom” originated. Merson revealed, “Krom is my mother’s maiden name. My grandfather was a romantic businessman, one who would get himself involved in many fantastic projects, some of which failed in tragic or comic ways, but he was relentless.” 

It is evident that Merson is perpetuating her grandfather’s life vision – regardless of a delicate time to open anything in New York City. However, Merson holds a true BELLA outlook on life despite the changing landscape of Manhattan. “I am both happy with the gallery’s development and hopeful about the future … almost every day.” 

If you find yourself escaping during the weekends from the Lower East Side to Long Island’s East End, the spirit of summer takes on a new form, as there’s a sense of calm as you transition away from the city. You will marvel as you’re surrounded by art in a contrasting environment at The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. In its grand, new space, which opened in 2012 to celebrate American Art, it uses the landscape of the East End as its palette. 

Deputy Director Scott Howe hopes each visitor has a visceral experience this season: “The Parrish takes inspiration from the natural environment and artistic life of Long Island’s East End to program a rich array of exhibitions and programs. This summer, we present the first major museum survey of work by the groundbreaking New York/Amagansett-based artist Jennifer Bartlett, the installation of six ecologically inspired works by artist Maya Lin, and the first comprehensive exhibition in 45 years of American artist William Glackens. Each of these artists provides a unique perspective on our extraordinary setting. Summer at the Parrish features innovative programs – the world premiere of a theatrical adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel ‘Galapagos,’ a screening of the documentary ‘Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro, Sr,’ our wildly popular Midsummer Party, and a concerts of music ranging from jazz to blue grass. The Parrish’s objective, through its programs and exhibitions, is that guests leave the Museum transformed – seeing the world and themselves differently.”

Mayson Gallery

All photos courtesy of Mayson Gallery, NY

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