Venice to cruise ships: Get out please

Venice is proud of its heritage. Home to beautiful architecture, canals, bridges, gondolas, the annual Venice Film Festival, the Basilica and many other churches along with museums like the Guggenheim, its probably no surprise that cruise ships are not on the top of their list of things to add to the mix. In the wake of the Concordia grounding, considering the threat of accidents, air and water pollution, and an additional 2 million more visitors a year into a city already maxed out with tourists, Venice has a plan to keep cruise ships away.

The city does not want cruise ships in their lagoon at all but as a first step to keep them away, wants to reroute ships arriving in Venice so they stay farther from St. Mark’s and other prominent monuments as a possible step toward keeping them out of the lagoon altogether.

“This is one of the hypotheses we’re working on,” Environmental Minister Corrado Clini told the Associated Press. “In the meantime we should take precautionary measures to progressively reduce risk.”

The Venice Port Authority opposes moves against cruise traffic saying the cruise industry employs thousands of Venetians and believes Venice is not a candidate for cruise ships to run aground like the Concordia did last month, not all that far away.

In addition, a team of 25 cruise ship captains work around the clock as pilots of a sort, assigned to board cruise ships outside the lagoon and oversee their passage through Venice, accompanied by a pair of tug boats.

To deal with the air pollution, the port is exploring a system that would let ships plug in to shore side power when docked, similar to how ships plug in to U.S. West coast ports, allowing them to turn off their engines. Like U.S. systems, a green shore side power system will be costly and seems to have stalled for that reason.

Unlike U.S. ports concerned about the impact of cruise ships though, Venice is a United Nations-protected UNESCO site and Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, a Venetian himself, said longer-term solutions are needed.

“The city is a very fragile city. This is a city that comes to us from the Middle Ages,” Bandarin told the AP. “It is not designed for having that kind of traffic. It is designed to have ships, and we will always have ships around Venice, but not these kind of ships.”

Flickr photo by jastrow75

Want your art in the Guggenheim? Here’s your chance!

The Guggenheim and YouTube have teamed up to find the world’s most artistic short videos.

YouTube Play is a contest for Youtube videos that show something truly inventive and different. No fan vids or farting dogs need apply. Two hundred finalists will be judged by a panel of art experts and culled down to 20 to 25 videos that will be shown in a special exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York City. It will be the first of a biennial competition.

This will attract a lot of creative entries, especially by video artists and animators. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the finalists showed the wide world in all its glory? A good travel video such as this one of The Amber Fort in Rajasthan can hold its own against more consciously artistic works. Not only are there some beautiful shots, but the video subtly explores the relationship between heritage and tourism.

So get the cameras rolling and make a video that deserves to be shown in one of the world’s leading modern art museums. But hurry up, submissions close July 31!

Photo courtesy Enrique Cornejo via Wikimedia Commons.

Jackson Pollock’s studio and house in East Hampton

When I was finding out details about Cody, Wyoming for my post on Cody Cowboy Village, I found out that Jackson Pollack was born in Cody Wyoming in 1912 and yesterday (January 28) was his birthday. Jackson Pollock is one of those artists whose work I admire tremendously, but don’t know exactly why.

One of the things I remember about my first trip to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City is Jackson Pollock’s paintings. A long time ago I took the Foreign Service exam just to see what would happen and found out that there are some things I just don’t know. What I did know, was Jackson Pollock’s picture. There was a photograph of him painting and I recognized him immediately.

To celebrate his birthday, I looked into what mark he made on the world besides his art that you can see in museums. I did think about making a list of museums where you can see his work, but instead am happy to report that his former studio and house is now a museum and study center in East Hampton, New York. The house built in 1879 belonged to a fisherman’s family. Now it’s the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center and is where Pollock did most of his work from 1946 until his death. Visiting here is one way to soak in the atmosphere and belongings of a person who is certainly one of abstract art’s most energetic contributors. The house is open seasonally. Visits begin again May 1.

By the way, East Hampton is also a gorgeous, trendy place to spend some time, but bring money.

New York City on January 1: After the party there’s still things to do

There have been a few times I’ve ended up in a town or city when there’s a holiday–or on the wrong day, such as when a place I hoped was open was closed. For example, don’t go to the Solomon R. Guggenheim on Thursday. The doors are locked.

In New York City on New Year’s Day, it can feel as if no one is home. After the hoopla in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the quietness of the streets can be even more disconcerting.

For a traveler who is hoping to find some activity somewhere, there’s nothing worse than that after the excitement feeling when there’s nothing left to do. If anyone is engaged in something fun, it’s not you. To help the traveler who has landed in Manhattan for New Year’s Eve and has the first day of 2008 to fill with things to do rather than flip through the cable channel of a hotel room TV, The New York Times has a wonderful article “The City Doesn’t Drop the Ball” on what you might do on Tuesday, the day after the ball drops.

Here’s the short list of what’s open.

The Statue of Liberty–If you don’t go inside, the trip out to Liberty Island on the ferry is enjoyable and offers a wonderful view of Manhattan. I’m not sure what the frigid air would feel like this time of year, though. I’ve only been here in the summer, but there is inside seating on the ferry and a snack bar on board. This would be a fun New Year’s outing.

The Museum of Modern Art–Oh, how I love this museum. If you do go, the various cafes throughout are worthy of a coffee pit stop. Also, if you need to pick up a 2008 calendar, this gift shop is the best for funky, interesting options.

The Museum of Natural History is also open. The last time I was here, I thought about how it was like stepping inside a science and social studies book, but all the pages are 3-D.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim may be closed on Thursday’s but it’s open on New Year’s Day. The article said that kids might be bored. Ah, not if you know how to take your kids through an art museum. One trick is to not plan to stay for hours, but have engaging your kids with the artwork be the purpose of the trip. With the circular layout of the museum, it’s visually interesting for children as well. I remember going here when I was 9 years-old and being attracted to Jackson Pollack’s art. Maybe it was because I thought his name sounded so cool.

The Poetry Project ‘s New Year’s Day Reading Marathon at St. Mark’s Church caught my attention the most since this is its 34th year and it’s in my brother’s neighborhood. This is a reading bonanza of 12 hours of poetry readings and performances. If you do head to St. Mark’s Church, there are a slew of ethnic restaurants in the neighborhood. Maybe you’ll get lucky and one will be open. Little Poland is on 2nd Avenue near 14th St. Try the potato pancakes.

The New York Times article does give other eating suggestions and a few more options.

Ground Zero Art Center and Frank Gehry

A few years back there was a wonderful Frank Gehry exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. As part of the exhibit, I remember looking at models of a proposed cultural arts building that was to be situated near the World Trade Center. In true Gehry style, the building’s architecture fit perfectly with the other buildings’ designs, including the height of the World Trade Center and the other buildings’ shapes. When the World Trade Center was destroyed, besides thinking about all the other tragedy surrounding this disaster, I thought of this wonderful model and wondered what would become of Gehry’s vision that is the type that celebrates creativity and what is spectacular about humanity.

As plans for the rebuilding of Ground Zero are underway, Gehry is part of the process. His architect firm is one of the designers of the Ground Zero Arts Center which was to house the Joyce Theater and the Signature Theatre Company. According to an article in the New York Times, the Signature Theatre Company is no longer going to be housed here, but a new location will be found. As the article points out, putting up masterpiece buildings cost mega bucks so the design isn’t going to be able to accommodate two theaters. Regardless, it’s comforting to know that Gehry still will have a mark on this part of the city and the skyline he is helping to create will be one we will recognize no matter where we are in the world. The poster is for the documentary film Sketches of Frank Gehry by Sidney Pollack.