Photo Of The Day: Gum Wall

Photo of the day: Seattle gum wall

There are the attractions you plan a trip around: the Taj Mahal, the Louvre museum, a bakery serving bacon donuts, and there are the attractions you stumble upon, and the latter are often more memorable and fun. Take, for example, Seattle‘s gum wall, whose existence I was unaware of until I saw this close-up photo in our Flickr pool, but is evidently a downtown landmark. The wall is about 15 x 50 feet completely covered in gum, and several inches thick with chewiness in some places. The wall is near a movie theater, where employees long ago gave up trying to scrape away the crud when it kept getting replaced. Another example of how one man’s trash is another man’s tourist attraction.

See any odd attractions in your travels? Add them to the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Mark Fischer]

The Golden Gate Bridge Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary With Lots Of Sparkle

Few American landmarks are as recognized, photographed and beloved as the Golden Gate Bridge, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this weekend with a full slate of free performances, festivals and fireworks displays around San Francisco and the Bay Area.

The weekend’s festivities were the highlight of a full year of celebrations, which included exhibits, lectures, performances, concerts and film screenings dedicated to the iconic landmark. One thing visitors shouldn’t expect is unrestricted pedestrian access; city officials learned their lesson from the bridge’s 50th anniversary celebrations, when more than 300,000 people crowded the main thoroughfare causing the center portion of the bridge to flatten out.

In appropriate fashion, the bridge also received a touch of “sparkle” for its 75th, in the form of a new art and science installation called Solar Beacon, which opened on Sunday. According to the Los Angeles Times, the installation involves a set of remote control mirrors positioned on top of the bridge’s towers, which have the capacity to reflect narrow beams of light across the San Francisco Bay. The installation will also be participatory; residents are invited to log onto Solar Beacon’s website and input a particular place and time, and the project will direct the light’s beam there.

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[flickr image above via Argent_G37S]

Golden Gate Bridge celebrates 75 years throughout 2012


Anyone with plans to visit San Francisco in the next year should take advantage of a program of “75 Tributes” that the Bay Area is planning to honor the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. Bay Area museums, cultural centers, universities, arts organizations, and more are coming together to create a roster of exhibits, lectures, performances, concerts and film screenings that honor the iconic span–most of which are absolutely free. A full schedule of events is available at goldengatebridge75.org.
The main event, however, is a birthday bash set for May 26-27th. Unlike the 50th anniversary celebration, officials won’t close the bridge to traffic (last time they tried this, an unnerving 300,000 people crowded onto the bridge at one time causing it to loose its natural curve). This year, the free celebration will be held on the waterfront and will feature music and other entertainment, exhibits with memorabilia and historic artifacts, guided walks, and a “spectacular surprise finale,” according to the San Francisco tourism department.
The area around iconic span will also undergo some dramatic changes intended to create an atmosphere that is more like a national park. As it stands, visitors to the bridge are greeted by little more than a gift shop and snack bar. That gift shop, known as the Round House, will be converted into a welcome center where visitors will be able to organize a guided tour or get their picture taken in front of a green screen of the bridge (which will probably be popular on foggy days). The snack bar will be renovated into a cafe featuring a menu of locally-grown foods. Outside, the bridge plaza will get new wayfaring signs and two scenic overlooks will be built. Construction on a new 3,500-square-foot pavilion that will is also underway. Perhaps most amazingly, no bridge tolls or tax dollars are being used for the renovations–all of the improvements are coming from private donations.

(Image above: Cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day in 1937)

5Pointz is coming down and it’s a shame

5Pointz probably won’t be around much longer. In case you haven’t heard, one of New York‘s finest art installments may be coming down for the sake of urban expansion: two 30 story apartment buildings in an increasingly hip neighborhood. And such seems to be the story in ever expanding cities like New York. What is good is not synonymous with what has longevity. Without generating a profit up to par with profit potential, certain things in New York, even landmarks, take a backseat to business. But this case is exceptional. This building, 5Pointz, is a work of art–one that should be preserved with the same respect we preserve all other great works of art. The problem is this: 5Pointz isn’t like other art.

5Pointz is a graffiti-clad building with a rotating roster of artists whose work is on display. Located in Long Island City, 5Pointz wasn’t far away from the Astoria apartment where I spent 7 years. I stumbled across the building the first time probably the same way many people do. I was riding the 7 train and I noticed a towering warehouse, vividly colorful against the drab skyline on what I remember to be a rather drab day. I seized the opportunity the next time I was in the neighborhood of the 7 train to exit, follow the overhead tracks, and find the building. To my surprise, there were a dozen or so other people there when I arrived, seeming just as curious as I was. They were taking photos and standing in awe of giant portraits. As I walked the perimeter of 5Pointz and passed by other admirers, I found myself speaking in a hushed voice just like everyone else there, just like I would in a museum. Clearly, there was something to be respected on the walls of 5Pointz.

%Gallery-132436%I found my way onto the roof of the building. The image of the city’s skyline from that rooftop, fogged over just ahead, is one I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

When I went back to 5Pointz the second time, I brought a friend with me. I expected to show her the same art on the walls I had seen the first time. Instead, it was all different. I soon learned that 5Pointz’s art is revolving art, that each piece of artwork that was ever painted on a wall of 5Pointz was intended to not last forever, but instead, perhaps, just a few weeks. I began taking all of my visiting friends to 5Pointz, looking forward to their respective visits since they marked my calendar with visits to 5Pointz. The art changed every time I walked around the building, and I walked around that building many times.

After spending 8 years in New York, I left the city with a fondness for 5Pointz no less tender than that first visit to 5Pointz. Any time someone visiting the city has asked me for off-the-beaten-path suggestions of what to do in New York, even now that I am living in Austin, I have instructed them to visit 5Pointz. I have told them which stop to get off the 7 train at, I have told them to just follow the overhead tracks. My father, my sister, my brother, my best friends… I took them all to that building. I even had a photo shoot there with my old band. And it really breaks my heart that others may now not receive the same opportunity we all had–the opportunity to experience 5Pointz.

The building’s owner, a Mr. Wolkoff, seems to appreciate art, but not enough to preserve this monumental landmark. A recent New York Times piece discussing the building’s fate reported that Wolkoff is willing to give the graffiti artists who call 5Pointz home a “rear wall” on the new structure. And, of course, a rear wall will never replace this positively special place, because the essence of 5Pointz is contained on that particular building, not a shining new structure. But Wolkoff is 74 years old. Preserving an old spray painted building certainly wouldn’t be the traditional thing to do, that is, so long as spray paint is considered an unbecoming art medium. But that’s the entire problem with this situation.

Spray paint, unfortunately for spray paint artists’ and art appreciators’ sake, is associated with vandalism, gang signs, and huffing. But does that affect the paint’s credibility as a viable art medium? Of course it doesn’t, but it certainly affects the perception the public has of the art medium. And so, consequently, a Facebook page dedicated to saving 5Pointz only has 1,171 likes (meanwhile, “Making up nicknames for people you don’t know but see all the time” has 1,494,837 likes). A petition circling around online to save 5Pointz has 11,000 signatures. How many signatures would that petition have if it were arguing to keep a publicly treasured oil painting from being destroyed? More, I’d bet.

All in all, the news of 5Pointz’s grim fate has upset me. Perhaps nothing will sway the minds of Wolkoff and the members of the Community Board. After all, history repeats itself and, after all, good things don’t seem to last in New York (remember CBGB?). But there are two things that I can do, small as they might be:

1. I urge you to visit 5Pointz while it’s still open. This About.com page contains good directions on how to get there.

2. Allow me to share some of the photos I have from my personal trips to 5Pointz with you.

How Graffiti Art Helps Teenagers in Fiddletown, California

Detroit, home of the Uniroyal Giant Tire

Interstate I-94 East from Ann Arbor, Michigan to downtown Detroit is a monotonous drive. Low-rise housing complexes, mall parking lots and the Detroit Metro airport pass you by on the mostly flat route, snaking its way towards the heart of the Motor City. But if there’s one weird landmark you’re not likely to miss along the way, it’s Detroit’s very own Uniroyal Giant Tire, rising more than 80 feet above the roadway.

This giant disk of premium rubber has been greeting Detroit-area commuters for more than 40 years. First built in 1964 as a monument for the World’s Fair in New York, the tire was originally a working Ferris wheel which could hold 96 riders. After the Fair’s conclusion the wheel was moved to its current home along the interstate. It’s been confusing and delighting motorists ever since, suddenly rising into view like a celestial hubcap sent from the heavens above.

It’s fitting that Detroit, a city that has long staked its reputation on the auto industry, would have such a landmark. But perhaps these days, with all the doom and gloom that’s been forecast in the state of Michigan, it’s become more a ghostly reminder of glory days past than a symbol of Detroit’s hopes for renewal. Still, for anyone who’s ever driven that flat road East towards Detroit, it’s a much needed symbol of whimsy and pride that never fails to make you smile.