The first BMC meet up in New York City happened last week, and BMC Commons editor Jay Walljasper was on-hand to chronicle the affair.
Based on its success, more are being planned—November 4 and December 2. Watch BMC’s facebook page for confirmation and details, and let BMC know you’ll be there. Former residents, prospective residents and friends of BMC are all invited.
Forty Blue Mountain Center alumni, friends and prospective residents gathered at The Magician tavern on New York’s Lower East Side recently to renew acquaintances, meet kindred spirits, exchange ideas, share experiences and laugh a little. It was the first in a planned series of First-Friday-of-the-Month BMC meet-ups in New York City. (Watch BMC’s facebook page for confirmation and details on the next meet-ups, being planned for November 4 and December 2. And let BMC know you’ll be there.)
Even on a rain-soaked night, the mood was cheery with frequent whoops of recognition or hugs of reunion as friends spotted one other. The event drew folks just-back from Eagle Lake and those dating their BMC visit to a time before children, now out of college, were born.
Starting out as spirited round-the-table talk, it soon branched into a half-dozen clusters of discussion that sprawled across the bar’s pleasingly old-school backroom. Occasionally, regular patrons peered in to see what the excitement was all about.
Topics ranged from the continuing impact of Bernie Sanders on the election to indigenous people’s healing traditions to the respective qualities of various arts residencies (with BMC winning hands down). Climate change was a particular concern on the minds of many.
Among many memorable moments of conversation overhead were:
- Poet Antonio Lyons—who brought an actor/writer friend to learn about BMC—talking about a new play about violence against people with “black and brown bodies”.
- Filmmaker Mridu Chandra giving a progress report about turning her live multi-media work Himalaya Song into a short film.
- Photographer Fran Antmann recalling a trip to Guatemala in the 1990s that opened a new path in her work.
- Singer-songwriter Jean Rohe describing her foray into acting with a new play about Connie Converse, a popular singer around New York in the 1950s who mysteriously disappeared in the ‘70s.
- Writer Oneesha Roychoudhuri, who helped organize the event, remembering her days working for Mother Jones magazine and the Alternet news service.
- Writer Alice Gordon arriving late from a showing of Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th at the New York Film Festival filled with enthusiasm about the movie, which traces the surprising aftermath of the constitutional amendment that outlawed slavery.
As night ascended, the talk turned more personal. Artist and filmmaker Denise Iris detailed what it was like to arrive in America from Romania as a teenager. Filmmaker and writer David Petersen revealed that, according to his parents, he had been conceived during a canoe trip in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters.
The most gregarious guest—unquestionably—was sculptor Ed Giordano, who trenchantly observed that the dominant ethnic group in New York these days seems to be the rich. When asked how he found out about BMC, he recalled reading an article about a classmate at Rhode Island School Design who won a MacArthur genius grant. Noticing she had been a resident at BMC, Ed decided to apply. “Ben warned me that they could make no promises of making me a genius,” he laughed.
Ben Strader, who smoothly circulated from group to group all evening, confirmed Ed’s story as he handed out sky-blue BMC t-shirts as the party broke up—an hour-and-a-half later than anticipated. In fact, many conversations inside The Magician continued as he stepped into the rain in search of the nearest subway stop.
“We look forward to seeing everyone here tonight again, other former residents and anyone wanting to learn more about Blue Mountain Center,” he said on his way out.