She jokingly said she starts her projects with a Bake Sale!
She described the Big Fuzzy Rope catalyst for one project.
The rope inspired her to create a series of futuristic Robinson Crusoe-looking pens or breeding areas for the oyster spats
She referred to oysters as “My obsession.”
By way of explanation, she said she is from Annapolis originally and her sister works on waterway preservation there.
She employs the fascinating oysters to helping her clean up the Gowanus waterway.
In addition to working with oysters, she also cited the workhorse grasses and mussels.
I loved all her passion for the oyster.
These street vendors offered local oysters -- if only today… sigh.
She too lamented our lost connection to local food…
The awards “honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the cultural life of New York City” according to the program. What I didn’t know is that the awards were “presented almost annually until 1994… and the Bloomberg administration revived the tradition in 2004.”
I was so honored to have attended the 2005 ceremony at Gracie Mansion to support our Botanic Garden president, Judy Zuk, who was an Awards recipient in 2005.
Judy, we miss you….
This year’s event was held at the recently refurbished and elegantly designed Alice Tully Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center. All glass facade captures and reflects the glittering lights of the city. Here the tables were already dressed for the celebratory cocktails to follow the Awards Ceremony topped by row upon row of glasses, waiting.
As I was myopically looking for a seat and before things got under way, I got the chance opportunity to meet up with Marilyn Gelber, one of the award recipients. I also saw Kate Levin, New York City's Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
The event launched with the voice of Alec Baldwin – very god-like. There was that unmistakable wry, sardonic humor that I love.
But just voice, no Alec in the physical form. sigh...
The event was hosted by the Mayor, naturally.
As shy and unassuming as Mr. Cunningham is in his work covering events for The New York Times in New York City (and the Garden State and Long Island, too) for the last 30-plus years he was surprisingly delightful and chatty this night!
He is known for riding his bike to the events despite his age, and when the Mayor called his name at the Awards ceremony, he practically bounded on stage, camera around his neck.
He playfully aimed his lens at Meryl and the Mayor before taking his place for the photo opp and then behind the podium.
Mr. Cunningham enthusiastically gushed about the vibrancy of New York’s cultural scene.
He said that when he heard the stats or Superlatives ticked off by the Mayor at the start of the night: (NYC has more than 1,200 cultural institutions that host hundreds of special events every year; Arts and Culture is a $6 billion industry); he was astounded.
And remarked that he doesn’t get to even half of the events!
He said he loved taking photographs of New York women. “They are marvelous.”
He also explained that unlike other places where people dress for work and then drive to the job or the day’s calling, in New York, it’s a street show for all to see and enjoy!
Displaying an animated, utter delight, he claimed “It’s what gets my adrenaline running!”
Clearly, this is a man who loves his job – and life.
He reminded us how lucky we are to live here in New York City – and in America.
It is without doubt, a high point of life for those selected. I know. I speak from experience about this.
It’s all so unexpected. As Mr. Cunningham explained, it’s not a celebrity or society page in the New York Times. It’s all about everyday life in our vibrant city. I think that’s what makes it so special… It’s that feeling that this is New York and anything can happen here – at any moment. Everything is possible…