NAC gets packed for GNA art show

East Midtown Plaza residents Shelley and Claude Winfield stand by Claude’s portraits of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, which were made out of beads.

East Midtown Plaza residents Shelley and Claude Winfield stand by Claude’s portraits of Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, which were made out of beads. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On Tuesday night, the Gramercy Neighborhood Associates kicked off its annual community art show at the National Arts Club, featuring 85 works by nearly as many artists. The art included paintings, drawings, prints and photos as well as some multi-media pieces.

At a reception packed with over 300 people on Tuesday night, GNA President Alan Krevis said he was “thrilled by the turnout and the quality of work is amazing.”

Most of the artists were residents of Stuyvesant Town and Gramercy and many were members of local civic groups.

One artist, Claude Winfield, also a Community Board 6 and Tilden Club member, had created beaded portraits of John Coltrane and Duke Ellington.

Winfield, of East Midtown Plaza, said his beaded works take anywhere from 20-40 days “over a span of time” to create. He uses African seed beads, explaining that various colors have different meanings. “Like a teacher would wear beads that are yellow and green,” he said. Winfield discovered the art form when he worked as head docent at the Museum for African Art and became inspired by a show there.

“Before that I did lithographs,” he said.

Also in attendance was former GNA President Edith Charlton, who said she’d been the one to start the event, although she couldn’t quite remember when. She believes it’s been running for at least 10 years though. She recalled how the club’s president at the time when she pitched the idea, O. Aldon James, was very receptive to it.

“It worked well and they’re even selling pictures now,” said Charlton. “I’m pleased it’s continuing.”

Currently, the way it works is that pieces submitted get reviewed by a panel of curators from around the city. The selected entries are then displayed with artists deciding whether or not they want to sell the piece and for what price. The commission fees to the GNA, a nonprofit organization, help finance the show.

Full disclosure: The author of this article was one of the participating artists, submitting a watercolor illustration.

The exhibit also featured works by Stuyvesant Town resident Scott Johnson, who, for nearly two decades, designed album covers for RCA. He now does freelance graphic work. At the show, where Johnson had a large scale black and white drawing of a jazz musician on display, he remembered how “my dad used to exhibit here, back in the 80s.”

His father, Frank Johnson, had done acrylic paintings for shows that were run by another community-based group, Johnson said.

“I’m proud of being in this show,” he added.

For the second year in a row, the event also featured art by several students from Baruch High School.

One of them, Zhu Yu Ting, had scrambled to create a charcoal drawing, after the one she’d originally created for the show was destroyed when a burst pipe caused flooding at the school.

Mary Silver, an event attendee, whose daughter is friends with the artist, said last year she’d even sold a piece at the show, which sent her confidence soaring.

“Alan’s a superhero,” Silver added of Krevis.

The show will remain on display through Friday, February 27 at the club’s downstairs galleries at 15 Gramercy Park South.

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