By JENNIFER MEDINA
YONKERS, June 5 – Leave the fine wine and aged cheese in Chelsea. Visitors at the opening of an art gallery here on Sunday sipped beer from plastic cups and ate deep-fried corn dogs.
The food, as well as the name Y.O.H. Gallery – short for Yonkers-on-Hudson – was part of a self-conscious unpretentiousness that the creators were quick to acknowledge.
As one curator told a visitor: “This is no place for pretense. We don’t do pontification.”
Yonkers, with its reputation for troubled schools and segregated housing, is a city with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. People who live here often display a defensive pride, talking of the phenomenal potential of being the fourth-largest city in New York State.
Like other residents, Laura Fahrenthold and her husband, Mark Pittman, spent plenty of time complaining about Yonkers after moving here from Brooklyn nearly five years ago. But they have no plans to leave.
“I kept saying, ‘What’s wrong with Yonkers; what’s its problem?’ ” Mr. Pittman said. Then, one evening in December, he and his wife discovered their own solution: “All Yonkers needs is an art gallery.”
Plenty of people, including artists who lived in the area, had their doubts. But the couple convinced themselves that the idea would work.
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Do Yonkers Artists Find the Paint Greener in Peekskill?
By MAREK FUCHS
I’VE never completely understood the art world’s vagaries, the real estate market’s fluctuations or Yonkers’s resistance to change. But suddenly here were all three imponderables, thrown together in the same circumstance.
That circumstance was an art show put on by a couple of Brooklyn transplants in a 10,000-square-foot space in the heart of Yonkers, the city on the hill where nothing is on the level. Their ultimate aim: to create an art-world haven here despite that reputation.
Doubters, consider this: Downtown Peekskill, directly up the river and similar to Yonkers in some ways, has already managed this transformation, and now has a thriving hub of art-world activity.
The ambitious couple, Laura Fahrenthold and Mark Pittman, were up late one recent night and started talking about life since their move to Yonkers five years ago: the persecution complex that haunts many residents after so many years of segregation and school controversies; the unrealized potential of a city rich in history and disparate cultures.
The two, who have worked in journalism, noted several favorable developments, like the new showpiece of a library on the waterfront, but they cited a strong need for artistic cachet.
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Three Women share how they turned their passion into their career (VIDEO)
How do you turn your passion into a career? We asked three women what matters to them, and how they made it a priority in their success.
“My passion is journalistic storytelling,” said SheKnows Expert Laura Fahrenthold. “When my husband suddenly passed away, I became my own story.” Find out how she used her storytelling to heal and help others.
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