History Tour with Arthur Melnick
To prepare for this project I set out to find some people who are the local experts/historians in Brooklyn. I met Pat Singer longtime resident and director of the Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association and she shared her thoughts after I presented her the proposal for our project. Pat directed me to Yelena Makhnin the director of the not for profit organization called the Brighton Beach BID. After a long and informative talk about some of the problems they have had in the past with the depiction of the community in the Brighton Beach Russian speaking community with mainstream media, I assured her that I would do my best to not fall into the trap of depicting the neighborhood in a negative way. Yelena then gave me some numbers for people to meet and one was Mr. Arthur Melnick a longtime resident of the South Brooklyn, Coney Island area and director of Brooklyn Streetcar Artists Group.
Arthur Melnick and I met one cold, windy, early February morning at the Sheepshead Bay station. He was parked in a black Toyota with tinted windows. He was nervous that he would get a ticket for parking in the “no standing” area so I quickly jumped into the car, shook hands, and we began our excursion through his Brooklyn.
Our first stop was a small cemetery in Gravesend and then we made our way through the neighborhoods and showed me some of the controversial development in Coney Island. Here we met Stan Fox a local historian, and vending operator. Stanley showed us some of his games and an antique collection of bicycles hanging in the rafters that they had in his workshop. We got to talk politics, history, and the dire state of things at Coney Island.
Afterwards we made our way through Brighton Beach and stopped in Sheephead bay and got out of the car to take a walk. The wind was strong and cold as we crossed a bridge. We spotted swans, party boats and a few Italian fishing boats birthed here.
We later drove to Coney Island Hospital to see the work he has been doing with artists in the southern part of Brooklyn. The hospital has a hallway with many administrative offices and along the walls there are pictures by the artists he represents. He periodically changes the exhibits and has openings for them in the hallway that he has turned into a wonderful gallery. I asked some of the people working in the offices about how they felt about Arthur’s work in the hospital and they were all very happy to have the art in their lives.