Move Aside George Washington Bridge, Northern Manhattan Has a New Icon

By Erica Varlese. Reprinted from The Manhattan Times.

Tony Peralta created the winning design for the 2011 Uptown Arts Stroll and received a $500 honorarium courtesy of NoMAA.

Tony Peralta created the winning design for the 2011 Uptown Arts Stroll and received a $500 honorarium courtesy of NoMAA. (Photo: Mike Fitelson.)

About 80 arts and community enthusiasts gathered at the Inwood Center on Mon. April 25 to pick the poster design that would be used for the ninth annual Uptown Arts Stroll, which begins in June. The winner was Inwood-based artist/graphic designer Tony Peralta whose poster incorporated an iconic image of the Little Red Lighthouse.

“People love to use the bridge [in their designs],” Peralta said. “But this is putting the [George Washington Bridge] in the background.”

Peralta first used the photo he took of the Little Red Lighthouse on postcards and in original prints. While some of the other poster designs that were finalists featured the George Washington Bridge, and it featured prominently in the posters used to promote the Stroll over the past two years, Peralta’s design was a “remix.” “People really gravitate toward it,” he said.

Out of 20 total posters submitted to the contest this year, a panel of judges had previously whittled the field down to six designs, ranging in style and content. Local artist Laurence Groux, who works as a private art teacher and muralist, submitted an abstract sketch that “just came flowing,” she said.

Rene de los Santos, a longtime local artist who has participated in the Stroll for the past three years, created a graphic design with a unique twist on an image of the 1-train. Other designs included a storyboard-like drawing of a “stroll” around Inwood and a modified photograph of the George Washington Bridge at night.

The judging was held on the Broadway ground floor entrance to the – as of now – unoccupied retail space at the Inwood Center. The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance provided refreshments where guests lingered, mingling and talking about the posters, their latest projects, and local events. There was also an “Open Mic” that included spoken word poetry from artist and illustrator Rammer Martinez, as well as music from Ruben Gonzalez and a traditional song on the accordion by Harry Hancock.

The diversity of the performances spoke to the diversity of Northern Manhattan’s communities and artists.

De los Santos, who has worked in the area for over 20 years, said, “[The Uptown Arts Stroll] is very important for this area. It integrates all of the different kinds of art: music, photography, and dance.”

Groux became involved with the Stroll six years ago when an acquaintance mentioned the arts festival to her. She intended to make a poster for a long time, she said, and appreciated the community the Stroll inspired. “I call them my art mamas,” Groux joked, speaking of the women running NoMAA, CEO and executive director Sandra Garcia-Betancourt and program director Diana Caba.

Most of the artists who were finalists in the poster contest are also contributing to the Stroll in a variety of other activities. Hancock, the accordionist, is participating as one of the open studios and will be exhibiting at the Cornerstone Center. Likewise, Groux, de los Santos, and Peralta will have open studios, in addition to other events to be announced.

The poster contest is the kick-off for a smorgasbord of activities taking place throughout Inwood and Washington Heights during the Uptown Arts Stroll. The Stroll kicks off Thu., June 2 with an opening reception at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center from 6-8:30pm. The Manhattan Times will publish the annual Stroll guide in May and a calendar of upcoming events each week in June. The Stroll calendar will also be published online at www.artstroll.com.

Contact NoMAA for more information.

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