When Dr. Georg Kremer was a student in Germany studying chemistry, a painter friend of his could not find a particular historical pigment and approached Kremer about it. Digging through archives, Kremer found the recipe to make it (this was well before the advent of the internet), and brought this extinct pigment back to life. Realizing a void in the art world, Dr. Kremer began to recreate other old pigments. Today, he continues to work in his lab in Germany, but Manhattan is where he opened his shop. Kremer sells his raw materials for preservation and restoration of fine art, as well as pigments for those who wish to paint using more traditional techniques. The vivid colors that Kremer has devised come from precious and semiprecious stones. In my home, we grew up repeating the mantra that we learned from my mom, "any color as long as it is blue. " Never have I seen as many magnificent shades of this color as I did at Kremer. Classes are taught on a regular basis for those who want to learn how to make their own paint. They provide the recipe and customers add their own "personal aesthetic. "
So many of us tend to take photos on our phones these days, and then we are never quite certain what to do with them – whether to print them out, and where to place them in our home or office if we do - while others have acquired meaningful pieces of art over the years, but have no concept of how to hang them. This is where David Kassel and Michelle Conrad, the husband and wife team behind ILevel, come in. I had spoken on the phone with Michelle prior to our meeting, and I had, of course, read about ILevel on line. I was not at all prepared, however, for what I discovered upon entering their gallery on East 7th Street. The fantastic space is vast - absolutely ideal for displaying artwork in any form. David and Michelle greeted Lucas, the photographer, and me and invited us to sit on their couch as we began to chat, and play with their adorable new puppy. It was a perfect, relaxing atmosphere for anyone who is interested in receiving some great advice about decorating their walls. David began by sharing a bit of his background with me. I had to stop him immediately when he related that he had attended SUNY Purchase, for my family and I lived on the same street as the university for fifteen years. I, of course, knew the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase where David worked while a student. Following this, he secured a job at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In the 1980s, when David became aware of the "crazy purchasing" of art that was going on with corporations, he decided that it was time to go out on his own and begin an art installation business. He has not looked back since. What came as another surprise to me was when David mentioned that he has lived in this brownstone for over forty years, only recently (2016) deciding to open a brick and mortar space, downstairs, for his thirty-year-old company. Today, the walls are covered with photos from Michelle and David's own family, as well as work from private dealers who do not have space to display paintings. When we were there, it was an eclectic mix with contemporary pieces, botanical works, and eighteenth century Hindu art. In addition, several walls were devoted to the fifteen members of their staff - all of them artists. Michelle added that they are constantly changing things up - creating unique configurations, as they want to be able to inspire those that come through their doors. "There are endless creative possibilities as to how one might choose to hang their artwork; we like to allow our clients to see what they, potentially, can do with their own collections. "Michelle is from Chicago and has had an interesting, successful career in marketing. Today, however, she chooses to work along side her husband, sharing ideas in any and every aspect of the business, as well as raising their two children. They appear to be one terrific duo. David shared several amusing stories with us from his encounters with clients. Who gets to share lox and bagels with someone in the Dakota building, or a cup of coffee with some of the most fascinating people in New York, hearing their stories, and looking through their photos? When I inquired as to whether or not the business continues to make them happy, David had no hesitation in responding, "We love what we do, even after all of these years... However, it is the relationships we form that are the most meaningful to us. " Elaborating, Michelle shared that people are always pleased to see them. "Often, we are the last step in what was otherwise a challenging renovation or move. " At the point that their team comes in, all the dust is, literally, settled, and the boxes are unpacked. ILevel is simply putting on the finishing touches by placing beautiful art on the bare walls.
From all of the galleries that we have explored through Manhattan Sideways, we have gathered that making it as a visual artist in NYC is no small feat. No matter how you define success, it is incredibly difficult to gain the exposure, capital, and community necessary to survive in this city and continue to create without the right connections. Enter CUE Art Foundation, a visual arts center dedicated to building the careers and resources of emerging young artists. CUE offers exhibitions, housing, and educational programs for aspiring creative professionals; in turn, they have gallery shows and educational programs for the public. CUE has worked with painters, sculptors, high school students, and writers alike for over a decade now. Overall, CUE Art Foundation provides many vital and necessary, though scarcely available, services to underrepresented artist communities and the public.