In The Room
By Robert Beck
Bob’s Painting Principle #14 states that the difficulty in gaining access to a subject is proportional to the number of people or departments involved in granting it. If I can talk to the owner, or someone authorized to make decisions, I get an answer on the spot. If it has to go to the Legal Department, or Communications, or Copyright, I’m probably toast. My request often embarks on a long journey from desk to desk until it finds somebody who wants to go home early, and it disappears. Poof. This includes organizations you would consider culturally aware. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I have stories.
Which is why Bob’s Painting Principle #15 is about maintaining reasonable expectations.
I’m painting the places that are part of the UWS fabric at this moment in our time, creating a document that is more portrait than history. I wanted to paint in Gale Brewer’s office. I stopped by and made my case to one of the staffers, who said she would pass it on. I wasn’t getting my hopes up. But less than 24 hours later, not only did I get an email response, I had permission. Two days after that, I was inside painting.
The 6th New York City Council District office is clean and orderly, and the staff is friendly and polite. It’s located on the ground floor, where they and the people they serve can see each other through large windows that let in lots of light. It’s not a place you find pictured on a Big Apple calendar or a set of New York placemats, but it’s important to folks like me who shuffle the sidewalks.
It was Participatory Budget Voting week, where UWSers could vote for what they wanted money spent on. Despite the rain, people came to make their preferences or opinions known, so there was purpose and movement for me to incorporate into my image.
I picked my view to describe the interaction between the Budget Director, Cynthia, and a resident. Gale, sitting at one of the desks, went back and forth nonstop between the computer, her phone, and answering questions. All the staff, plus a volunteer who stopped by on her day off, made time for each person who showed up. They were accommodating to the itinerant artist who stood in the back at his easel, but other than occasionally asking if he was okay, they mostly paid him no mind. They were busy. Nobody went home early.
To contact Robert Beck or see more of his work, visit robertbeck.net
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