Gallery Director Aims to Bolster Lehman’s Contemporary Arts

By Abrian De Luna 

 

Bartholomew F. Bland, director of the Lehman College Art Gallery. Photo by Abrian De Luna.

Bartholomew Bland, the new director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, plans to make it more accessible to the Lehman and Bronx communities by keeping it open in the summer---a first since its founding in 1984--- and by creating new events such as the Bronx Borough Arts Festival. Bland took over the position from Susan Hoeltzel in May of 2016, and says he really loves the gallery’s mission of mixing new, aspiring artists with established ones and everyone in between.

Bland was attracted to Lehman, he said, because “I had admired a lot of the work that [Hoeltzel] had done. She had done some great shows here and I like Lehman very much, I think it’s a beautiful campus.” He also praised the Fine Arts building where the gallery is located as a “very striking space.”

Bland’s love of art started when he was eight years old and visited the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida. Bland likens entering the Flagler to “stepping into another world... back into time and history. It was this beautiful sort of palace and I really loved the aesthetics of that. It was so different from everything that was this modern suburbia in South Florida and so I used to go there all the time and I think that got me started being more interested in art, architecture and the decorative arts.” Bland kept visiting the Flagler Museum throughout his teenage years, saying the experience and memories gave him “such an awareness of how the arts can really transform the lives of others, particularly at a young age.”

Bland has a B.A. from Florida Atlantic University and graduated from the Getty Leadership Institute at the Claremont Graduate University in 2011. He also holds two master’s degrees: one in arts and U.S. history from Hunter College and one in museum studies from George Washington University. Prior to coming to Lehman, Bland became an assistant curator of the Flagler Museum in 1993 and since then he has curated exhibitions at the Staten Island Museum and the Hudson Museum, even serving as a director in both of them. Bland also wrote exhibition books and catalogs, many in collaboration with Fordham University Press.

Mary Ann Siano, grants associate of the Lehman College Art Gallery and a member of the search committee for the position of its executive director, recalled that Bland “always came out on top” when compared to the others for his “amazing” knowledge of contemporary art. “Meeting Bart in person solidi ed my feelings about choosing him for the position,” she explained. “I have been working with Bart for the past year---a year filled with camaraderie as we work together---and I look forward to working with him on new and exciting projects for the Art Gallery.”

Bland says balancing the needs of the college with the professors using the space for their classes and the community outside of it can be “tricky,” as he wants to get the general public more involved. However, Bland is drawn by the chance to work with the “incredible” team at the Lehman College Art Gallery. “Being the director of this gallery is a wonderful opportunity to bring together the college community, people in the Bronx, and gives me a chance to work directly with emerging artists, which is a very exciting thing.”

New Animal Planet Series Explores the Bronx Zoo’s Inner Workings

By Abrian De Luna

Our very own Bronx Zoo is the focus of Animal Planet’s “The Zoo.” Source: NYC-arts.org.

“The Zoo,” a new documentary series in the opening sequence of every episode, from Animal Planet that debuted in “If you ask a child to draw picture of a February, uncovers what goes on behind zoo, chances are they’re going to draw the scenes at the Bronx Zoo. It attempts an animal behind bars. We gotta take to enlarge audiences’ views of both the that image and change it.”

“The Zoo” does this partly by detailing from Times Square, has 6000 animals what the general public does not see and 530 employees---and its borough. As happening behind closed doors. For Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny puts it, example, in the first episode, a silverback gorilla named Ntondo is responding to target training more slowly than usual, indicating something is wrong. It turns out that Ntondo had glaucoma, which increases pressure in the eyes, damaging them and causing vision loss. Ntondo needed laser eye surgery, which Breheny said was something that the staff had never done before. This was the first documented case of a gorilla suffering from glaucoma. Viewers get to see Ntondo being prepped, the operation itself, and how it succeeded in preventing his vision from deteriorating further.

The series also does an endearing job of showcasing the staff’s passion for the animals. In the second episode, Melanie Lumba, zookeeper of the children’s zoo, introduces her favorite animal, Mert, as “the best goose in the whole world.” We see the two walk around the zoo together, with Lumba opening doors and clearing paths for him. She even has full-on conversations with him, and when Mert has to be sent to an animal hospital for a check-up, we see Melanie is genuinely concerned for him as if he was her own child.

The staff often looks heroic as they help animals in need. In the third episode, when a western diamondback rattlesnake needs oral medication to treat an infection, Bill Orrico, senior reptile and amphibian keeper, moves the snake into a bucket and then puts its head into a tube. He mentions this is the most dangerous part because it puts his hand in danger of being bitten by the rattlesnake, which then has to open its mouth so that a catheter is inserted deep enough into its throat to administer the medication. Naturally, the rattlesnake is agitated, so the danger of being bitten is very real. Orrico admits this is stressful for him and the staff, but he has to make sure the rattlesnake gets its medication.

“The Zoo” also provides viewers a chance to learn about obscure animals such as maleos, an endangered bird species from Indonesia. They can make vocalizations which Alana O’Sullivan, senior keeper of the ornithology department which studies birds, said “don’t even sound like they’re from this planet.” Viewers are then treated to see the courtship rituals maleos undertake, consisting of the birds sharing peanuts, which O’Sullivan describes as “maleo crack.” However, the series could do better at giving viewers more context and basic information about the animals, such as noting how many maleos remain in Indonesia and how many the Bronx Zoo has, in order to really sell the conservation mission as well as explaining how its work applies to the study of birds.

Overall, “The Zoo” is a great documentary series that is easy to get into. It shows that the Bronx Zoo is not only a place to display animals that the public would normally never see, but also a haven for endangered and unique animals. This focus on rare animals make each episode stand out from a typical zoo visit, and does a fine job of shining a spotlight on what makes the Bronx Zoo special.

New episodes of “The Zoo” air on Saturdays on Animal Planet.