City Living

Post Office Steps: One Artist's Studio

description

"Painting the town green." Laura Silver hide caption

itoggle caption Laura Silver

I have a soft spot for New York's main post office — it's open 24/7 and has a modest (and free) postal museum in its corridors. I've made more than a dozen last-minute runs to get things postmarked before midnight, and waiting in a Beaux-Arts building always seemed like a reward.

Now that plans are underway to convert the building into a train station, I've already started mourning the end of late-night pilgrimages to the McKim, Mead and White mecca.

But, when I walked by the building the other day, I was reassured about the public use of this space. Monique Fagan Smith had turned the post office steps into an open-air art studio. She was painting on a six-foot-tall canvas that looked like linoleum or the flip side of billboard ad.

Fagan Smith had a single can of paint: green. And one brush. Lots of people were sitting on the steps across from Penn Station, but no one paid attention to Fagan Smith's painting.

I saw it as an extension of the inscription above the post office's Corinthian columns: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Unusual? Perhaps. Resourceful? Definitely.

I asked if I could take a photo, and she moved her paint can out of the way. But it tipped over and oozed green onto a marble step. The post office stairs are strewn with half-filled coffee cups, dried chewing gum and unidentified grit. Still, Fagan Smith was intent on cleaning up the spill. She used a Gotham Writers Workshop catalog to usher paint back into the can.

I had a lot more questions, but she was busy and I had to tend to my own appointed rounds.

When she told me look her up online, "Monique Fagan Smith. World wide web. Google," I was admittedly skeptical. But, I followed through and found out there's more to this artist than meets the eye.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I have a hard spot about that post office. It is one of the saddest places in NYC. Went with BF to buy some pretty stamps... impossible to get anything like a pretty stamp. The philately window wasn't open... apparently it's only open 2 hours a day, but they don't tell you which two hours.

And when I tried to buy pretty stamps in a neighborhood post office, I got yelled at when I dared ask if it was possible to buy a nice stamp that's not part of a plate of stupid stamps.

USPS: phooey!

PS: the museum thingy was closed too.

Sent by Marc Naimark | 6:48 PM | 6-20-2008