The Bronx - Cultural Life and Institutions

Cultural Life and Institutions

See also: Culture of New York City, Music of New York City, List of people from the Bronx, and List of Registered Historic Places in Bronx County, New York

Author Edgar Allan Poe spent the last years of his life (1846 to 1849) in the Bronx at Poe Cottage, now located at Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse. A small wooden farmhouse built around 1812, the cottage once commanded unobstructed vistas over the rolling Bronx hills to the shores of Long Island.

The Bronx's evolution from a hot bed of Latin jazz to an incubator of hip hop was the subject of an award-winning documentary, produced by City Lore and broadcast on PBS in 2006, "From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale". Hip Hop first emerged in the South Bronx in the early 1970s. The New York Times has identified 1520 Sedgwick Avenue "an otherwise unremarkable high-rise just north of the Cross Bronx Expressway and hard along the Major Deegan Expressway" as a starting point, where DJ Kool Herc presided over parties in the community room.

On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc was a D.J. and M.C. at a party in the recreation room of 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx adjacent to the Cross-Bronx Expressway. While it was not the actual "Birthplace of Hip Hop" – the genre developed slowly in several places in the 1970s – it was verified to be the place where one of the pivotal and formative events occurred. Specifically, DJ Kool Herc:

extended an instrumental beat (mixing or scratching) to let people dance longer (B-boying) and began MC’ing (rapping) during the extended breakdancing. ... helped lay the foundation for a cultural revolution. —History Detectives

Beginning with the advent of beat match DJ'ing, in which Bronx DJs (Disc Jockeys) including Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Kool Herc extended the breaks of funk records, a major new musical genre emerged that sought to isolate the percussion breaks of hit funk, disco and soul songs. As hip hop's popularity grew, performers began speaking ("rapping") in sync with the beats, and became known as MCs or emcees. The Herculoids, made up of Herc, Coke La Rock, and DJ Clark Kent, were the earliest to gain major fame. The Bronx is referred to in hip-hop slang as "The Boogie Down Bronx", or just "The Boogie Down". This was hip-hop pioneer KRS-One's inspiration for his thought provoking group BDP, or Boogie Down Productions, which included DJ Scott La Rock. Newer hip hop artists from the Bronx include Lord Toriq and Peter Gunz, Camp Lo, Swizz Beatz, Drag-On, Fat Joe, Terror Squad and Corey Gunz.

Hush Hip Hop Tours has established a sightseeing tour of the Bronx showcasing the locations that helped shape hip hop culture and has the pioneers of hip hop as tour guides. The recent recognition of the Bronx as an important center of African-American culture, led Fordham University to establish the ongoing "Bronx African-American History Project (BAAHP)".

The Bronx is the home of the New York Yankees, one of the leading baseball franchises. The original Yankee Stadium opened in 1923 on 161st Street and River Avenue, a year that saw the Yankeees bring home their first of 27 World Series Championships. With the famous facade, the short right field porch and Monument Park, Yankee Stadium has been home to many of baseball's greatest players including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez.

The Stadium was the scene Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech in 1939, Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Roger Maris' record breaking 61st home run in 1961, and Reggie Jackson's 3 home runs to clinch Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. The original Yankee Stadium closed in 2008 to make way for a new Yankee Stadium in which the team started play in 2009; it's north-northeast of the 1923 Yankee Stadium, on the former site of Macombs Dam Park.

The Bronx is home to several Off-Off-Broadway theaters, many staging new works by immigrant playwrights from Latin America and Africa. The Pregones Theater, which produces Latin American work, opened a new 130-seat theater in 2005 on Walton Avenue in the South Bronx. Some artists from elsewhere in New York City have begun to converge on the area, and housing prices have nearly quadrupled in the area since 2002. However rising prices directly correlate to a housing shortage across the city and the entire metro area.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts, founded in 1971, exhibits 20th century and contemporary art through its central museum space and 11,000 square feet (1,000 m2) of galleries. Many of its exhibitions are on themes of special interest to the Bronx. Its permanent collection features more than 800 works of art, primarily by artists from Africa, Asia and Latin America, including paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, and mixed media. The museum was temporarily closed in 2006 while it underwent a major expansion designed by the architectural firm Arquitectonica.

The Bronx has also become home to a peculiar poetic tribute, in the form of the Heinrich Heine Memorial, better known as the Lorelei Fountain from one of Heine's best-known works (1838). After Heine's German birthplace of Düsseldorf had rejected, allegedly for anti-Semitic motives, a centennial monument to the radical German-Jewish poet (1797–1856), his incensed German-American admirers, including Carl Schurz, started a movement to place one instead in Midtown Manhattan, at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. However, this intention was thwarted by a combination of ethnic antagonism, aesthetic controversy and political struggles over the institutional control of public art.

In 1899, the memorial, by the Berlin sculptor Ernst Gustav Herter (1846–1917), finally came to rest, although subject to repeated vandalism, in the Bronx, at 164th Street and the Grand Concourse, or Joyce Kilmer Park near today's Yankee Stadium. (In 1999, it was moved to 161st Street and the Concourse.) In 2007, Christopher Gray of The New York Times described it as "a writhing composition in white Tyrolean marble depicting Lorelei, the mythical German figure, surrounded by mermaids, dolphins and seashells."

One national landmark in the Bronx is the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, overlooking the Harlem River and designed by the renowned architect Stanford White. The never–landmarked Yankee Stadium, the "House that Ruth Built" and home to the New York Yankees since 1923, has been replaced with a similar-looking ballpark just across 161st Street.

The peninsular borough's maritime heritage is acknowledged in several ways.The City Island Historical Society and Nautical Museum occupies a former public school designed by the New York City school system's turn-of-the-last-century master architect C. B. J. Snyder. The state's Maritime College in Fort Schuyler (on the southeastern shore) houses the Maritime Industry Museum. In addition, the Harlem River is reemerging as "Scullers' Row" due in large part to the efforts of the Bronx River Restoration Project, a joint public-private endeavor of the city's parks department. Canoeing and kayaking on the borough's namesake river have been promoted by the Bronx River Alliance. The river is also straddled by the New York Botanical Gardens, its neighbor, the Bronx Zoo, and a little further south, on the west shore, Bronx River Art Center.

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