Sunday, May 26, 2019

An Abundant Life - Joyful Inspiration

I've written about Eileen Kaminsky, the Founder of The Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation which is also known as ESKFF, in these pages before, and since the time that I met her I continue to discover new and wonderful things about Eileen and ESKFF that continue to inspire me. If you go to the website for ESKFF, you'll find under the Mission Statement a description of the Residency Programs that uses the words, "ESKFF embraces the individual artistic journey by providing enhancement programs that align, elevate, and bridge artists to the larger arts community" and goes on to say that "The Foundation was established to encourage collaboration and dialogue between artists, art administrators, collectors and institutions." In my experience of knowing Eileen and visiting with ESKFF, I have seen that the words in this Mission Statement and on the website are true, and over the past month I had the opportunity to watch the experiences of an Artist who is a part of the current Residency Program. From the first day that he entered the studio at Mana I started to see a change in his work - it was as if the very walls around him were breathing a new sense of creativity and life into his canvases. I also had the opportunity to ask other Artists to donate work that was created on 8"x 8" canvases that were provided by ESKFF for the upcoming fundraiser, and it is so beautiful to see how even this is a way to encourage Artists to breathe and grow and explore.

The pieces created by the Artists I asked, and every piece I have seen that has been submitted, are beautiful, joyful, and so full of individual vision and life that each one is a unique masterpiece. Titled "No Rules", the fundraiser will be held in June, with a Collectors' Dinner on June 8 and a Public Opening on June 9. The tickets for the Collectors' Dinner and First Viewing are $50, and for an additional $200 attendees can bring home one of the donated works of art. I was speaking with Eileen about how the title makes me think of when I was the Director of an After School Program on Manhattan's Lower East Side and how when I first arrived there, the environment was chaotic because the former Directors had thought that children and youth needed to have a place where "anything goes," but that over time as I encouraged the youth and youth leaders to explore different creative outlets while maintaining a safe environment, the chaos was brought into a more comfortable and warmer feeling where creativity and inspiration and exploration could occur without rules that confined but with structure that gave support. This is what Eileen has created so beautifully with ESKFF, and why as I continue to see the work that is created by Artists who I know and Artists who I am meeting there I am inspired and made happier in my own daily walk of life.

The EKSFF Residency Program provides three month residencies to 32 regional, national, and international Artists each year that include studio space, stipend for material, and exposure through Professional Career Enhancement to visiting Critics, Curators, and Art Experts. In addition, during the summer months five weeks are devoted to international Artists and three weeks to the Sol Studio Program, which provides Teachers and College Mentors for 20-30 inner city Jersey City High School
Students. Students in the Sol Program and all Residents continue to be a part of the ESKFF community after the programs end, being encouraged to maintain relationships that were developed that are supportive of further artistic growth.

It might seem that all of this beautifully joyful and inspiring work must have a large staff and unlimited time and funding to make all of these creative dreams realities, but in truth it is a very small group consisting of Eileen Kaminsky and Gina Maffei, the Director of ESKFF, with a few trusted Advisors. The upcoming fundraiser is a way to share knowledge about the organization while also building a sustainable fund base that can help to provide ESKFF's support to Artists for years to come. For more information about the fundraiser, and to find out more about ways to support the work of ESKFF, see the website or send an email to An investment in the work of ESKFF is a gift that keeps on giving and is returned a hundred fold as it is a way of nurturing and inspiring, and encouraging and supporting the work of Artists for generations to come.

Eileen S. Kaminsky
Founder Of ESKFF
In The Artist Residency Studio Space
At Mana Contemporary
888 Newark Avenue
Jersey City, New Jersey

With Current Resident Artist Anthony E. Boone
And Former Resident Artist James Gortner
With James Gortner's Two Sons
A New Generation Of Inspired Artists


Jannie Susan


Sunday, May 19, 2019

An Abundant Life - Life Skills

A few weeks ago I was visiting the studio of the wonderful Artist Jean Antoine Norbert during the Mana Contemporary Open House. I have written about Jean Antoine in these pages before because not only is he a wonderful Artist, but he is a wonderful person too, who knows wonderful people from all different backgrounds and connects them with each other whenever he has an event or gathering. On this occasion I started talking to a young man who told me he had started his own company teaching Chess to children and teenagers in schools throughout Manhattan, and also to corporate groups, and because of my own background in youth and community development I wanted to learn more and asked him if we could meet for a blog post. He followed up with me and suggested a few different places where I could see him at work in different school settings, and so one afternoon I found myself in a classroom on Manhattan's Upper West Side that was full of first graders and one kindergartner, all who were avidly learning about the game of Chess from a Master.

Evan Rabin, the CEO of Premier Chess, is a National Chess Master, and he has been teaching chess since he was twelve years old. I have a personal love of Chess, though I haven't played in years, because as I have written about in these pages before when I was writing about the marvelous Father and Chef Paul Gerard who has been teaching his own son Chess, my father taught me how to play when I was very young, and helped me learn the strategies of it from the view and insights of the high level Electronic Engineer he was. The thing that amazes me about Chess is that not only is it a game of strategy, but it is a game that can transfer its insights into real life and how to think about a strategic approach to dealing with many different situations. Teaching young people about Chess helps them think in an analytical way, and though I have not done reasearch on it, it seems it must also help activate the part of the brain that learns to be patient and thoughful while analyzing the possible moves and motives of the person you're playing with. In these days of mindfulness and all sorts of philosophies that are meant to help people to take a careful step by step approach to their daily lives and decision making, to take time without rushing ahead and to sometimes take a step back to view the overall situation, it seems that Chess by its very nature can be a calming force that can help train the mind to deal with complex ideas and sort out a strategy of how to move ahead and be successful in an orderly, planned and careful fashion. Learning the strategies of Chess can improve confidence and focus, and the game is also known for the well mannered and respectful behavior of the opponents, so that although the desired outcome is to win, the game is played in a way that both parties are encouraged to show respect for each other, even to the point of shaking hands at the end of the match.

When I went to watch Evan in the classroom, I knew that it would be interesting, but I wasn't prepared for the type of thoughtful teacher he is. As I've mentioned before, I only write about people who do things with excellence. Whether they be Entrepreneurs, Artists, Designers, Writers, Humanitarians, Chefs or any other type of business owner, my effort in this blog is focused on people who are working toward their highest level in their craft and in their interactions with others. I want to celebrate and encourage those people who are using their skills in the highest way possible so that in turn others are given the light of their knowledge and creative passion. Evan Rabin is one of those rare people who not only is excellent in his knowledge of Chess, but he is able to teach in a way that is empowering, engaging, encouraging and transforming.

I've worked with children on and off for many years, and it's not an easy task to keep a room of young people engaged, never mind trying to teach them something as intricate and thoughtful as a game of Chess. The children who were in the class I watched Evan teach were thoroughly engaged, and when they sat down to play, their skills were at the highest levels. Of course there was some goofing around, some behavior that was very child-like in a healthy and natural way, and each time Evan respectfully brought them back to focusing on the task at hand, whether it be a game or a puzzle he'd put before them. I'd never seen anything quite like it - many times teachers just either give up or give in or get annoyed, but Evan kept his positive and even tempered joyful and conversational tone, while continuing to encourage the children to focus and complete the game or puzzle and answer questions he asked about game strategies.

After the class as we walked together to the bus stop where Evan would take a bus to the next private lesson he was teaching, I told him that the work he was doing was not only extraordinary, but incredibly important, because no matter how good parents may be or what type of background children have, having a positive role model who is also teaching them life skills can change the course of any child's life. I thought back to my own childhood and not only the Chess lessons my father gave me, but the many mentors and teachers I've had over the years who changed my view of life for the better and helped form who I am and the way I think about my life today. If not for those wonderful people who did their jobs with excellence, I might have ended up in a very different way. A teacher like Evan Rabin is rare to find, and he uses his knowledge and skills through his company Premier Chess to teach and train other teachers. It seems he's creating a strong army, in a way that reflects the pieces on a chess board, one that will go forward thoughtfully and carefully, empowering lives, building confidence, and gaining ground with the youth and children of today to help them move toward a much brighter tomorrow.

Evan Rabin, CEO
Premier Chess


Jannie Susan

Sunday, May 12, 2019

An Abundant Life - Finding The Words

A few months ago I was at an art and fashion and design event in Manhattan that was produced by Pim Shih who I have written about in these pages before, who is the Founder of Pim Comedy and The SetNYC. Pim always has a wonderful group of Artists of all kinds at his events, both in the audience and showing their work, and on this particular day I met a young man named Christopher M. Struck who told me that he had just completed a novel that would be released from the publisher BHC Press in the next few months. My biggest first love in the arts was reading which was closely followed by writing - I was reading so much before I began elementary school that the teachers told my parents they had to stop teaching me, and I wrote my first plays and my first stories when I was too young to even remember how young I was. Of course those early years of childhood joys were very small fry compared to what was to come later, and I cut my teeth listening to my mother reading Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, To Kill A Mockingbird and Pride And Prejudice. In high school when everyone else was struggling with Shakespeare class and reading Charles Dickens, I'd already read and seen the movies and the plays and novels and was helping coach everyone else through their agony. I loved reading, and read everything I could get my hands on, and the only thing that has stopped or slowed me a bit is that sometimes the things that are newer just don't excite me the way the books of yesteryear could do, and I just don't have the luxury of time any more that I once did. But there was something about Christopher that made me think it was important to keep in touch with him - it's hard to tell why, but there was just something about him that led me to give him my card and tell him about my blog and say I'd be interested in hearing more when the novel was published. It might be because he also told me he writes for Cabaret Scenes Magazine, a publication that I've had a history of my own with because of the people I've known who are in the Cabaret and Broadway community, or perhaps it was his presence, something very quiet and gentle yet also full of life, with a smile hiding behind an otherwise serious and even tempered, thoughtful demeanor. He spoke well, and that is something that I always notice - I'm an actress and I hear the sounds and qualities of people's voices that either make me want to find out more or walk away, and with Christopher I continued the conversation.

Fast forward with a jump cut to a few weeks ago when I received an email from him that his novel was available in a PDF format and would be released in hard copy shortly. I'm one of those people who love books in book form, but I thought I would at least give it a try and see if it was something I wanted to continue. The first night I sat down to read it I didn't want to stop. It's so beautifully written and such an interesting story that it was a pleasure to read in a way I haven't felt about many of the newer novels I've read over the years. I was feeling a bit of Fitzgerald, who is my all time favorite novelist, but there was something else as well, something that can only be described as the style of the novelist Christopher M. Struck. I read for as long as I could that first night and had to stop because of needing sleep for a long next few days, but as soon as I could I was back into the novel, and enjoying the reading of it in the all consuming way I hadn't read in many, many years.

Titled Kennig and Gold, Christopher's novel was inspired in part by the life of Nils Hanson, a World War II Marine Veteran and author of Lillian Lorraine: The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva, and it takes you into a world of history, a time when writing letters was a regular thing that people did and when telephone calls of any kind were few and far between. It was refreshing to read this story in a way that is very hard to describe unless like me you're a fan of old movies, old novels, and the stars who populated the big screens and smaller pages. I felt like I was coming home again or that somehow I'd found myself back in the past while living my life of today with the new friends I was making in Christopher's world populating the pages of my own history and memory.

When I wrote to Christopher to tell him how much I was enjoying his writing, he responded that he put a great deal of effort into the art form and it shows, though not in the way that sometimes is the case with writers whose writing seems full of effort. The effort Christopher takes with the craft and art of writing show in the fact that the very words are knit together in a way seems effortless. There is a beautiful flow and feel to the words and story that bring us from moment to moment, emotion to emotion, without ever feeling forced or jarring. And the writing, though reminiscent of some of my favorite works, is wholly Christopher's own. In every moment I felt that I was in a new world, one that only he had created. My hat is off to this talented and hard working young man who prior to writing his debut novel had already received 6 degrees, traveled to 19 countries, taught at 3 universities, and studied 2 foreign languages. May he go far and touch the lives of many with his beautiful words.

Christopher M. Struck
New York  City
Author Photograph And Novel Cover Art
Courtesy Of Christopher M. Struck
Publisher BHC Press


Jannie Susan

Sunday, May 5, 2019

An Abundant Life - Beautiful Views

I've written about the wonderful restaurant Halifax at the W Hotel and the amazing Executive Chef Seadon Shouse in these pages before, and though I go back as often as I can, it has been a while since I've written about it. When I happened to stop by two weeks ago during an Art Opening and Sip and Meet at the studio and showroom of Ricardo Roig who is the Artist in Residence at the W Hotel, I saw Carlos Arteaga who is the General Manager of Halifax, and he told me that in addition to the wine tastings on Thursdays and whiskey tastings on Wednesdays that they are hosting at the bar and lounge area just outside of the restaurant, there were new cocktail offerings he and the wonderful staff have been creating. I stopped by on an afternoon to find out more, and just happened to arrive at the time when the lovely Floral Designer Christina Andersen was putting the finishing touches on her new week's designs, one of which was a grouping of cherry blossoms that I discovered was also being used as a garnish for one of the new specialty cocktails. I had the "Cherry Blossom" that day, and was so delighted that I took several photographs of that cocktail alone, and made an appointment with Carlos to come back to try some others. A week later, at the end of a very long day helping to install an art event at another space in Hoboken, I found myself sitting down to an incredible gift of an outdoor seated spring afternoon cocktail tasting along with some new menu items that made all my tiredness melt into the air around me. Halifax was perfection the first time I went there, and every time after, and it just keeps getting better and better.

The creativity of the Mixology is matched and enhanced by the beautiful design and decor of the space, and Executive Chef Seadon Shouse continues to delight the palate and the eye with his lovely and inventively delicious flavorfilled masterpieces. Each dish and glass that arrives at the table wafts aromas that promise and deliver a heavenly combination of tastes, and though I would like to say that I am ladylike enough to share with others, I was so very happy that day that my busy schedule made for a time to enjoy those luscious flavors and sensations on my own. I've gone to Halifax for their amazing weekend brunch with friends on several occasions and on those days I'm happy to share because I know that whatever I like I can order more of - with all you can eat small plates and bubbles that just keep on pouring, it's the happiest combination of deliciousness and flavor that keeps me feeling generous because there is more than enough to go around. Halifax is one of those places where the view and the dining experience are always sure to more than please, and the fact that the food on the menu and the cocktails in your glass are created with such loving care shines a very special light through each moment in time.

At The W Hotel
225 River Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

Seasonal Floral Designs
By The Lovely Christina Andersen

Reflected In The Perfection
Of A "Cherry Blossom"

A Very Special Taste Of The Season
On A Very Lovely Outdoor Spring Afternoon

Where Even The Sparkling Water
Is Something Just As Special

As The Fresh Flowers And Herbs
Used For Garnish

A Perfectly Lovely
Poached Egg And Spring Asparagus Tart
With Cabot Cheddar And Leek Fondue
And The Beautiful Touches
That Make Tastes and Views More Special 

A Salad Of Strawberries
Fresh Snap Peas And Smoked Humbolt Fog
With The Addition Of Almond Crumble, Balsamic Vinegar
And Urbana Greens
That Uplift And Refine

A Smoked Salmon Flatbread
Made With The Most Delicately Delicious In-House Smoked Salmon
Creme Fraiche, Arugula, Capers And Pickled Onion


Jannie Susan