Chelsea Art Tours For Poets and Writers

Throughout history there has always been a special relationship between poetry and fine art. Whether one thinks of Picasso palling around with Gertrude Stein or the collaborative energies and intimacies which fostered the prolific first wave of The New York School, poets and artist have been a steady stream of inspiration and influence on each other.

New York continues to experience a steady proliferation of artist and writers, even in spite of the staggering cost of living. Whether one is just visiting New York or lives in the city or one of its boroughs, navigating New York’s art scene can be down-right intimidating. In addition to MoMA, The Guggenheim, The Met, The New Museum, and others the city is filled with small galleries. Even in Chelsea alone there are roughly 300 galleries to choose from. Where to begin?

Enter in Mike Newton. Newton is a working artist who offers intimate tours of art galleries. Newtown keeps the tours limited to around ten people, which is ideal for fostering conversation and questions. His tours strike upon concrete and abstract themes which are discussed during each gallery stop. You may be familiar with Newton’s art writing from the journal Harp & Altar and he also does the interiors for the Birds, LLC books (an interview between Newton and Birds editor Sampson Starkweather forthcoming).

Recently, a group of poets, including myself, took one of Newton’s tours and here’s what Coconut author, Christie Ann Reynolds had to say, “My favorite part of the tour was viewing the art together–that it was a collective experience where each of our opinions could be heard and built upon by others. I usually go to galleries alone or with one other person and therefore, the opportunity to see pieces as a group helped to develop stronger ideas about the work.”

Four Way Books author, Farrah Field, echoed Reynolds comments, “My favorite thing about the tour was the discussion. I loved Mike’s thoughts; it felt as though he was giving us the insider, artist’s perspective on the work we were seeing. I loved his introductions and that he even knew things about the gallery owners and had comments about the artist’s previous work.”

Jared White, co-founder of Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, had this to say, ” I love how Mike is producing his own kind of extended act of curating (a curating of curators?) in the way he puts together the packet and the tour, and how well his “Galleries” blurb format from H&A (Harp & Altar)  translates in person. I loved how he forced us to spend more energy engaging work that we might have otherwise moved past more quickly – the Pistoletto mirror work comes to mind, since I saw images of it in magazines and definitely agreed that without the in-person reflection it doesn’t have the same impact remotely; the tree photos also seem a good example since Farrah(Field) and I saw it previously at the burned-out end of a couple hours in galleries and did not tune in as thoroughly. I also liked how the tour dynamic itself forced a more careful engagement with the creation of the pieces – creating the momentum to go into the secret room to see the Dan Graham photos or talking about the actual printing process (silver nitrate not digital printing) of the tree portraits…”

Perhaps, Harp & Altar founder, Keith Newton, sums it up best, “I would say my favorite thing about the gallery tours is the way Mike makes the experience of the art primary. No matter what kind of art you’re looking at, no matter what era or cultural movement or political environment the art grew out of, it’s the physical viewing of the work that Mike always starts from and always comes back to. It seems straightforward in a certain way, but I inevitably find myself actually seeing differently, with more focus, when I’m on Mike’s tours. And I find myself making connections — connections between different artists, between art and writing, between art and politics– that I never would have made otherwise.”

To find out more about scheduling a tour click here.


-steven karl