Let’s Get Digital: Exhibition at Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery, Columbus Ohio, Curated by Alexandra Nicholis Coon, executive director of the Massillon Museum

I’m pleased to announce the opening of Let’s Get Digital Exhibition including four works by my life partner Andrew Reach and works by 14 other Ohio Artists working in different ways with digital media.

Artists in the show include (hometown noted): Janet Ballweg (Bowling Green), Jerry Birchfield (Cleveland), John Branham (Massillon), Kimberly Burleigh (Cincinnati), Guy Michael Davis (Cincinnati), Nicholas Economos (Cleveland), Ronald Geibert (Beavercreek), Brian Harnetty (Columbus), Dan Hernandez (Maumee), Janice Lessman-Moss (Kent), Katie Parker (Cincinnati), Joshua Penrose (Columbus), Andrew Reach (Cleveland), Michele Waalkes (Canton) and Gina Washington (Cleveland).

From the Press Release of the Riffe Gallery:
The Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery will present “Let’s Get Digital” from May 3 – July 8, 2012. Curated by Alexandra Nicholis Coon, executive director of the Massillon Museum, “Let’s Get Digital” demonstrates the endless opportunities digital technology offers to the world of art. Whether it be the tool, product, or subject of their artwork, all artists in this exhibition were selected based on their innovative applications of digital technology. To the 15 artists represented in this show, digital technology serves as an avenue for exploring new ideas and relationships that are not possible with traditional media. Read more…..

screen shot from Arts in Ohio homepage
pictured: Detail of “A Fisherman’s Net Strung by the Constellations”
by Andrew Reach
Archival Digital Pigment Print on Canvas, 54 x 93.75 inches

Reflections: Going Forward from Edgemere – Far Rockaway Archives to Baumwoll Archives

 Edgemere – Far Rockaway Archives started as a labor of love. The idea came to me when my partner Andrew Reach and I went to hear Scott Ligon, author of  the book “Digital Art Revolution”, and professor and head of the digital art department at Cleveland Institute of art. Andrew was personally invited to hear the lecture. As I sat there with Andrew and listened to Scott speak, I became more intrigued with what he was saying. He was telling the audience that we live in a new age, an age where everything is becoming accessible to all through digital technology and the internet. Through his presentation he showed us the power of giving back what we have by sharing and giving it away and by doing so, will be amazed at what will come back to you. Instead of hoarding anything, release it and let it be free to live on, way beyond the life we are living today. Before this digital age, most things were lost. That’s why so many of us are now being able to reconnect with the family histories we lost because of the ease of research through the internet with geneaology. When the lecture was over, and Andrew and I were talking with Scott and his wife, I let Scott know that he inspired me and I was going to go home and try to allow myself to let go of all that I was holding on to.

And so I began and that was the spirit that was the birth of this blog. Since I had no plan, my idea was to share all that I had and to try and make all the photographs that I could find of Edgemere and Far Rockaway live beyond any one person or website. Being an eclectic person, I also began to share all the things I have been collecting from my 60 years on this planet. For any of you who don’t have children, you will understand. “What will happen to all the things I’ve collected?” I wanted them not to be lost and forgotten. There are no children to leave them to.

I began going through my drawers and old paper and was amazed at what I had. I started the blog doing posts about Edgemere and Far Rockaway as I searched for my own family history, reflecting and reconnecting with my past. As any of you have followed my blog, I’m a man that has learning disabilities. It was always about being in the present and finishing the one thing I was trying to do, never reflecting on where it would take me to next. So with each new post and each new picture that I added, I was excited that the task was done and that the photograph was saved. I got a great response from people.

I began saving Skip Weinstock & Carol Marston’s photos from their sites Rockaway Beach Reunion Website and  More Old Rockaway Photos respectively since the beginning of the internet, never imaging at the time that I would someday put them on a blog. I also began saving every photo on the internet and everything that sold on ebay related to the memories of Rockaway that I could find.

When I began saving the photos, I had already begun to sell my collections of movie posters and movie tie -in books and ads from magazines from 1890 to 1970 all through the mail through my company Poster Palace. See, I’m a person who has great difficulty with words as I don’t see words in my head, I see pictures. That’s why for me to get each post done has been a true act of overcoming learning disabilities. By the time I began the blog, technology had changed so much that I was willing to try my own visual experience in the form of making videos that I share on youtube. They are made fast at the speed my brain goes at so that’s how my mind perceives pictures.

As the blog progressed in this two year period, I still did what I’ve always done, to save pictures off the internet, never with an ill intent. My intention was to enjoy the photographs on the journey they take me on and to share them with the people who come to my blog. I’m a very quiet man. I’m taken back and humbled by the fact that 152,111 people have looked at my blog and youtube videos. Typical to my personality, my brain keeps pushing me to expand and my blog has taken on a whole entire other life that I never imagined that I would be doing. I created videos expressing marriage equality that gay and straight people all over the world have looked at. I did a video of the area I live in, The Gordon Square Arts District that the residents of Cleveland have told me they really enjoy and captures the spirit of this place. Being a collector of paper ephemera since I was a boy and a seller of paper ephemera, I had a photo that Margaret Bourke-White took from the air of the Far Rockaway board walk from a 1950’s life magazine. I made a post showing the photo. So many people from around the world came to see it. With such enthusiasm, I decided to create a video of the photographs of Margaret Bourke-White.  I created a gallery of all of my paper book movie tie-in books that so many people have enjoyed.

When I began this blog, I wanted my grandfather Nathan Baumwoll and my uncle Max Schulkin’s movies and photographs not to be forgotten. By putting these photos on my blog with their names, they have become indexed on google and other search engines. These are men that died and were forgotten and now they have had a rebirth through this new digital age.

Barbara Cooper contacted me and told me the story of her father Murray Cooper who came for the seasons and stayed on Beach 38th Street and documented life there with his Kodachrome photographs. His last words to Barbara were “Don’t let my pictures be forgotten”. I told Barbara, let me make you post and make you a video of your fathers pictures and he will live again. People now search for Murray Coopers photographs of Far Rockaway. What I got out of doing all of that is the thrill that it will live on.

I have had trouble with one person ever since I turned down his idea of how I should write for him, a story that I suggested for his site. He wanted to tell me how to do it and how many pictures I could use. I have never been good with people trying to control me. And that’s when Andrew said “Why not start your own blog”. From that choice of not listening to him the man that has the other site and giving him my story we have not gotten along.  He would not let me join his facebook group. I once again was on the outside.  I just kept doing what I have been doing. It was my mistake to take pictures off his site, never really understanding how much his owning them in his own mind meant to him. That is until he made a complaint and had photos taken off my site accusing me of stealing them. Had I really understood, I would have gladly paid for the use of any photograph. At the beginning of our blogs, I  gave credit to him and his writers, but no matter what I did, it was not what he wanted. I could not make it right. I am an honorable man, taking no monetary gain; my motive was to share them with the people coming to my blog. If it wasn’t for Skip and Carol inspiring all of us to remember our memories of the Rockaways, we may not even be here having this conversation. We owe much of the credit to them. So I shall not take anything from his site and many of his photos will just disappear again into the vault. I meant no harm to anyone. As far as me trying to be any ones staunchest competitor, I did not even know that we were competing. I learned a long time ago, the only person I have to compete with is myself.

My blog has been evolving for a long time now. My interests being so eclectic, the focus of the blog was not merely only about the Rockaways but so much more. So now I embark on a new journey with my blog, beginning with a name change from Edgemere – Far Rockaway Archives to the Baumwoll Archives. It will continue to be an eclectic mix of all the things that interest me and even new things that come my way and Edgemere and Far Rockaway will always be with me and will also be part of it as well. I will tell stories, use photos and books from around the world and create new videos to keep evolving and keep going forward but most of all to keep going.

For any of you that read my blog, much of it has been dedicated to my life partner of 32 years, Andrew Reach. The gravity of his illness and the daily obstacles he goes through to get through each day inspires me to stay present, keep going on and take nothing for granted. Just as my blog is a way of giving back to the world we also give of Andrew’s art to the world to help others. Andrew put out a 2012 calendar of his art this year and we donated hundreds of them to children’s hospitals around the United States: St Judes Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC and Children’s Hospital Boston at Harvard. These hospitals don’t only have small children but older kids and teenagers. This group of kids have outgrown the children’s art that dominates these facilities and the hospitals gave the calendars to this older group to bring a little color and joy to their stays.

We find what Scott Ligon taught us is the way to go in life. Give it all up to the new world. It’s really amazing how much has come back to us. The Baumwoll Archives is a place that will keep growing and changing. I have been working on collecting Jewish paper ephemera; items and photos from books from all over the world, things that most people have not seen in one place, things that were lost in the holocaust and somehow saved. Without the new technology of the digital age, most of us would never see them and they would be lost, locked in books in libraries around the world. I will keep doing what I have been doing and it shall be left to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

Andrew’s art continually keeps expanding and we have been asked to write our life story, a story of love, commitment, reinvention and inspiration. We donate his art to many different places to help raise money for important causes.

Nothing really belongs to any of us. It’s here and then it is pasted down. Again it’s hard when someone slanders you. Yet what can you do? One must keep going. Again if I used any of your photo graphs that any one does not wish me to use please let me know and I shall not and will take it off my site. I shall never sell any photos from the rockaways for money. I have been asked by organizations and private people to create small films for them for money but that is not where my heart is. So onward I go, to a new change, the Baumwoll Archives.

Soon a new store, Vintage Palace, will open and I shall begin to sell all of my collections throughout my life. I hope you come to visit sometimes.

Bruce Baumwoll

Bruce Baumwoll (in white shirt) sitting on sand talking to his grandmother Eva Baumwoll (in chair) at Beach 38th Street
Photo by Murray Cooper 

Boardwalk at Beach 38th Street – The big brown
house is our families home
Photo by Murray Cooper

Photo by Murray Cooper

My dad Jack Baumwoll with his cab at the corner of our house on
Beach 38th Street and Sprayview Avenue

Bushes in front of our house near the corner of Sprayview Avenue, Straight ahead  are the original bungalows toward the elevated subway and Edgemere Ave
Photo by my uncle Max Schulkin 

My brother Ira Baumwoll coming off
Beach 38th Street to our house

Still from my grandfather Nathan Baumwoll’s home movies 

Nathan Baumwoll coming down the front stairs
of our house on Beach 38th Street
Still from my grandfather Nathan Baumwoll’s home movies taken by my father Jack Baumwoll 

New York City Archives 2

Here are some more of the photos from the New York Archives along with other  photographers photos. Each one of them will take you back to a place that once was filled with many of our memories. Time does not stand still.  Many of these places are still there . The times have changed and some of the views are new, but many are the same. The  part of the Rockaway’s that was destroyed by Robert Moses and  left to die is finding new life with new families as they discover the wonder of the sea and the wonderful  boardwalk. I still say there is no place like home. 

Photo By: Todd Berkun