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Artist Maria Calandra shares her top 5 NYC spots

Get to know artist and Pencil in the Studio honcho Maria Calandra

Written by
Matthew Love

If the New York art scene ever feels too insular, too solitary or too stoic, check in with pencil-wielding 38-year-old Calandra. On a lark in April 2011, the Brooklyn artist scheduled a studio visit with an artist she knew well—her husband, Erik den Breejen—insinuated herself into his space and stayed to draw what she saw. Since then, she has expanded on her initial whim, visiting more than 60 local artists and posting reproductions of their work on her blog, Pencil in the Studio, and in doing so has helped create a community in the often closed-off art scene. “It’s lonely and hard and frustrating sometimes,” says Calandra of being an artist. “I wanted to show that, but I also come into the workspace as an enthusiastic person.” For her own gallery shows at the likes of Sardine in Bushwick, she’s also taken to reproducing pieces by Rothko and Picasso and creating her own takes on rare bookshops. As Calandra says of her charming, approachable and idiosyncratic sketches, “[My project] is indefinite. There are lots and lots of cool places to draw.”

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Maria's top 5 places in NYC

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Central Park
  • price 3 of 4

I can go to the Met endless amounts of times and discover something new or sit in front of a favorite painting. I’m drawn to the Matisses pretty quickly. It’s a place where I might get lost enough to find a painting I haven’t seen before.

  • Theater
  • Performing arts space
  • Upper West Side
  • price 4 of 4

The Met Opera has that $25 lottery, and [my husband and I] go pretty often with that lottery. “Hey, let’s go tonight, and if we get tickets, we get tickets.” I’m a huge Italian opera fan, so the Puccini operas are my favorites. Maybe we go out for pasta afterward, just to make it a really Italian evening—we like the old-school places, but we’re struggling with that right now because we went to Italy this spring and nothing compares.

  • Things to do

I live in Williamsburg, but I like Greenpoint better. There are a lot of Polish people, and it’s a place people live and have lived with their families. It’s more what I sometimes imagine New York to be: Pockets of people from different countries. My pop grew up in the Lower East Side and then moved to Bay Ridge, so I feel like that’s what I imagined New York to be when he told me about it. A place where there are just people living and a market where you buy your food, which is Polish, because you’re from Poland. My dad’s Sicilian, so he’d say, "Yeah, we got meatballs on the corner, because we’re from Bay Ridge."


5. Karczma

[My husband and I] like to go to Karczma on Greenpoint Ave. They have a great beer selection and straight-up, good, inexpensive Polish food. After that, we go to Torst on Manhattan Avenue. It has a beautiful menu and beautiful glasses, and if you’re into beers, its selection is the best. It feels really special every time, even though we can just walk home from there.

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