Calm Guide: New York

June 06 2016

The Flavin Institute

Ask a New Yorker to list the city’s greatest attributes and “tranquil” doesn’t quite make the cut. And by “doesn’t quite make” we mean tranquil – or any other variant of the word — and New York City would never be caught dead in the same sentence. People flock to New York for one reason: to get. shit. done. The City that Never Sleeps is home to the most on-the-go humans in the U.S – these are people who have the will and the drive to work 12-hour days, followed up by a business dinner and then an art opening. The train delays, impending knowledge that either the weather or some natural trash phenomenon will ruin your perfectly planned outfit, and constant noise are what make New Yorkers the most resilient humans on the planet. It’s also what makes them so on edge. New York is consistently ranked as the most stressed out city in the U.S., but by planning time for themselves, and finding just a little bit of personal space, city dwellers can find the calm they need in order to survive.

The Flavin Institute

Long / Lat : 40°56’14.9″N 72°18’18.5″W
Founded : 1983
Travel time from NYC: 02:04
Level of Activity: 2.4

Roughly a hundred miles outside the city, in Southhampton, NY, is the Dan Flavin Art Institute. From the outside, the building is unassuming considering its location. A massive, renovated firehouse sits within a white picket fence, shingles lining the second story, painted white wood covering the first. The building itself is a certified charmer, but it’s what’s inside that draws art lovers from all over the world.

Within its walls is a permanent instillation designed by artist Dan Flavin. Flavin, a minimalist famed for creating sculptural works out of readily available fluorescent light fixtures, designed the light instillation to chronologically trace his work from 1963 to 1981. The sculptures meld seamlessly with the architecture, making a trip to the institute a unique experience. While art-lovers tend to be forced into museums to admire large-scale works such as Flavin’s, the idea of a Shingle-style building built in 1908 – which served as both a firehouse and a church – being used to house a mid-century minimalist artist exhibit is a welcome change.

The house was “renovated under the direction of the artist to evoke the building’s former uses,” says the Institute’s website. “A newel post in the entrance hall is painted red in memory of the building’s years as a firehouse, and the original church doors have been moved to the entrance of a small exhibition space on the second floor that contains memorabilia, including a neon cross, collected from and about the church.”

Several factors are at play that induce a sense of calm. Perhaps the overarching reason is the location itself. Nestled in the tiny Southhampton town of Bridgehampton, one must travel back in time (and about two hours, if coming from the city) to simply get to the institute. Located just off the main drag, the nostalgic look of quaint-but-large home invites visitors in.

And then you have the exhibitions. While host to a gallery that houses more temporary exhibitions, the nine works of Flavin truly (pun-slightly-intended) shine. In contrast to the artist’s works that are displayed in museums, Flavin was able to fully merge his sculptures with the architecture of the place, instilling within each nook and cranny a distinct mood. For New Yorkers looking to shed some stress on a weekend day, the Flavin Institute is sure to deliver.

What to Pack

Wave Hill

Long / Lat : 40°54’16.0″N 73°54’43.2″W
Founded : 1843
Travel time from NYC: 00:35
Level of Activity: 2

Located in the Bronx and overlooking both the Hudson River and the Palisades, Wave Hill is boasts 28 acres of public gardens within city limits. From aquatic gardens to woodlands to conservatories, a trip to Wave Hill means experiencing into over a dozen different settings and environments.

The calming aspect here is easy to understand: nature is scientifically proven to ease stress and brain fatigue. In fact, in a 2013 study, researchers recorded brain activity while participants went for a walk in a natural setting. After 25 minutes, stress levels were noticeably reduced.1

Multiple studies have linked just looking at flowers to having a positive impact on emotional health. Apparently, just waking up next to a bouquet of flowers is said to improve your day.

And here, amongst the concrete jungle, lies the theraputic Wave Hill. Since deeded to the city of New York by the Perkins-Freeman family, Wave Hill has not only been a host to public gardens, but remains a cultural and educational center. The one time-estate offers horticultural lectures, gardening workshops and school programs. Wave Hill’s mission is to “to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts.”

Sometimes, as city-dwellers, we lose our connection to the natural world. A trip to Wave Hill induces a sense of calm and understanding – a peacefulness – we need to survive.

What to Pack

Gaskins

Long / Lat : 42°12’41.8″N 73°52’50.9″W
Founded : 2015
Travel time from NYC: 02:12
Level of Activity: 3

Nestled in Germantown, NY, roughly 100 miles north of the city on the east bank of the Hudson River, sits Gaskins. A restaurant intended to serve as “a gathering place for the community.” Gaskins specializes in seasonal comfort food that’s made with locally sourced ingredients.

Community is the linchpin of Gaskins. Owners Nick and Sarah Suarez moved to Germantown in 2013 after working at some of Brooklyn’s best restaurants. “When we started talking about opening up our own place we knew we wanted to do it outside the city, where we could make a home and escape the craziness,” says Sarah in an interview with Moonbeam Kitchen. The couple traveled around New York for roughly a year looking for the perfect location and settled on Germantown.

But they didn’t just want to move in and set up shop. Instead, Sarah started a catering company, connecting with the Germantown community through small events. When the couple felt like they were truly involved, they set up shop.

Germantown is an under-the-radar, sleepy little town on the Hudson. With its laid back, modest populace, it’s home to incredible views of the Catskills, access to the Hudson River and a tight-knit community. Visitors to the town – and to Gaskins – take solace in feeling like a part of a community, even if for just a night. The vibe of Gaskins is very inclusive, they go out of their way to make you feel like a part of the family; it’s the opposite from the stereotypical “get-in-and-get-out” feel of many NYC restaurants. From that stems a different kind of calm – the kind you feel around the table with your loved ones: kickin’ it, laughing, sharing stories, reminiscing. The calm of comfort.

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