At least once a year – hopefully twice, we like to go over to Fort Greene in Brooklyn and play at Pratt Institute – (where I completed my BA). There are many reasons this is a great outing – starting with the beautiful University grounds. Pratt is famous for the grand old trees, lush lawns and impressive collection of outdoor Sculpture. We also like to go to the huge Pratt Art Store, and we love to have lunch at one of the cool places to eat in the now gentrified Fort Greene – our favourite is Zaytoons – Middle Eastern food on Myrtle Ave, their lentil soup is scrumptious and cheap!
Maya, Ella and I sat and ate our soup at Zaytoons – the restaurant happens to be across the road from the very first place I stayed when I arrive in NYC back in January of 2005. The Girls listened, and asked questions as I told them about my life before I had them, at Pratt – seems so long ago now. “This is where I went to Art school when I was first in love with Daddy, I used to live in that building there” I said pointing to the window I would stand and stare out.
After lunch we walked down to the Pratt Art Store – specifically to buy pink pencils. No matter how many packets of coloured pencils I buy, we seem to be always running out of pink pencils. We colour and sharpen them into stubs, and so rather than continuing to by full spectrum packets and have and excess of yellow and brown pencils on our hands I decided that it was time to start buying the Girls individual pencils by colour preference. This is a very fun activity, picking out favourite colours from the wonderful rainbow art supply displays. I feel very privileged to be buying the Girls Artist quality supplies. Good Art materials are expensive, but the quality is evident, and Maya and Elle draw so much I think it is money well spent. We also bought some more block printing pads and ink.
With Art supplies in our bag we walked over to the Pratt Campus to play in the gardens. This is the best part of our outing, when the Girls run from Sculpture to Sculpture, studying, climbing, playing. They have come to have favorite Sculptures and seek them out. “I want to climb on the rainbow Sculpture” Maya said as we entered the gates. I was so delighted she said this – she really knows the sculptures! The campus is very child friend;y, with a large fence perimeter, a no dogs allowed policy (no dog poo!) and they let the children enjoy the sculptures as only children can – by climbing all over them.
We also visited the Pratt Engine Room – which is just fascinating. Maya was impressed that she could see machines that made electricity, especially since the engine room is very beautiful with old light fixtures and lots of shiny brass. Pratt Institute operates one of the most historic and unique power plants in the metropolitan area. It has been designated a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The two steam driven generators are the oldest such machines known to be operating in the Northeast of United States. They were installed in 1900 and still run in the Winter when the exhaust steam is sent into the main heating system. This system was installed to replace another system that was installed in 1887 when Pratt was founded, and so the Institute has been generating electric power in the same location longer than any other known firm.
The Pratt Campus is home to lots of stray cats, or orphaned cats that have made their home at Pratt – being fed and loved by the students. You can often find many of these cats asleep in nooks and crannies in the Engine Room as it is so warm and cozy there. We spoke to the Engine room supervisor and he showed us a drawing done by a student of one of the resident cats, who’s nickname is snaggle-tooth – for it’s wonky front tooth.
The campus is just so beautiful, the old buildings, the grounds, the library designed and built by Tiffany’s – yes the famous Jeweler! I have to pinch myself, this was my school, this is where I spent a wonderful semester studying Art – how lucky I was!