I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

Combatting the New York business trip blues: finding fun even on a quickie

The crying shame of business travel is this: you go to cool places where you can spend entire days and see nothing but conference rooms.   Never fear.  At least in New York I have an easy 45 minute fix for curing the “cultural zero” blues. It’s the Museum of Arts and Design.  Here are its virtues:

  • FAST. You can fly through the entire place in 45 minutes if you want.  Or take the same amount of time to really see two or three exhibits.
  • FRESH.  Only one of the five small exhibit floors is dedicated to the permanent collection.  So it is always fresh.
  • FUN.  The emphasis is on craft and the combination of interesting materials, techniques and often slightly bizarre themes makes it highly stimulating.  And it doesn’t make you feel like an ignoramous if you don’t know your Manet from your Monet.

It’s right at the bottom of Central Park on Columbus Circle so you practically trip on it during many New York sojourns.  Give it a try!  Visiting this tiny gem of a museum makes me feel 100% better about a kamikaze New York trip.  It’s a place that gives and does not take.

Here’s what I took in yesterday with a cool 45 minutes between appointments:

This artist actually burned a whole bunch of books that had special meaning to him and then permanently captured the ashes in blown glass. Challenging!

This artist took layers of soil and substrata from each of the New York burroughs and arranged them in this grid, as part of an archeological project.

This artist darkened the inside of ordinary bottles with smoke and then painstakingly removed the soot to create complex images.

Quilt made of human hair and dryer lint

From the permanent jewelry collection: a meticulously crafted "train" necklace. Each box is only about two inches long.

Glass bubble necklace

Folded and chain mailed Zulu love letters

Pig intestine necklace

The Ladies of Ellenville NY Cake Club. A necklace made from glass, found objects and photos. This is the one I covet.

A final insider tip.  If you are REALLY pressed for time, just duck into the museum shop right off the lobby.  It’s a total visual treat and you can score terrific gifts there, even for kids.

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