March 20, 2014
Bay Ridge Sweeps Brooklyn Arts Council Awards 2014

I had the wonderful pleasure of attending the Brooklyn Arts Council's annual Awards Ceremony this evening. We were treated to music from:Big Eyed Blues Youth Ensemble and Magnolia singing Georgian folk music, a delightful mix. Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, gave an inspiring welcome and articulated the importance he places on arts and their inclusion in all neighborhoods, and mentioned Bay Ridge specifically

This year many individuals and organizations from our area received grants:
* Nicole Macotsis in partnership with the Arab American Family support center - Arab Folk Art Series for Boys & Girls Clubs
* Barbara Cassidy at IS 187 Christa McAuliffe School - Brooklyn Crucinstein - play writing
* THE CREATORS COLLECTIVE at High School off Communications Arts & Technology - Not So Silent Films
* Bay Ridge SAW - 5th Annual Bay Ridge Storefront Art Walk
* Nicole Macotsis - Baby Tarab: Sing and Dance bil 'Arabi
* Scandinavian East Coast Museum - exhibit Brooklyn/Norway: A Visual Interpretation
It was also great to see that Bella Voce Singers received funds. One fo their performance spaces is Art on the Corner at Good Shepherd.
* Regina Opera - Free Public Library performances, including several in Bay Ridge.

It is wonderful to see so many more local organizations applying for funds and I believe that Ethany Uttech, former grant administrator at BAC had a large part in this She was and is an avid supporter of BRACA ) Bay Ridge Arts & Cultural Alliance) and really listened to our concerns. She made the decision to host grant seminars in Bay Ridge for two years and I think we can see the results from this year's winners.

The Award Ceremony was held in the opulent beaux-art style common council room. Afterwards we were treated to the sounds of Catahoula Cajun Band and the tastes of food from local businesses, including a cake from our own Leske's.

On behalf of BRACA ( I would like to thank the Brooklyn Arts Council for all of their support and generosity. A special shout out to Audrey Frank Anastasi, BRACA member, Bay Ridge resident, proprietor of the Tabla Raisa gallery who also serves on the Board of Directors of BAC. We thank her for her service.

Victoria Hofmo, President


February 20, 2014
Interview with David Appel

1. Why do you dance?
For myself, because I’m compelled to, and love it. It gives me a wonderful and fluid language—beyond words—for existing in and relating to the world. And because we all do, in one way or another…and I want people to remember how much dancing is a part of—and a way of thinking about—our lives. I mean this both literally and in a larger sense (what each of us does can be seen as a dance, and we’re all dancing our way through this life). At the same time, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my first notable encounters with dancing were when I was in junior high and high school: those social gatherings were great teenage outlets, but more importantly the extended length of a lot of the then popular music enabled me to learn about playing with rhythm and time in a way that’s served as an anchor for everything I’ve done as an artist in all the years since.

2. Where are you from?
Born and raised in and around Philadelphia, PA.

3. How did you come to Bay Ridge?
Moved here from Sunset Park in 2004.

4. How did you get involved with choreography?
The first year I was taking dance classes, as a sophomore in college, a psychology professor gave us the option of writing a long paper or doing something in another format. Why I thought I could choreograph a solo for myself as an alternative is a mystery—but I did, and that’s how it started (and got an A+ on that one). The following year I created something for four dancers, and with that, guess I was off and running.

Photo by Stephanie Crousillat

5. What do you wish to communicate through dance?
That life itself is a dance, composed of and employing many different languages of movement reflecting and expressing the rich range that is who we are. Many of these are perhaps more refined in their vocabulary, but the point is that we all have bodies that are more or less facile and articulate—so the act of moving is in some way common to us all. Once we recognize this, and the fact that movement and change are among the intrinsic aspects of life, we can open ourselves more fully to sense possibilities and connections, whether the narrative is being unfurled in front of us or taking shape through our own imaginations.

6. What inspires you?
Everything and anything, from the most world-shaking to things seemingly minute or insignificant.

7. What are the advantages to being the dancer?
As a solo artist, I enjoy exploring the processes and options that arise out of cultivating more intimate and detailed dancing, and evolving a movement language that is paradoxically singular and familiar, idiosyncratic yet somehow connects. Dancing with others necessitates finding out where and how you can meet, create, and realize the choreography with them; in other words, how you can share the space toward bringing the fullest resonance to what you’re attempting to express.

Photo by Stephanie Crousillat

8. What are the advantages of being the choreographer?
As the choreographer, I get to dream both initial and subsequent forays into what’s possible, and to gauge if and how these ideas are workable. I get to stand for a particular approach, and to encourage all the other dancers to find their way to realizing what’s at hand. To quote the film director Sydney Pollack: “Directing is the nerve to assert the pattern—and to hold out for the emotional completeness that the others can’t see.”

9. What are the challenges of being a dancer in NY?
The challenges of being a dancer in New York City are both similar to and different from everywhere else. Unless you’re in a dance company that can afford to pay salaries, or you can cobble together one or more teaching jobs, you’ve got to scuffle to balance finding an alternative way of supporting yourself with devoting enough quality time to the work to bring whatever you’re involved in creating to fruition. And because of the constant pressure on funding sources exerted by those who consider the arts expendable, choreographers (especially independent ones) can rarely compensate dancers as much as they’d like to. There are a limited number of seemingly affordable rehearsal and performance spaces: because they are also habitually under the gun financially, all too often it is expected that artists at whatever stage of their careers will be willing to either pay huge sums to present their choreography, or will be happy to do so for free, just to have it be seen. Which is odd, because this is our work—and in this society, most people don’t spend great amounts of time working for nothing.

One difference in being a dancer in New York City has to do with the sheer number of people here engaged in this activity. On the one hand, there are so many of us competing for limited resources. On the other, the amount of people working in the arts generates a kind of general visibility and acceptance that you don’t necessarily experience as readily elsewhere.

Photo by Stephanie Crousillat

10. Where do you perform?
Anywhere that expresses interest or otherwise seems usable as a venue. Since 1973, that’s included a wide range of contexts throughout North America, Europe, and in Mexico: theaters, dance and art centers, university gymnasiums, community centers, and a variety of other indoor spaces…and outdoors in parks, at crafts fairs, and on city sidewalks. From 1994-97, my Home Visits project brought dancing and dialogue to small groups of people gathering in homes around the Philadelphia area.

11. How easy is it to find a venue to show your choreographed pieces?
It varies. For instance, last year we were invited to appear as part of several different programs in New York City, and presented completely new work on each occasion. This past summer it seemed like no venue was interested for 2013-14, and then suddenly an opportunity arose through which we could do a couple of entire evenings. I’ve certainly been reminded that we have to keep our eyes and ears and thinking open, because you never know when things are going to unexpectedly fall into place.

Photo by Bobbie Aldridge

12. What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the next stage of an exciting small group project that—since it began during the summer of 2012—has continuously led to some intriguing collections of relatively short pieces. Our upcoming performances will be two evenings in a gallery space in Manhattan, this coming May 9th and 10th.

13. Is there anything that you would like to add?
There’s obviously much more that could be said about what I’m/we’re doing. Especially regarding the importance of process in both the work’s creation and its possible implications as a model for how we interact with others and all that we encounter in the world. And further about how and why I’ve chosen to explore a particular and shifting mix of set and improvised dancing, as a means toward and as the component elements of making dances. For more of a general overview, please go to

Interviewer, Victoria Hofmo


June 16, 2013
BRACA Art Night at Brooklyn Industries

Last Thursday's BRACA Art Night (June 13, 2013) hosted by Brooklyn Industries Bay Ridge, 8620 - 4th Avenue, was a great delight. Even when an uninvited guest; a heavenly deluge rudely crashed the party half-way through the evening,.the festivities could not be dampened,

From 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Ceramic Artist Krystle Pietrafesa created a new piece outside the store, as passersby looked on. While inside the store several of her finished pieces were exhibited At the same time Artist, Michelle Farkouh was available to speak about her work. Five of her whimsical pieces were hung in the store that night.

From 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm Regina Opera, featured three singers: Patricia Vital, Ricardo Rosa and Lisa Bryce, accompanied by Maxine Feldman - pianist and Richard Parately - flutist. One highlight was when Brooklyn Industries, Manager, Elise mentioned that she had studied opera. She was invited to join the singers in the final piece the Toreador Song. I knew how great the company was, but who new that a storefront would have such great acoustics?

From 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm the music of Sean Keshaw and the New Jack Ramblers was played while wine was sipped and cookies were nibbled. Shoppers were not only surrounded with candy for the eyes and ears. They were also able to receive a 25% discount. 20% of the sales totals are to go towards BRACA to support their work promoting the arts & cultural groups in Bay Ridge.

On behalf of BRACA, I would like to thank Teddy Vuong and the staff of Brooklyn Industries Bay Ridge for their hospitality and generosity, the artists who took time out of their very busy life and did a wonderful job, and the BRACA members who joined us, as well as Councilman Gentile and his staff member Ya Ya.

I encourage you to support the new Brooklyn Industries Bay Ridge store, as well as all the wonderful businesses that make Bay Ridge great place to visit and an amazing place in which to live.

Victoria Hofmo


March 19, 2013
Interview with Paul Curtis from The Storefront

1. What is your background?
As an artist I’m less than a hack. I’ve dabbled in drawing, poetry, songwriting, storytelling, and a bit of guitar playing. I like artists more than I have a love for any particular art. But I see the creative arts as potentially very healing to individuals as well communities. My day job is pastoring a local church in Bay Ridge, Crossroads Christian Church (

2. What is The Storefront?
The Storefront is an art center that enables artists to do what they love as a way of serving the hurting world around them. We offer or have offered drawing sessions, creative writing groups, songwriting circles, dance classes, and crafting groups. Every class or session is led by volunteers in a space donated to The Storefront. That allows 100% of the fees (not including personal supply or model costs) to be donated to the cause of bringing healthy water and sanitation to places around the world that lack it.

3. Who is the sponsor?
The Storefront has been sponsored by a number of individuals, but the primary contributor, and the organization that donates the space and utilities for The Storefront is Crossroads Christian Church.

4. Why an arts center?
The Storefront was started by a group of artists who had a passion to do what they love to do in such a way that it benefited the local community while also serving the hurting world around us. It was created with artists in mind. The following values drive what we do and how we do it. We have varying degrees of success at each, but behind each class, session, or workshop, we hope the following three elements are present:
· Community: We think the best art is created in the context of community rather than isolation. Artists feed off of one another and make each other better. And life is healthier and more fun in community. That means that songwriters will workshop their stuff together, artists will critique each others’ drawings, and social gatherings bring artists together.
· Social Change: As artists it can be easy to be self absorbed and inward focused, focused on our thoughts, imagination, feelings and how we want to express them. One of the great gifts to the world is when artists are turned outward to serve others, raise awareness of injustice, and help bring about change. Addressing the need for clean water is our humble beginning to be about bringing change.
· Growth: We love to see artists stretched. Some of our sessions have more “instruction” than others. But several give budding artists a small stage to present their work. Gallery nights for our drawing sessions, concerts for our songwriters, and publishing a book of poetry for our poets are just a few examples.

5. How do you decide which types of classes to offer?
Classes are chosen primarily based on the availability and relationship with the artist. When we have artists who are part of our community who are available, competent, have a sufficient connection to The Storefront to lead sessions during times that the space is available, we offer those classes.

6. Can anyone take a class?
Just about all of our classes or sessions are open to entry level artists. There are no requirements to take a class or join a session. Some require advance registration.

7. Is there a charge?
Usually there is a $5 charge per session. All of that goes toward the cause of clean water. Occasionally there will be an additional fee if there are material needs (craft supplies or a model, for example).

8. What are the collected fees used for?
Currently, the organization that we fund is Living Water International.

9. Why was this mission chosen?
The UN has declared that the water crisis is one of the great problems our world must face in the next millennium. Where clean water is inaccessible, disease is rampant and poverty is pervasive. Women who are forced to walk sometimes 7 miles a day to get water and kids who are unable to attend school due to preventable health issues (every day, diarrhea takes the lives of 2,000 children in Africa) makes this a debilitating issue in most underdeveloped countries. Water is a fundamental element needed for life.

10. What types of classes are popular now?
Drawing sessions meet every Wednesday evening at 6:30-9:30pm.
Poetry reading/Open mic nights are the second Sunday of each month, 8:00-9:30pm.

11. It seems like The Storefront offers more than classes. That it is also almost like a club for visual artists. Can you speak about this?
Our vision has been that it would be a meeting place for artists. That vision hasn’t become as much of a reality as we had hoped. But in each class, relationships are built. And there are opportunities for artists to support one another or share their work together, even across platforms (poets for painters, etc.)

Interviewer Victoria Hofmo


February 10, 2013
Interview with Victoria Hofmo by Robert Howe

As the blizzard approaches, Brooklyn real estate attorney Robert Howe finds out how to "Embrace Winter" with Victoria Hofmo from the Bay Ridge Arts & Cultural Alliance (BRACA) on tonight's Howe's New York. Click here for a link to the interview:


January 2, 2013
Interview with Krystle Pietrafesa by Victoria Hofmo

What is your educational background?
I began by majoring in studio art in high school and have continued my passion for art during my college career also incorporating my love of education.

Are you making a living as an artist?
I am not making a living as an artist. I work on my pieces in my free time for the love of it.

What do you do for a living?
I work with children at an after school & summer program.

How is your art background helpful in your job?
My background in art helps me take a different approach to projects that I plan. It also helps me guide this children in thinking outside the box and problem solve in ways they may not learn in the classroom.

You are currently working in ceramics. How did you come to work in that medium?
I was a senior in high school when I first worked with clay. It was the first medium that we worked with in my mixed media class. The first time I came in contact with clay I felt right at home and so comfortable and excited. My teacher was so understanding she allowed me to continue working with clay for the remainder of the year in conjunction with my other assignments.

What do you like about working with ceramics?
One of my favorite aspects of working with clay is that it is an extremely forgiving medium. Unlike most other mediums if something doesn't work just rework the clay
and try something else.

What is the most frustrating/challenging thing about working in ceramics?
For me one of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of ceramics is logistics of creating something you want to create. Sometimes you have a set idea and it takes
some work and time to come up with a solution that doesn't change the outcome of the idea in your head.

Have you explored all facets of cermics that interest you or are there still things you would like to try? If so, what are they?
There are still facets of ceramics that I have been able to explore. There are different glazing and firing techniques that I would like to try and explore. One of these methods is Raku. Raku came from Japan and is a low fire technique.

You have created wonderful, whimsical ceramic characters. How did they evolve?
My ceramic characters are very much a reflection of me. However over time my characters have become less focused my intrepretation on figures and more a general concept of a character with a little more mystery in an abstract way.

photo of artist Krystle Pietrafesa

You can see Krystle's ceramic characters on display in the winsows of Annopoli Diner on Third Avenue on Saturday, February 9th from noon to 5:00.

Interviewee, Victoria Hofmo

"How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?''
-Dr. Seuss


December 12, 2012


As Brooklyn becomes more and more hip, one often hears in our corner of the Borough, "What about Bay Ridge? How do we make our community a destination?" I suggest we market what is unique and authentic about our neighborhood - It is truly Old School Brooklyn. There is the Farmacy in Williamsburg - made to be an authentic old school ice cream parlor. Well we have 3 authentic ice cream parlors - Annopoli, Hinsch's and Skinflints. I know the later is not used as an ice cream parlor, but the interior has been left intact and certainly feels as cozy as it did 100 years ago.

We can also build upon what we do so well, our street fairs and parades. Bay Ridge has the oldest Street Fair in Brooklyn - The Third Avenue Street Fair. One year older than The Atlantic Antic. These type of events bring scores of people back to the neighborhood and attracts others.

I can tell you that Bay Ridge has organically evolved as a destination for Scandinavians looking to see where their family members had lived, married and worked. The Norwegian Day Parade and Viking Fest is attracting people from the tri-state area and beyond. In fact, they have begun to attract people all the way from Norway. This past year, one Norwegian told me they plan to come back and knows many others who plan to also.

Last year, the Norwegian Day Parade attracted Ty Pennngton. You can see a clip from his visit. This is great for Bay Ridge. We should be shouting about it from the rooftops.

Two weeks ago 32 women from Norway (on a shopping trip) came to Bay Ridgefor the second year in a row. They were taken on a historic tour, as well as to the small boutique shops along Third Avenue. They plan to return again next year.

All of Bay Ridge's events are steeped in tradition, and have strong foundations. But, we are also open to new events, such as the Arab American Festival, Summer Stroll and this January a new arts & cultural event will be offered by BRACA (Bay Ridge Arts & Cultural Alliance) in partnership with the Third Avenue Merchants. In fact, there was an exhibit held at the Municipal Art Society honoring the life and work community activist of Jane Jacobs. Those involved in the curatorial work were asked to choose a neighborhood today that reflects her ideals. Bay Ridge was chosen because it offers a place for long time residents, as well as welcoming newcomers. Not a bad reputation to have.

This year Bay Ridge was chosen as one of the 6 to Celebrate communities from the Historic Districts Council. The proposal focused on all of the components that make up Bay Ridge: residential architecture, main streets, beautiful intuitional buildings, parks and waterfront. How lucky we are to have all of these. Who else in New York can brag about such rich diversity?

So Bay Ridge, let's not hide all we offer under a bushel. As one of my former youth group kids says, "Bay Ridge is the bomb!"

Victoria Hofmo,
Scandinavian East Coast Museum, President
BRACA, President,
6 to Celebrate, Organizer.


October 18, 2012
Francine Garber-Cohen, Executive Vice President of Regina Opera
Interviewed by Victoria Hofmo

1. What would you say is unique about your organization?
Regina Opera presents opera and popular music performances on a year-round basis. The Company presents 3 fully-staged operas with full orchestra and English super-titles, plus several concerts, each season. Regina Opera is unique: it presents high quality performances at affordable prices: For operas, tickets are only $25 - General Admission; $20 – Seniors and College students under 25; Teens - $5; children area always admitted free. Concert tickets are only $12. There are other companies in Brooklyn which present operas, but these are occasional programs, with no set schedule, in a fixed location. Other companies may present full operas, but do not have an orchestra. Manhattan medium-size opera companies present operas at almost double the price.

2. You recently had to move from a location that had called home for 41 years, what challenges did that pose?
We were given only 2 months' notice to leave our theater at Regina Pacis Church. We had to be out of that location by June 30th. But we still had 5 opera performances and one Sunday Concert to present. We had to break down everything – our stage, lighting system, sets, costume pieces, chairs, and stage props – and put them into storage. It was difficult to locate a new “home”. Many places I visited were too small, already had many activities, or were not handicapped accessible. Other venues were not interested in having a performing group based there.

3. What can you tell us about your new home?
Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sunset Park welcomed us “with open arms”. Their auditorium has over 500 cushioned seats, a large stage, good acoustics, and a handicapped-accessible restroom. We build a wheelchair ramp which makes the location handicapped accessible. We are now working on the stage rigging and installing our stage.

4. How was Regina Opera formed?
Regina Opera was formed in 1970 as a neighborhood group, offering local singers a place to sing, and offering opera lovers in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Dyker Heights a place to attend live performances at affordable prices.

5. How long have you been with Regina Opera?
I joined the Company in 1974 as a chorus member. I then sang several supporting roles. In 1982, I became interested in raising the needed funds to support an orchestra. I have been doing the fundraising and publicity since then.

6. Can you give us some highlights about Regina Opera?
Since Regina opera has been performing for 42 years, we have the distinction of having had several generations of performers on our stage. We have had many parents and children, adults with nieces and nephews. Even now, we have 2 small children on stage, and their parents and grandfather play in our Orchestra. My niece Katie sings supporting roles with us, my sister-in-law Sue plays in the orchestra and in Concerts, and my brother-in-law Richard and nephew Daniel help out occasionally.

We at Regina Opera have also had extraordinary talent on our stage: Metropolitan Opera stars Dolora Zajick (mezzo-soprano) and Mark Delavan (baritone) as well as New York City Opera basso Don Yule have sung leading roles with us. Many other opera stars from other companies have also sung with us before beginning their international career.

Regina Opera presents most performances in the afternoons to make the shows more accessible to all ages. Operas feature not only 2 casts for 4 performances, but also a cast of “Covers” who have their own “Free-to-the-public” full opera performances.

7. What does Regina Opera have planned for the coming year?
Regina Opera will present the operas “La Boheme” in November, 2012; a double bill of Puccini's “Suor Angelica” and Pergolesi's “La Serva Padrona” in March, 2013; and “La Traviata” in June, 2013. In addition, we have several Sunday Matinee Concerts and Free-Admission Concerts scheduled

8. Creating an organizations is admirable, but maintaining an organization for decades is really remarkable. Why do you think Regina Opera has been able to achieve this?
Regina Opera is fortunate to have had great Staff – Stage and Musical Directors, talented singers, many volunteers who give their time to us. We are also grateful for our many individual, public, foundation and corporate supporters such as NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Con Edison, GEICO Philanthropic Foundation, Bay Ridge Federal Credit Union, Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, and the Law Office of Robert Howe.

April 30, 2012
Welcome to our launch of the BRACA website and BRACA Beat!

BRACA, the Bay Ridge Arts & Cultural Alliance, is an umbrella organization created: to support and promote the arts and cultural richness of Bay Ridge; to serve as a networking vehicle for artists; to inform local audiences and strategize to create new audiences.

Bay Ridge is beautiful, diverse and dynamic. Our community has five parades, some with a history more than six decades long, two street fairs (the Third Avenue Festival being the longest-running one in Brooklyn), a variety of ethnic festivals - Viking Fest and more recently the Arab Festival. Offerings by theater groups and opera companies abound. Local artists display in galleries and storefronts. Musicians proliferate and you can hear them play at dozens of venues on any weekend.

And we Bay Ridgites come out in droves to partake in these festivities. But how many outside of our neighborhood know about these activities? How many outside of Bay Ridge think of our community as a cultural destination? Maybe it's time to share Brooklyn's best kept secret. Maybe it's time to blow our own horn!

Bay Ridge has something that other neighborhoods do not. It is truly an old-school Brooklyn neighborhood that has retained its past. We need to promote Bay Ridge for its authenticity, a New York neighborhood that survived and maintained much of what it once was, but also welcomes what's new. A place where locals who have lived here for generations co-exist happily with those who just arrived. What other neighborhood can claim that?

People are not totally oblivious to Bay Ridge's charms - it has its own niche - known for its wonderful restaurants, amazing waterfront, bucolic parkland and village like atmosphere. But our cultural offerings - not so much. Everyone knows that Brooklyn is hot, especially in its reputation as a hub and incubator for the arts, and it is time for us to piggyback on this celebrity. BRACA was created to change this oversight. Why miss an opportunity? 

And who and what we are is cool. People all over New York and abroad are trying to replicate what we have. Old fashioned ice cream parlors and bars with tin ceilings and tile floors are recreated elsewhere, but they are original in Bar Ridge. Learning old New York street games is hip in other neighborhoods, but playing them is part of the everyday life in Bay Ridge. What other neighborhood can claim that?
Bay Ridge is a neighborhood that is truly diverse and not just ethnically. It is diverse in age range, rare in New York today. Most unique is our economic diversity: where those who live above stores rub elbows with those who live in twenty-room mansions. Show me another place in New York that does that and I'll buy you a burger (but locally).

With all that we have going for us, how could those who call Bay Ridge home not be inspired? So, Bay Ridge, what's the problem? It’s time to blow our horn. A great place to live, a marvelous place to create. Toot! toot!
Victoria Hofmo