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Starting off the journey, we find ourselves on the streets of New York with a mix of art, fashion and everyday life. The artists are the activists and the fashion police are the artists.

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Transcript

- [Stephen] If you had a choice to pack up all your things and paint a picture of the world we live in, what would you do? You ask yourself, what do I have to lose? ♪ Baby let me follow you down ♪ ♪ Follow you down ♪ ♪ I'm all in pieces just waiting for you to come 'round ♪ ♪ Round ♪ ♪ They sing you the song ♪ ♪ Baby, let me sing you the song ♪ ♪ And cigarettes in these hard fingertips ♪ ♪ Are what I sacrificed to deliver you this ♪ ♪ Song ♪ - [Stephen] We find ourselves living on this planet we call home, yet we are so disconnected from it all, we feel like complete strangers. The pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of love, the pursuit of adventure, and the pursuit of freedom. My name is Stephen Friedman, and this is the story of Chasing the Sun. New York is everything I ever expected and more. My late gran told me her very first time to New York City was the first time she ever saw a TV set, as it was displayed in a store window. She didn't think much of it, that she described it as just a big box with moving images. She said that the buildings and the people were way more interesting. She always had a way to describe things to me. That was the first introduction of the name New York City in my sponge-like mind as a child. As the years progressed, New York became a place I wanted to visit for myself, and just maybe, I'd walk the same streets that my gran once did. There is something about this place that's hard to describe, from the smells, the noises, the people, even the pigeons are different. Getting lost amongst the giant skyscrapers in New York is captivating. One can only imagine how growing up on this island will shape you as a person, at the same time give you so much room to become who you want to be. As of now, I find myself on the streets of New York City, creating my own stories. While New York is one of the most expensive places to live in, and because of that, a lot of the artists are moving out, there's this program called Art Space, and what they've done is that they've brought all the artists together in this old abandoned school where it's affordable to live, where these artists are able to still create and live in Manhattan. We hooked up with the most amazing family, and they shared the stories of what it's actually like to live in New York, to be a creative person in New York, 'cause there's so much inspiration around every corner that you go to, and they're a lucky family to be invited into this community of people, and actually live among some of the most creative people in New York City. - My name is Atikur Abdul. Right now you're in Harlem, New York. Yeah, it's an amazing place to be. The place is changing a lot. El Barrio means the neighborhood in Spanish, so it's called El Barrio, but it's... If you walk around this area, you'll see that it's very rich in art. - [Jamila] The building used to be an old elementary school 30 years ago. It was shut down by the city. Nobody did anything to it for 30 years. And then Art Space from Minneapolis, it's an organization that help emerging artists to find housing, have their studios in the buildings. So they made a deal with the city, and they bought this building, and turned it into 89 really gorgeous, nice apartments for artists and their families. My name is Jamila, I'm one of the artists in El Barrio's Art Space P.S. 109. - [Stephen] Attikur and Jamila, like other struggling artists in New York, were to be evicted from their apartment in El Barrio. Fortunately, their Art Space apartment was approved the night they were moving out. Two days later, and they were in their new home. - [Attikur] And yeah, we've been lucky. There were 52,000 applications that went in, and there are 89 units. If for some reason we moved out a little bit before the time that we started moving or whatever, their priority was the people in this neighborhood. The artists from the neighborhood, people from close by first. If we weren't here, then we would have missed out on this amazing space. Things are working out much better because we were lucky enough to get this place. This is just my story, but there's 89 other families, and many of them have jokingly, when we talk and stuff, have jokingly said, yeah, we were also... Close to becoming homeless. So, you know, it's nothing you wanna think about when you have a newborn, and you have a family. Yeah, so. So in this building, you have everything from painters, to poets, to movie directors, dancers, anything you can think of, they have in this building. There are so many opportunities to collaborate with so many different artists. It's safe, you're allowed to put your artwork on the walls outside in the hallways. - [Jamila] So what I do is I write people's names in Arabic on a postcard, they sign up through my website, and I mail it to them, and it's a worldwide project. Anybody can participate, and it's for free, so I pay for everything. In return, they send me back a photo of themselves with the postcard, in any setting that they like. They can have the entire family in the picture, they can be on a mountain, at the beach, whatever they like, and the only thing I want is that picture back. So they email it, the instructions are on the back of the postcard, and I launched it. And by the end of the day, I had like 50 people who wanted to participate. I was like, wow, I don't even have all that paper and pen, so I went out and I bought everything. That's how I started my project, and I've been getting... Really amazing photos back from people from all over the world. The feeling when someone signs up for my project is amazing, but it's even better when it's someone from Australia, China, you know, South America, and I'm like, how did you find out about my project? It's just really amazing, and if I... Some people ask me, why do you keep it for free? Like, it's a financial burden, and you have to pay for everything. And I think that even if I would charge $1 for the postcard, maybe half of those people wouldn't sign up. They'd be like, oh no, I'm not gonna... But if it's free, then they're like, oh, yeah, I'll do it, I get a free postcard, and my name is on it in Arabic, okay. And if this $1 that I spend changes or shifts their view of Arabic people or the Arabic language in any way, then that's a success for me. If this is what I can achieve, just one person, then my project is successful for me. - [Attikur] I never went to school for art, I never studied art. The other day, somebody was like, oh, this reminds me of Basquiat. I was in my head thinking, you know, Pollock's work. I was like, oh, and then I Googled, and I saw that it was a whole different person. I know names, van Gogh, Picasso, I went to MoMA a couple of times. So I know the famous Starry Night that everybody knows about. I know what most 12-, 13-year-olds might know about art. About four years ago or so, I picked up a sketch book. I just wanted to sketch. For six months, I just sketched in that book, and then I completely just stopped. I didn't feel like doing it, but... I felt like whatever I needed to get out, I got out. I started painting a little bit and stuff like that, but it was mostly abstract work. I would start one piece, and then whatever was left over, I didn't wanna waste paint, so I just put the leftover onto another piece, and then try to put some designs on it. And that was my early work. Then I met Jamila, and when I met her, I just immediately fell in love with her. She started inspiring me, just made me feel good, and since then, I have this like... I have almost, I would say, I don't know exactly how many, but over 60 pieces of artwork. I just couldn't stop, it just... I feel motivated to do it, and I just continued. I wanted to show you guys one that I did recently about the Syrian refugees, it's up there, I'll bring it down. My interest in historic events, and my interest in racism and injustice, and... Wrong is wrong, and I feel if in some way I can make something to even question it or bring awareness to the other side of it, then I should. That's pretty much how I do my work. Looking at that one, they're like, what is this one about? I'm like, nothing, it's just a design. And they're like, oh, that's weird. Not every single one of my art pieces have meaning. I enjoy doing design work also. I try to blend the two, but sometimes I don't, or I can't. Yeah, I do artwork that has detail and design, and artwork that has profound messages about current historic events, or one of my biggest goals in life, to make artwork that inspires the next generation. The more, the merrier. But if I could just inspire my two daughters, I'd be okay, you know? But that's important to me. - [Jamila] Yeah, so living here's just really inspiring, and it brings ideas, and it's probably the best place I've ever lived in, and... Yeah, I love it. - [Stephen] Why fit in when you're born to stand out? I remember reading that quote as a kid in a Dr. Seuss novel. Have you ever thought where trends really begin? Most of the time, it's right in front of you as you walk past these lifeless mannequins, and you don't even realize, but there's more to the story. Maybe it's just another form of art we don't even acknowledge or even pay attention to. Dennis is the guy better off telling this story, not me. - [Dennis] What we do is, I have a team of talented managers and stylists, and we're responsible for the merchandising and really the fashion leadership of our store. We change all of our mannequins, we run our fashion through our fashion office, we do our trends, we do special pop-up shops for certain vendors, we work with our vendors, we work with some of our celebrity clients that we have in the store, so we're responsible for how the store looks to our customers. - I'm Dennis Dunn, I'm the visual director of Bloomingdale's 59th Street, our flagship store. I've been with the company for 18 years, and this is part of our chain of stores, and it's the flagship, and there's no other store like 59th Street. I was born in New York, which I'm very proud to say, and I lived here 'til I was about 10 years old, and then my family, we moved away to Maryland, and that's really where I grew up. And then I've been back in New York probably almost 30 years now. There's no other place I really wanna be, this is it. We're here in the fashion capital of the world, as far as I'm concerned, in New York, so we know that our customers look to us for what is the hottest trend that's happening in the season. We are the trend-setting store in New York, and really all over the country. We're really teachers, we teach our customers how to put these looks together. And our sales associates learn from us, because we're the fashion voice in the store, so we educate our sales associates on how to communicate to their customers what the trends are and how to wear them. We all spend more time together than I think we do with our real families, 'cause we're always here working, but it's all about not only being smart, and figuring out what to do, but we like to have a lot of fun. So we're having fun, our customers are gonna have fun when they come in the store 'cause they feel it, and they see it. We're far out ahead of what we're going to be showing, because we work with our fashion office, we get our trend reports, our fashion office executives go to the shows, they come back with all the information, so it's a learning process, an educational process, and a really fun thing to do. We say every morning at 10 o'clock when the opening bell rings, it's like theater and the curtain goes up, and we welcome our customers into the store. Our theater is our visual, our displays, the music in the store, the vibe of the store. It's an important part, and just being here inspires us. You spend a day with us, and it could be a great reality show, because there's so many things, problems that happen, we have to solve things, we have carpenters and painters, there's about 35 of us in the store. We have our stylists, and our managers, and we work with our buyers. You can't please everybody, so at the end of the day, we have to put our best foot forward and do what's right for what we think we wanna project to our customers. We want our customers to inquire, and say, you know what, this looks fantastic, what went into making this so great? Before I got to Bloomingdale's 59th Street, I had some other great jobs in my career, but there was always a dream job of mine that had to do with the main floor and our cosmetic world here at 59th Street. Somebody had that job for a very long time. One day, I got a phone call and said, get to Bloomingdale's, because there's the job that you wanted that's now... The gentleman who had this job, the designer of cosmetics, was retiring, so I got very lucky, and I got here, and I had this job where I created visual for all of our cosmetic promotions, and we change our promotions once a week. So I'll never forget when I got that job and the first installation I did was for a new fragrance, and we had carpeted the main floor, and we had these eight-foot mannequins. The name of the product was Happy, it was a new perfume, and we had music, and we had songs about being happy. And I remember standing on the B-way, which we call our main floor aisle on the main floor, and I thought, I can't believe I'm here. I'm here at Bloomingdale's, on the B-way, and I'm able to have my team and myself create these great things in the job that I've always wanted, so that was my first job at Bloomingdale's here on 59th Street, and I had that for about five years. And then from there, I got promoted and became director of the entire store. I kept that thought of, you know, sometimes I can't believe I'm really here, and doing this job, and being part, and leading part of the most fashionable store in New York, so it's very exciting. - [Stephen] Sal has been cutting hair in New York's largest barber shop for three decades now. The life of a barber and the stories they can tell. It's good to have a random conversation with a stranger, and in the end, you walk away with more knowledge and less hair. - [Sal] We got a lot of history here. It used to be upstairs, their grandfather, the owner's grandfather, opened this up, upstairs. And it was crazy, we had books, magazines, you got the mayor comes here every two weeks to get a haircut. I came here in 1990, a long time, 25 years, long time. But to me, it's not a job. I enjoy cuttin' hair, so it don't bother me. When I started, I had hair. That's what's good about this city, 'cause you got all different types, you know? It's a whole world in this one city. Everybody's in a rush but over here. And that's one thing about New York, it's always changing, it never stays the same. If you don't change with it, then it's no good. But it's always changing. I got a 10-year-old, his name's Antonio. My little baseball player. This one. - Oh, nice. - He comes here with me on a Sunday, I put him to work. He sweeps around a little bit. Yeah, it's a family thing. They're great with the kids, you know what I mean? Yeah, he's a pitcher, he plays anything really. He's good at bat. We gotta keep him busy, hopefully he'll get into the pros when he gets bigger so I can retire. And you know what's sad is... They're pushin' all the New Yorkers out. - Yeah. - You can't afford to buy nothin' 'cause the price is ridiculous. But I had an old man here 20 years ago who told me, Sal, if you got money, follow the train. I told him, what do you mean? Wherever the train is, that's where to buy houses, 'cause that's where the rents are gonna roll. And whatever he said, Bushwick, and Brooklyn, Park Slope, wherever the trains are, it just skyrockets. Williamsburg, Greenpoint, made a lot of sense. I didn't listen to him though. I had to speak Italian, because my mother don't speak English. My wife is Greek, and we try to teach our son to speak a little Greek, a little Italian. The Mediterranean way. Over here, you work, you run around, you're always on the move. When you go to Europe, it's different, you got two-hour lunch. Over here, sometimes I got customers wait, I run in the back, I eat lunch in 10 minutes. The quality of life, you make more money, you spend more, but you're always in a rush. You know what I mean? At the end of the month, you're both broke. Live a little bit more relaxed, there's nothin' like it, 'cause I studied in Sicily for two years, and... I couldn't wait to come back. Beautiful and everything, but I still missed New York. New York is New York, no matter what, it's New York. You always complain about it, but when you leave it, you miss it. - [Stephen] New York City is like a melting pot of culture and people, and that's what makes it such a unique place. Yes, the big skyscrapers and things like that are always mind-blowing, but at the same time, it's the people of New York City that make this place so unique and so different.