Dean Radinovsky's Secret Chapel

Tuesday, August 03, 2010 - 06:00 AM

It took artist Dean Radinovsky two years to build this chapel. Soon it will be gone. (Carolina A. Miranda)

On the corner of 57th Street, in view of the West Side Highway, a drafty warehouse houses a warren of artist studios. For two years, artist Dean Radinovsky visited his studio late at night, mixing mortar and stacking cinder blocks.

In 2008, he put the finishing touches on a highly unusual structure: a building-within-a-building — a small chapel, lined with abstract paintings, and softly illuminated by light bulbs covered in milk-glass coffee mugs.

But Radinovsky, along with the other artists that inhabit the warehouse, will have to give up their space at the end of August to make way for a school. The building will be turned over to developers and construction crews.ArtKraft Strauss Building

As soon as this fall, it will be razed. Radinovsky's chapel will be destroyed.

The community arts organization Chashama currently manages the building. Chashama is a small not-for-profit based in Manhattan that works with real estate  companies to convert fallow buildings into artist studios. The contracts that artists have for their spaces are always temporary. Once a deal is made or permits secured, developers move in and artists move out.

The building had already had multiple lives by the time Radinovsky arrived: it had served as a work space for the ArtKraft Strauss company, makers of the brilliant signs in Times Square, and it had been a car park for BMW.

So even as he attached the foundation of his structure — which he calls Chapel Americana — to the building's cement floors, Radinovsky knew that it would one day be demolished.

For him, the chapel was never about permanence. It was merely about being able to create something on a large scale (it's 12 by 16 feet), an urban version of the sacred meditation caves that he had visited on the isle of Crete. There is something incredibly tranquil about the space. Step into it and the belligerent sound of traffic immediately recedes. The eye is immediately drawn to the wall of light he has created with cinder blocks and light bulbs. But hang out for a bit and the details begin to emerge: the abstract patterns on the walls, the individual logos on the vintage mugs, the cool colors on the wall immediately outside.

It is a jewel box of tranquility — made more special by the fact that few people ever knew it was there. And very soon, it no longer will be.

Learn more about Dean Radinovsky's work on his website. Between now and the end of August, he is showing the chapel by appointment. You can set up a time to see it by e-mailing him at contact[at]deanradinovsky[dot]org.


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Comments [5]

Kathryn Radinovsky from San Diego, CA

I feel dreadful because I didn't read your email until today. (I have such a backlog.)
If I had, I would have made it a priority to visit the chapel again, while I was in the East. You showed the chapel to me in the very beginning. I remember the feeling of wonder and serenity, a feeling of being safe from "the maddening crowd." I hope you can build another chapel somewhere in the city. I really enjoyed the article and the video. You make a good impression as an artist and a human being. I feel sad that I can't visit with you there again. Kathy Rad

Sep. 18 2010 01:21 PM
LSK from Delaware

Dean, I've felt peaceful and tranquil each time I've stepped into your Chapel Americana. I hope to see it once again before it's demolished. A great work of art.

Aug. 10 2010 05:50 PM
Lin from NYC

Dean, Big Bummer!
I miss you and I miss my studio. I am sorry to hear that it is almost over for 57th St. I am thrilled to read this article about your chapel.
Maybe some patron will read this and give you money to recreate in a permanent location.
Thinking fondly of you and the chapel.

Aug. 08 2010 01:16 PM
anita pantin from NYC

I love this space, is beautiful and good.
If it can't be there any more, can you do it somwhere else?
Thank you so much for creating a space of peace and calm.

Aug. 07 2010 03:15 PM
Dan from Inwood

I'm going to miss this place. An Awesome art studio !

Aug. 07 2010 03:07 PM

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About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net


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