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Good Guy in the Gorge

Flipping the script for positive change



Robbins (in black hat) works with African refugee think-tank members who were incarcerated in an Israeli detention center.

Sometimes you come across a person who seems to have reached a transcendental understanding that propels him or her to live a little better life. You may get that sense quite immediately. Or it may take watching a person’s behavior in the community or at work, or perhaps noticing the good deeds and charitable things he or she does. And on a rare and special occasion, you get to actually meet and spend time with a person, hear his or her passion and purpose, and confirm that you’ve found someone exceptional, who is devoted to a higher purpose and who is working hard on making some positive change.

Christopher Robbins is that guy. I got that sense as soon as I pulled into his leafy property, set between a brook and rock wall, near the Saint Mary’s Church crossroads, deep in the wooded Mianus River Gorge. He welcomed me with an informal “Hey, how are you? Come on up!” from the deck of his relatively modest home. We sat outside on that sunny afternoon, with his wife Shelly and their young daughter puttering around inside. He said the family chose this house because it was “important for us to be connected with nature, and this place seemed like the most rural of the suburban alternatives.” More than a decade after settling in, he proclaims complete satisfaction within the greater-Bedford area, where he enjoys walking, biking, and snowshoeing around Miller’s Mill, Muscoot Farm, and other local parks.

Robbins is an associate professor of art and design at Purchase College, specializing in sculpture. He went to college at the University of Virginia and graduate school at Pratt and Rhode Island School of Design. The Manhattan native spent over a decade working in aid-related endeavors, including a tour in the Peace Corps, about which he observes, “the Peace Corps gave me my first immersion with people who were experiencing off-the-charts poverty but who seemed somehow generally happier than those of us in America.” 

But it’s what Robbins does, beyond our Westchester borders, trying to make the world a better place, that’s his particular passion and etched him onto my personal “Good Guy” list.

Robbins is a co-founder of Ghana Think Tank, a non-profit that uses art to bring First World problems to Third World places to be analyzed and solved. Yes, First to Third, not the other way around. For instance, in one of their first projects, GTT heard from residents of Westport that a lack of diversity was negatively impacting their daily lives. GTT held think tanks in Cuba, Ghana, and El Salvador to address this issue, and a solution was implemented utilizing suggestions to involve diverse groups that were already living in and around the well-to-do Connecticut suburb. “Involvement with those in the Third World always shatters our preconceptions and works to show us what it’s like to have those from other cultures impose their values,” Robbins says. “I have an innate drive to help people who appear to be less advantaged, but with GTT, I get to see over and over again that people who have nothing often spend more time with the people they love, exhibit more smiles per day, and seem to have a happier quality of life than most of us.”  

Right now, Robbins and GTT are working on a project called American Riad, including a think tank collaboration between Morocco and Detroit, and involving a GTT art installation as a part of the broader effort to build a community of affordable homes and businesses in Detroit’s North End. “There’s something special about art—and particularly interactive installations that foster what I call ‘experiential instrumentalization’—that can get people to do or think something they wouldn’t otherwise,” he says. In another example of that mission, performed at the 2011 Hong Kong/Shenzen Bienniale, GTT installed an enormous structure made of industrial junk, including 32 TV screens, which provided an anonymous way for passersby to speak out politically (and without the regular fear of serious repercussions).

Whenever you ask a good guy what makes him tick it’s always about helping first, but when I got Robbins looking back on all his work with GTT, he showed some pleasure and a little justified pride and remarked: “I love when we get to flip the script and make a positive change.”


BUILDING BRIDGES In 2014, ArtPort Gallery in Tel Aviv invited GTT to collaborate with curator Maayan Sheleff to create an interchange between African refugees seeking asylum in Israel and local residents who resented their presence.

 

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December 2018

Join us to see work by local photographer Curtis Ryan Lew.

Cost: no charge

Where:
Martin House Workspace
69 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
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Sponsor: Martin House Workspace
Telephone: 914-764-3128
Contact Name: Erin Trostle

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Jolly Saint Nick comes to Caramoor to fill the Rosen House with holiday cheer. The little ones will be in for an adventure with I Spy a Santa or Two in the Music Room followed by a 30-minute...

Cost: Children $10, Adults $15

Where:
Rosen House Music Room
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
149 Girdle Ridge Rd
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
Telephone: 914-232-1252
Website »

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Cost: 12.00

Where:
Bedford Playhouse
633 OLD POST RD
BEDFORD, CT  10506
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Website »

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Cost: Children $10, Adults $15

Where:
Rosen House Music Room
Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
149 Girdle Ridge Rd
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
Telephone: 914-232-1252
Website »

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The ghosts of Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, klezmer, ragtime, Peruvian folk music, and Hindustani singers hover over the music of Pulitzer Prize-winner JOHN HARBISON, WILLIAM...

Cost: $25, $10 (Students)

Where:
Copland House at Merestead
455 Byram Lake Road
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
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Sponsor: Copland House
Telephone: 914-788-4659
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Cost: Free

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Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Cost: $15 to $50

Where:
South Salem Presbyterian Church
111 Spring Street
South Salem, NY  10590
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Sponsor: The Sanctuary Series
Telephone: 203-550-5992
Contact Name: Mary Jane Newman
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
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Telephone: 914-666-8041

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Cost: No Cost

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
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Telephone: 914-666-8041

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Vanessa Williams, the multi-platinum recording artist and actress from Chappaqua will headline a holiday benefit concert for San Miguel Academy of Newburgh (SMAN) on December 18 at 7:00 p.m. at...

Cost: $100

Where:
Chappaqua Performing Arts Center
480 Bedford Road
Chappaqua, NY  10514
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Sponsor: Orange Bank & Trust Company

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On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Facilitated by Nina Bertolino This program will meet every other Wednesday from 10:30 - 12:30 on the following dates: September 12th & 26th, October 10th & 24th, November 7th & 21st, December 5th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

On November 3rd, Heather Gaudio Fine Artis set to open “Room for Play,” a group exhibition featuring works by Ellen Carey, Deborah Kass, Robert...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

December 22nd at 1:00 PM. Open to all ages. Create ornaments out of popsicle sticks such as popsicle snowflakes and more! Free and no registration required. For questions, you can email the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

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