The Sonia Sotomayor Case File: A Pundit’s Primer

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Its time to play Fill That Supreme Court Seat, and cable TVDemocratic insiders and GOP strategists are already blabbing and bloviating about Obamas pick, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. To help the pundits (but, ultimately, the bloggers, and maybe even, you know, the senators confirming her — or at least you, dear reader) wade through the legalese, weve assembled a microcosmic dossier of Sotomayor decisions, complete with over-the-top talking points for both sides of the aisle...

Mobile Revolution: ‘Calling’ All Web Designers

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The challenge of designing websites for a myriad of screens and browsers is nothing new. Since the early days of the Web, varying screen sizes, differences in user connection speed and divergent browser standards have all been thorns in the sides of designers.

Designing for the mobile Web, though, has taken on greater importance as smartphones have rocketed in popularity. In addition, the growing popularity of pared-down netbooks raises questions about what designers should do to accommodate their smaller screens and less processing capability...

On the Record with Ellie Balk

Appeared in the May 19, 2009, edition of The Brooklyn Downtown Star, a community newspaper; photo by Eric Bishop.

Ellie Balk tends to describe her art in terms of the interactions it triggers—including the unwelcome ones.

“That one yelled at me for days,” she said Sunday, gesturing at one of her paintings on display in Prospect Heights. “I ended the argument with a little blue. It calmed things down a bit.”

The 33-year-old from Clinton Hill isn’t just getting an earful from her works—she’s also inspiring interaction among people in the community, a prime example being her mural outside the Fort Greene coffee shop Tillie’s of Brooklyn. Last year she completed the mural—a circular, multicolored map representing the area and surrounding neighborhoods—with the help of a diverse array of paintbrush-wielding volunteers. The project also included opportunities for locals to drop by and paint dots on the map to represent their homes.

“I wanted to create a space where the old and the new residents could come together and celebrate that this is their home,” Balk said.

Abstract cartography has become something of a calling card for Balk. Prior to the Tillie’s mural, she’d worked with students to create map murals at several Brooklyn public schools. 

“I just think it’s such a perfect image,” she said. “When people talk about where they live, they’re letting their guard down, and it’s a really good way for people to communicate and start telling stories about where they live and to get connected to each other. That’s really what the murals are all about.”

In a way, her creations are a far cry from the work she did as a graduate student at the Pratt Institute—interactive art installations composed of found objects. However, she notes that the spirit behind her early work, using art as “a tool for interaction,” remains intact.

On Saturday Balk helped students and volunteers create a multi-orbed street painting outside P.S. 67 that was loosely based on the surrounding geography. Currently, she’s finishing up a community mural at M.S. 136 in Sunset Park. A public dedication event, to feature spoken word performances by students, is scheduled for June 18.

Related article: “Taking Art to the Streets—Literally” (Brooklyn Downtown Star)