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Meet an East River Neighbor - Arlene Robbins

Arlene Robbins - Watercolor Painter Among Us

By Joane Wong

Residing among us at East River Cooperative since 2010 is Arlene Robbins - a detailed painter in the medium of watercolor. For Robbins, living here in Manhattan is a dream realized. Though she majored in history and minored in archaeology in college, Robbins found her passion in painting when she was already a mother of two young children. She began formal training when she moved to NYC, at the National Academy of Design and The Art Students League of New York. Juggling between motherhood and painting full-time, she began showing her paintings in the 1980’s. Robbins’ paintings are mesmerizingly real and her portrayal of her subjects convincing. Her landscape paintings are particularly resolute about recording the accuracy of a place in time - capturing an often beautiful and breathtaking moment that burns into our memory but never quite the same again.

In 2010, through friends of friends, Robbins learned of the availability of a one-bedroom in East River. When she visited the apartment and saw the proximity to the vast green areas by the water, she saw an extension to her living space that would be full of opportunities to take walks and spend time with friends outdoors. Though she is no doubt sad about the current state of the park, she looks forward to its reopening of green spaces soon.

Robbins has won numerous awards for her watercolor paintings, including the prestigious Red Dot Award from the Arts Students League, the same award that Georgia O’Keefe won back in the day. She has exhibited her work in numerous venues, including various solo shows in New Jersey, New Hampshire and Delaware. Since the 1980’s, Robbins has been a professional artist selling her work to allow for income that supports her pursuit of painting - work that brings joy to her life and which she must do.

To see or purchase her work, you can check out her website at and follow her on Instagram @arlenerobbins49. If you are so inspired, Robbins is open to teaching individuals who wish for one-on-one learning opportunities.

Writer Info: Joane Wong is a lawyer and an artist (as Siyan Wong). She has lived in the East River Cooperative since 2007.

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