You should be happy to know that the Upper West Side is vibrant, alive and well. The commercial scene is bursting with businesses and their patrons are busily transacting, keeping commerce and the economy alive and well. The stretch between 181st and 160th streets is the best to find the freshest variety of fruits. While the 150s have the usual fare from Kentucky Fried, beauty salons and barber shops, it’s the 140s that really get interesting.

Beginning with the corner of 148th Street, the former home of the popular Oasis is now occupied by Dunkin’ Donuts. A little further up the block, going down the steps is the Chipped Cup, formerly known as Miss Evelyn’s spot. Packed with regentrifieds on a Sunday afternoon, the Chipped Cup is one of those cute little coffee shops that has an offering of exotic coffees and teas and where everyone is either busy on their laptop or conversing with friends.

No matter what, even if you are only looking for a peaceful refuge away from the bustling crowd, the Chipped Cup wins the award for this week’s best kept secret.

If you want someplace with a little more action, then you only have to travel a few feet to the Harlem Social. There–if you can get in–is a place you would expect to find in the Village and is, quite possibly, a place where everyone knows your name. Looking to sit down and have a little bite to eat? Next stop, Tonelli’s. Nice decor, ambiance, service, food and prices; who could ask for anything more?

A little off the beaten path but worth traveling to just the same is Queen’s So So Unique Boutique. Located on Amsterdam Avenue between 141st and 142nd streets, this is an eclectic shop with something old, something new, and everything unique and one-of-a-kind. You simply must check this shop out. It’s more than a shop; it’s an experience. Its owner is Queen, a graceful, soft-spoken creature–formerly a peddler–who decided, in the essence of Malcolm X, to go legit and get a real business going, mainstream-America style. Easy? No.

An adorable boutique? Yes. Do we need to support this? Absolutely.

While the Whitney Museum of American Art held its 22nd annual American Art Award Gala, the Mackey Twins Art Gallery Inc. presented “Art’s Conscience,” an art exhibition and panel discussion, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Presenting an art exhibit and sale in the Langston Hughes Atrium, the program also featured a panel discussion, moderated by Danny Simmons, brother of Russell Simmons. Panelists included Betty Blayton, Stacey Brown, Leroy Campbell, James Denmark, Essud Fungcap, Ruth Miller and Charly Palmer. Amongst the topics covered were whether African-American artists have a responsibility to depict African-American life in its truest form or if they can just paint whatever inspires them most.

One artist, Palmer, offered his personal opinion, stating that taking on the responsibility is a personal choice, and sharing that it is one that he has personally accepted. Currently living in Atlanta, Palmer, in between painting, teaches art courses at Spelman, Morehouse and Clark. Passionate about the life of an artist, Palmer confided that art should be a required course in every college institution and that art history should be mandatory.

The Mackey twins are, in fact, twin sisters. Their love of art began over 35 years ago, when they were public school teachers. The gallery opened about 10 years ago. Over the years, their motto has taken form as they have made a commitment to “develop communities of collectors by exposing all races to artists of color.” According to the Mackeys, some of the highlights of their career were when they were awarded the National Conference of Artists 2012 Black Art History Makers Award at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when they became the recipients of the key to the city of Mount Vernon, N.Y., for art advocacy and when artist Leroy Campbell presented them with a piece he made exclusively for the them called “Twin” for their support. You might call it all in a day’s work. A special acknowledgment was given to Byron and Sylvia Lewis, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce and the Harlem Arts Alliance.

Honored at the annual Stir, Splatter +Roll Gala was fashion designer Jeffrey Banks. Banks accompanied his mother, Eleanor Banks, to the event, and boy, was she ever so stunning. The award was presented by Publicolor, a New York City nonprofit organization that believes in the psychological effects that color has in improving the educational development of children. Publicolor boasts that it is a “design-based program offering academic support to at-risk youth, while providing life skills, career exposure workshops, college counseling, summer job placement, tutoring and mentoring.” Accordingly, the mission statement reads, “Central to our mission is the beautification and revitalization of public and civic spaces through the affordable medium of paint and collaborations that engage the students and the community as a whole.”

The Summer Design Studio is a seven-week summer enrichment program, where teens are taught literacy and math through the scaffold of product design. Design and SAT preparation classes are held on the Pratt Institute campus so that students can experience the reality of college. Summer Design Studio also offers disadvantaged youth crucial employment and work experience: Every afternoon, students are involved in painting under-resourced but vital neighborhood facilities.

The Design on a Dime annual charity event is being held on April 26-27, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W. 18th St. between Sixth and Seventh avenues, to benefit the Housing Works thrift shops. More than 50 of the world’s top interior designers come together to create beautiful room vignettes full of donated merchandise, which is all sold at 50 to 70 percent off retail pricing to benefit Housing Works’ wonderful programs that support people in New York City living with HIV/AIDS. Currently, Housing Works’ newest development is called the Hull Street Residence, which is being built from the ground up as a beautiful and safe housing residence for 30 formerly homeless adults living with HIV/AIDS.

I can definitely say I support Housing Works because my apartment is full of beautiful items I have bought from Housing Works. It is always a pleasure to shop at any of the outlets because I always find something that is different, unique and of good quality. And is the price right? Yes it is! The price is right for the Design on a Dime event, because it is free and open to the public. Go ahead and splurge a little; it’s spring.

Until next week … kisses.