|ART MARKS THE SPOT|
|ART IN PUBLIC|
By Thomas Lin
Queens has long been a magnet
for diverse institutions of cul-
ture and art, boasting over 36 such venues that are open on a regular basis.
But until recently, even Queensites would have been hard pressed to name more than a handful, much less tell you the exact location, hours of operation and what’s on display.
That all changed this past August when the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) came out with the Queens Art Map, a portable, one-stop guide to all things cultural and all things Queens.
A tourists’ bible and hometown resource all at once, the Art Map was the brainchild of QCA Development/Administrative Director Barbara McGregor.
“Queens is a large place and it has a great many cultural attractions,” said McGregor, who managed the Art Map project. “But there had never been a comprehensive map.”
Before, she explained, the closest thing to the Art Map was the Art Loop, a map of cultural institutions in Western Queens, published by the QCA in May 2001.
McGregor added that the purpose of the Art Map was to encourage cultural tourists both inside and outside the borough to take advantage of the many resources Queens has to offer.
“It presents the cultural life of Queens as a package that I don’t think has been done before.”
“The state of art is becoming very dynamic,” said McGregor. “There are neighborhoods in the borough well populated by artists – LIC, Astoria, Sunnyside, the Rockaways. There are artists’ communities growing up in Queens. They are lending interest to the arts scene here in Queens. Of course, MoMA coming in made a huge difference.”
Unlike ordinary tourist guidebooks or cultural directories, the foldout Art Map is a street-savvy educational tool. It provides every piece of information needed in the field – all on a geographic map with major streets, landmarks and even subway stations.
For map users, McGregor said, “It’s not just telling about places, but also getting them there.”
The QCA, a private nonprofit organization headquartered in Forest Park, funded the project using dollars from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Queens Borough Hall, the Queens Delegation of the City Council and State Senator Serphin Maltese, among other organizations and contributors.
Using Hagstrom’s Queens map as a template for one side, the Art Map pinpoints each of the venues with a corresponding number highlighted by a large red dot. The numbers only go up to 35, however, as number 36, Fort Tilden, lies on the Rockaways, which takes up the top half of the flip side.
The bottom half lists the addresses, phone numbers, websites, subway lines and hours of operation for the numbered sites. It also provides detailed descriptions integrated into an enlightening essay on Queens culture.
This veritable cultural encyclopedia comes at no cost to visual aesthetics. The colorful map is chock full of photographic images and includes two handy sidebars – one with contact information for the MTA Travel Information Center and the other dedicated to sources for learning more about Queens history.
Caroline Bane, director of public relations for the Queens Museum of Art, said of the Art Map, “I think it’s beautiful. We have a lot of maps of Queens around here. I like this one.”
Eenie Meenie . . .
When the research phase began in early 2002, one of the first tasks was to decide which venues would make the cut. While organizations listed on the map did not have to be members of the QCA, the map was not intended to be a directory for private galleries. There were space limitations and only non-profit organizations were included.
“The biggest thing was determining the criteria,” McGregor said, adding that there already is a cultural directory of Queens that lists just about all of the organizations out there.
There were other requirements as well, she added. “The criteria for being located on the map is that the point of interest had to have regular hours in which it was open. It had to be visitable. Even one day a week.”
McGregor said the map also mentions the little known attributes of local campuses. For example, Queens College is home to the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, the Colden Center for the Performing Arts and the Louis Armstrong Archives.
Bane said, “I think it’s excellent that they do the colleges on it, because that’s a great audience that’s mobile.” She added that the map “puts all the museums on one level, from MoMA QNS to our museum. It shows the breadth of diverse cultural institutions without saying this one is better than this one. It gives everyone equal kudos.”
Another reason for including some of the sites was to represent the flavor of Queens’ neighborhoods.
Art Map designer Martha Donegan explained that in order to do justice to the most culturally diverse county in America, they tried to be as inclusive as possible. Besides the better-known cultural centers in Long Island City and Flushing, the map lists venues from Douglaston through Jamaica all the way down to the Rockaways.
The fun part of map-making was “learning about everything and talking to everybody,” said McGregor, an amateur painter herself.
As for coming up with the visual design and layout, Donegan, who runs a design and consultation company from her home in Belle Harbor, said, “We needed it to be cool enough for the New York tourist. At the same time, we wanted it to be accessible. You want people to be turned on. The cover was important, having a multitude of things that were recognizable as well as some that were not.”
For example, the cover displays photos of the Unisphere and MoMA QNS next to a picture depicting the henna tradition, or the Middle Eastern tradition, of hand painting for festivals or weddings.
Donegan described use of the Hagstrom map as “almost like licensing.” The challenge, she said, was trying to fit all of the information and still make the map readable and usable. “Many people design. A map is a true test of functional design.”
“Before we began,” she said, “we weren’t sure what we might end up with. We were responsible for the front and back covers, and some amount of editorial, or listing content.”
Digging through files and boxes of photos, Donegan searched for a variety of images to convey the diversity in Queens. When more images were needed, she enlisted Brad Shope, a folklorist with the QCA, who captured five new photographs in a half-day.
Donegan described the experience as emblematic of the fun she had working on the project: “We raced around in my Rav 4 from the Farm Museum in Floral Park to the Botanical Garden and the New York Hall of Science in Flushing, shooting in between the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College and stopping for lunch in the shadow of the Hindu Temple we’d photographed.”
The process also included meetings with the Hagstrom Map Company of Maspeth in order to discuss how the original Queens map would be altered. Once they defined the space needed for the neighborhood maps, Donegan said, “I thought it was essential to include a ‘Venue Key’ under the fold line to increase ease of use.”
She added that the “lengthy effort to optimize the ArtMap was, as Barbara [McGregor] says, ‘Like panning for gold.’ It was time consuming, yet is bringing in very positive feedback including one that called this, ‘The best city map I’ve seen.’”
Free copies of the ArtMap are available while quantities last at the QCA office at One Forest Park or they may be requested by mail for a shipping and handling fee of $2.50. For more information, call (718) 647-3377.
The map can also be viewed online at http://www.queenscouncilarts.org/map/.
“I hope this is the first of many editions,” said McGregor. She explained that though fiscal year 2004 does not have a budget for a second printing, she hopes fiscal year 2005 will.
When it comes time to print more copies, McGregor added, the QCA will be ready with an updated design and additional venues. The status of certain venues, like MoMA for instance, will also change. As the perfectionist project manager, McGregor noted, “I’m happy that it’s completed, but I think it can be improved.”
But overall, McGregor is happy with the one-year effort, saying, “I think now the template is there. Now it’s just a question of improving and updating.”
Use the ArtMap to find “Infinite Wisdom” at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College.
Queens Council on the Arts
The Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) is a non-profit organization that supports, promotes and develops the arts in Queens by assisting arts organizations and individual artists and presenting the borough’s diverse cultural resources to the more than two million residents.
Over the years, the QCA has brought Queens’ rich diversity of cultures to more than one million school children in 12 schools through the Nations in Neighborhoods Arts-in-Education program; has awarded more than $1 million in grants to individual artists and arts organizations as part of the Queens Community Arts Fund program; presented opportunities to explore the dance, crafts, visual arts, music and other art forms; produced a variety of exhibits celebrating the history, beauty and diversity of Queens, published guides, brochures and maps to bring information and arts management services to individuals and provided over 2,000,000 copies of these publications to residents of the greater New York City area; conducted workshops and produced videos in cooperation with QPTV public access television; and advocated against reductions in funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
QCA offices are located inside the Oak Ridge building at One Forest Park, Woodhaven. For more information, visit their web site at www.queenscouncilarts.org.
Art may not be confined to gallery walls, but they are still a good place to start. On the following pages we have highlighted some of the institutions that function as cultural centers in the borough.
But culture is a catchall. And calling this a culture guide is a Catch-22. So for the purposes of this guide we focused on the visual and performing arts, and did not include cinemas, sports teams, and other institutions that no doubt play a vital role in the borough’s cultural landscape.
These cultural centers are a terrific starting point. But we also profiled many of the smaller community arts organizations. There’s also the public art, from sculptures to murals. And last, we set out to define the Queens arts scene and how it differs from that of cultural centers in the rest of the city.
American Museum Of The Moving Image
YOU'LL FIND: This museum is a must-visit for the armchair movie producer. Located on a 15-acre former production studio, AMMI maintains the country’s largest collection of moving image artifacts, and puts on hundreds of screenings, lectures, and seminars with leading filmmakers and television creators.
The museum’s flagship exhibit, “Behind the Screen,” is a dynamic, interactive environment that takes visitors through the process of producing, marketing, and exhibiting motion pictures and television programs. The exhibit contains more than a thousand film and television artifacts, computer-based interactive experiences, commissioned installations, audio-visual materials, and demonstrations of professional equipment and techniques. Visitors can even create a 10-second cartoon with over 100 frames.
AMMI’s extensive collection of interactive digital media provides alternatives to mainstream video games and commercial web sites, beautifully displaying the past, present and future of the digital moving image.
Plus it’s a good deal — the $8.50 price of admission includes all the exhibits and demonstrations as well as admission to screenings of old movie serials and full-length feature films. But if that seems steep, beginning in September, AMMI instituted free evening gallery hours from 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays.
From Pictures to Pixels
By Johanna Piazza
Digital photography has forever changed the motion picture,
and by extension, the American Museum of the Moving Image. Long a frontrunner in the display and archiving of digital and new media, now the Astoria-based museum, next door to the Kaufman-Astoria motion picture studio, is taking its exhibits one step further, out of the museum and onto the Internet.
Two online exhibitions, the “Pinewoods Dialogues,” audio presentations by noted filmmakers, and “The Living Room Candidate,” an extensive collection of presidential campaign commercials are thriving on the Internet and attracting national interest in the 15-year old institution.
The museum has always been on the vanguard of presenting new technology-based art forms. In 1989, Moving Image organized the first ever museum exhibition of video arcade games. Two years later it was the first major U.S. museum to name a curator of digital media. The curator, Carl Goodman, has seen new media and its display capabilities evolve since his arrival at the museum.
“DigitalMedia,” an exhibition devoted to the digital moving image and software-based art, located in the Museum’s William Fox Gallery, opened in 2002. The Fox Gallery focuses on creative, probing, and playful explorations of the digital moving image and software-based art. This hands-on gallery space, presenting 15 new media works, allows museum visitors to interact with the latest in real-time digital moving images.
While the in-house displays are playful and educational, the museum wanted to go further. In 1999, the museum staff took their interest in new media a step further with the creation of online exhibitions which can be viewed from the AMMI website on computers around the world.
Now AMMI is taking advantage of the digital age to present two staples of the moving image, the political commercial and filmmaking, to visitors worldwide who might not have access to its larger collection.
“The Living Room Candidate” grew out of renewed interest in presidential elections during the 2000 presidential campaign. The online exhibition contains 183 television commercials, from every presidential election from 1952 to 1996, including the infamous and ill-fated Michael Dukakis riding a military tank ad from 1988 and President Lyndon Johnson’s series of nuclear winter attack ads against Barry Goldwater in 1964. The Ads can be accessed chronologically by election years, by themes that illustrate recurrent political issues and by advertising strategies.
It doesn’t end there, for each election year from 1952 to 1996, there is a selection of commercials that can be viewed in their entirety, an analysis of each major party’s advertising campaign, and a map showing the election results.
Goodman’s view is that people slog through enough pornography and advertisement digital videos on the internet, AMMI wanted to give them something educational, interesting and even a little nostalgic with the creation of “The Living Room Candidate.”
“I have never come across another video archive online that is as comprehensive and unique as ‘The Living Room Candidate,’” Goodman said.
And with interest in candidates and their entertainment value on the rise once again, will AMMI be posting commercials from the upcoming primaries?
“We need to bite off only as much as we can chew,” Goodman said with a sigh. “Next year is going to be a doozy as is. So I think we’re just going to focus on the main event.” The site will be updated and enhanced as the 2004 election gets underway in the Spring. “Pinewoods Dialogues” is “Inside the Actors Studio” without the actors. Rather, the museum speaks with the people operating behind the scenes, directors, writers, cinematographers. Through the Dialogues, the Museum presents discussions with major film and television talents, as well as cutting-edge digital-media artists and programmers. The innovative part is that using database technology, visitors can read or listen to past dialogues, and print transcripts. In addition, the site’s advanced capabilities allow visitors to access and interrelate highlighted portions of talks based on a variety of topics.
The database includes talks with David Cronenberg on schizophrenia after the director worked on “A Beautiful Mind,” Sam Mendes on his use of landscape in his films, David Lynch on his recurring use of sound to highlight themes in his films, and Martin Scorcese on the enormity of his entire career. The most unique part of the exhibit really is the search capability, which allows the user to enter any topic or theme and then search over 20 hours of audio to find what they are looking for in a matter of seconds.
Goodman isn’t sure where the museum will go next in the realm of new media. The success of both online exhibitions has encouraged curators to think outside the box of the run-of-the-mill museum exhibit and he hopes that that trend will continue as successfully as it has for the past 14 years.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Nov. 1 & 2, 2003
In conjunction with the publication of the major new biography In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr., by Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood, the museum will present a weekend program of films starring Davis, one of the most versatile and talented entertainers of his time, and a lecture by Haygood. Films include “Anna Lucasta,” “Porgy and Bess,” and “A Man Called Adam.”
Nov. 8-16, 2003
The “master of the macabre” Tim Burton will be the subject of a complete retrospective at the Museum. The series will coincide with the theatrical release of his latest film, Big Fish, starring Billy Crudup, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Allison Lohman, and Ewan MacGregor. Burton’s signature style of mixing camp with the grotesque, laced with offbeat humor, can be seen from his earliest features, “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Beetlejuice,” through the studio blockbusters “Batman,” “Batman Returns,” and “Planet of the Apes” — all screening as part of the series.
Francis Ford Coppola
Nov.22-Dec. 14, 2003
A comprehensive retrospective of one of the greatest American filmmakers of his generation. Series will feature the “Godfather” trilogy and “Apocalypse Now,” for which Coppola is best known, as well as early shorts and television programs.
Holiday with Judy:
The Films of
Dec. 20, 2003-Jan. 3, 2004
A holiday tribute to the legendary American actress and singer Judy Garland will include “The Wizard of Oz,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “A Star Is Born,” “Babes in Arms,” “The Clock” and other favorite hits.
Fist and Sword:
Martial-Arts Films Classics (until the end of the year)
The Museum’s monthly showcase of martial-arts film classics continues this fall. Each screening will be followed by a discussion with a martial-arts master.
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Wed. + Thur.: 12-5;
Friday: 12-8 (Free after 4 p.m.); weekends 11- 6:30.
Adults: $10, seniors/students $7.50, children $5
COLDEN CENTER AT QUEENS COLLEGE
What you’ll find: Tucked away on the campus of Queens College in Flushing is a jewel of a performing arts venue.
More than 350,000 people come to Colden Center each year to see acts such as the Javanese Shadow Puppet Theater, the Prague Chamber Orchestra, and the Dance Theater of Harlem.
With a venerable reputation as the place in Queens to hear top classical performances, the venue has in recent years expanded its offerings to include more multicultural acts, bringing dancers, musicians and actors to Flushing from the far corners of the Earth.
The Colden Center encompasses two venues – the 2,100-seat Colden Auditorium, and LeFrak Concert Hall, a 489-seat jewel box theater. The auditorium is where most of the big ticket performers appear, and the smaller concert hall is primarily used to put on classical recitals and children’s programs. It is also host to a reading series featuring such distinguished authors as Edna O’ Brien, A.S. Byatt and Norman Rush.
The Aaron Copeland School of Music at Queens College uses LeFrak Concert Hall regularly, and members of the community are welcome to stop by anytime for free lunchtime and evening public concerts – recitals are offered almost weekly by undergraduates and faculty in the music school.
A classical music series at the Colden Center has been going strong since the building opened in 1961, with a performance by the New York Philharmonic. This season’s classical offerings include Tafelmusik, the Guarneri String Quartet and violinist Vladimir Spivakov, among others.
But the programs aren’t all the Colden Center provides to the community, according to Executive Director Vivian Charlop.
“Another important component of what we do is the facility’s rental operation. It gives us an opportunity to offer our services to different production companies here in Queens,” Charlop said. “We wear two hats here at the Colden Center, and both are equally important.” The rental operation has given local church and community groups a venue for their activities, and has played host to many area school performances and graduations.
Concert Hall Rolls
With The Changes
By Kate Feld
As the population of Queens continues to become more and more ethnically diverse with every passing year, Colden Center for the Performing Arts at Queens College has changed with the times, adding a variety of new attractions and events to accommodate any audience.
Colden’s Executive Director Vivian Charlop has been with the organization in one capacity or another for 22 years, and said she has seen a tremendous change in the population of Flushing and the surrounding area.
“The demographics of the community have gone from what was essentially a bedroom community for Manhattan, with a predominantly Caucasian population, to a population that I call omnimulticultural. There are now 400 languages spoken in Queens. All of these things make an incredibly rich cultural stew that everyone can learn from. Though they may look or sound different, every culture has in common a desire to pass on their traditions to the next generation.”
An arts organization that responds to that desire by broadening its cultural offerings will benefit, she said. “What we try to do is make the program reflective of the demographics in the area. In a way, we do this as a matter of survival, because if we don’t offer performances that are of interest to the community, then no one will buy tickets.”
That pragmatic approach is what’s behind the Colden Center’s recent foray into Asian cultural programming, with the addition of the “Accent on Asia” series that organizers hope will become an annual fixture.
In the past few years, downtown Flushing has undergone a cultural revolution, with immigrants from Taiwan, China, Korea, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Asian countries settling there.
“The increase in the population of Queens from various Asian nations was apparent very early on – not in the audience to our own programming, but in the groups that used the rental operation,” Charlop recalled. The council of Korean Churches began renting the facility every summer. A Taiwanese-American business leader in Flushing began organizing Chinese performances there.
“It forced us to look at our own programming and think about how we wanted to respond. We looked at some of our clients and said maybe it’s time to talk to them not as clients but as cultural and business leaders in the community and see who their markets are.”
Those discussions led quickly to the formation of a five-member Asian Arts Advisory Committee, an informal group of business and cultural leaders in Flushing’s Asian community.
In addition to helping the Colden Center figure out what kinds of programs and performances might appeal to area residents, it also helped the center reach people who weren’t reading English-language newspapers or ads.
The Colden Center began advertising and publicizing its events on Korean public access television, and in Chinese and Korean newspapers. At the same time, the Colden Center tried a more grassroots approach to publicity – and the results were suprising.
“If you walk along Main Street between the subway station and Roosevelt Avenue, you’re bombarded with leaflets advertising businesses and events,” Charlop said. “We started doing something with that, and we saw a real response with the flyers.”
New offerings this year include a four-event Asian performance series called “Accent on Asia.” Upcoming events include performances by Tamara and the Shadow Theater of Java, an Indonesian musical puppet theater, a performance by Soh Daiko, a New York taiko drumming troupe, and a performance by the Ethos Percussion Ensemble and Masters of Indian Music.
Free all-ages workshops on Chinese calligraphy, maskmaking, Indian Dance and henna painting are also being offered through November and December. In conjunction with this new series, the Queens College museum is putting on a retrospective of Asian art, with works on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and its own extensive collection.
The Center for Preparatory Studies at Queens College has been another source of new interest at the Colden Center. A music school that offers instrumental music instruction for kids from pre-kindergarten age through high school, it has introduced many families in the Asian-American community to the Queens music scene.
The focus on Asian culture this season carries through to the Colden Center’s youth programs, Charlop says. “We offer an extensive children and family program that runs the gamut from the Shanghai Circus to taiko drummers. We have an arts education program during the week, revelations, that invites students to the Colden Center to learn music, dance, martial arts and theater.”
Such programs may help students get a better sense of some of their classmates’ ethnic backgrounds, Charlop says. “If these kids in public school can see something of the culture of the person sitting next to them in class, they might find their cultures have something in common – maybe a strong tradition of using percussion, or dance,” she said.
Ultimately, Charlop said she would like to see the Asian performance series continue with a different focus every year.
“Maybe each year we could focus on a different culture, like Pakistan or Northern India,” she said, speculating out loud. “Or some seasons we could spotlight one discipline, like dance in Asia. Oh, I have to write that down. That’s a good idea!”
This concert consists of 36 musicians that are known for their precision, intonation and balance even though they lack a conductor. The concert begins at 2 p.m. Regular tickets for this performance are $34 and for seniors, students, QC alumni and staff $32.
Dance Theatre of
This internationally known ballet will begin at 8 p.m. Orchestra tickets are $36, mezzanine tickets are $32 and senior, student, QC alumni and staff are $30.
Horacio Gutierrez - Piano
Admired for his poetic insight and technical mastery, Gutierrez will perform an outstanding concert. The concert begins at 2 p.m. Regular tickets for this performance are $34 and for seniors, students, QC alumni and staff $32.
Guarneri String Quartet
Arnold Steinhardt, John Dalley, Michael Tree and Peter Wiley have performed their show all over the world since 1964. The concert begins at 2 p.m. Regular tickets for this performance are $34 and for seniors, students, QC alumni and staff $32.
65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing,
BOX OFFICE HOURS: Mon., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wed., noon to 8 p.m.; Fri., noon to 4 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tues., Thurs. and Sun., closed.
Prices vary by performance
What you’ll find: Walking into historic Flushing Town Hall on Northern Boulevard is like taking a step back in time.
The structure, which was built during the Civil War, stands as one of the oldest buildings in Queens, and has held dozens of important roles in community history, from the spot where Union recruits gathered to the area’s actual town hall to the town’s local jail.
In its current form, Flushing Town Hall is home to the Flushing Council on the Arts and Culture, and all of the non-profit group’s multi-ethnic, multi-genre offerings, from art shows to jazz performances.
Under one roof, you can find photography and art exhibits, opera, classical performances, jazz and the performing arts, and, in turn, a varied constituency of art lovers.
While looking towards the future and the borough’s diverse populations, curators at the art center also merge history with the present, developing linkages between the then and now.
The Queens Jazz Trail, a tour that explores the roots of jazz in the Queens community. If you didn’t know that the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Louis Armstrong lived in the borough, the tour gives you a chance to learn, and explore their influence on the landscape.
Flushing Town Hall is noted for building community bridges, offering world performances from Mali to West Africa, and constantly inviting schools and community groups to visit.
But aside from what goes on inside the space’s hallowed halls, museumgoers can marvel at the building itself – the 19th century architecture of the perfectly in tact Hall is like a snapshot of the past, and art lovers may find themselves spending an entire afternoon wandering from preserved room to preserved room smitten by the permanent exhibit.
And Hall That Jazz
By Sonya Fatah
Flushing Town Hall is an evoca-
tive testimony to the community’s
reverence for the arts.
Despite its myriad of roles in the community, Flushing residents seem to agree that its current status is its most important yet.
And that role is still being defined.
Members of the Town Hall’s staff consider the space’s vision to be a work-in-progress, and that work is set to take a new turn under new Director Harvey Seifter, the five-year director of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and a professor of business at Columbia University.
Seifter comes to Flushing Town Hall with an awareness of the history of Flushing – from its Dutch beginnings to its current state – and a particular sensibility for innovation.
As the leader of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, he has been at the helm of a revolution in the world of classical music performance. Orpheus became the world’s first conductor-less orchestra, an inspirational challenge to replace the established hierarchy of conductor-musician dynamics. The result has been a free-flowing collaborative form of leadership among the musicians.
Orpheus’ success means that Seifter is encouraged to apply new models of performance to Town Hall’s events. He defines a three-fold component to success – “excellence and artistic achievement, innovation and community.”
The meeting of the three is a sure-fire strategy for success, says Seifter, who combines his artistic sensibility with teaching business classes at the Columbia Business School and managing an arts consultancy company.
But what exactly does all this mean for Flushing Town Hall? A center that has long treasured classical music, jazz, opera and other performing arts still faces the difficulty of attracting audiences to its classical music concerts.
And unlike the Queens Symphony Orchestra, which has responded to the crisis by adapting itself, Seifter doesn’t plan on moving Flushing Town Hall away from pure classical forms.
At Orpheus, Seifter organized focus groups to discover why experimental theater, avant-garde theater and modern dance audiences were on the increase in opposition to trends in classical music. The answer, he discovered, is fear.
“People are embarrassed about not getting it. At the end of a contemporary piece, people break out into a sweat because they don’t know whether the piece has ended or not. People worry too much to enjoy the music.”
How will Flushing Town Hall respond to this concern? Exact plans have not been carved out but ideas are in the offing.
One example is to take music into otherwise silent places, such as boardrooms, and debunk people’s preconceptions of classical music as an alien form. External efforts will draw greater crowds over time, which is Flushing Town Hall’s approach towards revitalizing an age-old cultural attachment.
Furthermore, Flushing’s diversity is viewed as a bonus. Seifter has crafted himself as an advocate of this diversity and has a positivist approach: the “clash of competing ideas” which is what brings richness to society.
He pointed out that Flushing Town Hall is in its current state “because the people got the building and turned it into an arts center,” and said its the people and their varying thoughts that make art and culture what it is.
The following is a small sampling of Flushing Town Hall events scheduled through June 2004. For a complete list, including school children only events, log on to www.flushingtownhall.org.
Queens Jazz Trial Tour
Nov. 1, Dec. 1, Jan. 3, Feb. 7, March 6, April 3, May 1: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. $20, or $15 FCCA Members
The Vincent Herring Quartet
Nov. 7: 8:00 p.m. - $29, $24 for seniors and students, $22 for FCCA members.
Nov. 9: 2 p.m. - $27, $25 seniors and students, $22 FCCA members.
Professional Workshop for Visual Artists
Dec. 17: 6 to 9 p.m. - Free, and conducted by the Volunteer Lawyers of America. Refreshments served. Contact Lucy Davidson at (718) 463-7700 x 228.
Annual Member Artists Exhibition
Feb. 19 to April 25, 2004. Free
The Wonderful World of Song
March 19, 2004: 8:00 p.m. - $29, $24 for seniors and students, $22 for members.
- Puccini’s La Bohème
March 21, 2004: 2 p.m. performance. - $27, $25 seniors andstudents, $22 FCCA members
Red, Hot and Blue Salute to American Musical and America the Beautiful:
Women and the Flag
May 13 to July 4, 2004. Free.
137-35 Northern Blvd.,
HOURS: Mon. to Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., noon to 5 p.m.
BOX OFFICE HOURS:
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and one-and-a-half hours before every performance.
ADMISSION: Most exhibits are free, performances vary.
Isamu Noguchi Museum and Garden
A New Beginning For By Johanna Piazza Isamu Noguchi put his studio and museum
in Long Island City to have easy access to large pieces of stone. The Japanese-American sculptor worked in
the space, the Isamu Noguchi Museum and Garden, until his death in 1988,
bringing in materials from all over Queens, New York City and the world to
create his abstract expressionist works. The museum’s doors won’t reopen for
about six more months due to renovations. Operated by the international
Isamu Noguchi Foundation, the space brings a new meaning to bare. Housed in
13 galleries within a converted factory building and encircling a garden
containing massive granite sculptures, the museum truly presents one of the
most dramatic installations of sculpture in the city. A master of public space, throughout the
1930s Noguchi proposed several radical ideas to the City Parks Foundation.
He created the original garden museum in 1985. When the building is
renovated it will display a comprehensive collection of artwork by the
sculptor in the same tranquil setting he had envisioned in his original
designs. On exhibition when the museum reopens
will be more than 250 works, including stone, metal, wood and clay
sculptures, models for public projects and gardens, dance sets, and Noguchi’s
Akari light sculptures. An Akari light sculpture is a Japanese
lantern and some of the most beautiful among them were designed by the
sculptor during the middle of the last century. The group of lamps,
available in the museum’s gift shop, includes standing, hanging and table
versions with shades made from Japanese paper. The renovated museum will also have
extensive and beautifully landscaped traditional Japanese gardens. Since February 2002 and during most of
the renovation process, the Noguchi museum relocated to an exhibition space
in Sunnyside. The temporary home to the artwork provided public access to
Noguchi’s work during the renovation. Much to the curators’
disappointment however, the temporary space was without a garden, the
tranquil focal point of the original museum. That location closed in late
October in anticipation of the reopening of the permanent space. In the meantime, the Isamu Noguchi
website serves as comprehensive documentary about the artist’s life and
works, including an archive of writings by and about Noguchi. It is easy for
users anywhere to purchase books, gifts, sculpting tools and materials, and
even the Akari light sculptures. While purists decry Noguchi’s
commercialism in creating the Akari on a mass scale and selling them through
the museum, scholars of the late artist say he was simply trying to reach as
much of the population as he could through his work. Also on the website is
a detailed timeline of 20th century art, an invaluable resource for visitors
to put Noguchi’s work in context of the modern art movement. 32-37 Vernon Blvd. _______________________________________________________
Museum And Garden
Long Island City
Museum will reopen in April
By Johanna Piazza
Isamu Noguchi put his studio and museum in Long Island City to have easy access to large pieces of stone.
The Japanese-American sculptor worked in the space, the Isamu Noguchi Museum and Garden, until his death in 1988, bringing in materials from all over Queens, New York City and the world to create his abstract expressionist works.
The museum’s doors won’t reopen for about six more months due to renovations. Operated by the international Isamu Noguchi Foundation, the space brings a new meaning to bare. Housed in 13 galleries within a converted factory building and encircling a garden containing massive granite sculptures, the museum truly presents one of the most dramatic installations of sculpture in the city.
A master of public space, throughout the 1930s Noguchi proposed several radical ideas to the City Parks Foundation. He created the original garden museum in 1985. When the building is renovated it will display a comprehensive collection of artwork by the sculptor in the same tranquil setting he had envisioned in his original designs.
On exhibition when the museum reopens will be more than 250 works, including stone, metal, wood and clay sculptures, models for public projects and gardens, dance sets, and Noguchi’s Akari light sculptures.
An Akari light sculpture is a Japanese lantern and some of the most beautiful among them were designed by the sculptor during the middle of the last century. The group of lamps, available in the museum’s gift shop, includes standing, hanging and table versions with shades made from Japanese paper.
The renovated museum will also have extensive and beautifully landscaped traditional Japanese gardens.
Since February 2002 and during most of the renovation process, the Noguchi museum relocated to an exhibition space in Sunnyside. The temporary home to the artwork provided public access to Noguchi’s work during the renovation. Much to the curators’ disappointment however, the temporary space was without a garden, the tranquil focal point of the original museum. That location closed in late October in anticipation of the reopening of the permanent space.
In the meantime, the Isamu Noguchi website serves as comprehensive documentary about the artist’s life and works, including an archive of writings by and about Noguchi. It is easy for users anywhere to purchase books, gifts, sculpting tools and materials, and even the Akari light sculptures. While purists decry Noguchi’s commercialism in creating the Akari on a mass scale and selling them through the museum, scholars of the late artist say he was simply trying to reach as much of the population as he could through his work. Also on the website is a detailed timeline of 20th century art, an invaluable resource for visitors to put Noguchi’s work in context of the modern art movement.
32-37 Vernon Blvd.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
What you’ll find: The number one reason to hit up the temporary home to the Museum of Modern Art this year is that for a blink of an eye the jewel of the modern art world is not in Manhattan — it’s in Queens, baby.
Aside from that borough-centric attraction, there is also the unparalleled collection of modern art work. The museum, temporarily located in the former Swingline Staple factory transformed by Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan, houses one of the foremost collections of modern and contemporary art in existence today in a space that is accessible and enjoyable to neophytes and self-important art student types alike.
The permanent collection, though greatly abbreviated in the smaller Queens location, includes paintings from Dali, Picasso, Klimt and Pollack, sculpture from Rodin and Brancusi and photography from Ansel Adams. In addition, the Queens location showcases high-level exhibitions throughout the year.
This bright blue near-eyesore among Long Island City’s industrial backwaters provides a rough edge to the highly regarded pieces of artwork, giving the entire space an avant-guard downtown or Williamsburg gallery kind of feel filled with concrete floors and functional steel.
A mezzanine houses both gift shop and small café and while the café food is on the ordinary side, the Queens location is surrounded by plenty of neighborhood eateries offering a variety of cuisines.
It may take the casual visitor only an hour to view all the museum’s offerings, but a hop skip and jump over the railroad tracks towards the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, afiliated with MoMA since 1999, could certainly round out the day.
MoMA on Ice
By Johanna Piazza
Compressing a multilevel, multi-
block museum into a single space
was a long and difficult process for curators of the Museum of Modern Art. Not only did the staff need to choose a mere 60 pieces from over 100,000 works of priceless art, but they needed to do it in a way that would evoke the larger collection and engage visitors for the two and a half years MoMA spends in Long Island City.
On June 29, 2002 the Museum of Modern Art opened MoMA QNS, a microcosm of the Manhattan based museum. The move of all moves relocated over 100,000 pieces of artwork, including 575 paintings, 500 sculptures, 27,000 objects and artworks from the Architecture and Design collection and the museum’s entire collection of 43,000 prints and illustrated books, 6,200 drawings and 21,000 photographs. Shipping companies made a fortune that weekend. The physical move from 53rd street in midtown to the Queens location required some 385 truckloads of works of art, library and archival material and equipment.
MoMA had originally intended to use the Queens space merely as a storage facility. Once the decision was made to close the midtown location, the museum began searching for a temporary spot to show exhibitions. Though they scoured Manhattan and the other boroughs, they kept returning to the Queens storage space. It had great light, it was open and spacious. The former Swingline factory’s large industrialized rooms and easy access to public transportation ultimately led to the decision to convert the warehouse from storage space to exhibition space. Well, that and a little prodding from the Tribune.
But how can one whittle down an institution like MoMA into a pocket-sized version, even more challenging, a pocket sized collection that appeals to the diverse community of Queens.
It took over a year, but curators took a look at the space, at the museum’s extensive collection and finally chose highlights to be included in the current offering, entitled, “To be Looked at: Painting and Sculpture from the Collection.”
By narrowing the field to only sculptures and paintings, ruling out photographs and drawings, the job became a touch easier. Now there were only 3,000 works to choose from.
“Whereas under normal conditions we figure out how to tell the history of art from 1880 to the present in about 500 works, at the Queens space is how to tell it in 60 or 70,” said MoMA’s director of painting and sculpture John Elderfield. “Of course it isn’t the same history anymore, it’s something entirely new.”
The trick, Elderfield said, was to include all the museum’s commanding and important works, without seeming like a greatest hits album.
“The danger in that,” Elderfield said, “is that you would lose the flavor and inflection of what the artists had intended.” Curators had to be very careful to also maintain the variety in a single artist’s practices.
Leading up to and during the move, the curators, museum directors, artists and trustees tried their best to represent all periods and genres from the full collection, from early modernism to the present. But the culling of over 3,000 pieces of artwork took some time and is an unfinished process that continues even today. The installation is not fixed. As works are lent to other museums from the Queens space, they are replaced with yet another carefully chosen piece, making the big blue warehouse an ever-changing space.
For security reasons the museum will not disclose the location of its many storage facilities. Much of their collection is stored on the MoMA QNS premises. Other pieces have been placed with private donors or traveling exhibitions.
Those individuals involved in the selection process hope they have done justice to the full collection at MoMA QNS and also believe that visitors who come to the Queens location will have their interest piqued enough to return when the new Museum of Modern Art opens in 2005.
Liam Gillick, Literally
September 25-December 1, 2003
Literally by Liam Gillick (b. 1964), a sculpture and wall drawing designed for the public space at MoMA QNS, is a two-fold project that revolves around the interrelationship between economics, ethics and aesthetics in modern society. The repeated powder-coated aluminum lettering constituting the hanging cube and the landscape evoked in the design and the earthen colors of the wall drawing refer to the Californian setting of an experimental commune described in B.F. Skinner’s Walden 2.
Drawings from the Collection
September 18, 2003-March 8, 2004
This exhibition highlights drawings in pencil from MoMA’s collection by many of the most important artists of the past 100 years. Drawings by Cézanne, Matisse, Malevich, Picasso, de Chirico, Giacometti, Ernst, Beuys, Kelly, Twombly, Oldenburg, Johns and Richter will be included, as well as works by current artists.
Mona Hatoum, Here Is Elsewhere
November 7, 2003-February 2, 2004
Mona Hatoum (b. 1952) is the sixth artist to participate in the Artist’s Choice exhibition series in which contemporary artists are invited to select, juxtapose and comment on works from the Museum’s permanent collection.
Prints, Books & Things
December 5, 2003-March 8, 2004
This exhibition is the first museum survey to focus on Kiki Smith’s printed art and includes some 150 prints, books, and multiples. She has experimented with mediums ranging from elaborate lithographic portfolios, intricate photogravure, and deluxe livres d’artiste to ephemeral screenprint posters, artist books, and removable tattoos.
A Dieter Roth Retrospective
March 12-June 7, 2004
The first major U.S. museum exhibition in two decades to highlight the work of Dieter Roth (1930-1998), one of the most influential European artists of the postwar period. Spanning 50 years of Roth’s work, the exhibition explores the full range of Roth’s creative accomplishments .
Fashioning Fiction in
Photography since 1990
April 16-June 26, 2004
Fashion photography since 1990 is a maelstrom of techniques and ideas. In its ambition to subvert the ideals of traditional beauty and to appeal to a younger and more diverse audience, recent fashion photography has traversed a variety of traditions and forms, moving freely through the history of art, cinema and celebrity — and even retreading ground covered by earlier fashion photography.
July 16-September 27, 2004
Tall Buildings will feature an international selection of approximately 20 structures designed within the last decade that are redefining the skyscraper in the twenty-first century. In addition, a special section will address the role of the tall building in shaping contemporary Manhattan. The exhibition will feature large-scale models, accompanied by plans, sections, and photographs of each project.
33 Street at Queens Blvd.
Long Island City
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon., Thurs., Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Fri., closed Tues. & Wed.
Admission: Adults $12
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: The New York Hall of Science located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is New York’s only hands-on science and technology center.
It was originally built as part of the 1964-65 World Fair as a Science Pavilion and intended for permanent use as a museum.
Like many public projects in New York, the Hall of Science bears the fingerprints of master city planner Robert Moses.
Moses wanted the science museum to be the ‘finest in the world’ — to stand at the forefront of science and technology education and be a place that would teach young people about how science and technology works — with the more than 225 exhibits are interactive and designed to be touched.
And after a somewhat tumultuous beginning, the Hall of Science as we know it today truly lifted off – like one of its majestic, restored rockets that gleam in its rocket park – in 1986.
That year the museum opened its doors to countless visitors, with a current rate of about 275,000 every year.
Many of these visitors are school children on class trips.
The Hall of Science is currently in the construction stages of a major expansion that will amount to 55,000 square feet of new exhibits, learning and teaching facilities and the jewel in the crown – the highly anticipated Hall of Light.
Designed by James Stuart Polshek, the architect who designed the Rose Center Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Hall of Light will be a seven or eight thousand square foot space that reflects and refracts light.
Where To Discover The Art Of Science
By Abby Russell
Why is the sky blue? Why does the sun give off light? Why do leaves change color in Autumn?
These are things we take for granted, but how many of us think to ask the questions or can explain the reasons why?
The staff at the New York Hall of Science (HOS) can tell you the reasons.
The exhibits and museum staff members break down seemingly complex explanations into something even a pre-schooler can understand.
“I like this science museum because you can touch a lot of things,” said Angelika, 10. “Mostly everything here is fun, because you can touch things,” she continued. Her mother, Wanda Arroyo, chimed in, “They’re learning a lot because they get to experience – it becomes realistic.”
Preeti Gupta, Director of Education at the HOS, said “We aim here at the Hall to make life-long learners, to ignite curiosity, to give a few moments of ‘a-ha,’ so they can say, if I figured out this, I can figure out something else.”
“Science has the potential to make us wiser,” said Dr. Alan J. Friedman, Director of the HOS. “It gives us tools which we can use wisely or not so wisely. Ignorance almost inevitably leads to bad things.”
“If you can learn to think critically via science, then you can apply it to other mediums, like art or business,” said Gupta.
Gupta’s career at the Hall began when she was just in high school and needed a few extra dollars. She joined as an “Explainer” in the Science Career Ladder program, continued that part-time through college and has been working her way up ever since.
After college, Gupta took a full-time job of instructor at the Hall and within a month realized she was doing “exactly” what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. As director of education, Gupta’s job encompasses running the Science Career Ladder and its Explainer program.
In a 2001 evaluation of alumni explainers, over 50 percent went into careers in education, science and technology or museum work. According to the HOS, the Science Career Ladder and its Explainer program have been used as a national model for recruiting, training and employing high school and college-age students in preparation for teaching and science careers.
“It was just a job initially, but now I’m more interested in science,” said Iboun Morrison, a 21-year old who works as an Explainer while finishing college.
An Explainer’s job is to interpret exhibits and conduct demonstrations for the museum’s visitors. Much of their time is spent explaining science to the kids who visit with their school groups. And for those kids, “part of the experience is seeing who’s in charge of science and technology,’ said Dr. Friedman.
On the main floor, a science demonstration is underway. An Hispanic teenage girl is wearing a red apron – the clue that she’s an Explainer – and an ear-to-mouth, wraparound microphone.
She rallies the roughly 10 children and some parents for a science experiment showing how a flammable substance can engulf a rag in flames and still not burn the rag to bits.
“Are you ready?” she asks.
“Yeah!” the kids half-heartedly respond.
Realizing this crowd of five to 13 year olds will need more coaxing, the Explainer uses humor. As she puts on large, green goggles in preparation for the science demonstration, she jokes, “These are the latest in fashion.” Now the kids are laughing and paying attention to the experiment.
“Science and technology doesn’t appeal equally to boys and girls, men and women,” Dr. Friedman said. “People of color are under-represented in science and technology,” he continued.
“Suppose you’re a Hispanic girl of eight-years-old, and you don’t know what you want to do when you grow up,” Dr. Friedman said. “When you see women here who are in charge of science… it becomes an option for you.”
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Hall of Science to science is teaching and educating. HOS teaches kids, teens, teachers and even parents and grandparents. Through various programming, HOS reaches out to all of these constituent groups to make science understandable and fun. Besides students on class trips and children visiting with their parents or grandparents on weekends, the Museum serves even more people via its website and the many teachers who use the programs.
One fifth grade teacher thinks the Museum itself provides a vital service to her students. Meridith Volkena, a teacher at Manhattan Christian Academy in Inwood, is chaperoning her class trip.
“It’s really neat that it’s hands-on – they’re active and going non-stop, but they’re learning as well,” said Volkena.
One of her fifth graders, Matthew, 11, is having the time of his life and breathlessly describes his experiences. “The playground has a bar that goes back and forth, and it’s actually energy,” said Matthew. He continued, “The water – every time you turn the wheel, you’re learning about how to recycle water.”
Matthew’s ability to describe what he’s learning proves the value of his HOS experience. And for Dr. Friedman, watching kids like Matthew experience science is among the greatest joys of his 19-year tenure as Museum Director.
Dr. Friedman always smiles to himself when a museum visitor turns to a friend and says excitedly, “Come here and look at this!” “If visitors feel they’re having an experience sufficient enough to interact, then I know it’s having an impact on them.”
The folks at the HOS will have you believe that science is about life. And for one staffer at the museum, science is about renewing life.
Stella Ronca has worked at the museum for 26 years, first as a volunteer and currently as Executive Assistant to HOS Director Dr. Friedman.
Now, Ronca is 88-years-old but as spritely as ever.
“I came here during the World Fair in ’64-’65, and I loved the Fair. In ’77, my husband died, and I came to volunteer,” said Ronca. “It changed my whole life, because I became useful again.”
Images from Science
Through Nov. 30
Showcases 59 photographs made in pursuit of science. Science contributes to the world of the artist and aesthetic sensibilities are vital in creating and comprehending images from science. Organized at the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, Rochester Institute of Technology
Science Food Fest
Making Ice Cream
Weekends & Nov. 28; 1 p.m.
Learn how to change liquid milk into a delicious tasting solid called ice cream.
Fee: $3 per person.
Ages: 6 and older
Food Makes Art
Weekends & Nov. 28; 2 p.m.
Preschoolers can learn the names of various colorful foods and then make a food collage to take home.
Fee: $2 per person
Ages: 6 and under
Weekends & Nov. 28; 3:30 p.m.
Explore the history of chocolate, taste various samples and make a chocolate lollipop to take home.
Fee: $3 per person & member
Ages: 6 and older
Weekends & Nov. 28
Noon - 4:30 p.m.
Make cheese, learn why those little holes appear in bread and participate in other fun food-related experiments.
47-01 111th St., Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.,
Friday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Weekends Noon-5 p.m.
ADMISSION: Adults (18+) $9; Students and Seniors $6;
Preschoolers (2-4) $3
Free Hours: Fri. 2-5 p.m.
THE INSTITUE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART
What you’ll find:
Housed in a turn-of-the-century school building that was shut down in the sixties during the area’s industrial expansion, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center is one of the largest and oldest arts organizations in the United States solely devoted solely to contemporary art.
The institution provides an exciting and unusual kind of museum experience. Classrooms and auditoriums have been transformed into galleries and artists studios. The building really couldn’t be a more ideal home for some of the nations and the world’s leading contemporary art displays since the academic air surrounding the place lends itself to the patience and fortitude needed to contemplate some of the more radical and cutting edge exhibits housed within the concrete walls. In addition, a former playground provides a huge open space for outdoor exhibits.
As of fall 2003, instead of offering the year-long residence, P.S. 1 began accepting applications for projects that can be realized within three months or less, creating a dynamic and constantly changing exhibition space. Artist studios are frequently open to the public with the artists often on hand to answer any and all questions regarding their complex and sometimes confusing work.
And best of all, P.S. 1 is affordable, with a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens.
The Home Of The
BY JOHANNA PIAZZA
In efforts to create a more dynamic exhibition and studio space, the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center has opted to replace its National Studio program with a new program that will include short-term projects at two locations and therefore provide the museum with more in-house exhibitions over the course of a year.
P.S. 1 has long acted as an intermediary between the artist and the audience, constantly breaking down the barriers between studio and museum. Now, with the revised studio program, it will have an opportunity to cater to a variety of different projects over a single year period.
Instead of offering year-long residencies to American artists, the redefined P.S.1 program, which began in earnest this past fall, is inviting applications for projects that can be realized within three months or less. Studios are located on the 13th floor of the Clocktower Gallery in Lower Manhattan and at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City.
The end result of the project, the Clocktower/P.S.1 project, will be a constantly changing studio space, open to emerging and established artists who will ultimately shape the direction of the new and entirely innovative studio program. Students are not allowed to apply. Artists must have been working independently for at least a year.
The application process is floating. Artists are welcome to submit proposals at any time and P.S.1 curators will review applications throughout the year. P.S.1’s curatorial team will select projects based on quality of work, the probability of its execution, its relevance to other P.S.1 programming, and other curatorial considerations. Applications are being accepted throughout the year.
Increased security concerns also led to the changes in the art center’s studio program. Because P.S.1 is a city building, the security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was significantly increased, making it much more difficult to maintain year-long artists studios. It is now much harder to allow visitors to freely enter the studios and with year-long residencies come a slew of guests and co-workers entering the artists’ spaces over the course of the year and security can no longer keep track of all the bodies.
P.S.1 had hoped the increased security measures would begin to taper, and continued the National Studio program for another year, but two years after the fact security remains high, and the one-year program has suffered because of it. It was time for something new.
To give both artists and the museum more flexibility to compensate for the increased security, the museum began considering ways to make the program shorter without sacrificing the integrity of their studio program.
But museum directors are excited about the new program. They realize that by compressing the time in residence, they are asking for entirely different types of projects, but believe this will add another dimension to the studio program, which still includes year-long residencies by international artists.
Noble and Sue Webster
Oct. 12 – Dec. 29, 2003
Selected works of British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster are being shown at P.S 1 until December. Partners in both life and art, Tim Noble (1966) and Sue Webster (1967) explore the toxic influences of consumer culture through new modes of portraiture – turning garbage into complex and visually arresting sculptural installations.
El real viaje Real / The Real Royal Trip
Oct. 12 – Jan. 5, 2003
A host of Spanish and Latin American artwork is currently being displayed at P.S. 1 in the world premiere of the touring show “El real viaje Real / The Real Royal Trip.” Organized by renowned Swiss-born curator Harald Szeemann, “El real viaje Real / The Real Royal Trip” takes its historical reference from Christopher Columbus’s fourth journey to the New World, during which he traveled to islands of the Caribbean and the coast of Latin America. The contemporary artists in the exhibition are from Columbus’s embarkation point, Spain, and the lands he explored, including Cuba, Costa Rica, and Brazil.
Paul Graham: American Night
Oct. 12 – Dec. 29, 2003
Paul Graham’s large-scale “American Night” photographs will be shown at P.S. 1 from October to December, and portray an unspoken but omnipresent social divide that exists in contemporary America. The exhibition opens with the intense, claustrophobic images, as well as unconventional shots reflecting the lives of dispossessed America through bright lights.
22-25 Jackson Ave. at the intersection of 46th Ave in Long Island City
Hours: Thurs. to Mon., noon to 6 p.m.; Closed on Tues. & Wed.
Admission: $5 suggested donation; $2 for students and seniors; members free. _____________________________________________________
QUEENS MUSEUM OF ART
What you’ll find: If you haven’t already visited the Queens Museum of Art (QMA) in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, you are missing one of the greatest cultural institutions in Queens.
Park-goers may not realize that the giant steel and limestone edifice behind the Unisphere is known as the borough’s premier fine arts institution.
The building itself, designed by American residential architect Aymar Embury II, is large and somewhat daunting, looking like an East Bloc relic. It is, however, a building of great distinction and home to some unique cultural exhibits.
QMA’s home is the New York City Building, which was built for use in the 1939 World’s Fair in order to promote New York City culture. The building is the only structure that still exists from that Fair, and even more astounding, was the original site of the United Nations between 1946 and 1950.
The General Assembly met in the room that is now an ice skating rink to vote on the important issues of the day, which included dividing up Korea and creating the state of Israel.
Currently, QMA houses the renowned permanent collection of Tiffany art glass as well as the awe-inspiring Panorama of the City of New York. Created by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair and for use as a model for future development in New York, the Panorama is a full-scale architectural model of all five boroughs.
At almost 10,000 (9,335 to be exact) square feet, QMA Chief Curator Valerie Smith calls it “one of the seven wonders of New York City.”
Art Aside, Still the
United Nations of Queens
By Abby Russell
The Queens Museum of Art (QMA) is not merely a place where works of art are displayed – it’s a thriving cultural mecca where Queens residents and non-residents alike can participate in making and learning about art.
If you’re a student of history, you may know that the building where QMA is today once served as the home of the actual United Nations. But since 1972, when the space became an art museum, the goal has been to reflect the cultural communities of Queens.
It has been said that there are up to 172 languages spoken in Queens and at least that many immigrant communities. Just to name a few, the Korean, Chinese and Tawainese communities are vibrant in Flushing and the Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, and Pakistan communities populate Jackson Heights.
Corona, which used to be a thriving Italian neighborhood is becoming more and more a home to Mexican residents.
And Peruvian, Colombian, Ecuadoran and other people of South American descent would likely be found on a stroll along Roosevelt Avenue. There is no denying that the Queens Museum of Art sits in the middle of an unparalleled cultural oasis.
“What’s really unique to Queens and this museum is that you have in one borough this incredible cultural diversity,” said Valerie Smith, QMA Chief Curator. “It’s so rich,” she continued, “and we can do amazing programming with that.”
As in any museum dependent on grants for funding, Smith must plan exhibits at least three years in advance.
To mirror QMA’s cultural diversity that sits in its “backyard,” Smith is planning a Caribbean exhibit in conjunction with El Museo de Barrio on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and a Middle East exhibit that will include works from five different countries in that region.
As in everything QMA does, both exhibits will give opportunities to artists from around the world to show their work as well as explore the idea of modernism and contemporary art in different countries.
Chiefly, QMA wants to appeal to its different cultural constituencies in Queens and make people in Queens feel that the museum belongs to them. In order for Queens residents to think of QMA as their museum and for non-Queens residents to really identify with QMA as a true representation of Queens in all its cultural varieties, QMA takes a local and international approach to planning events, programs and exhibitions.
QMA Director Tom Finkelpearl said, “To be local is to be international in Queens.”
QMA’s “specialties,” or things the museum “can do better than anyone else,” Finkelpearl said, are to “recognize the history of our site” as home to the World’s Fairs of 1939 and 1964 and the United Nations between 1946 and 1950, and to truly be the peoples’ “Queens Museum of Art” that mirrors and fosters “contemporary multicultural” art.
“The big challenge of the museum is to really make it part of the public life of Queens,” said Finkelpearl.
Besides exhibits like the upcoming one about United Nations official and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche, QMA creates that public life through a variety of educational programs for children, adults and seniors, community events and special programs like film festivals related to an exhibition.
QMA attracts many community residents through its educational programs, which painter and QMA Coordinator of Adult Programs Miriam Brumer calls “one of the very best in the city if not in the country.”
The list of outreach and educational opportunities is seemingly endless. Each year, tens of thousands of young people on school trips visit the museum, where they tour exhibits and get treated to a hands-on workshop in creating art related to an exhibit.
Every Sunday, children can participate in workshops in the studio, experimenting with mixed media assemblage, collage, painting or printmaking. Teens can get into the action too, as well as get trained to be museum docents. Last summer, area children participated in the museum’s first “Art Camp,” which will continue in the summers to come.
And for adults who “may not always want to go into the city for a lecture,” Miriam Brumer invites them to come to QMA, where she gives slide talks on different art themes every Thursday between 2 and 4 p.m.
continued from page 37
Her “Looking Series” has been ongoing since 1989 and has attracted many since then. Marion Kesten of Douglaston is a devotee of Brumer’s lecture series and the museum itself. After visiting an exhibit or attending a lecture, Kesten always comes away with “something to think about… feeling I’ve learned something.”
QMA’s push to attract new visitors includes dovetailing event programming like musical or dance acts, related films or ethnic food to a particular exhibit. And this seems right in line with QMA’s illustrious past and international pedigree.
“I went to both World’s Fairs,” said Kesten. “I came every Saturday with my father for two years. Every nation was represented, plus food, dancing and music,” Kesten continued. “The world of tomorrow – that was the theme.”
With the always-changing face of Queens, QMA is always looking to tomorrow, and adapting to meet the needs of an ever-changing community.
Joan Jonas: Five Works
December 14 2003 – March 14 2004
Joan Jonas: Five Works will be a selection of performance installations, videos and drawings by American artist Joan Jonas. One of the most important woman artist to emerge from the late 1960s, Jonas combined actors, props, video and video projections, drawings, and taped narration in pioneering works that helped to establish the field of performance and video art. One of the first visual artists to turn this kind of work as acknowledged artistic expression, Jonas’ installations were pivotal in introducing film and electronic media, both conceptually and technically, into the arena of fine art. This exhibition is the first major museum exhibition of her work in New York.
March 28 – June 20, 2004
Nexus: Taiwan/Flushing intends to establish a dialogue between the Flushing Taiwanese community and Taiwan, and investigate the stages of relocation, differentiation, adaptation, identification and recollection that are part of the Taiwanese immigrant experience. The exhibition includes artists living in Taiwan and America and features video, painting, mixed media, installation, performance and interactive art. In addition, two to three Taiwanese artists will be invited to reside in Flushing for over a period of weeks to connect and reflect their notion of The Queens Museum and Flushing in their work.
Ralph Bunche: An American Legend
March 28 – June 20, 2004
Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche was a remarkable, inspirational figure whose influence on civil rights, decolonization and international diplomacy is difficult to exaggerate, yet today his name has faded from the public imagination. Our exhibition, which is part of the centenary celebration of Bunche’s birth, will dramatize his life, achievements and legacy by using a range of techniques and materials designed to attract the largest possible audience and to show how Ralph Bunche was a transitional figure in American life and in international relations. This exhibition is a collaboration with the United Nations, where Bunche served as Undersecretary General from 1967-1971.
The Mets: Playing Hard Ball
July 4 – October 17, 2004
The Queens Museum of Art and the Bronx Museum of the Arts, located just steps away from New York City’s two Major League baseball stadiums, each share a subway stop with their local team. For the “Subway Series,” each is organizing a popular exhibition of contemporary art, memorabilia, and documentary material for the Mets (QMA) and Yankees (BxMA).
New York City Building
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
HOURS: Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; Monday closed.
ADMISSION: Suggested contributions of $5 for adults, $2.50 for students and seniors and free for members and children under five.
QUEENS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
What you’ll find: What began in the Queens basement of founder David Katz as an informal expression of musical talent has evolved over five decades into a professional music ensemble known as the Queens Symphony Orchestra (QSO).
Despite its humble beginnings, the QSO isn’t your run-of-the-mill music association. Instead, it’s constantly evolving to fit the needs of, arguably, America’s most diverse community.
Without a performance arts center that it can call home, the organization’s circus-like mobility is both its limitation and strength. Under the umbrella of a distinctive philosophy, the QSO morphs itself to suit the tastes of the borough’s varied constituencies.
If you’re looking for classical music, an upcoming orchestra concert with violin virtuoso Cho-Liang Lin provides just that at Queensborough Community College’s Performing Arts Center. Despite its name, however, the symphony does much more than classical music in traditional venues.
An on-the-wheels program brings music everywhere – trios, quartets and quintets visit schools, senior centers and libraries to share music with the community through the year.
The goal of QSO is to bring arts and community into a close-knit alliance. QSO’s method is to move away from a solely traditional classical musical form to incorporate its richly varied community of cultures. Where the status quo is embryonic, the QSO insists, the music must follow.
Hence, the cornucopia of music styles and programs – in October, a Halloween orchestra merged with performance artist Mr. Kirby’s rendition of magic, to be followed in December by a holiday favorites sing-along concert.
In February, a Valentine Ball with Daniel Rodriguez, “the singing policeman,” focuses on “operatic and Latin flair” to appeal to a younger audience swooning to the tunes of romance.
QSO’s mission, in the words of Executive Director Lynda Herndon, is “giving really what we are in the way that people want it.”
For those partial to modern performance arts, the QSO also merges classical genres of music with ballet and dance, showing the QSO’s cross-gender, cross-culture, cross-class orientation.
Boldly modern, it could develop eclectic new music forms and draw an entirely untapped audience of music lovers.
Visions Of Future Fusion
By Sonya Fatah
Nestled away in the unlikely environs of Atlas Terminals, an 80-year-old industrial complex in Glendale, is the administrative office of the Queens Symphony Orchestra (QSO).
Financial limitations mean that the QSO – in its 51st season – doesn’t own a performance art space. Coaxed last year into a partnership with Queensborough Community College in Bayside, the two will collaborate to host this year’s ticketed Masterworks Series at the school’s theater.
The half-century mark has been a poignant one for QSO.
At its commencement, an informal meeting of the musically inclined led by the clairvoyant David Katz, QSO has gradually turned professional, relentlessly searching for ways to absorb Katz’s vision.
For him, the orchestra was the vehicle that would free his community from the Manhattan paranoia; a day would come when people could travel within Queens for the best in orchestral music.
But in an area populated by two million residents, many of them recent immigrants from dozens of diverse cultures, how could this be accomplished?
The answer lay in fusing the abundance of musical styles in the borough itself. QSO has made many attempts to incorporate diversity into its program. It defines itself as an orchestra that provides “first-rate classical, opera, pops, chamber music, and school arts education programs to the community.”
A recent effort to be more interactive is visible in a program launched in 2002, called “Music on the Move.” As the name suggests, this new initiative is defined by mobility.
Small groups of professional musicians visit senior centers, libraries, town halls and other venues to introduce new forms of music to the Queens community.
It depends on sponsorships from corporate or private donors for survival. Demands from audiences determine the kind of music the musicians will perform.
The program is the result of many months of brainstorming among QSO Executive Director Lynda Herndon, David Katz’s daughter Councilwoman Melinda Katz, QSO President Herbert M. Chain, and Conductor Arthur Fagen.
Councilwoman Katz said that the QSO is keeping true to her father’s vision for a Queens music community. “I believe this is a good step in not only adapting classical music to the changing needs of the borough, but also offering it and making it accessible to folks that would otherwise be left out.”
The evolving nature of Queens’ cultural community has demanded change of QSO, originally playing to a traditional classical music audience. Herndon, who doesn’t feel threatened by change, puts it succinctly. “If you stay the status quo, eventually you’ll die.”
Dates like Halloween and Valentine’s Day are recognized in the hope of drawing Queens’ youth to pseudo-classical events. The pop-ization of classical music does have its detractors, however.
Musicians trained in the genre of classical music are hesitant to embrace Broadway-style pop culture, viewing it as a qualitative infringement on their work. Herdon comes to it from a business angle. A lover of classical music herself, she recognizes the difficulty of satisfying everyone. “We’re still trying to do pure classical works but they’re a hard sell,” she admits.
There is also the problem of engaging all communities. Herndon mentions that the response has been overwhelming from the Latino community but that others – South Asians in particular – have not shown much interest.
Perhaps, she said, the differences between Western and non-Western music accounts for this.
Despite the difficulties, however, Herndon really believes in a vision: one in which musical tradition develops through a process of participation.
The potential for musical exchange, audience reactions to previous performances – “people have been really blown away” – and the need to stay alive in a sea of competitive music ventures has QSO’s crew in the midst of a music revolution.
Dec. 13, 4 p.m.
Tarumi Violinists, Jeremy Cushman, our very own QSO musicians and you performing holiday favorites, including sing-alongs. Prices range from $10 to $25.
Music of the Heart –
Valentine’s Day Concert
Feb. 14, 7 p.m.
“America’s Tenor” Daniel Rodriguez sings love themes with an “operatic Latin flair.” $30 per person.
World Premiere + World Famous
March 28, 4 p.m.
Famous violinist Cho-Liang Lin performs the world premiere of a commissioned violin conerto by well-known composer Huang Ruo. Lin will also perform Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” at the show. Prices range from $10 to $25.
80-00 Cooper Ave., #22,
HOURS: Mon. to Fri., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Weekends, closed.
ADMISSION: Varies by performance. ______________________________________________________
QUEENS THEATRE IN THE PARK
What you’ll find: New Yorkers are spoiled when it comes to culture, and nowhere is it more evident than in the city’s legendary theater scene. With the Great White Way just a train fare away, why on earth would Queens residents go anywhere else to get their drama fix?
Money, for starters. With Broadway ticket prices edging toward the stratosphere, going into the city for a show has become an increasingly occasional treat for many in Queens.
That’s one of the reasons that smaller local venues like Queens Theatre in the Park are on the ascendant.
Since its birth in 1973, the theater has grown from a small, grassroots operation to a professional performing arts venue that draws people from Long Island, northern New Jersey and even, yes, Manhattan. The intimate 450-seat theater in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is filled year-round with a wide variety of performers.
A children’s series features kid-friendly dance performances, musicals and bands. Especially popular are the theater’s Latino Festival and Black Cultural Arts Series, programs that celebrate Queens’ rich ethnic patchwork. But while the venue’s cultural offerings have expanded, classic comedies and musical revues continue to be the theater’s bread and butter.
Many Queens Theatre acts make their only New York area appearance there. Big name performers like Roberta Flack, Valerie Harper and Renee Taylor grace its stage. The as-yet unknown also have their time in the spotlight: A new playwrights program showcases the work of talented newcomers.
Run primarily on city money, the Queens Theatre was established to provide the people of Queens with accessible, high quality performing arts. The theater was built to house a movie theater during the 1964 World’s Fair, and expanded considerably in 1993.
Next spring, officials say, a $5 million construction project will add a new lobby, a cabaret theater and new offices.
With all this right here in Queens, who needs Broadway?
Diversity On Stage
By Kate Feld
Walking the length of one city block in Queens, you might hear six different languages. The borough contains one of the most diverse populations in the world, according to the New York Department of City Planning.
The Greek and Italian families that once held sway in Astoria are being replaced by newer immigrants from Bangladesh, Egypt, Colombia and Bosnia. Flushing and Corona, too, have changed – downtown Flushing, once inhabited primarily by Eastern-European Jewish families, is now a center of Asian immigration, while Corona has drawn newcomers from all over Latin America.
Queens has changed, and Queens Theatre in the Park has changed, too.
In the last decade it has begun to book performers geared toward the area’s different ethnic groups, helping immigrants celebrate their culture, and young first generation Americans get to know their family’s heritage.
More than that, the change in programming has encouraged Queens residents to learn about their neighbors.
In 1997, the theater started its annual Latino Festival, now two weeks long and bolstered by Latino programming throughout the year. This season, Hispanic acts including Dance Brazil, Colombian musicians Inti-Illimani and Ballet Folklorico Mexicano de Nueva York will appear on stage.
“It sort of started out of a misconception,” recalled Sam Rossi, the theater’s marketing and public relations director. “We didn’t do any summer programs back then, because parking was a problem, especially during Mets games, and people were coming all the time to play soccer,” Rossi said.
“We saw these people, primarily Latino people, playing soccer in the park, and started the festival with the idea that all the people in soccer fields would just flock into the theater.”
It didn’t quite work the way they imagined it, Rossi admitted: “Latino, black or Jewish, soccer players are not necessarily theater people.”
But the community responded warmly to the Latino Festival; new faces were seen in the audience. The response to subsequent efforts to expand ethnic offerings has been similarly positive. “I think we’ve been successful in getting people interested in other cultures, especially with the dance series, there has been a lot of crossover in our audiences,” Rossi said.
“Our whole purpose is to serve the community of Queens – and it’s a diverse community,” Rossi said.
More recently, a black cultural arts series has been a success, drawing audience members from northern New Jersey and deep into Long Island. It has also provided an opportunity for Queens Theater to partner with the Colden Center at Queens College, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center and Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation.
Because Queens’ largest concentrations of black communities are located far from Flushing in Jamaica and the Rockaways, Rossi said, transportation to the theater for these events poses difficulties.
In past years, grants and corporate sponsorship have enabled the theater to provide free shuttle buses from those neighborhoods, but the program was discontinued after the city’s economy faltered in 2001.
The next initiative will be developing programming to showcase Asian performers – a nod to the borough’s growing Asian community, in Flushing and elsewhere. “We know that’s where we want to go, and we’re building contacts so we can start next year,” Rossi said.
The addition of an Asian performance series will ensure that the performers at Queens Theater accurately mirror the community.
But, as Rossi points out, “You can’t make the theater diverse just by what you put on stage – it’s got to be throughout the organization. Our staff is very diverse.”
Calendar of Events
A Christmas Carol
A musical comedy incorporating new songs with the old story to capture the hearts of its young audience. Regular tickets are $12 and member tickets are $9. Showtimes are 11a.m. and 1 p.m.
Meshuggah-Nuns! The Ecumenical Nunsense
December 5 through 14
A “Faith of All Nations” cruise’s entertainment, the cast of “Fiddler on the Roof,” all fall seasick, except for “Tevye”, who is asked along with the nuns on board to entertain the passengers. Lyrics and Music by Dan Goggins. Ticket prices vary with days and times.
Santa Meets the Wicked Wizard
A fun filled musical comedy where Santa is in big trouble with the Wicked Wizard and needs help to escape from the grasp of this villain. Regular tickets are $12 and member tickets are $9. Showtimes are at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Rockin’ New Year
December 27 and 28
This concert features Willy Mosquera, Los Caballeros and their guests that will have children and adults alike rock-and-rolling in their seats to the music, which is brushed with a bit of Latin. Regular tickets are $12 and member tickets are $9. Showtimes on the 27th is at 1 p.m. and on the 28th at 2 p.m.
William Shakespeare’s Richard III
January 10 and 11
For all the Shakespeare buffs here is a disturbing tragedy of betrayal, power and ambition by The Acting Company. Tickets prices are $30 for a regular ticket, $27 for seniors, $25 for members and $20 for students. Showtimes for the 10th are 2 and 8 p.m. and on the 11th at 3 p.m.
Murder By Poe
January 17 and 18
Four Edgar Allen Poe tales for the price of one! Twisted plot of revenge, suicide, obsession and murder will satisfy the dark side of us all. Tickets prices are $30 for a regular ticket, $27 for seniors, $25 for members and $20 for students. Showtimes on the 17th are 2 and 8 p.m. and on the 18th at 3 p.m.
Of Ebony Embers - Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance
The 1920’s Harlem Renaissance through the lines of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay and as seen through the eyes of painter Aaron Douglas. This show features the Core Ensemble musicians and actor Akin Babatunde. A Question and Answer session will precede each presentation. Regular tickets are $16, senior and student tickets are $14 and member tickets are $12. The showtime for this event is 3 p.m.
February 21 and 22
This heartwarming ballet will keep children on their toes and the breaking of Aurora’s evil spell will satisfy their hearts. Regular tickets are $12 and member tickets are $9. Showtimes for the 21st is 1 p.m. and for the 22nd is 2 p.m.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,
BOX OFFICE HOURS:
Tuesday to Saturday,
noon to 6 p.m.
Varies based on performance
SOCRATES SCULPTURE PARK
What you’ll find: Queens residents who live near Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City have every right to be curious about what goes on there.
Strange metal and wood apparitions loom over the walls and unusual sounds emanate from within. The curious exhibits migrate, at times, into the East River, as in one current installation, which included bunches of bright green balls bobbing on the water.
The directors of the thriving community art center hope their neighbors are curious. And they hope that curiosity brings them into the park, where they’ll likely see an artist or two hard at work, and will surely see lots of sculptures to admire, talk about, climb on and walk into.
Since 1986, when the sculpture park took root on the site of an abandoned dump, many neighbors have made the journey through its gates. A large number have come back again and again, because there’s a lot more to do here than just look at sculptures.
And it’s all free.
Special events, including a popular international film festival, brought 17,500 visitors to Socrates this year. Ethnic food, performances and art have become part of the film festival’s program, providing a broader taste of the culture glimpsed in that evening’s feature – and bringing new people to the park.
“Often people have a troubling relationship to contemporary art; they don’t know what to make of it,” said Park Executive Director Alyson Baker. “Presenting the art with food, music and film helps us welcome people into the park and become more comfortable with it.”
Children’s programs have greatly expanded at the park. A kite-making workshop brought a Japanese master of the art to the park.
The Halloween Harvest Festival featured live bluegrass, seasonal foods, and costume-making. School programs bring kids into the park for art appreciation and instruction. Teens and adults can sign up for free art workshops on weekends. In 2003, 30 schools and community groups benefited from the park’s education program.
Yoga and Tai Chi classes in the park also bring many people to the riverside space in the warm weather months.
But to a lot of people, the park is mainly just that – a place to play ball, sunbathe, walk the dog, enjoy a picnic or go fishing. It’s part of the New York City Parks system, and if it’s a little more colorful and less restrained than some of the city’s other manicured promenades, well, the people of Long Island City wouldn’t have it any other way.
Artists Go Public
By Kate Feld
Having enough artists has never been New York’s problem.
Having enough space for those artists to create in – that’s a different story.
Most artists can’t pay the high commercial rents that corporations or other businesses can, so over the years artists have been forced to colonize the most industrial sections of the city, taking over old factories and warehouses like the ones in Long Island City, to do their work.
No artist is more desirous of space than the sculptor, so when local artist Mark di Suvero got the idea to clean up an old industrial site on the banks of the East River and make a sculpture park, it was natural to include work space in the plans.
Now, Socrates Sculpture Park is the only place in the city where people can walk in any day of the week, without making a reservation or paying a fee, and see artists at work.
The park is helping to demystify the artistic process, says Executive Director Alyson Baker. For kids who wander in after school to play ball and see artists at work, an artist is not some untouchable being but simply another member of the working community like a teacher, police officer or shopkeeper.
“We want to make the work as much a public process as we can. Generally, production and installation are very closed. Here it’s all out in the open,” Baker said. “People can see the artist at work, they can talk to them, ask questions, they can see the work installed.”
That interaction isn’t forced, she said, “It just happens. March through October, people are coming here to work every day. And there are still some artists working here in the winter.”
Through a range of other programs, many of them created in the last few years, the park helps young people get involved in arts. Free drop-in sculpture workshops for kids on Sundays provide a wonderful opportunity for children whose parents might not be able to afford art lessons.
A range of similar free outdoor art programs in the summer have offered a diverse group of children from neighborhood youth agencies, community groups and summer schools the chance to try puppetmaking, bookmaking, bridge design and even making their own inflatable and wind-powered sculptures.
These workshops give many children their first experience with sculpture, Baker said. But the benefits go beyond opening children’s eyes to art – the summer programs create jobs for young people in the neighborhood. Socrates Sculpture Park also takes part in the Community Works Initiative Program, training and employing residents of the nearby Astoria Houses and Queensbridge housing projects.
The sculpture park is very much a part of its neighborhood. The group of local artists who cleared off the dump and built the park were wise to preserve its industrial roots. They didn’t create a polished, high-class arts venue that might seem out of place in the neighborhood, but a gritty space that celebrates the industrial cityscape.
“It’s an urban setting, a very industrial urban setting that for artists is a very inspiring place to work,” Baker said. The artists also benefit from its location in the industrial hub of Western Queens – most of the raw materials used by the sculptors, from steel to stone, are produced nearby, she said.
The Park has received a stack of art awards over the years, and has a growing international reputation for groundbreaking exhibits and high-quality sculpture. But Socrates Sculpture Park’s highest achievement may be the fact that it truly lives up to its name.
Its founders named the park after the Greek philosopher, Socrates, as a tribute to the Greek-American community in Astoria. And as one concerned above all with the education of the youth of his city, Socrates would surely approve of the many ways in which this sculpture park is helping to educate the young people of this one.
EAF03: The Emerging Artist Fellowship Exhibition
Currently, and through Feb. 8, 2004.
Exhibition of new works by the recipients of Socrates Sculpture Park’s Emerging Artist Fellowships, including Jane Benson, Rob de Mar, Lilah Freedland and others.
December 2003 to February 2004.
Socrates Sculpture Park’s first annual series of light-based projects, including installations by Leo Villareal and Matthew McCaslin, presented in partnership with Silvercup Studios.
For more events, visit the park’s website at www.socratesculpturepark.org
ADDRESS: 32-01 Vernon Blvd.,
P.O. Box 6259, Long Island City
PHONE: (718) 956-1819
HOURS: 10 a.m. to sunset
Art Lurks Around Every Corner
Queens cultural institutions come in all proportions, tucked into nearly every corner of the borough, and prove once and for all that size doesn’t matter.
While the marquee museums in Long Island City and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park are usually the ones that bask in the spotlight, smaller cultural centers support community arts and nurture cultural diversity with fewer resources and more muted fanfare.
But the contribution of the hidden gems cannot be overstated. From ecological wonderlands to virtually unknown galleries, from performing arts non-profits to historic landmarks, the small cultural institutions transform the chaos and tumult of the most diverse county on the planet into an area where artistic expression is possible and personal enrichment is welcomed.
Here is a list of some of Queens finest cultural establishments whose contributions to borough life are larger than their physical presence.
Alley Pond Environmental Center
228-06 Northern Boulevard, Douglaston
Hours: Open 7 days a week, except Sundays in July and August. Call for times.
Artists with a yearning for the great outdoors need only travel down Northern Boulevard to find acres of marsh land, wooded terrain and scenery that could inspire legendary landscape painter Bob Ross
In 1972, the Alley Pond Environmental Center was founded, and in 1979, the 635 acres in Douglaston was designated a National Environmental Study Area. Although many activities at APEC allow patrons to roll up their sleeves and get a hands-on experience with nature, other events allow for more artist liberties.
Young artists with an eye for the outdoors can participate in the Urban Bird Art Contest. Drawings of locally found fowl submitted for the November contest are displayed year round at the center.
Also on display, for the first time this year, will be a collection of Korean student art, in recognition of the cultural and artist contributions of one of the borough’s fastest growing communities.
For art with an appetite, APEC artists can use graham crackers in the “Make Your Own Haunted House.” This Halloween-themed event allows participants to take home their creations, and think of other food items, as art tools.
For those who need less instruction and more inspiration, a variety of walking tours, lectures and discussions are routinely held at the center.
Astoria Performing Arts Center
31-30 33rd St., Long Island City
Take one actress who’s been seen on Remington Steel, Dynasty and The A-Team. Add an artistic director who appeared in Naked Boys Singing. What do you get?
Well, you get a lively theater company in Astoria.
The not-for-profit Astoria Performing Art Center (APAC) brings to local audiences Broadway classics and homegrown gems. Astoria resident Susan Scannell not only founded APAC, but also can be seen taking center stage in performances such as “Love Jokes,” which she wrote. The no-longer-naked Brian Swassey can be seen behind the curtain as APAC’s artistic director.
In this theater on 33rd Street, Queens residents can see local actors in performances that range from the romantic comedies of Shakespeare’s classic “As You Like It” to modern works like “Is There Life After High School?”, which attempts to answer the question many have wondered since 12th grade.
Also on the APAC calendar is “Quintessentially Queens”, a musical revival where audiences can see and hear the troupe “roast the community we all love.”
Another much-cherished event at the theater is their annual playwright contest. Queens residents have taken top honors in the contest that seeks the highest caliber original work. The contest has drawn submissions from as far away as France. Everybody wants to get in on the show when it’s in Queens.
Black Spectrum Theatre Company
Roy Wilkins Park
177th Street & Baisley Boulevard, Jamaica
The Black Spectrum Theatre Company (BSTC) brings out the dramatic side of adults and kids alike, transforming raw talent in Southeast Queens into the stuff of great theater.
The Professional Theatre Company, a part of BSTC, produces at least three productions per year, which relate directly to issues and experiences of the community.
“We recently won national awards for the performance of the Piano Lesson by August Wilson,” said Carl Clay, BSTC’s founder and director. “When someone comes to the theater they are going to see top-notch theater on a national level.”
BSTC is big on educating the youth on issues concerning teen pregnancy, handgun violence, police violence and AIDS with many engaging videos. Along with educating the young in the community, the versatile theater provides an after school program three afternoons a week with an array of programs for children to keep learning even after school is out.
The upcoming performance of Jar on the Floor, which begins on Nov. 8, is a play about four generations of African-American women. Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Chinese Cultural Center
41-61 Kissena Blvd., Flushing
Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
With a massive influx of Chinese immigrants into the Flushing area over the last two decades, Chinese culture and language have flourished in the area. But for many newcomers, the new environment still did not feel like home.
Founded in 1986, the Flushing-based Chinese Cultural Center (CCC) began with a mission to help new immigrants feel connected to each other through their shared background and culture. According to the center’s website, the goal is to “strengthen the contact with overseas Chinese, spread Chinese culture, extend Chinese education and make every place like hometown for overseas Chinese.”
Though Flushing remains the focus, CCC also serves communities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and throughout New York state.
Located on Kissena Blvd. near the bustling downtown Flushing, CCC facilities enable community activities, education and cultural events. The Reading Room seats 20 people and contains 8,000 Chinese language books and over 40 magazines and six newspapers native to China and Taiwan. Books can also be loaned.
The Computer Room boasts 16 PCs set up for Chinese language instruction and online education. Two classrooms at CCC are available for community use as meeting spaces, as well as an array of classes organized by the center, including flower arranging, traditional painting and children’s painting classes.
The auditorium at the CCC seats 200 and can be used for large meetings and community performances, as well as lectures and demonstrations hosted by the center. CCC also maintains a collection of historical clothing, dancewear and relics appropriate for Chinese cultural performances.
Crystal Foundation Art Gallery
Crystal Window and Door Systems
31-10 Whitestone Expwy., College Point
Hours: Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. or by appointment
It doesn’t look like much of a place for an art gallery from the outside. In fact, it looks like a giant manufacturing center and the corporate headquarters for one of Queens’ most successful businesses, just off the Whitestone Expressway within the College Point Corporate Park.
But tucked inside the steely, utilitarian confines of Crystal Window and Door Systems plant, away from the din of the factory center and the bustle of the office complex, there is a unique, semi-public art gallery. The gallery is run by the Crystal Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by Crystal CEO Thomas Chen to support and advance the education of Chinese Americans and Chinese culture and arts in America.
Opened in March 2001, the Crystal Foundation Art Gallery features 2,200 square feet of exhibit space and hosts an eclectic mix of tradition and modern art, often with an emphasis on Chinese artists and art forms.
Recent gallery shows have featured a modern Mongolian multimedia artist and a display of classical European-style oil paintings.
Chen, an avid collector of traditional Chinese art, conceived the idea for an art gallery.
“People know I am passionate about windows and doors, but few know I am also very passionate about art. I have always sought ways of sharing and preserving the great culture of Chinese art,” he said.
“My own personal collection is fairly extensive, but I wanted to do something more with the art community directly, something to encourage well-known and not-so-well-known artists,” said Chen.
The first showing at the Crystal Foundation Art Gallery displayed Chen’s personal collection of over 100 historic, intricately carved wooden doors and windows from China, some over 500 years old.
The Crystal Foundation also awards scholarships each year for art students through a competitive process and sponsor Chinese art exhibitions as a way of supporting emerging and established Chinese-American artists.
Much of the artwork exhibited will also be available for public sale.
38-38 43rd St., Long Island City
Open up your mind and flux with a commune of artists at the Flux Factory.
The Flux Factory does more than offer space for the local art scene, it also challenges individuals to work in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by unfamiliar faces –with the inevitable outcome of making the artist stronger.
The Factory is a public setting that provides a computer center, a darkroom, performance space, a musical recording studio and publishing equipment. A weekly Thursday night dinner and salon are available for the starving artists, which is a growing population in the low-slung warehouse districts of Long Island City. The salon also serves as a showcase for individuals to exhibit their on-going or completed works.
The artists at the Flux Factory do not strive to make art that is really functional and direct, nor do the community of artists toil in traditional forms. For the most part, Flux supports art that is abstract and boundary pushing. Artists, scholars and writers from all Queens and New York City are invited to share in this unique experience.
Queens College, 405 Klapper Hall,
65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing
Hours: Monday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
This comprehensive art museum serves the educational and cultural interests of Queens College and the larger communities of Queens and New York City. With a collection of over 2,500 works of art in all media from throughout history, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum presents exhibitions and educational programs free to the public.
It all began over 30 years ago, when a Queens College student introduced Dr. Frances Godwin, Professor of Art History, to her father, Joseph Ternbach, a noted art collector. From this fortuitous meeting came the vision to establish an art collection for Queens College. Over the years the collection has grown through donated works of art. In 1981, the teaching museum was chartered to care for the growing collection and to carry out the educational mission envisioned by its founders. Highlights of the collection include twentieth-century prints by Alexander Calder and Andy Warhol, sculptures from the ancient Near East, Africa and Latin America, as well as ancient glass.
Currently on display until Dec. 20 is “Light of Infinite Wisdom,” an exhibition designed to increase awareness of the artistic and cultural traditions of Asia, which will include more than 90 objects associated with Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, and Taoism.
These stunning artworks from China, India, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Thailand, Tibet, and Sri Lanka range across time from Chinese bronze mirrors (Han dynasty, 206 BC-AD 220) to an exquisite 20th century inked scroll from Shanghai. The art objects, from the museum’s own collection and loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art and private collectors and galleries, include masks, prayer rugs, warrior figurines, dolls, urns, illuminated religious manuscripts, sculptures of deities and much more.
Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning
161-04 Jamaica Ave., Jamaica
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sat.
From the centuries-old rhythms of African dance to the timeless art of storytelling to the cutting edge of computer animation, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) has served thousands of budding artists and local arts patrons for three decades.
JCAL’s focus is three-pronged: on the visual arts, the performing arts and education. In JCAL’s five-story landmarked building on Jamaica Avenue, people of all ages hone their craft and visit their muse under the lights of a performance stage, in the corners of hands-on studios and in the quiet of a modern gallery.
JCAL’s 99-seat theater is frequently the site of performances, with a strong emphasis on youth programming and forms popular in the community like hip-hop, spoken word and storytelling. The stage is booked with a mix of JCAL’s own students and visiting professionals.
Aiming to introduce minorities to the arts and “bridge the digital divide,” JCAL also features a series of about five dozen educational workshops coinciding with every school year.
The workshops are on visual arts, computers, writing, theater, music, dance and even fitness like yoga and karate.
JCAL also hosts a small but first-class gallery, which often features the work of students but usually features shows by professional artists from around the world.
To bring the A and the L in JCAL’s name together, tours and educational workshops are often held in direct relation to the exhibit in the gallery.
And just like in the academies of old, there’s also a highly competitive artist-in-residence program that ends in an exhibit.
King Manor Museum
King Park, Jamaica
Jamaica Avenue between 150th and 153rd Streets
Hours: Tours Thurs. and Fri., noon to 2 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Admission: $5 adults; $3 seniors and students; $2 kids ages four to 13.
A couple blocks down from the hustle, bustle, light and might of Jamaica Avenue’s shopping and entertainment center at Parsons Boulevard is a quiet old farm house nestled in an 11-acre patch of historic green.
The home, King Manor, belonged to statesman, diplomat and Constitutional author Rufus King. It’s now a New York City landmark, National Historic Register house and center of a whole lot of interesting things to see and do for the people of Jamaica.
The 18th-century house, officially a museum, is full of period furniture, textiles, costumes, ceramics, china and glass, paintings and prints, musical instruments, toys and personal effects. There are about 1,400 items in the house’s collection, many of them donations from the estates of local residents. The items, ranging from the grand and exotic to the small and plain, paint an interesting picture of how people lived in Jamaica long ago, before not only shopping malls and automobiles, but even electricity and indoor plumbing.
Notable items include a 19th-century pianoforte, an 1824 map of the “Village of Jamaica” and a portable indoor toilet that requires the user to discard an interior tray after use.
There are also 4,000 catalogued archaeological artifacts from recent excavations in King Manor’s collection. Local kids from grades four to six can participate in the museum’s “Archaeology Education Program;” in it they supplement in-class preparation and study with a two-and-a-half-hour site visit in which they use techniques used by professional archaeologists to examine the items found in King Park, which King Manor calls home.
There are also site tours, interactive exhibits, public workshops on arts and crafts and theme events, like “Constitutional Weekend,” during which the museum celebrates the signing of the Constitution and allows visitors to experience colonial-era oratory and games.
Museum for African Art
36-01 43rd Ave., Long Island City
Hours: 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Mon., Thur., Fri.; 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
The Museum for African Art is dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of African art and culture. As the only independent museum dedicated to African art in the United States, the Museum celebrates Africa’s rich and varied artistic heritage through exhibitions, publications, education and outreach.
For nearly two decades, this world-class institution has created and toured more than forty exhibitions to over seventy-five museums around the world from Birmingham to Budapest.
The museum also features a School Tours Program, bringing students to the Museum from public and private K-12 schools, colleges, and community groups all over the five boroughs of New York City and the metropolitan area. The programs, facilitated by a corps of volunteer docents, feature pre-visit preparatory materials for teachers, guided exhibition tours, a discussion with the students regarding exhibition themes, and, usually, an interactive activity (such as focused drawing or culturally specific storytelling) designed to encourage closer viewing and understanding by the students.
Individual memberships to the Museum for African Art, which include unlimited admissions, the museum’s newsletter and advance notification of events are $50, while family memberships are available for $75.
Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main St., Flushing
Hours: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Tue.- Sun.; April through Oct. open weekdays until 6 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Admission: Donation, except when noted during special events.
Set inside the bustling conduit of Main Street, Flushing is a quiet floral oasis where stopping to smell the roses can be a daily activity.
The 39-acres of the Queens Botanical Garden (QBG) has served as the awe-inspiring backdrop for artists, newlyweds, and bewildered urbanites since it moved to its present location in the early 1960’s.
QBG is open for leisurely strolls, guided tours, and more activities.
Lectures and workshops allow garden goers to roll up their sleeves, get dirt under their nails, and take away a better appreciation for the flowers around them.
One free lecture offered this year is “Monet’s Garden in Giverny,” where presenter Heike Stucke offers slides on the “life and mind of Monet, [and] the therapeutic values of gardening.” Monet masterful use of colors, depicted in the gardens he paints, is the subject of the lecture along with how to use colors in flower arrangements.
Moving beyond the canvas is the class “Flower Creations For All Occasions.” The class teaches not only where to obtain flowers, but how to use them to create custom made decorations, centerpieces, and corsages.
For the bridesmaid who wants to do more than catch the bouquets, there is the “Wedding Flower” class. Arranging and displaying flowers on that special day is the focus of the course. The course is also recommended for those interested in learning about the professional floral business.
More discussions, classes, and seasonal activities are available throughout the season, so flower enthusiasts can keep their interest in bloom year round.
Queens Library Gallery
Queens Borough Public Library
89-11 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica
Hours: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
With exhibits changing several times throughout the year, individuals can hardly get enough of the Queens Library Gallery. Free to the public and educational to the individual, the Gallery offers exhibitions and art education activities that explore different aspects of the Queens world.
“The Queens Library Gallery brings museum-quality exhibitions and arts education right into the heart of the community,” said Carol Sheffer, Deputy Library Director - Planning and Development. Whether the subject is local history, art, literature, ethnic culture or a special interactive exhibit for children, the Gallery is open seven-days-a-week during most of the year, stays open late most evenings and is always free admission. It’s a resource everyone can enjoy. Plus, visitors can take advantage of one of New York’s premier libraries at the same time.”
The current exhibit at the Queens Library Gallery is the Painting for Progress: Art and The New Deal, which takes a close look at artwork from around the time of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal promise.
Thalia Spanish Theatre
41-17 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside
For theater audiences who prefer their Andrew Floyd Weber with a flamenco flare, there’s Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside.
It is the only Hispanic theater in Queens, which is home to more than half a million Spanish-speaking residents.
The theater was founded in 1977 by actress and director Silvia Brito, who retired in 1999. Angel Gil Orrios, a 25-year veteran of Spanish, America and French theater, now heads Thalia.
The small, eight-row theater blends traditional music, often played live on stage, with ornate costumes and animated performances.
For theatergoers with rusty language skills, Thalia offers bilingual productions. Performances alternate between Spanish and English to help introduce a greater audience to the rich tradition of Spanish theater.
Thalia’s first bilingual play was the world premier of Picasso’s Guernica, which opened in the spring of 2000. Other notables in the Spanish playwright community who have premiered their work under Thalia’s roof include Antonio Gala, Jaime Salom and Jerónimo López Mozo.
In the spirit of Shakespeare in the Park, Thalia performers have brought their talents to the Queens parks every June for their Free Outdoor Festival. The series of free concerts began in 1995. The theater also offers workshops for young, aspiring actors.
Topaz Arts, Inc.
55-03 39th Ave., Woodside
Space is such a hard thing to come by in Queens, but Topaz Arts is here to solve that problem. Artists can’t go wrong with 2,500 square feet for rehearsal space with available technical support. Topaz Arts, which is located in Woodside, provides a haven for dancers and artist so they can practice, prepare and perform their work.
“Often people say that artists move out to the boroughs for affordable space - we’re here because we like it,” said Todd Richmond and Paz Tanjuaquio, co-founders of Topaz Arts. “We came across Woodside and felt like this is the place - now three years later, we attract many others who feel the same. Topaz Arts is an inspiring space that provides a creative home for hundreds of artists.”
Along with space rental, Topaz Arts also has video services, a music studio, graphic services and a dance floor available for prices that even artists can afford. Dancing fools don’t need to worry about the cold winter months ahead because the sprung floor has a radiating heating system underneath to keep the toes snugly warm.
Compiled by Aaron Rutkoff, Thomas Lin, Kathleen Melville, Azi Paybarah, Shams Tarek
By Aaron Rutkoff
Your local butcher paints sensitive portraits. The CPA next door can unleash a wicked guitar solo. The cab driver idling at the light has played Hamlet.
In a borough where neighborhood distinctions are sacrosanct, where community pride is foremost, it is entirely appropriate that community arts and community artists rule the roost in Queens.
The art world has no shortage of amateurs. Lacking haughty pros and rarified elitists, Queens boasts a motley crew of workers and strivers—both long time residents and immigrants of every stripe—content to occupy their days with real jobs and careers, saving artistic expression for after hours and weekends.
There are nearly as many community theater companies in Queens as there are communities, with many neighborhoods, religious congregations and ethnicities all hosting performance groups of different sorts.
With so many groups in so many places offering so many performances, it is hard to gain a well-rounded perspective of the depth that theater in Queens has to offer. Theatergoers might attend a show within their neighborhood while remaining completely unaware of the high caliber work staged on the other side of the borough.
Luckily, Queens boasts its own community theater guru. Besides producing his own group, The Outrageous Fortune Company, for over 30 years, Ronald Hellman also charts the status of community theater borough wide, making him a somewhat unusual connoisseur.
According to Hellman, Queens is in the midst of a theater boom.
“There are several more groups around than there used to be,” he said. “There are a number of people that live in Queens that are interested in acting as a sideline since they have to earn their living elsewhere, and it gives them the chance to express themselves creatively.”
The upside of community theater is a pronounced resiliency to the sort of decline affecting its professional counterpart. “For commercial theater, there isn’t the same audience there used to be. But people will go to theater if it’s nearby and its something they can afford,” Hellman explained.
The drawbacks, Hellman admits, are the limitations imposed by low-budget amateur productions.
“Pretty good sounds like its not good enough, but they are good,” Hellman said of many local groups. “The benefit is seeing some of the same people performing in different roles, and that sometimes is interesting because (audiences) feel they know these people—and sometimes they do actually know them.”
And, above all else, Hellman points out the abiding advantage of community theater: “The ticket price is on the low side.” With Hellman’s group, for instance, season tickets to a slate of three plays over a course of six months costs just $48—less than one nose-bleed ticket on Broadway.
While unwavering in his support and praise of every group out there participating in the Queens theater scene, Hellman listed several companies that put out consistently high quality performances each year, as well as a few interesting newcomers.
Parkside Players, Forest Hills
“They’ve been around for 20-plus years and they are consistently one of the best groups around,” Hellman said, adding that they perform “more daring, out of the out of the ordinary plays,” which often include original works.
Theatre Al La Carte, Douglaston
“Does a lot of comedies and mysteries, and their audience prefers that,” Hellman said. “They draw well because the audience expects that.”
Douglaston Community Theater, Douglaston
“In longevity, they may be the oldest group around. I think they’re over 50 years old, which is quite an achievement.”
Black Spectrum Theater, Jamaica
A performing arts center in Roy Wilkens Park that not only puts on high-quality shows, but also features a drama instruction for youths.
Astoria Performing Arts Center, Astoria
QUEENS OF ARTS
Situated along the eastern edge of the borough, very nearly straddling the county line, sits a venerable community art institution with one foot in the amateur world and one foot in the realm of professional art.
The National Art League in Douglaston perfectly encapsulates the artistic atmosphere of Queens by mixing artistic professionals in the visual arts with neophytes eager to rub shoulders with and learn from trained masters. A non-profit, all-volunteer enterprise, the League has been training and showcasing local artists since 1930, and considers itself the premiere visual arts center in the borough.
Membership in the League takes more than a passion for art. According to Vice President and sculptor Nat Bukar, those wishing to join the ranks of the 300 members from all over Queens and Long Island must first pass a review by a panel of artists.
“To become a member, you have to bring your work to a juried committee and you have to score a seven out of ten,” Bukar explained. “It’s open to everyone on earth that wants to apply, but our criteria is relatively high.”
The League also does all it can to help new artists develop their hidden talents.
“We have art classes that run six days a week almost all day,” said Bukar. “We have 10 or 11 instructors that all are all professional artists and teachers, and they run the gamut in techniques from classical to avant-garde, from watercolor to collage.”
Upcoming exhibitions at the League which is located at 44-21 Douglaston Parkway, include a show of member’s works from Nov. 3 through Nov. 28, a holiday-themed showcase of member art for sale from Dec. 8 through Jan. 2, a photography exhibition open to members and non-members alike from Jan. 5 through Jan. 30 and an exhibition of works by NAL students from Feb. 2 through Feb. 28.
More information on the League can be found on the web at www.nationalartleague.org.
The Forest Hills-based Alliance of Queens Artists (AQA) is another visual arts center with a mission to cultivate artistic talent in the borough.
AQA, located at 99-10 Metropolitan Ave., believes in serving the community through the promotion, appreciation and creation of visual arts and skilled crafts. Founded by fifteen Queens artists in 1979, AQA now has members from all over New York City. Exhibitions are held at AQA every month, but members also organize shows at independent galleries.
AQA emphasizes making art accessible to all people regardless of previous education, age or skill, and offers a series of four-week long workshops for everyone from seniors to children. For information on upcoming AQA shows or ongoing classes, visit their website at www.arts4u.org or call (718) 520-9842.
The Jackson Heights Art Club, located at 33-50 82nd St., has been educating Queens artists since 1948. The Art Club offers free public lectures and demonstrations, indoor and outdoor exhibitions, and a busy art studio for teaching classes. For more information, call (718) 889-0065.
There are the community arts institutions that cater to a niche—either a particular art form or a specific cultural group—and there’s The Vault in Queens Village, which features absolutely anything that anyone considers art and wants to share with the world.
Performance artist and Vault founder Tone Bellizi took the unusual step to make room for the free-for-all art space in 1996: “I gutted the first floor of my house,” he explained.
The inspiration for this one of a kind community arts haven came from time Bellizi spent working in African villages. “I was really impressed on how, when I would stop in the village, people would come out and drum and dance, sing songs and tell stories,” he said. “The way we live, pretty much that doesn’t happen. If someone came to my neighborhood, they wouldn’t know where to go to find things artistically and creatively.”
Inside The Vault, located at 90-21 Springfield Blvd., visitors first find a gallery space that features works by local artists affiliated with the avant-garde institution.
Past the gallery is a kitchen transformed into a stage; the entire place is not large—the performance space can accommodate a crowd of 25 with coffee tables, perhaps twice that number without—but it makes up for in diversity what it lacks in capacity. Like the borough itself, which prides itself on accepting immigrants of all sorts, The Vault emphasizes its total acceptance of artists of every imaginable variety—from seasoned pros to first time performers.
Bellizi said, “I really get off on the diversity of everything. We have people who get up on stage and read a poem for the first time, and we have some of the top poets in New York come here too.”
The slogan of The Vault is “Fear No Art,” which to Bellizi “means we don’t censor. Its about artists, its about giving people the chance to express yourself whether you are a novice or an accomplished artist.”
Events at The Vault are so varied as to share only a bold eclecticism. Some shows feature a theme, such as Spirit Night (Jan. 4), Jewish Night (Feb.1) and Evening of Soul (Feb. 28). Others are styled more as open mic nights where anything goes.
And performance artists that can fill an entire evening with their own work are invited to do so. “We open the place for people who want to showcase themselves and do their own show,” Bellizi said.
For more information on The Vault, visit the website at www.thevault.org.
THE STREET AS STUDIO
By Angela Montefinise
Far away from the hallowed halls of the borough’s art museums and cultural centers is a whole new world of artistic expression – one not bounded by the dimensions of a canvas, the size of a frame or the height of a ceiling.
It’s a world where the side of a Long Island City factory can be turned into a masterpiece, and where an empty park can be turned into a home for an elegant statue. It’s a world where art takes on new meaning based on its surroundings, and where a viewer can interact with a piece, bringing it to life.
It’s the world of public art, and according to the borough’s foremost authority on the topic, it’s thriving from Astoria to the Rockaways and everywhere in between.
What Is Public Art?
For Queens Museum of Art Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl, public art is “one of the best ways for people to express themselves in this city.”
Finkelpearl, who worked for six years in the 1990s as part of the city’s Percent For Art Program, explained that there are two kinds of public art, art in public spaces and publicly-funded art.
He said, “Both can be found in Queens, which has a history of public art. In the borough it has been extremely important to the quality of life, not only beautifying the area, but getting people to think.”
A prime example of art in the public realm, he said, is the statue “Civic Virtue” next to Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
The statue, which was created in 1914 and first unveiled in 1922, was originally supposed to stand in City Hall Park at the request of Angelina Crane, a woman who in 1904 gave the city $60,000 in her will to construct the statue.
When the 57-ton statue was erected, it immediately caused controversy – the statue featured a strong man stepping on two women, who represent corruption and vice. Women’s groups protested, and in 1941, a solution was reached – move the statue to Queens.
Finkelpearl said, “It’s a half-naked guy standing on two half-naked women. Of course it was going to cause controversy . . . It has gotten a reaction, though. That’s for sure.”
In fact, outside of Borough Hall this week, several people waiting for buses during the morning rush expressed strong opinions about the statue. “It’s a disgrace,” according to Mary Hogan of Fresh Meadows. “I never quite understood that piece. Everytime I look at it, I’m disgusted.”
Guadalupe Martinez of Jamaica agreed, and said, “My friend pointed that out to me once and I couldn’t believe it. I never really noticed that he was stepping on two women. What a terrible image.”
Other people said they never noticed the details of the statue, with Margaret Tsung of Flushing saying, “I think it’s nice. I didn’t know there were women under the guy. I just thought it was a strong civic man . . . It’s nice to see art.”
Finkelpearl added, “Art gets dialogue going. That’s very important.”
More Than Graffiti
Finkelpearl said one type of public expression he doesn’t approve of is graffiti. “I can’t condone vandalism,” he said. “It’s really upsetting to me that people would need to write their name over and over again in public space. It’s this culture of fame. I really think it’s regrettable that they think that’s the only way to become famous.”
Murals created on public buildings are a different story, however. “They can be quite beautiful and an excellent way to honor someone or express yourself,” Finkelperal said.
In some instances murals actually help stop graffiti.
On the corner of Browvale Street and Northern Boulevard in Little Neck, a mural of Queens’ own Spiderman has recently popped up on the side of Best Comics and Collectibles.
According to owner Thomas Maletta, the mural was “commissioned” out of necessity.
He said, “What I did was take two neighborhood punks who were graffitiing my property and I said to them, ‘You’re good at art, if I pay you to make a mural on my building would you stop graffitiing?’ They said yes, they painted this thing, it looks great, and so far, so good. No graffiti.”
The two kids, brothers Mike and John Mendez, received rave reviews from passers-by, with 13-year-old Johnny Kim saying, “It’s so cool. It looks great,” and 15-year-old Robert Stapinski saying, “It’s awesome. Really detailed and everything.”
At Crispino’s Italian Ices in Bayside, local kids helped paint a Crispino’s logo on the corner establishment’s wall, as well as a Yankees logo and a Mets logo. Jessica Taylor, a 12-year-old, said, “I think that looks really cool. It makes their wall look interesting.”
In Woodside, the group Woodside on the Move creates murals to beautify the neighborhood, and in Jamaica, a mural was created in honor of lost Hollis man Run from Run-DMC.
And outside of 36th Street and 43rd Avenue in Long Island City, the side of a building has been turned into a mural of the superhero Ghost Rider. Stephen Nichols, a factory worker in the area, said, “I love that thing. I don’t know who did it, but it spices the street up. It’s pretty bland around here.”
Honoring Those Lost
Across Queens, murals have popped up to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the heroes that emerged from it.
These works complement the borough’s already extensive catalogue of public memorials, from the Glendale War Memorial featuring a bronze statue of the god Victory, to the “Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument” in Jamaica that shows a bronze winged Victory.
On 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven, a huge mural depicting the American flag, a firefighter with his head down and an angel over his head, a fire truck, the World Trade Center in God’s hands and the words “Never Forget 9-11” was finished on Oct. 14.
Artist Jose Lopez was asked to create the mural by Daniel Pancilla, the owner of Goodfellas Barber Shop, who said he wanted to give something back to those heroes who gave everything on Sept. 11.
At the Fresh Meadows home of Engine Company 320 and Ladder Company 167 in Fresh Meadows, the firefighters came together to paint a huge mural on the side of the firehouse honoring their fallen brothers. Ann Slupp of Fresh Meadows said, “Everytime I pass that on my way to the store, it touches me. It’s such a wonderful thing to have in the neighborhood.”
At the corner of Van Dam Street and the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City, a long mural depicting the flag, a police officer, a firefighter and the World Trade Center welcome drivers heading home from the Queens Borough Bridge.
Local resident Bernard Gomez said, “We take pride in this memorial . . . I don’t know if anyone knows who painted it, but when people see it, they stop honking and think about more important things.”
Down the street on 35th Street and the westbound Long Island Expressway service road, the side of a factory was turned into a huge mural entitled, “American Graffiti” – a mural with an angrier, edgier tone.
Amongst drawings of American soldiers raising a flag, an eagle, and the Statue of Liberty were drawings of soldiers and tanks, with the words, “USA Rox, Iraq Sux, Osama Blows.”
Finkelpearl said, “You may not agree with these pieces, but they certainly get a variety of expression out there. Isn’t that what art is about?”
Taking On New Life
According to Finkelpearl, the beauty of public art is the fact that through interaction with people, it takes on new life.
The sculpture “Broken Spheres” at Queens College is an example – created by Vito Acconci in 1995. The spheres are outside of the school’s art building – Klapper Hall – and have spots for students to sit, relax and contemplate.
Student Marc Everett said, “I always read in those things. It’s kind of peaceful.”
Feldman added, “They’re a bit of a landmark. You know, you tell your friends, ‘We’ll meet by the circles.’”
Finkelpearl said, “One of the ways people navigate through the city is that you sort of have landmarks. Art can be used as markers. They become part of life. The ultimate example of this is the Unisphere.”
He said “everyone” knows where the Unisphere is, and remembered, “One time I got in a cab with a driver who spoke no English and I was trying to tell him where the Queens Museum was. So I described the Unisphere, and he got it. He said, ‘El Mundo, El Mundo’ and sure enough, I got there.”
He added, “These things can be meaningful in a whole bunch of ways. They have some sort of signature presence. People love art not because they love the sculpture or the painting necessarily, but because they have some connection to it that they don’t always get looking at something in a museum.”
An example can be found outside of LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City on 30th Place and 47th Avenue, where two strange sculptures of birds are visible over the overgrown weeds in an empty lot. Student Michele Peters said, “No one knows what those things are. But we always say, ‘Meet by the bird lot.’ I love looking at them. They’re like a sign of life in this desolate place.”
Public Art That Wasn’t
While public art across Queens garners plenty of attention, many eyes across the borough are still on a piece of public art that wasn’t – a statue of Queen Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of the King Of Portugal who may or may not have been the borough’s namesake.
In 1988, plans were in the works for the creation of a 35-foot statue of the Queen to be placed in Hunter’s Point – plans that were supported by the group Friends of Queen Catherine, who raised $2.5 million for the statue. They asked artist Audrey Flack to construct the statue, and continued with plans even after borough civic leaders pointed out that Catherine’s family seemingly benefited from the slave trade, according to historic records.
Protests ensued, and Queens Borough President Claire Shulman withdrew her support.
Still, Manuel e Sousa, the manager for the city’s Portuguese Trade Commission and the head of Friends of Queens Catherine, went ahead with the statue, which is currently sitting in a foundry upstate, waiting to be cast in bronze.
THE PORTRAIT OF THE QUEENS ARTIST IS BLURRY AT BEST
By Shams Tarek
The Queens artist is an elusive character.
Heng-Gil Han, a visual arts curator with the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, says he has long since given up trying to put a label on the borough’s artists. To illustrate this point, he recalls standing in a Chelsea gallery called The White Box last month when several Brooklyn artists broached the subject.
The exhibit at the gallery, called “BQE,” featured art in various media — including photographs, paintings and drawings — about the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Though the road is a unifying element that brings the people of the two boroughs together, the curators of the show highlighted the difference between the boroughs by showing only the Queens work for the show’s first three weeks, then just the Brooklyn work for the second three weeks.
The guests at the Brooklyn opening — a collection of artists, curators and other art world insiders — eventually started to compare Brooklyn and Queens artists. Brooklyn artists, they said, have a strong group identity, as in “We are Brooklyn artists.”
Queens artists, on the other hand, are considered much more individualistic.
Han said he couldn’t agree more.
Artists in Brooklyn are more “established” but Queens artists are more mobile, he said. “Brooklyn artists are more trained, more educated in theory. For better or worse.”
Queens artists, to him, aren’t as likely to have as formal a background but are much more mobile, both physically and mentally.
“They’re not afraid of temporality,” Han said. “They’re ready to pack and to leave.”
Whereas artists started moving into Brooklyn 30 years ago, and a veritable scene started to form there about a decade ago, a significant influx of artists into Queens started only about 10 years ago, by most accounts. The scene here is just getting underway.
But like the artists in Williamsburg and DUMBO, Queens artists came mainly for one reason: cheap rent.
They’re scattered all over the borough, but are centered largely in the Western Queens neighborhoods of Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside and Jackson Heights.
Several factors have contributed to the geography of the Queens art scene, of which Long Island City is a major focal point. One is the longtime existence of institutions like the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center and the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, both in Long Island City. The June 2002 opening of MoMA QNS, a critical event in the history of the borough’s cultural renaissance, didn’t hurt either.
Another factor drawing a lot of artists to Long Island City is its largely industrial landscape, where big factory spaces and lofts give visual and performing artists plenty of room to make and display their work.
The other major reason artists — and just about anybody else — have flooded into Long Island City and the other hot Queens neighborhoods mentioned above is transportation, namely the No. 7 train.
Charting the development of gentrification — a byproduct of all this artistic activity — in Queens is as simple as taking a ride on the No. 7 train.
Not Just LIC
Contrary to what a lot of outsiders think, Long Island City is not a synonym for Queens. In fact, artists live all over the borough.
Tom Finkelpearl, director of the Queens Museum of Art, may understand this better than anyone else.
His museum is nestled in the middle of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, far from the hip cafés and bars of Western Queens.
He hosted an exhibit last year called Queens International, featuring a lot of work by Queens artists, many of them on display for the first time in their lives.
The Rockaway Artists Alliance are “obviously quite different from the hipsters in Long Island City,” he said.
In the Rockaways — which are arguably not quite Queens, not quite Brooklyn, and not quite New York City — there are a lot of older, more traditional artists doing impressionistic landscapes and stone sculpture, Finkelpearl said. In the Long Island City, on the other hand, there’s a lot more experimental, avant-garde work being done.
But another element of contemporary art, Finkelpearl said, is letting artists live just about anywhere in the borough they want: computers.
With affordable desktop and laptop computers that can render richly textured and three-dimensional designs, mix CD-quality sound and edit DVD-quality video, many musicians, filmmakers and so-called digital artists are able to do much of their work in any regular apartment.
Gone, then, is the need for the big sun-drenched lofts of Western Queens. Open for habitation is that little room in Elmhurst for $150 a week, or that basement in Forest Hills for $700 a month. The result, according to Finkelpearl, is an art scene that’s almost impossible to define geographically.
Even Southeast Queens, in many ways the least likely to be a center of arts in Queens, is a rich source.
This quarter of the borough has a lot going against it in terms of inspiring art; many residents are either very comfortable and live in big suburban homes with backyards or are barely getting by and living in crowded conditions in high-crime areas.
But it still has managed to be home to almost every major jazz musician associated with New York, including Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, and has produced many a millionaire rap star, like 50 Cent, L.L. Cool J and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.
Simmons and Cool J came from the comfortable middle-class neighborhood of Hollis, along with the members of Run-DMC. John Watusi Branch, founder and director of the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, is confounded by the history.
“It seems like Hollis, Queens is some kind of breeding ground for rap artists,” Branch said. “I’m really puzzled about that.”
Who Is The Queens Artist?
The “who” of the Queens art scene is as diverse as the “where.”
They range, as Finkelpearl and Han note, from hipsters in Long Island City making installation art to the nurse in Jamaica making collages out of household objects to the hip-hop hopeful in Maspeth mixing beats on a Macintosh.
Being outside the mainstream of the city’s art spheres has both its advantages and disadvantages, according to most people you ask.
Finkelpearl sees nothing but good in the fact.
There’s a commercial pressure in Manhattan and Brooklyn that doesn’t apply as much to Queens artists, he said. The result is that their “ideas are coming from the self rather than from others.”
“There’s a kind of quirkiness in Queens that’s a result of people not being in touch with what you’re supposed to be doing,” Finkelpearl said. “And I think that’s a good thing.”
Brett Littman, a spokesman for P.S. 1, sees Queens artists differently from his peer Han.
Whereas Han sees Queens artists as very independent, Littman, whose museum is a partner with MoMA and in the physical and spiritual heart of the Long Island City art scene, sees the Queens artists as very group oriented.
He takes part in a monthly ad-hoc meeting with other deans of the Long Island City art scene. Queens artists are bound together by their location, he said.
Littman says the Queens art scene is burgeoning and needs only three or four more years to fully develop. He maintains that like the borough itself, P.S. 1 has an international focus, in terms of both its artists and subject matter.
About 60 percent of P.S.1’s more than 50,000 visitors each year are from outside the city, Littman said. Of that group, eight out of 10 are from foreign places, mostly Europe.
He captured the entire Queens art scene by describing his own trips as a teenager to P.S. 1 many years ago. You had to take the G train to this off-the-beaten-path neighborhood, he noted.
“That made it even more satisfying when you’ve arrived,” Littman said. “Because you feel you’re in the know.”
Local Artists Find Inspiration In Diversity
By Shams Tarek
What inspires Queens artists? It’s the diversity, stupid.
At least according to Tom Finkelpearl, director of the Queens Museum of Art.
“You can walk down any street in Queens and get a store from any country in the world,” said Finkelpearl, who adds the only thing that’s stopped him from taking up residence in Jackson Heights is his plum deal on a Manhattan loft. “The diversity characterizes the Queens art scene first and foremost.”
Finkelpearl’s first show at the Queens Museum was “Queens International,” a look at world cultures as experienced here.
One artist really captured the spirit of the borough, he said. Astoria resident Marietta Ganapin, in her debut show, made intricate paper collages out of local museum and gallery brochures. She deconstructed contemporary art from all over the world into shapes and colors, before reconstructing them into a form familiar to the Philippines-born Ganapin.
“It’s really smart and original and super labor-intensive,” Finkelpearl said.
But it’s not just Ganapin’s background that let her make her collages. In a borough free of the commercial pressures common in the Manhattan and Brooklyn art worlds, the fulltime nurse was able to spend hours of her free time working on pieces that no one may bother to buy.
Queens, according to Finkelpearl, is the best place in the city for an immigrant artist like Ganapin to thrive.
“There’s a lot of anti-immigrant feeling in the world,” Finkelpearl said. “That’s less so in Queens, I think.”
Heng-Gil Han, visual arts curator of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, also cites cultural diversity as the most significant inspiration for Queens artists.
While art from the Bronx is heavily Latino and hip-hop-oriented in nature, and works from Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn are very western and minimalist, art from Queens is a direct extension of foreign traditions.
“The artists in Queens are much more aware of diversity and of tradition in art,” Han said. “Many artists are bringing traditions of the old country. In Queens you can see a lot of different art and a lot of different ideas.”
Queens is also a place “where you can investigate globalization,” Han said. It’s a topic the Korean immigrant and U.S. resident of seven years is obsessed with.
Han curated an exhibit last year called “Global Priorities,” which presented “works of art that deal with the issues of globalization in personal and/or local contexts.”
“The fundamental concept was inspired by Queens,” said the Woodside resident, who added that the idea for the show might not have been born in another borough. “This was the perfect theme for a show in Jamaica Center.”
Han contends Queens is the best place in the world to examine art and globalization.
Something Old, Something New
As much as Queens’ diversity yields traditional art based on foreign influences, it also yields cutting-edge work from people set loose from “the old country.”
There are clusters of South Asian artists in Jackson Heights, for example, that are quite politically active. Go to a meeting or event organized by that neighborhood’s NICE (New Immigrant Community Empowerment) or Center For Humanist Cultures, and you’ll find many of them there.
“You can see their work everywhere,” Han said.
The borough’s white artists—like the Irish in Woodside or the Russians and Italians in the Rockaways—focus largely on traditional forms.
Many of the borough’s non-white immigrant artists, on the other hand, are doing a lot of installation and conceptual art.
“The difference between the older generation and new immigrants is that the new immigrants are much more aggressive and the themes are more politicized,” Han said.
But as much as Queens’ immigrants are inspiring and making art here, they’re not as easily found in the circles of art patrons.
Finkelpearl identified the dynamic during a recent interview when he spoke of “old Queens” and “new Queens” and his museum’s efforts to attract more of the latter.
The people of new Queens are basically the non-European immigrants who flooded the country after the 1965 Immigration Act. They’re your JFK International Airport immigrants: Asians, South Asians, Hispanics and Caribbeans.
Finkelpearl wants to bring the newer immigrants into the fold.
Not only is a strong public school trip program at the Queens Museum introducing a lot of young immigrants to art for the first time, but the museum is even making efforts to go to where the immigrants are.
When the museum opens its exhibit later this year on “Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America,” a multimedia project chronicling immigrants in Queens, it’s going to include a “Mobile Story Photo Booth,” an interactive kiosk at which visitors can be photographed and contribute their own immigrant stories.
The museum will be taking the booth out on daily visits to places like shopping malls and commercial strips, to reach immigrants who normally wouldn’t visit a museum.
“We are reaching into new Queens,” Finkelpearl said.
‘Crossing the BLVD’
Perhaps the greatest recent example of how Queens’ diversity can inspire a work of art is the “Crossing the BLVD” project, by Sunnyside husband and wife Warren Lehrer and Judith Sloan.
The couple never wanted to live in Queens; like many other artists and non-artists alike, they moved into a Sunnyside apartment after being priced out of anywhere else, Sloan said.
They wanted to use the money they saved to travel, but the two artists—Lehrer is a writer, designer and photographer and Sloan is an actress, oral historian and studio artist—couldn’t even afford that. So they decided to travel in their own backyard.
Inspired by all the different people living in the borough, Lehrer and Sloan spent three years interviewing and photographing Queens immigrants with the goal of telling untold stories, of putting the spotlight on people who normally go unnoticed in society.
The project has been a success; it’s resulted in a radio program, multimedia website, a series of lectures and performances and a museum exhibit.
Queens Inspires…And It Doesn’t
Despite this article’s focus on Queens’ influence on local art, the borough itself just isn’t a common subject in a lot of the art made here.
Finkelpearl thinks most art about Queens is photography and writing done here. Ultimately, the borough’s buildings and streets are not as interesting as its people.
Fitting The World On A Canvas
By Azi Paybarah and
From Indian-Turkish restaurants to Chinese dumplings cooked under Halaal and Kosher laws, Queens residents are accustomed to the blending of two cultures on one plate.
But in this diverse borough, the mishmash of cultures is also apparent on its canvases and stages.
Herb Morsher, a drummer for Spitzbaum, a German-American band based in Middle Village, explained how the borough’s diversity affected his group’s music. “What influences our musical style is living in New York. We’re influenced with jazz and hip hop…we’ll even play Irish music,” he said.
Although billed as a “traditional” German-American band, Spitzbaum attracts a wide net of listeners. “The audiences varies, we’re playing for everybody: Italians, Spanish, Jews, it doesn’t matter. We even had a sax player from Israel,” Morsher said.
It is a true cultural collage.
“What you see in the borough of Queens is the petri dish of America,” said Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, executive director of the Queens Council on the Arts. “Side by side with traditional art forms, you have this art that’s been transformed by the immigrant experience in Queens.”
Krakauer described not only how the artwork in Queens reflects immigrant life, but also how different ethnic groups influence each other in creating new art forms. “What happens in the long run is that there’s a lot of cross pollination.”
Music For All
The most ethnically diverse area in Queens, according to the Department of City Planning Population Division Director Joseph Salvo, is Jackson Heights. “The area used to be a working-class neighborhood for Germans and Italians, and over the last 20 years, has become a haven for a variety of immigrant groups.”
One group in Jackson Heights that has embraced the neighborhood’s change is the Cameron Scottish Music Ensemble, whose founder Isabelle Smith said, “You don’t have to be Scottish to join the group. Most of the group is not.”
The 11-year-old group meets monthly at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on 82nd Street. Although the group’s main focus is teaching and performing Scottish music, Cameron Smith admitted, “It is really kind of difficult to say this is inherently Scottish, this is inherently Irish.”
Feel the Rhythm
Each country has their own tradition of getting up and moving around. One dance form that has morphed as it crossed borders is belly dancing, which has found a second home here in Queens.
Its roots are in the Middle East and North Africa.“People from that part of the world are all over Queens,” said Belly dancer Jinnie Werner, co-director of Mystical Motion. “We’re belly dancers. So the music we use is from Egypt, Israel, North Africa, the Middle East and Morocco. The music is very strong. They’re heartbeat rhythms, very stimulating.”
Werner noted her group performs in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants from Fresh Meadows to Astoria. Belly dancers in Queens, Werner said, have the audience and freedom needed to perform.
Although they are constantly battling the stereotype that belly dancing is a stripshow, Werner said Mystical’s main objective is education. The Bellerose-based dance troupe has routinely performed in hospital and senior centers. There, Werner said, Mystical’s colorful outfits and stimulating rhythms as a form of recreational therapy.
A World On Film
For a world tour with buttered-popcorn, there’s the Queens International Film Festival, which kicks off its inaugural series of independent film screenings this November.
“I believe Queens is a melting pot of people from all over the world and it’s important to put an emphasis on it,” said Marie J. Castaldo, founder and executive director of the festival.
The festival will start small this year, Castaldo said, with a few foreign films — from France, Canada, Ireland and Spain — but she hopes that next year the it will showcase more countries, more in-depth, with each day of the festival dedicated to presenting a country’s films, music and food.
The festival presents films that touch on a wide range of topics, Castaldo said. For example, one film comes from a 14-year-old Queens filmmaker and is titled, “Queen from Heaven,” whereas other films deal with socioeconomic and cultural diversity.
All screenings will take place in Auditorium 5 at Midway Theatre, 108-22 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills. Ticketing and event information is available online at www.queensfilmfestival.com or by calling (718) 459-5496.
Of Art And Healing
From around the world to a world apart, art in Queens has formed a bridge from assisted living communities to audiences on the outside.
Outpatients from Creedmoor Psychiatric Center were the subject of a 2002 publication called “Journey of Hope: Artwork from The Living Museum.” The Queens Village studio was called “a space for art and healing”.
While the huge, tranquil space — along with the relaxing flute and string music in the background — may be inherently therapeutic, the studio also serves as fertile ground for an expression of humanity that transcends ethnic borders, and even labels such as “normal” or “mentally ill.”
In “Journey of Hope,” Dr. Evelyn Roberts, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of NYC, writes, “The vivid beauty of these works does not allow us to limit our viewing experience to that of seeing patients engaged in therapy. The powerful immediacy of this art holds us and draws us in. We find ourselves incapable of keeping a safe, objective distance or of maintaining our self-protective ‘us and them’ thinking.”
The Living Museum, part of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, is open to the public by appointment only. It serves as both an artists’ studio — the cavernous facility has artists working at their stations — and a gallery with several installations built around particular themes.
To set up an appointment for a visit, contact Dr. Janos Marton, the museum director, at (718) 264-3490.
A Sampling of the borough’s cultural collage
Mystical Motion Dancers
28-46 34th Street, Apt. 2B
These professional belly dancers perform their Middle Eastern and North African shows everywhere from senior centers and hospitals to teashops and restaurants.
Cameron Scottish Music Ensemble
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
33-50 82nd Street, Jackson Heights
Amateurs and non-Scotts are welcome to bring their own instrument and learn a variety of traditional Scottish music.
64-70 83rd Place Middle Village
A guitarist in cowboy boots and a trumpet player who doubles on the bongo drums helps this professional German-American band infuses contemporary sounds into traditional German music.
Tahuantinsuyo – Music of the Andes
The traditional music of the Andes – a region occupied by Ancient Incas – is the subject of Tajuantinsuyo’s workshops, lectures, and slide presentations.
Greek-American Folklore Society (GAFS)
21-80 Crescent Street, Astoria
Fans of traditional Greek dancing can enroll in one of GAFS workshops, or watch one of the performances the group helps organize, complete with traditional outfits.
South East Asian
Hindu Temple Society of North America
Ganesh Temple, 45-57 Bowne Street, Flushing
All are welcome to learn more about South East Asian culture by enrolling in the temples music language or dance courses. Lectures, discussions and other events are also routinely held at the temple.
Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts, Inc.
67-32 136 Street, #1A, Kew Gardens Hills
Save the passport and plane fare: The sounds and language of Bangladesh are available in workshops and classes at the institute. Reading, writing, dancing and musical performances are all on the curriculum.
206-41 46 Avenue, Bayside
The group aims to raise awareness and promote their Indigenous-American culture.
Aims of Modzawe
115-62 Sutphin Boulevard, Jamaica
Aims of Modzawe, the Dinizulu Center for Culture and Research lives up to its name by offering classes and workshops in African dance and drumming. Also under the same roof is the African Diaspora Children’s Museum, whose tours are available by appointment.
Fusing Brazilian music and jazz, Jazzethnics offers concerts and educational programs with top Brazilian artists.
Caribbean American Repertory Theatre
114-13 Ovid Place, St. Albans
The 28-year-old theater performs boroughwide and encourages aspiring actors from Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada, Haiti, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago to send resumes and photos for consideration in upcoming performances.
Bukharian Jewish Theater
139-60 85th Drive, Suite 4E, Briarwood
The history, music and folklore of Bukharian Jews take center stage in the 28-year-old theater troupe, founded by Semyon Aulov, an accomplished actor and producer from Uzbekistan.
Binari-Korean American Cultural Troupe
50-16 Parsons Boulevard, Flushing
Performances of traditional Korean drumming are among Binari’s most popular shows, designed for first and second generation Korean-Americans, and those with Soel.
Korean Performing Arts Center, Inc.
142-05 Roosevelt Avenue, Flushing
Korean ballet is the centerpiece of this not-for-profit organization, founded in 1974. Western classic and Korean styles are combined in KPAC’s performances.