Museums to focus on local talent

By Kate Bobby

You'll find cutting-edge contemporary art in “Queens NOW,” a new ongoing exhibition from the Queens Museum of Art (QMA) set to showcase the work of artists living and/or working in the borough.

“Queens NOW” will be dedicated to artists producing vibrant, exciting work right now,” said Laurene Buckley, executive director at the QMA, who launched a similar program with great success at the New Britain Museum of Contemporary Art, where she served as director until this year, when she was named the new director of the QMA.

Starting early next year, “Queens NOW” will feature local talent through about six one-man and one-woman exhibitions per year, with the selected artists assisting in the installation of their own work in yet-to-be-determined spaces within the museum.

The Nov. 15 deadline for “Queens NOW” has passed and the first artist has been chosen, but Queens artists need not despair. There will be future opportunities for getting the museum's attention. The next deadline is May 15.

“The artists themselves are the ones to be credited with bringing this about,” said Buckley, referring to early meetings with community artists and patrons who approached her when she signed on as QMA director.

“They said, “We need to do more for the artists,” recalled Buckley, “and I took that seriously. I see “Queens NOW” as just one vital way to nurture the Queens artists.”

Other programs around the corner at the QMA include a community gallery space with thematic shows focusing on issues and images connected with Queens. Another program in the works is an annual member's exhibition.

“If you have to be a member to be a part of the show, it creates an incentive for local artists to become members of their community museum,” said Buckley, explaining the reasoning for an annual members' exhibition. “In addition, an annual members' show will open the door to submissions from around the country, as long as the artists are members. It will really enable us to go to town and create a very exciting kind of exhibition.”

Already on view through the QMA are the works selected for exhibition at the Bulova Corporate Center in Jackson Heights, Queens, an off-site QMA installation space.

“Since the exhibition space is in a public arena, there are some restrictions,” says Hitomi Iwasaki, curator for the Bulova Center space that is currently featuring the sculptural work, “The Room As I Touch It” by Isidro Blasco.

Hardly secondary to local talent is local money, which is always needed for community exhibitions such as those being planned by the QMA.

“Certainly, programs like these need to be underwritten. We rely on community-minded folks and organizations taking a supportive role and we put the word out that we are always in need of help,” said Buckley.

Artists interested in submitting their work to the QMA should contact Iwasaki by calling 592-9700, ext. 123 to be apprised of future deadlines and the proper format for submission of work.

Along similar lines, P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center in Jackson Heights, in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art, (MoMa) will host “Greater New York” dedicated to the exhibition of new artists.

“The only unifying criteria for participation are that the artists reside in greater New York and that they may not have had a solo exhibition prior to 1995,” read a statement on “Greater New York” issued by P.S. 1 this past Friday.

As it currently stands, 10 representatives from P.S. 1 and MoMa have conducted “marathon slide viewings” of the work of roughly 1,500 artists. The results of this selection will in turn necessitate a narrower selection process by a smaller team. The show will represent the final selections of three curators from each institution. At this moment, the P.S. 1 staff curators assigned to handle “Greater New York” are: Klaus Biesenbach, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev and Russell Haswell. MoMA staffers on the job are: Laura Hoptman, Paulo Herkenhoff and Deborah Wye from MoMa. These six will be making personal studio visits, as well as the directors of both institutions prior to final selections.       

The Queens Museum of Art is located at the New ork City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park. For more information, call 592-9700.

P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center is located at 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City. For more information, call 784-2084.