Queens Center Mall showcases kids’ art

The group is called “From Cardboard to Canvas,” and for 15 southeast Queens kids, it is a four-hour Saturday appointment for art instruction.
However, for most, the class is much more.
“I paint because I like it. It’s very fun,” said 11-year-old Joseph Hamlett. “It keeps us out of trouble. That’s what my mom says, and that’s what Miss McKenzie says too.”
Miss McKenzie - McKenzie Brookes - has been painting as long as she can remember. About three years ago, she started the class, held in the Epiphany Lutheran Church in Laurelton. At the time, the group could only afford cardboard as their main medium.
That is where J.C. Penney comes in.
In December 2006, the Elmhurst outlet of the department store chain heard about the painting class and wanted to reward Brookes and the children, so both the corporation and store managers chipped in for a Christmas tree and presents plus $500 for supplies like canvases, thereby giving the class its name.
“That kind of money will last us a long time,” Brookes said, beaming.
Their final gift was the organization of an art show and sale at Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst on Friday, August 31 and Saturday, September 1, held outside the J.C. Penney location.
For hours, the kids hocked their wares - like colorful prints of former New York Giant player Tiki Barber and 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro.
One 10-year-old student, Janelle Spence, even displayed a book she had written about a stolen monkey.
“I’ve been drawing ever since I was four. One day I hope to go to Japan and work for Sony,” said 14-year-old Carey Thame, whose paintings of Angelina Jolie and Bob Marley stopped one shopper in her tracks. Thame also created the T-shirt that he wore to the show - a $35 cartoon of a superhero frog.
Brookes calls their work “hip hop” art, and said local youngsters desperately need a place to show off their work.
“Often the young children in Queens on the bus, they come up to me and say Miss McKenzie what can I do,” she said. “That’s why I want to start an art gallery.”

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