“I’m here to hopefully make some connections and hopefully get some grants and money because we need it – we need to finish this film,” said Monica Gutierrez, a filmmaker who attended Queens Arts Connection (QAC) on Saturday, March 22 at the Queens Museum of Art.
Gutierrez has been struggling for two years to complete a self-funded documentary.
“And it’s not easy – not easy. Not easy when you gotta pay bills and everything and, you know, everything is ‘the film, the film, the film.’ It’s taken over my life – it’s taken over my finances,” she said raising her eyebrows with a smile.
Gutierrez and around 200 other artists and 19 arts organizations in all disciplines met for an afternoon of networking, dialogue, performances and critique at the third bi-annual event, which, for the second time was co-organized by the Queens Council on the Arts and the Queens Museum of Art.
Chris Henderson, the Arts Services Director for the Queens Council on the Arts explained that QAC was created for people like Gutierrez to connect them with likeminded people and organizations that can help alleviate some of the financial burden in creating a film, art installation, poetry series or other form of expression.
“As an artist you are often working in isolation. You’re working in your studio by yourself or you’re working on your project by yourself. And you often need collaborators but there is no formal structure to do that,” said Henderson, on the shared mission of exposing artists to the plethora of resources available to them.
“What we do is bring people together so they can find out about the resources and, really, survive as artists,” he said.
Upstairs in the QMA theater, a local music and dance troupe called Mahina Movement provided the soundtrack and were a case-in-point for what Henderson and other organizers hoped to promote at QAC.
“We wanna be the intellect that runs out of Ivy League classrooms and survives on the streets!” was a poignant and telling line in a performance geared at educating artists on how to stay off the streets. As teaching artists who perform in classrooms and other educational environments, the group hopes “to inspire not only each other but those that hear our words and our music” thereby creating a “chain reaction” as vocalist Erica DeLaRosoa put it.
“I think today what stands out is that if you’re an artist and that is what you want to do with your life and that’s your dream, you can continue doing that and at the same time you can work and get money to pay the bills,” said Moana Niumeitolu, also a vocalist in the group.
At the end of their presentation, Mahina Movement mentioned that they, too, are looking for grants to take their performance overseas.
As if on cue, a representative from the New York Foundation for the Arts began a demonstration on the organization’s online database of grants, awards and other resources for artists, followed by a seminar by the New York State Council on the Arts on how to become a teaching artist.
Rachel Sandweiss, who represented NYFA downstairs on the networking floor, said she came to QAC to reach a broader group of artists than she would in Manhattan or Brooklyn, and explained that her organization has an Immigrant Outreach program, which she thinks would benefit the multi-cultural artist community in Queens.
Organizations like Astoria Big Band and Jazz Band were also present at QAC, promoting their upcoming calendar of events, and even selling tickets.
Carol Sudhalter, the director of the two Astoria music troupes, smiled as she stood in a room surrounded by artists networking with the same organizations that provided her with grants to get her groups off the ground.
While some artists had their work privately critiqued in upstairs offices, others participated in a Slide Slam in which they discussed and projected their art onto a wall for all to see.
A writer who goes by the name Becca said she “couldn’t have been happier” with the event.
“From the moment I walked in and stood next to a couple of dancers I knew I was at home because I started my arts life as a dancer,” Becca said.
“It was just what it was advertised to be: people from one arts group and another arts group finding out what each other had to offer.”