Arts Advocate and Photographer
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Art, art and more art. That’s what Carol Lacks, 59, likes to promote in her community, Kew Gardens.
The most recent project she coordinated together with a friend was the creation of a mural on Austin Street, off of Lefferts Boulevard, in the Kew Gardens Cinemas Park. Unveiled in October, the mural is comprised of 10 painted panels, each representing a different movie theme and created by a different artist. The panels are installed on a large-scale painted film strip along the park’s brick walls.
“We wanted to cover up the graffiti and give the neighborhood something wonderful,” Lacks said.
She coordinated that project as part of her involvement with the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts, where she sits on the Board of Directors.
Lacks also sits on the Board of Directors of the Kew Gardens Improvement Association, an organization that works to beautify the community. As part of her involvement with that group, three years ago Lacks established an annual Community Day, when artists from Queens display their work. Lacks’ intention behind starting this tradition was to create an opportunity for the diverse members of Kew Gardens to get together and enjoy art.
PERSONAL: Lacks has an artistic bent herself - she’s an amateur photographer. She likes to take photos, especially black and white, of musicians and social gatherings. She also likes to shoot portraits. Lacks switched to a digital camera only recently, using film before that.
“I see [photography] as a vehicle to make a connection. You can walk anywhere and you can talk to anybody if you have a camera.”
Lacks, who is divorced and has a grown-up daughter, said that taking photos also helps her notice details about her surroundings. “I could be pretty oblivious, but I find the camera makes me look.”
Lacks has been able to devote time to her shooting and volunteering since she retired three years ago. “I didn’t have the luxury of participating in community events,” she said about the 31 years that she spent working as a teacher.
Her job as an educator was to help blind and visually impaired children in mainstream high school classes. “I was always interested in people who have special needs and in people who are a little different,” Lacks said. “I always wanted to enhance people’s lives in some way.”
INSPIRATION: This desire to enhance people’s lives is what inspires Lacks to volunteer. “Making a day better for someone in my community, even if it’s one day – I’m very motivated by that,” Lacks said.
FAVORITE MEMORY: Each year’s Community Day, where people from the community come out for an art show and music, is a favorite moment for Lacks. “Once I see that everything is in order and people are enjoying themselves, I just feel a sense of peace.”