By Nathan Duke
A Bayside businessman said he is planning to launch an initiative along Bell Boulevard that would place the work of northeast Queens artists on the walls of eateries, banks and other stores along the strip.
Louis Cattaruzza, an investment banker and real estate agent from Bayside, hopes to kick off the Village Art Initiative in midâˆ’summer at stores on Bell Boulevard between 39th and 43rd avenues. He said he also hopes to hang acrylic as well as oil and watercolor paintings in the windows of empty storefronts along the roadway to brighten the community amid the current economic downturn.
“It will bring people to look in the windows,” he said. “They’ll have a reason to walk the streets and use the shops. And I hope it will be embraced by other communities in the region. People need to think outside of the box and get the community to participate.”
The venture, which Cattaruzza hopes to initiate in early July, currently includes the participation of 20 artists from Bayside, Flushing, Douglaston and Little Neck. So far, Italian eatery Il Vesuvio, at 39âˆ’34 Bell Blvd., has agreed to take part in the project and Cattaruzza is in the process of discussing art space with other local landlords and business owners.
“It will be great for landlords with empty buildings because it will bring eyeballs to the store,” he said. “It could help rent stores.”
Most of the participating artists are over the age of 50, Cattaruzza said. A majority of them are retired business owners or local residents who began painting as a hobby.
James Riso, president of the Bayside Business Improvement District, said Cattaruzza’s idea is currently being mulled over by the BID.
“We think it’s a good idea as long as we can convince retailers,” he said. “But we see it as a possibility for the future.”
Cattaruzza said he came up with the idea for the initiative when he decided to paint portraits of older homes in the community that faced demolishment.
Each of the exhibited paintings would be hung in Bayside’s stores freeâˆ’ofâˆ’charge, but the artists could sell the works. The initiative would be a nonprofit.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 156.