By Alan Krawitz
What if artists were asked to solve some of society’s most vexing problems from housing and health care to fixing the economy?
That is the premise that will be explored by Queens-based artists as part of the Queens Art Express 2012 Festival June 14-17.
Hosted by the Queens Council on the Arts, a city-based nonprofit that supports local artists, three upcoming free exhibitions in the borough will blend artist exhibitions and performances with public discourse on current social issues.
The exhibitions, set to take place in Jamaica, Long Island City and Flushing, will ask artists and attendees to imagine a world where public policy is made by artists instead of politicians and lobbyists.
“We’re trying to market all the amazing arts activities that happen in the neighborhoods along the 7 subway line,” said Lynn Lobell, managing director of the Queens Council on the Arts. “In order to bring a different energy to the project, we decided to commission artists and look at three very big issues that affect artists — housing, health care and the economy — and ask them what they would do if they were able to sit at the table and make policy.”
The exhibition commences with “What If We Re-Made U.S. Housing Policy?” at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning in Jamaica June 14, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and asks artists how they would involve citizens and communities in creating sustainable housing for all. Artists Ran Hwang, Anna Lise Jensen, Carlos Martinez and poet Queen Godis will showcase their work at the event.
Currency, in Long Island City, will spotlight the work of installation artist Leslie Alfin, designer Chanel Kennebrew, performance artist Theresa Byrnes and singer-songwriter/activist Toshi Reagon Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will examine how the world would be different if artists had the chance to remake U.S. economic policy.
On Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the series continues at the Crossing Art Gallery in Flushing and will focus on new work by musicians Andrew D’Angelo and DJ Rekha as well as photographer Ocean Morisset as they offer their solutions on health care reform. All three events in Queens are free and open to the public.
Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, executive director of the QCA, said the point of the festival is to promote dialogue among New Yorkers about the role of art in modern society.
“Just what would the world be like if artists dealt directly with society’s most pressing concerns? During our three free exhibitions, we’re thrilled to bring together prominent voices within the Queens and New York artistic communities and make their work accessible to the greater public,” said Krakauer.
In conjunction with the art festival, QCA is hosting an idea challenge on its website that is an open forum to ask people for ways to improve public policy in the areas of housing, health care and the economy.
“All proposals will be reviewed by a panel of judges and three winning solutions will receive prizes, including visits to top Queens culinary, hospitality and artistic destinations,” said Brian Tate, a marketing strategist with The Tate Group, who co-developed the festival with QCA.