By Tammy Scileppi
Where artists go, transformation follows.
Many New York City residents have benefited from art and the creative process — especially children who are exposed to it.
“We have to fight for the creative arts (not just performing arts) to be an integral part of education if we want to develop creative thinkers and problem-solvers,” says Queens artist and parent, Carol Crawford, who advocates for and believes passionately in “the healing and peace-promoting aspects of art.”
Crawford, and her Long Island City Artists group, are the force behind a new exhibit highlighting works from Queens’ artists.
The multi-venue traveling art show called Bridging the Gap made its first stop at historic Flushing Town Hall in late June and will run there through Sunday. On display are 50 contemporary works by 40 local artists, revealing the borough’s signature diversity through his or her unique vision. The artists originally hail from all over the United States and other countries but now call Queens home.
“We wanted the show to reflect that we were ‘bridging the gap,’ by including artists from many neighborhoods in Queens and give a more balanced representation of the borough as a whole,” said Amy H. Winter, director of the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College, who, along with Long Island City Artists, put together the show.
Their goal is to reach out to residents and make them aware of what exciting things are out there, and make them feel welcome.
“As I viewed the works, I was struck not only by the highly developed technical facility of the artists, but the originality and distinctly personal quality of the art,” said Winter. “Some pieces are directly related to the artist’s past or present reality: images of memory or observation — whether actual or metaphorical — that evoke home, family, friends or cultures.”
The exhibit seems to have tapped into something Queens residents were looking for.
“The gallery saw over 100 people at the opening reception, and the exhibit looks terrific,” said Executive & Artistic Director, Ellen Kodadek. “It’s great to see such a vibrant and diverse group of works representative of the talent in Queens, gracing our gallery spaces.”
The message is clear: There is creative life outside of Manhattan, well beyond the frontier of Long Island City. So, local artists have united to celebrate the fact that on the other bank of the East River there exists a thriving creative community, actually, one that is similar to the famous bohemian hub known as La Rive Gauche or Left Bank of Paris. In an earlier era, it was a place where great artists, writers and philosophers gathered and worked.
As you gaze at the artwork, you may experience an almost spiritual connection to the portraits, landscapes, narratives, and formal studies created in all media, and in a potpourri of styles — sensitively and passionately painted, drawn, fabricated, constructed, photographed and conceptualized.
“If the artist is true to herself or himself, she or he will incorporate whatever riches are part of their cultural roots. Their chosen form becomes their soul’s handwriting,” said Crawford, whose own work is on display. “It’s a love poem, and a meditation on the poignancy of life experience and the passage of time.”
Since moving to Queens from Manhattan in 1970 and raising four children in Forest Hills, Crawford, who serves as LICA’s president, said, while proudly establishing her studio here, she has become involved with “an amazing group of creative artists.”
She says she came up with the idea for the show, and the reason behind it was “a desire to unite the Long Island City area — now such a hotbed of artists from Queens and Manhattan — to the rest of the borough,” whose diversity is “wonderful, the essence of New York City.”
LICA’s fund-raising team applied for and secured a grant from Queens Council on the Arts last fall, in order to make it happen.
“We draw from life, not replicate it. In ‘The artist,’ I’m dealing with memory. It’s a recollection and musing about the youth,” Crawford explained.
Mary Giancoli’s beautiful photographic images explore ancient rituals and dances, filled with mysticism, and still carried out today, as well as the efforts of a women’s group to become self-sufficient.
“My work showcases traditions and rituals of the Feria de Huipil, a festival celebrated in Cuetzalan, Puebla, Mexico,” she said.
Here time stands still.
Giancoli said “the task ahead is to preserve these traditions and improve the quality of life of the indigenous people.”
“What is undoubtedly true, as seen in this show, is that visual art — like music and poetry — is deeply connected to our identity and spirit, and that it is alive and well in Queens,” said Winter.
“Just as musicians, from Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and other jazz legends called Queens their home, there is today a society of visual artists in neighborhoods throughout the borough that share a special history and a vibrant present, that we are proud to call our colleagues and friends.”
The show then will be divided into two smaller exhibits with stops at LaGuardia Community College, L.I.C., from Sept. 12 to Nov. 20, and at Queensborough Community College’s Art Gallery in Bayside, from Nov. 7 to Jan. 19, 2014.
IF YOU GO
Bridging the Gap
Where: Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing
When: Now through Sunday, July 14; Artist talk on Saturday, July 13, 2 pm
Gallery Hours: Saturday and Sunday from Noon – 5 pm
Tickets: $20 per adult plus 1 child, $10 each additional child
Contact: (718) 463-7700, Ext. 222
Buy tickets: www.flushingtownhall.org/events/?cat_id=1006