By Tammy Scileppi
Late last month, despite dire snow predictions, the Queens Council on the Arts sallied forth with its annual celebratory evening and honored 48 organizations and 40 individuals awarded one of its Queens Art Funds grants.
Artists will present their works across the borough this year in the areas of visual and literary arts, films, theater, multimedia, dance and music.
Grants were also presented to 11 individuals who work with senior centers in the Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide program.
In all, the QCA handed out more than $190,000 to Queens-based artists.
“The Queens Arts Fund is a competitive application process that is reviewed by a panel of peers that make recommendations for funding. We have been honored to facilitate this process for Queens County since the late 1970s,” QCA Grants and Resource Director Lynn Lobell said. “All the arts and cultural programming projects will take place in many different local venues, and it’s up to each organization and artist to determine where they will present to the general Queens public.”
One of this year’s winners, Yvonne Shortt, serves as the executive director of the Rego Park Green Alliance, a creative nonprofit that uses education, technology and art to address community issues.
Last fall, Shortt’s group created the Queens Art Intervention Day, which included performance pieces, chalk drawings and installations around the borough.
As part of that project, Shortt created “Pop Up: Farmland,” a piece composed of Legos and images from a 3-D printer that recreates a farm scene.
“This piece is meant to demonstrate how technology can be used to build and adapt systems, art, food, etc.,” Shortt said. “And, on the flip side, the same technology — when looked at in the spectrum of our food system — is being used to create food deemed as toxic.”
She expects to use the grant money to expand not only her piece from 2014 but also to increase this year’s Queens Art Intervention Day participants.
“I feel, getting the grant from QCA will help us bring this installation to more people, engage different communities in a meaningful dialogue about technology/food systems and spark a meaningful dialogue about our role in using technology to advance our community,” she said. “And it will help to grow the interventions to include more artists — inspiring, educating, and igniting creativity in the fantastic borough of Queens.”
Braata Productions is a traditional arts organization that showcases the best of the Caribbean and its people through theater offerings. It was awarded two grants this year.
“We are receiving a re-grant through DCA (NYC Department of Cultural Affairs), allowing us to produce ‘The Black That I Am,’ a multimedia ensemble play performed in choreographed sequences, with spoken word and monologues. It’s about what it means to be perceived as black in the Caribbean,” Executive Director Andrew Clarke said.
This funding will allow Braata Productions to present six shows at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning Feb. 25 – March 1.
Clarke pointed out that they’re also receiving a grant allowing them to produce “Ole Time Grand Market,” an event which includes a re-creation of Jonkanoo — a Jamaican Christmas tradition dating back to the country’s African roots. It features costumed characters on parade, as well as food, drinks and gift items specific to the Caribbean at that time of year — topped off with a concert.
It will take place at Jamaica Performing Arts Center in mid-December.
“Both these grants mean that the community will have the opportunity, thanks to the Queens Arts Council, of experiencing unique and otherwise not seen, Caribbean programming,” Clarke said.
Another grant was presented to Lily Yang, Honglei Li and He Li, who work collectively as Lily & Honglei, to help fund their creation of an app that incorporates animation and technology.
The Queens-based artists’ work reflects on how, and to what extent, the landscape and culture may be altered by an urbanization process that will relocate 260 million people from China’s countryside by 2020. The emerging media will help the project reach out to a broader community and increase audience engagement.
Lily & Honglei Studio has presented its work at numerous national and international venues, including the Queens Museum of Art. The collective stated that QCA provided them with financial support to cover costs for technologies, materials for project production and exhibition, as well as artist fees that allow them to dedicate their time to significant work.
The team’s final presentation will combine animated film, inspired by Chinese folk art shadow play, along with a virtual reality installation, as well as an installation allowing the audience to experience the artwork with a mobile phone within and beyond the gallery.
This multimedia project will be launched at Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning during Jamaica Flux ’15 this fall.
Grants were also presented to 11 individuals who work with senior citizens in the borough as part of the Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide program.
“I think we are poised for a robust program this year, thanks to the incredible group of artists and senior center staff. In addition to providing artists with a residency opportunity and stipend, SPARC artists are also given access to a wealth of senior talent, knowledge and cultural histories – surely an asset to be tapped,” SPARC Coordinator Daniel Arnow said. “Through the delivery of high-quality arts programs, seniors are engaged in activities that are fun, challenging, can help raise self-esteem, increase social interaction and even improve cognitive function among participants.”
Jackson Heights photographer Evie McKenna is partnering with Sunnyside Community Services.
“I’m excited to work with seniors, to hear their life stories and then translate their interests and loves into a visual image. We will be using their past and the present to learn to see as the camera does, and make something new,” McKenna said. “Their personal history is fascinating to me, no matter how accomplished or quiet their lives are. They can tell stories and I am fascinated by their place in history, and in many cases, by what they have overcome to find a manageable lifestyle in NYC. This kind of storytelling that seems innate to many seniors will be the basis for my guiding them as photographers.”
Here’s the list of the 2015 Queens Arts Funds Award winners:
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs/Greater New York Arts Development Fund Organization Support
American Bolero Dance Company
Bix Beiderbecke Sunnyside Memorial Committee fiscally sponsored by Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce
Center for the Holographic Arts
Con Brio Ensemble
Convergence Arts, Inc. AKA Queens Jazz Overground
de novo dance fiscally sponsored by The Field
Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce
Jackson Heights Beautification Group
Life Light Street Productions
Rego Park Green Alliance fiscally sponsored by Open Space
Rural Route Films fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas
Salvatore LaRussa Dance Company Inc.
Secret Theatre fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas
SEVA Immigrant Community Advocacy Project, inc.
Sunnyside District Management Association (dba Shines Business Improvement District)
Theatre 167 fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas
Individual Artist Support
Christopher Julian Jimenez
Claudia Isabel Prado
David J. Wilson
Lawrence F Mesich
Okechukwu Okegrass Ofiaeli
Rene Georg Vasicek
Richard Jeffrey Newman
Savannah L. Winchester
Lily & Honglei
New York State Council on the Arts Community Arts Grant Organization Support
7 Train Murals/Mark Salinas (Fiscally sponsored by YMCA of Long Island City)
American Bolero Dance Company, Inc
Ayazamana Cultural Center, Inc.
Bix Beiderbecke Sunnyside Memorial Committee
Bayside Glee Club, Inc
Salvatore LaRussa Dance Company Inc.
Center for the Holographic Arts
Central Queens YM&YWHA
Chhaya Community Development Corporation
Con Brio Ensemble
Convergence Arts, Inc. AKA Queens Jazz OverGround
Cultural Caravan Productions,Inc.
Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, Inc.
Drumsongs Productions, Inc.
Fresh Meadows Poets
Hip to Hip Theatre Company
Hour Children, Inc.
LIC Arts Open (Fiscally Sponsored by Local Project)
Mare Nostrum Elements, Inc
Multicultural Sonic Evolution (MuSE)
Queens World Film Festival
Sunnyside Community Concert Series (Fiscally Sponsored by All Saints’ Anglican Episcopal Church)
Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District
New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Commissions
NY City Department of Cultural Affairs SPARC Artist
Josh Rice, CCNS Bayside Senior Center
Ian Wen, HANAC Harmony Innovative Senior Center
Rudolph Shaw, JASA Roy Reuther Senior Center
Chia-mei Tseng, Korean Community Services Flushing Neighborhood Senior Center
Carol Sudhalter, NORC Forest Hill
Mollie Hosmer-Dillard, Rego Park Senior Center
David Mills, Rochdale Village Senior Center
Steve Palermo, Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center
Marilyn Rogers, Selfhelp Innovative Senior Center
Evie McKenna, Sunnyside Community Services
Hillary Ramos, Ridgewood Older Adult Center