Spreading their message through art

By Tammy Scileppi

Leave it to Queens artist Yvonne Shortt and her creative Long Island City-based nonprofit Rego Park Green Alliance Studio to come up with another project that combines art and activism.

Over in Sunnyside, RPGA has set up shop in an empty storefront to spread what it believes are important social messages in an artistic manner.

The project involved asking about 150 people what they willing to do for someone they love.

Yellow paper is decorated with some of the answers in a free-flowing design that fill the vacant store’s two window panels and its glass door.

RPGA board member Tessa Kennedy approached the commercial space’s owner, who was having trouble renting the spot at 39-11 47th Ave. with the studio’s idea.

They told the owner that they would install a thought-provoking, artistic piece that reflects positive action and would involve community members and schoolchildren.

“A closed gate with graffiti on it doesn’t necessarily send the message that people want to have in that community,” Shortt said. “He loved the idea and said he was excited to help make something happen that involves the Queens community and the kids.”

So RPGA posed the question, “What are you willing to do when you love someone?” to about 150 residents, ranging in age from 10 to 100, from Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City.

As a gesture of goodwill to the community, the project combines ingenuity, collaboration and the power of words, denoting what people do for someone they love.

Some of the answers included “listen to them,” “make time for them,” “give breakfast in bed,” “rub feet” and “buy jewelry.
Phrases like these were then captured as hash tag messages by students at PS 206 in Rego Park, as the guiding question turned into an art project, as well as a teaching moment – the kids knew it was a community effort, so they also learned about the importance of giving back.

“Having the chance to work with the kids at the school was very exciting. I loved using art to work with my community,” Kennedy said.

Students received a lesson about the color chart and color mixing, using just red, blue and yellow.

“We die-cut the letters to the questions on their colored papers,” Kennedy said. “Next, we created hash tags and put them next to each answer.”
Michael, a student at the school, said he “loved learning how to make so many colors from just three.”

According to Shortt, the students’ work was then affixed to the three panels that now cover the storefront, and the unusual display has already attracted curious passers-by, who pause and ponder the love question, which appears on a 12-by-5-foot vinyl banner (with a number to call to rent the store). Community member Rebecca West said she loved coming up with ideas.

“It made me reflect on love and how one communicates this to another human being – parents, sisters,” West said. “I have a sister.”

For more information on these projects, check RPGA’s website at regoparkgreenalliance.org.

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