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JCAL to host showcase for Queens-based artists

Photo courtesy of Salimah Ali

Queens artists will be taking over the walls of the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL), as the center gets ready to host its second annual Artists Co-op, a showcase of work by artists living in the borough.

Originally a membership-based program, the showcase was reimagined as JCAL’s annual event to  provide local artists with a venue to curate, produce and present their work, according to Executive Director Cathy Hung. The 15 artists were chosen through an open call by a panel of fellow artists and their work ranges from photography, painting, textile, mixed media works and sculptures.

Sandra Mack-Valencia is one artist who was chosen to showcase her work. Mack-Valencia, a Columbian-born painter who grew up in her father’s art studio, started painting at a young age. She attended the Escuela de Arte Eladio Velez when she was 16 and received her BFA from the Universidad de Antioquia. She moved to New York and received her MFA at Hunter’s College, and her work has been exhibited in museums, galleries and institutions in Colombia, New York and Japan.

“As an artist, every time our work gets chosen for an exhibition,  it feels encouraging, and it adds meaning to what we do. We spend a lot of time by ourselves in our studios creating the work, but when it gets out to the world is when it feels complete,” Mack-Valencia said. “We need an audience. I create paintings with the intention of awakening reactions and sparking conversations.”

Photo courtesy of Sandra Mack-Valencia
Photo courtesy of Sandra Mack-Valencia

The pieces she is exhibiting at JCAL were inspired by the fantasy of the American dream, she said, and of the stories she heard as a child in Columbia about how life in America was supposedly easier. After moving to the United States, Mack-Valencia realized that the definition of success differs for every person and that having a good job and owning a home was not necessarily her definition.

“The beautiful fantasy of The American Dream shattered as I grew older and found my own dreams,” Mack-Valencia said.

Other artists include Salimah Ali, a Jamaica-based photographer who has had her work showcased at places like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Soho Photo Gallery. Ali graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a photography degree and has photographed celebrities such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and more.

JCAL holds several events and artists residencies throughout the year to provide Queens-based artists with free space to work and showcase their creations. They’ve also partnered with Exploring the Metropolis, a nonprofit dedicated to workspace issues for the performing arts, to provide free residencies to choreographer and dancer duos.

“Artists Co-op II” will run from Sept. 10 through Oct. 31. JCAL is encouraging people to attend the Artist Talk on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 1 p.m. to meet and greet the artists. For a full list of participating artists, visit JCAL’s website.

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