JamaicaFlux brings artistic changes to downtown’s business core

By Tammy Scileppi

Flux is defined as either one continuous change or an extended series of changes.

Over the last decade or so, Downtown Jamaica has been the epicenter of growth and positive change in an area already known as a bustling shopping and transit hub.

JamaicaFlux, a neighborhood-wide art project utilizing storefront windows and other sites to display works, seems to echo the community’s ongoing transformation.

Workspaces & Windows 2016 is the fourth iteration of JamaicaFlux, successfully mounted in 2004, 2007 and 2010, by its current Curator/Project Director Heng Gil Han.

Some of the over 300,000 people who pass through Jamaica’s revitalized urban center on a daily basis have surely come across a variety of multidisciplinary works or likely participated in a number of interactive Flux surprises that have been taking place along sidewalks and in parks.

Flux projects are designed to inspire and celebrate change, while also serving as conversation starters about important topics that touch people’s lives.

Author Busha Rehman described a popular interactive performance piece by Queens Village resident Shervone Neckles.

Neckles has set up a cart on Jamaica Avenue filled with glass jars of loose herbs, including nettle root, hibiscus flower and dried carrot, reminiscent of healing remedies from her childhood in a Caribbean household in Brooklyn.

“It was this realization, that our well being can be found not only through an expensive, limiting and maze-like health care system, but through the plants we can grow, even in small gardens in the outer boroughs, that led to the project Creative Wellness Gathering,” Rehman said. “She invited participants to make their own tea bags to take home, based on the ailments they were suffering from: arthritis, diabetes and exhaustion.”

She also asks participants to leave a sample of their tea bag creations, which the artist intends to use to construct a wearable garment out of tea offerings to commemorate the exchange, self-care and nurturing that transpired at the cart, Rehman said.

“The Creative Wellness Gathering is a social experiment, exploring how art can be used as a vehicle to promote health, wellness and healing in our communities,” Neckles said. “Through lively conversations and exchanges with Queens community members at the Gathering Station, I’m considering ways to preserve and reactivate the wisdom that already exists within our communities.”

Rhonda Binda, executive director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, said JamaicaFlux fits in with what her organization envisions for the area.

“A focal point of the Jamaica Center BID’s economic development strategy is to highlight and leverage its rich arts and cultural assets,” Binda said. “We are thrilled to partner again with JCAL to support and identify this talented groups of artists for JamaicaFlux that have adorned Jamaica Avenue with its aesthetic wonders.”

For the next month or so, artists will create a variety of projects across the Greater Jamaica region.

Thiago Szmrecsányi, in collaboration with Natalia de Campos/Syncretic Pleasures, has teamed up with merchants from the Jamaica Colosseum Mall for a display mixing commerce and aesthetics, titled ART&COM.

The installation has converted two vacant mall spaces into a rotating exhibition center that displays information about activities happening there, collected through de Campos’ actions and interactions with the merchants, and about their use of visual elements to promote products, their printed promotional materials, and their history there.

Also in display are sculptures by Szmrecsányi created with collected discarded materials in his studio and also on site at that mall.

Artist Rejin Leys also creates art out of discarded matter, including junk mail, office paper and advertising flyers.

Leys takes something that would otherwise be thrown away and tries it into something beautiful.

“My project, the PulpMobile, is a paper making studio on a cart that can roll to any public area in the neighborhood to make art with my neighbors,” Leys said. “It’s a way to use public space to learn, create and get to know each other, rather than just as a path or passage between home, work and shopping.”

A series of workshops will be held the weekend of May 14-15 and again on May 21.

Also on May 21, the Jamaica BID plans to launch another pop-up art exhibit on the 165th Street pedestrian mall titled the Jameco Exchange.

“The Jameco Exchange together with Jamaica Flux will bring thousands of more visitors to experience the beauty and vibrancy of downtown Jamaica,” Binda said, “who will leave with a fresh new perspective.”