By Patrick Donachie
A storefront along the 165th Street pedestrian corridor in downtown Jamaica was transformed into a vibrant art exhibition when artists, business leaders and organizers gathered at the space July 7 to commemorate the work and look towards the future. The exhibition is scheduled to close July 17.
Jameco Exchange was organized by No Longer Empty, a New York-based nonprofit arts organization that works to utilize underused spaces and transform them into temporary exhibitions. The group partnered with the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District and received a Neighborhood Challenge Grant from the city’s Department of Small Business Services and the city Economic Development Corporation.
The two organizations decided on 89-62B 165th St. for the exhibition, according to Rhonda Binda, executive director of the Jamaica Center BID.
“We were able to find an empty storefront on a pedestrian road that gets a lot of foot traffic,” she said during the closing ceremony. “We’re breathing new life into the institutions we have so we can support the culture that’s here.”
The organizations partnered with local artists like Rejin Leys, who became a member of the Jameco Exchange Community Advisory Board.
“They wanted projects that would not just sit on the wall, but something that can inspire people to get involved and try,” she said.
She also noted the space was a welcome opportunity for Jamaica-based artists.
“There’s so much cultural activity, but especially for artists there’s not a lot of outlets,” she said, citing the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning as one of the spots where artists can have exhibitions. “It’s always great to get to show your work in your own community.”
The exchange included work from local and international artists, including a special section in the back of the space where teenagers curated the work of other teen artists. P.J. Gubatina Policarpio, the exhibit’s education and public engagement fellow, said Jameco had reached out to York College, area high schools and organizations and had a huge turnout of interested students.
“We’ve had a really core group of kids,” he said.
Manon Slome, the chief curator for No Longer Empty, said the organization hoped to maintain a relationship with the area after the space was closed, including hosting a 16-week “curatorial lab” for burgeoning art curators. She encouraged anyone who could supply space to reach out to the group.
Margaret Rose Vendryes, one of the artists featured, presented “The African Diva Project,” which invited participants to interact with a selection of hand-carved African masks, stepping on a small stage to sing along with songs by popular black female musicians. She said the Jameco Exchange was a boon for her work and ambition.
“The process of getting my art off the canvas and onto the stage would not have happened otherwise,” she said. “Art and artists will remain important to what happens in the transformation of Jamaica and southeast Queens.”
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona