By Naeisha Rose
It’s been two years since the launch of LinkNYC citywide and the free Wi-Fi connection service has truly been utilized by businesses in Jamaica, and now by local artists.
Greg Mays, the founder of A Better Jamaica — a non-profit community service arts organization — is curating artwork by southeast Queens and New York City artists on the LinkNYC kiosks, which have been slowly replacing the 7,500 pay phones across the five boroughs with public Wi-Fi charging stations.
Individuals can make phone calls on any of the 1,000 kiosks, which have tablets to access city services, maps and directions, according to the organization.
Businesses on Jamaica Avenue from Sutphin Boulevard to 168th Street have embraced the kiosks to by advertising on them.
“We have had fans of our salon send us photos of our salon being promoted on the LinkNYC screens. It’s so fun to see them engage with our brand!” said Maria Delgado of Yvelisse Salon.
The kiosks started to include monthlong art exhibits by local artists Oct. 14, Mays said.
He was inspired to feature artwork by area artists in public spaces after seeing the same mural work by the Jamaica Center Parsons/Archer station for years and he wanted to do something fresh.
At first he reached out to the Metropolitan Transit Authority to feature artwork in the light boxes within the station that had old podiatrist ads, but Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, a different art organization in the area had artwork put up in the station.
After a year of conceiving this project, Mays got in touch with Melva Miller, the deputy borough president, who put him in touch with LinkNYC.
“I didn’t want to displace what JCAL was doing,” said Mays, “so I reached out to the LinkNYC people.”
The first artist to have his artwork displayed on the kiosks is Emmett Wigglesworth, 83.
“I was excited when I heard they were going to feature artists on the kiosks,” Wigglesworth said. “I’ve been an artist all my life and I enjoy doing it.”
Wigglesworth became a professional artist in 1957 after finishing his service with the Marine Corps during the Korean War and has lived in the Jamaica area since.
His artwork falls in the fauvism style, which emphasizes strong color over realistic representation of people or objects. Some of Wigglesworth art on the kiosks features people playing jazz music on saxophones. Southeast Queens use to be home to many jazz musicians like John Coltrane, who lived in St. Albans.
“All the news about southeast Queens is about the foreclosures going on, but he knew it’s much more than that,” Mays said.
There are 10 pieces of Wigglesworth art featured on 18 kiosks on Jamaica Avenue from Sutphin Boulevard to 168th Street, which will be there until the end of October.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose