Long Island City community arts center needs help to continue providing free programs

Photo courtesy of Long Island City Artists

A nonprofit in Long Island City that provides free access to the arts is looking for funding to continue its work in the neighborhood.

Long Island City Artists (LIC-A), which was established in 1986, operates out of a 12,000-square-foot space provided by a plastics manufacturing company, Plaxall, last October.

Since then, LIC-A has used the space to display artwork, host dance, music and theater performances, provide free drawing classes, children’s art workshops, tours for  English as a Second Language students from LaGuardia College and more.

But according to Edjo Wheeler, artistic director for LIC-A, funding has dried up and unless they get help from the community, it won’t be possible to run these programs.

“We love this neighborhood,” he said. “We want to serve the community. We just can’t do it without some help. Our volunteers are really getting burned out. They all have rents and jobs. They have other lives, and it’s a lot to ask someone to donate 20 hours a week to keep the place running.”

A Kickstarter page has been established and the group hopes to raise $15,000 by Nov. 10. So far, $6,593 has been raised. If the group doesn’t reach its fundraising goal of $15,000, those who have donated will get their money back.

People who donate will receive prizes such as T-shirts, pins, artwork by LIC-A artists, tickets to a dinner party and more.

The money will help the group hire a director that can run day-to-day operations, provide monthly stipends to volunteers, cover expenses like supplies for free art classes, computers, Wi-Fi, furniture and more.

“People can come and see beautiful art by mostly local artists,” Wheeler said. “They can see dance, full theatrical runs and we are also expanding and we want to provide studio space for artists to use who have lost their studios. We’re a community arts center and we want to continue to provide these free services to the community.” 

LIC-A, which boasts more than 180 members, has seen its membership double since it acquired the Plaxall Gallery. Despite its deep roots in the community, Wheeler said that it’s been “challenging” to raise money. The organization currently has enough money to continue its programs until the end of the year.

“We don’t have enough volunteers to cover everything we want to do so we’re going to have to start cutting back,” he said.

If the money isn’t raised, the free programming will be difficult to continue, he said.

“We doubled in membership since we started running the Plaxall Gallery, so we definitely have really strong forward momentum,” he said. “More and more people are coming to us with proposals and ideas for performances. I think we’re doing amazing things and we want to continue to do amazing things.”

To donate, visit the organization’s Kickstarter page.