TheNYCGrind offers chance for aspiring artists to follow their dreams

TheNYCGrind started out as a small open mic in a church basement. With time, the events grew and The Grind has become one of city’s biggest arts experiences.
Photo by Nelson Medina
By Tammy Scileppi

Watch closely. This is going to be an exciting year for New York City’s diverse arts scene.

As always, there’s a lot going on — new things to experience. And a creative movement, is underway in Queens. It’s called TheNYCGrind, and it is catching on.

Whether you’re a passionate guitar player, a hip folk-rock band, an inspired canvas painter, a break dancer, a poet, a budding soul singer, a beat boxer or a freestyler, you, too, can take part in this dynamic arts crusade, like others who have joined a network of hundreds of talented creatives.

Providing the platform and audience for those who love to perform and create, The Grind helps artists of all kinds get lots of exposure. It hosts compelling events at a variety of venues, where New Yorkers can, for example, view and purchase artwork while enjoying unusual performances for reasonable ticket prices.

“Our past shows have grown exponentially,” said Grind founder Safiel Vonay, a local artist who put her idea in motion in 2012. “Our Grind Bash back in May was a packed-out event. We had a plethora of artists, from live tattoo art to live body painting by Jay Creations, phenomenal music performances from local up and coming bands, and live dance battles.”

About a week before Christmas, 70 or so artists took part in The Grind’s Ultra Art Bash, having their works displayed at Q Studios LIC, a photography and video space at 21-38 44th Road in Long Island City. While taking in the artwork, attendees also enjoyed performances from eclectic artists like Chop University (drummers) and MrTruthCity (a recording artist), who showcased their talents along with fellow Grinders from all spectrums of the arts world, from body painters to live art performers and Queens-based visual artists OgMillie, Lincoln Cuellar and Kathy Matthews. Corona performer Julian Valencia was the opening act. LED-lighted hula hoops, dance battles, spoken word artists, musical sets and a live DJ turned the event into a spectacular holiday celebration.

The party’s primary theme was “Expression.” All artists were required to submit work that was expressive. Abstract, modern, traditional, oil, acrylic, woodwork, live painting, body art and street art were shown. Prices for visual works ranged from $50 to $2,000.

This multiplatform arts movement has become one of the city’s biggest happenings and welcomes anyone hoping to follow a dream. At The Grind broadens horizons, it continues to search for more grinders to expand the team: performing artists, photographers, cinematographers, DJs and others, as well as volunteers and interns.

Like many great endeavors, The Grind started off small, as a casual open-mic event in the basement of Sunnyside Reformed Church. It was called Reformed Talent.

“I started The Grind as an 18-year-old spoken word poet that felt like Queens had very little events that put rising performers on display,” Vonay recalled.

“What inspired the opening was my desire to bring artists together. I used to perform a lot in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan, and I would see such a beautiful and eclectic scene there — young people with beautiful art, poetry, music, fashion … and I felt like I’d barely ever see that in Queens. So, I started morphing Reformed Talent into something for all artists.”

The artist’s open-mic events were intended to attract a variety of performers whose talents could be appreciated by an audience of curious residents. Eventually, different types of artists were drawn to the intimate setting.

Now TheNYCGrind draws more than 600 budding artists, performers and others, These days, the audiences are much larger and more diverse, and the events have expanded into different parts of the city, including Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“I changed the name to The Grind because it matched perfectly what our artists do,” Vonay said. “To grind means to work hard, and whether it’s dancing, poetry, art, music, clothing, etc. … that’s what our community does the most … work.”

The Grind’s next show, set for Jan. 27 at a venue to be determined, is Planet X, an avante-garde lifestyle art event focusing on female artists.

“This movement has created a beautiful space for artists to connect, sell art and network,” Vonay said. “We harbor a safe space for all to come, view and buy art, watch performances and be inspired.”

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