Kew Gardens brings community together to celebrate local art

There will also be live music performances to add to the fun atmosphere.
Photo courtesy of Carol Lacks
By Tammy Scileppi

They say you can’t get too much of a good thing.

Like an entire festival day packed with creative experiences, music, happy people, multi-cultural artists and artisans. Now in its sixth year, Kew Gardens Community Arts Day will once again transform the popular urban village, so mark your calendars and get ready for an awesome event planned for Sunday, Sept. 9 — the rain date is Sept. 30 — from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At the center of the event, you’ll find an art show featuring 37 local artists. The Kew Gardens Outdoor Art Fair — located at Austin Street, Lefferts Boulevard and neighboring streets — will showcase an eclectic mix of art forms.

The organizers, consisting of a small group of local artists, had a vision for Kew Gardens: to bring together talented Queens painters, potters, photographers, glassmakers, jewelry artists, illustrators and fiber artists. And that is exactly what was accomplished, according to Carol Lacks, a longtime resident and the organizer of the event, who was a 2015 Queens Impact Award winner.

“Community Arts Days is an opportunity for people in our neighborhood to celebrate the creativity and uniqueness of handmade items. Each of us benefits from this enrichment whether visual, tactile, or auditory, in ways that spark our imagination and human connection,” said Grace Anker, one of the coordinators of the event.

But you’ll discover that there’s more to do than just take in the stellar art. This event is a great way to enjoy the end of summer by exploring the neighborhood, making new friends, and even stocking up early on holiday gifts.

Kids can watch and join awesome Sidewalk Chalk artists transform New York City concrete into intricate, wild works of art through vibrant colorful designs.

Guests can stop by Kew & Willow Books on Lefferts Boulevard for a Japanese bookbinding class, admire an intergenerational fence art exhibit created by Kew Gardens’ senior citizens and children on Grenfell Street, and at 1 p.m., sit back and be entertained by the Kew Gardens Musicians at an outdoor show in Kew Gardens Cinemas Park that will feature a popular mix of music genres. At 3 p.m., there is a Poetry Open Mic on the New Homestead patio.

Attendees can also walk up 83rd Avenue to watch a potter’s wheel demonstration, enjoy activities at the art tables, including the School Fence Project, a project between social practice installation artist Yvonne Shortt and communities to promote greater community/school collaboration.

At the end of the block, have fun at the “Silly Selfie Station,” using available props to take a picture with moustaches, bow ties, crowns, funny glasses or with the “Silly Hat” that you just made at the Art Zone and check out a new Super Hero backdrop.

Probably more than in most other places, culture often influences Queens artists’ works by shaping their worldview and perhaps their creative relationship with colors, shapes, patterns, symbols, people, places, and things. Every culture is rich in its own unique history and artwork may be inspired in part by an artist’s roots.

Expect an open and welcoming professional art show with a small-town vibe and a place where you can learn how culture influences art from demonstrations by multicultural artists at several of the Outdoor Art Fair tables and practice these art forms and other projects at the Arts Zone.

Kew Gardens artist Robert Murphy said he makes art and paints in order to “communicate, express myself, and to be relevant.”

“I want my voice to be heard. I enjoy street fairs because it is the most effective way to bring work, my voice to the people,” he said.

Anthony Mavilia, another neighborhood creative who has worked with Lacks, helped organize each iteration of the event for the past six years. He works from his studio in Long Island City, using a variety of media to complete his visions, including acrylic on canvas, oil stick on canvas, Conte Crayon and gold on paper. Mavilia is also the director of The Abingdon Square Painters.

“My work is based on organic elements found in the landscape, primarily stones and trees,” he said. “In my work, they represent not only natural elements — especially weight and stress — but also human qualities, such as societal ties, interactions, and conflict.”

Chat with friendly volunteers at the Information Booth and pick up a listing of the day’s happenings, “What’s Going on In Kew Gardens Today?” Check out local businesses for promotions and demonstrations. Bring your friends and family and discover an exciting arts community.

The event is sponsored by a New York City Council grant awarded by Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Kew Gardens) to the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation & the Arts, Inc. and a Friends of The Potter’s Wheel Grant.

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