By Tammy Scileppi
Did you ever notice how art — in all its forms — makes life more interesting, and how every artist has something to say via their work?
Each year, some lucky creatives of every discipline, as well as several nonprofit organizations, have been getting a much-needed boost from Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) and the Queens Arts Fund (QAF), which offers grants to distinctive arts and cultural programming that serves and enriches the lives of everyone living here.
QCA and QAF have empowered one repeat awardee, Queensboro Dance Festival, to keep pushing to serve the local dance community and their audiences. LIC-based dancer/Festival Executive Director Karesia Batan wanted to remind readers that the popular performance tour will be taking place across Queens throughout the year (most weekends, from May through October).
“QCA not only offers funding opportunities, but also professional development support in grant writing and running a local non-profit project. Having QCA as a resource also encourages us and validates our work here in Queens – that being a creative part of the borough is important and deserves to be supported,” said Batan, who was awarded $5,000.
New grantee Divya Jyoti Association (www.Diwalimotorcade.com) — which will be hosting its annual Diwali Motorcade in Richmond Hill on Oct. 19 — was happy to receive $4,500.
“We are so excited to show such a diverse range of projects and programs, both in terms of artistic discipline and geography. Awardees hail from every New York City Council District in Queens, including about 40 different neighborhoods,” said Grants and Residencies Manager Daniel Bamba.
“QCA received about 500 applications in total, which is the largest applicant pool we’ve ever had for QAF. With such a large increase in applications, it just goes to show how active the arts community is in Queens.”
Jamaica-based mixed media artist/paper maker Rejin Leys, co-founder of the Southeast Queens Artist Alliance, will be putting her $2,000 grant to great use as well.
“We are very grateful to QCA for the support and resources they’ve provided to help us grow, and thrilled that this year’s Arts Fund grant will enable us to publish a number of zines and artists’ books and make them available to the community as part of our interactive cart-based project, ‘Art Like Air and Water,’” said Leys.
“Art Like Air and Water” will begin holding zine-making, poetry and bookbinding workshops this spring, with public hours, participation in community events in the neighborhood (including at Queens Library/Central) for the rest of the year. Workshop/event details: www.seqaa.org and instagram (@southeastqueensartists).
Award-winning Rego Park-based writer/poet Jared Harél, was first introduced to QCA through their Artist Peer Circle program back in 2014, where he met “a wonderful, diverse community of local writers.” The official APC program ended years ago, but the writing group still meets monthly “to set goals, share new work and support one another,” said Harél who was awarded $3,000 and is “damn proud” of his debut full-length poetry collection “GO BECAUSE I LOVE YOU.”
Harél sits on the editorial board for Newtown Literary, Queens’ first literary journal dedicated to supporting local writers, and on the advisory board for QUEENSBOUND, a collaborative audio-project curated by KC Trommer, with the goal of telling the stories of Queens.
“In 2015, while writing my book, I was fortunate to have QCA support me with an Individual Artist Grant. It was instrumental in terms of me completing my collection. As a parent to two young children, writing time can prove rather expensive,” he said.
Harel’s official ‘book launch’ recently took place at Kew & Willow Books in Kew Gardens; he has been featured in a few local reading series.
Harel, who also teaches writing at Nassau Community College and plays drums for the New York City-based rock band, Flyin’ J & The Ghostrobber, is hard at work on a new poetry collection.
“While writing can be a solitary endeavor, QCA and the Queens community have made me feel, time and again, like I am part of something bigger — a caring network of writers and artists,” he added.
QCA’s application is now open for its new artist residency program (in partnership with Port Authority) in LaGuardia Airport; it closes March 8.
For more information, visit www.queenscouncilarts.org/artport-residency.