BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
Life is complicated. But thankfully, there’s always art – in all its diverse forms – to soften the blow.
The Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) Artist Commissioning Program is there to support local creatives and their innovative performing arts projects, which represent some of the most ground-breaking work being produced here in dance, theater and music.
“Who has the power to create new culture? The idea of an arts patron typically conjures an image of a very wealthy, privileged person. What distinguishes the program is that we’ve restructured this process to democratize creative production, enabling Queens residents to commission culture for their communities and by their community members,” said Kelly Olshan, QCA’s Artist Commissioning Program Manager.
In its second year, the program awards each awardee $10,000 toward the creation and production of an original project, as well as a yearlong commitment of advisory and support from a group of dedicated Jamaica- and Flushing-affiliated arts enthusiasts and community members.
Selected by these art producers for their capacity to tell untold stories, the four winning projects tackle and comment on today’s pressing issues – from prison reform to gun violence – and reflect the timely narratives of the borough, using brave new forms and platforms.
Yogi Guadin is inspired by life even with its ups and downs. “I feel all moments are teaching and learning experiences and I’m learning how to use both reality and imagination to tell stories,” he said.
The Jamaica-based educator, artist and audio engineer/producer will present an experimental, immersive theatre project, “Shooter,” in which people participate and become the story while telling their own stories.
Guadin’s message: “We all play the role of victim and perpetrator in our lives. Also, things are not so black and white; life has a lot of grey areas. I hope this piece inspires those who participate to self-reflect and explore the grey area.”
“Shooter” will take place at the Jamaica Center for Learning Arts; dates have yet to be determined.
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“In a recent work of mine which was presented at the Queens Museum, I employed the use of movement, video, lighting and set design, along with an original piece of music to produce a multi-disciplinary artistic creation. I propose to expand and amplify all these elements in my new work,” said Elmhurst dancer and choreographer Guanglei Hui, who grew up in China.
“The Silent Voices” will use the metaphor of the silent scream to draw attention to the experience of new immigrants facing seemingly insurmountable barriers to entry into mainstream American life.
“The Silent Voices” takes place on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Queens Museum.
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Astorian and interdisciplinary artist Claire Marie Lim, is an advocate of women and young people in music technology. Her music project “Colors of Us,” will feature new musical material created in collaboration with female-identifying youths of Asian descent residing or having roots in Queens.
Growing up in Singapore, Lim said she was very much aware of socio-cultural norms that she was advised to follow.
“I see my project as more of providing a platform for young Asian women to have the space to be creative. I didn’t conceive it with a specific message in mind, but it definitely aligns with my personal vision of empowering those around me to be unafraid of being themselves,” she said.
Lim added: “QCA has in the larger scheme of things, helped me synthesize my creative work with the social activism work I have wanted to do. It has been great receiving affirmation that others believe in the causes I advocate for, on top of my music.”
“Colors of Us” will debut in late August at a venue to be announced.
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ARTivist Kerri Edge of Jamaica is inspired by stories that tell the experience of African-Americans.
“’REFORM’ is created to shed light on the racial disparities in the American justice system,” said Edge, who also uses tap dance as a vehicle to encourage others to advocate for legislation.
“Tap monologues set to poetry and music expose audiences to the harsh treatment considered to be a legitimate way to deal with inmates,” she added.
“REFORM” will take place at the Milton Bassin Performing Arts Center at York College, Sept. 27 and 28.
For more information, visit queenscouncilarts.org/2018-artists.