Woodhaven is the new ‘Art Haven’: Exhibit showcases work of local artists

Mahfuza Shammy Rahman (MSR) was one of the artists whose work is displayed at Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar’s office exhibit. (Photo courtesy of MSR)

A new art show kicked off in Woodhaven on Sunday, Sept. 19, offering community members a chance to enjoy hors d’oeuvres while perusing fine art.

The “Women in Art Haven” exhibition, sponsored by Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, is an art show featuring the work of talented Woodhaven artists and is scheduled to run through Oct. 19. 

Rajkumar’s office now doubles as an art museum — the once bare white walls now covered in colorful displays. For one month, people can visit the ongoing exhibit, which features two local Woodhaven artists, Mahfuza Shammy Rahman (MSR) and Deborah Camp.

The opening reception was beyond what we had hoped for,” MSR said. “There was a steady trickle in of people from the area. I got to meet with several of them and answer the questions they had about my work. What was incredibly special was a lot of the guests who attended also had artistic outlets and shared some of their experiences with me. It was really amazing to see other artists and inspire children to keep creating works of art.”

Rajkumar felt the exhibition has been inspiring for her and the community. 

“Families came in with their children and exposed their children to art, and the artists took the children around to each of their pieces and discussed art with them,” Rajkumar said. “I think this will cultivate a lifelong love of art in the youth of Woodhaven.”

The assemblywoman said her office has always been a community-oriented space, with people stopping by, calling in, engaging and sharing ideas, which is how she learned about the art community in the neighborhood. 

“As you engage neighbors about what matters to them, you learn what people are doing and what their interests are, and people are doing very magnificent things,” Rajkumar said. “As an elected representative, I wanted to highlight the amazing things people are doing in the neighborhood.”

A month ago, they started displaying the work of two Woodhaven artists, Jennifer Lambert and Louise Naples, on the walls of her office. While it was not an official event at the time, the artwork was so successful that when MSR and Camp reached out and proposed the idea of having a local art exhibition, the idea quickly became a reality.

Mahfuza Shammy Rahman (MSR), Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and Deborah Camp celebrate their art exhibited at the assemblywoman’s office.
Some of the artwork displayed at Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar’s office. (Photo courtesy of Camp)

The plan, according to Camp, was “to celebrate the arts within the community, inspire them to find their inner artist and show the vital role that artists contribute to enriching the earth by creating manifestations of their ideas that have a positive, lasting and rippling impact on society.”

“We also wanted to give an example that women can make an impact on society with the arts, as well as inspire all generations that it is never too early or late to start to find their life path and feel fulfilled,” Camp added.

The theme of Camp’s work is about the “inner child in all of us,” the importance of nurturing and sustaining a sense of wonder of the world and finding inspiration in everything. 

“The other motifs and styles you will see coursing through my work are of surrealism, whimsy, peace, environmental awareness of nature, the psychedelic era, uplifting inspirational messages and celebrating and embracing one’s uniqueness,” she said, “as well as scenes of my childhood neighborhood depicted with a variety of mediums, including my specialty, hand-painted glass. 

MSR’s works in this show include abstract expressionist pieces painted in oil and acrylic on canvas, and two pieces painted on wood. 

According to MSR, “They are pieces that the more you look at them, the more you can discover about yourself. The themes combine nature and self-reflection, and I hope that the audience can see themselves immersed in a different world each time.” 

She hopes to eventually open a gallery of her own that can be a sanctuary and a safe place for artists like her, who didn’t grow up with support but who are determined to make a mark on the world. 

For Rajkumar, her hope is that through similar events, Woodhaven is recognized as the new hub for visual and performing arts. 

“Woodhaven is an artistic cultural center. It’s not just Brooklyn and Manhattan — there’s also so much talent right here in Woodhaven,” she said.

The art will remain on her walls through Oct. 19. Anyone interested in checking it out is welcome to visit Rajkumar’s office during operating hours. 

Her office, located at 83-91 Woodhaven Blvd., is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.