Young artists explore their creativity at a unique art space in Jamaica

Amy Simon with a student at ALLURE Art Studio in Jamaica. (Photo by Gerry Fortilus)

If you’re a New Yorker, you can feel the beat of the city no matter where you live. It’s even reflected, at times, in the creations of local artists who live and work across the five boroughs. 

Free-thinking artist, educator and activist Amy Simon (aka Amy Allure), agrees. She’s a creative New Yorker, who digs all that the “World’s Borough” has to offer, especially when it comes to art. The St. Albans resident is the proud owner of ALLURE Art Studio, located at 197-05 Jamaica Ave. in Jamaica, Queens, where she was raised.

Simon recently hosted an event celebrating young artists who completed her special six-week art camp, the ALLURE Village Arts program. It began as a collaboration with another Black female artist, Brandi Jones, who also runs an arts program for kids in the borough.

“We had seven young artists working hard to build their artistic portfolio, and they finally graduated the program. We celebrated them by hosting an art show for them to display their artwork,” Simon said. “Our mission is to nurture creativity, confidence, and culture in every child through art. It helps young artists learn the foundations of art and merges art with activism. In the program, students learn about artists of color and use their artwork to inspire their own style.” 

Simon’s plan is to continue the program in October and have the next art show in December.

“We also want to have a winter extensive program during winter break to keep kids creating. Thankfully, we were able to receive a grant from VELA Education Fund that we used to fund our art program and will continue to fund the classes in the future,” she said.

Amy Simon (right) at ALLURE Art Studio. (Photo by Gerry Fortilus)
ALLURE Art Studio in Jamaica. (Photo by Gerry Fortilus)

ALLURE Art Studio is a creative arts event space where people come to learn, to be inspired and to network with like-minded creatives, according to the self-taught artist. Simon said the space is “an incubator for dreamers to cultivate their own ‘allure’ and/or to share their allure with the world.”  

After realizing that her true allure was through the power of art combined with teaching, Simon – who taught first and second graders for nine years – opened her studio to merge her two passions and encourage others to explore their own creativity.

“I began painting at age 11 and have been painting as a hobby most of my life, but it took me almost 20 years to self-identify as a true artist,” Simon recalled.

In 2017, she decided to fully commit to her artistry, with many opportunities finding her. She’s had her art on display at 11 shows across the city, some of which are currently on display in Kings Manor Museum with South Queens Women’s March; was one of the artists featured to paint the “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural on Jamaica Avenue; and participated in a Live Painting Event with Juneteenth Queens that was curated by Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman.

With her signature style of vibrant colors, solid paint consistency, and mixed media additions, the Brooklyn-born creative describes her work as centered around “the beauty of blackness, femininity, culture and glamour.”  

ALLURE Art Studio, which is also a community space, hosts public and private paint events, mobile paint events and offers venue rentals, such as open mic nights, podcast and interview recordings, business meetings, baby and bridal showers, as well as networking mixers.

“We provide a talented instructor, musical playlists and good vibes, to make it extra special,” Simon added.

Classes for “ARTpreneurs” are offered to help artists navigate the business aspect of the industry as well. At the end of the 6-week sessions, the studio hosts an art show to show off artists’ skills and share their collection with potential buyers.

“Before starting the kids’ program, we would constantly have people come into the studio requesting art classes for their children. With kids being confined to their homes for a whole year during the pandemic, they didn’t receive quality art lessons in a safe atmosphere,” Simon said. “This program is perfect to relieve stress from the restrictions of COVID and allow students to explore their creativity. It also helps kids with social skills and helps them build friendships along the way.”

Amy Simon with a student at ALLURE Art Studio. (Photo by Gerry Fortilus)
Photo by Gerry Fortilus

Her studio’s art program for kids serves children of color, ages 6 through 18, across Queens.

“It’s important because there are no art spaces like this in the Jamaica and Hollis communities. There aren’t many creative spaces that host workshops or classes for children of color,” Simon said. “These children may have art classes in school, but they don’t have consistent, small-group sessions to learn art techniques.”

This unique program also offers “Read Aloud” time, where kids read diverse picture books centered around self-love and confidence, showing resilience and accepting differences. Then, they follow up with a discussion about the overall lesson of the story. The young artists then paint something inspired by the book of the day to create a masterpiece to add to their collection. 

The recent event hosted at ALLURE art studio turned out to be a great success, with families of the young artists — 7-year-old Jeanelle Barrow, 10-year-old Ava Lewis, 13-year-old Synnai Blake, 13-year-old Elaina Diaz, 13-year-old Maddison Johnson, 13-year-old Liliana Raphael, and 13-year-old Donovan Ramkissoon.

Photo by Gerry Fortilus
Photo by Gerry Fortilus
Photo by Gerry Fortilus
Photo by Gerry Fortilus

The students, who hail from Hollis and Jamaica, had at least eight pieces of artwork on display. 

“In their artwork, you can see paintings inspired by the books we read and artists we learned about,” Simon told QNS. “Some had pieces that reflected the artwork of Bisa Butler, a black fiber artist known for her vibrant, quilted portraits using African fabrics, and celebrating black life. Some reflected the book ‘Imani’s Moon’ by JaNay Brown-Wood, about a little girl whose dream was to touch the moon; she faced many challenges before finally reaching her goal. There are also a number of paintings with glitter crowns, skulls, and eyes to commemorate the artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Some artwork also has ‘I AM’ statements created by the young artists. These were inspired by the book ‘I Am Enough” by Grace Byers, which has a number of I AM affirmations for kids, and the artists had to come up with their own.”

Amy Simon with a student at ALLURE Art Studio. (Photo by Gerry Fortilus)
Photo by Gerry Fortilus
Amy Simon with a student at ALLURE Art Studio. (Photo by Gerry Fortilus)

At the end of the show, each child received a certificate and gift bag with art supplies (a sketchbook, acrylic paint and brush set, watercolor pencils, an art kit briefcase with even more supplies).

“We want the kids to continue their passion and provide them with the tools to keep creating at home,” Simon added.