This Sunday, a bohemian collective of Queens creatives will be opening their doors to the public for the first
time, and they’re very excited about it!
This free event, which takes place in their Woodside studios from noon to 5 p.m., is a unique opportunity to meet and connect with 18 local artists and find out what they’re working on while getting a closer look at each creative’s current approach and process. Masks are required.
Through their many talents, these folks represent a wide range of artistic paths and mediums — from visual art, design, and photography to DJ-ing and poetry — as well as the community’s diverse experiences and voices. Artist Studios Woodside comprises studio spaces in two buildings located across the street from each other: Mondo Studios at 33-55 55th St., 2nd Floor and Heptagon Studios at 33-46 55th St., 2nd Floor. Mondo boasts 15 studios and Heptagon — meaning seven angles — has seven.
“The Open Studios idea came from the wish to share our work with the community. We have been here for quite a while and we felt like we are ready to organize ourselves as a group,” said Deborah Wasserman, one of the artists who is part of this friendly, layback collective and manages the administration of the studios. “We’re all artists who live in Queens neighborhoods: Jackson Heights, Sunnyside, Woodside and East Elmhurst. And we appreciate having a workspace close to where we live, where we can dedicate time to our craft.”
This special, diverse group includes writers, performance artists, filmmakers, ceramic artists, composers, painters, graphic designers, and even a DJ — some near the beginning of their creative ventures and others — known internationally — who have been creating work here for a while.
“It’s really interesting to see artists at work: What are their inspirations? What do their workspaces look like? What materials are they using? An open studio gives the public an opportunity to have an intimate glance into all that,” Wasserman noted, adding, “the event will include a film projection, a performance at one of the studios and many other spaces, filled with paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints to view and even to purchase from the artists.”
Audiences can check out a cool film installation in one of the hallways at Heptagon, as well as a must-see performance by artists John Bjerklie and Shaquan Baker, who will present an inaugural live/virtual portrait painting session, entitled “Virtual Renovation.”
Mondo first opened in 2009 as a place for artists from Jackson Heights, Woodside and Sunnyside, to create work in a dedicated neighborhood arts space, located within their communities. It has grown over the years and recently expanded to include Heptagon Studios.
“We realized we had a critical mass of Queens-based artists working in one place — enough to launch a group event — and we’re hoping to attract art lovers, artists, and of course, the general public. It’s a joint effort, stemming from the wish to communicate, share and connect with the local communities around us,” Wasserman explained.
The artist, who is also a museum professional and an educator, moved to Jackson Heights in 2009 from Williamsburg, Brooklyn with her husband Phil Ballman. They were looking for a workspace where she could continue her art practice and he could run his music agency. The couple had two children in elementary school at the time, so they were determined to find a great spot close to home.
With the help of a real estate broker neighbor, they found an available space in a more industrial section of Woodside. The landlord had a few vacant spots, so the couple rented one floor and divided it into 10 studios. Eventually, there were 15 studio spaces, and they called this complex Mondo Studios. About a year ago, the landlord offered them more space across the street, which was renovated and divided into seven additional studios.
The couple has been renting studios from the landlord and then renting out workspaces to local artists, while keeping their rents affordable and providing other services, like A/C and heat.
“Most of the artists and creatives who end up renting studio spaces, live nearby. With rents rising in New York City and the fast developments in Long Island City causing artists to lose workspaces, finding a studio that is affordable and close to home seems essential,” Wasserman noted. “When artists find great workspaces, they enliven them and create a community — and this is exactly what happened here.”
Costanza Musumeci has been creating colorful drawings with scenes that remind the viewer of Jackson Heights. Stacy Mehrfar has been working on large-scale, mysterious and grappling photographs of nature. Jess Levey projects videos onto a still print. Poogy Bjerklie has been making small, dark, ephemeral landscapes, while Wasserman creates large-scale, dense and colorful landscapes with themes of earth degradation.
“In this studio, I’ve made drawings and small sculptures, using plaster, found objects, textiles and assembled them. I’ve used the space to work out details of shows, to photograph finished pieces and works in progress,” Marcy Chevali noted.
“As a visual artist, having a studio near my home is important to me. I’ve had a studio at Mondo for nearly 10 years. The space is cozy, and unlike some other studios, the walls are full walls going up to the ceiling. And there are locking doors, so we all have privacy and security. What makes it special is that it’s mine. I’ve filled it with everything that is meaningful to me; all the physical manifestations of the thoughts that have been in my head.”
Claudia Schellenberg, whose work has been displayed in group shows in the city, loves making pastel paintings. The artist has been renting a studio at Mondo for several years; currently, she’s sharing one.
“I tend to focus on plein air painting as a natural result of my love of hiking and the outdoors. I use the studio to work on still lifes or to refine some of the plein air work,” she noted. “I’m also a self-taught photographer, shooting in earnest since the winter of 2006. A few of my photos may be seen at the studio, but I do my editing work at home.”
These days, the collective has been abuzz with those passionate, busy artists — all happily working on their special projects — and eagerly anticipating a visit.
Transportation: M/R lines to Northern Blvd./Q66 bus
Studios are located in two buildings and accessible only via stairs.