Off-Brand: Group A.R.T. show in Jackson Heights aims to surprise & delight shoppers, art lovers

(Courtesy of A.R.T. (Art Retail Therapy) in Jackson Heights)

There’s no shortage of talent in Queens.

A group of 27 talented and empowered local artists have been eagerly anticipating their upcoming exhibition, called Off-Brand, which is set to open on Saturday, Dec. 10, at A.R.T. (Art Retail Therapy) – a popular art store and creative community art space, located at 84-26 37th Ave., in Jackson Heights. This must-see, offbeat show will run through Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, so don’t forget to mark your calendars!

Off-Brand will feature striking, imaginative works by participating artists integrated into a retail environment. And customers, as well as art lovers, will surely enjoy a different kind of shopping experience as they come across a variety of paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations while browsing the store’s bounty of offerings. Eye-catching creations might be suspended from the ceiling, hanging above displays of paints, or sitting on shelves next to ink bottles. 

More than showing examples of how certain art supplies can be used, this unique exhibit aims to create a sense of surprise and delight in a non-traditional gallery setting.

John Bjerklie – still from “BigHat” mixed media installation/live painting performance. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

“Making art is all about discovery, and this show is a wonderful way to give that sense of discovery directly to visitors, as well as an opportunity for me to expand my typical way of working and create something that responds directly to everyday retail structures, such as pegboards and shelving, which shoppers typically overlook,” said participating artist Stephanie Beck, who is also an Off-Brand organizer, along with artists Deborah Wasserman, Linda Ganjian and Paul Krause.

Off-Brand’s goal is to celebrate the local creative community and rally around a thriving small business. And, since A.R.T. opened last December, the exhibition also marks the store’s one-year anniversary.

“I’ve been able to intersect many of my passions for design, art, creating spaces and events, in creating Art Retail Therapy,” said A.R.T.’s owner and Lead Creative, Francisco Segarra, who looks to his life partner, Charlie Marquez, for inspiration.

(Courtesy of A.R.T. (Art Retail Therapy) in Jackson Heights)

A.R.T. offers special classes and events, and folks frequent the store for stationery and school supplies, arts and crafts, fine art supplies, and much more.

“In the summer of 2021, the news made it around Jackson Heights that the beloved neighborhood art and stationery store, GC Stationery, was going to close. After many visits and conversations, Mr. Patel, the owner of GC Stationery, encouraged me to take the opportunity of continuing the legacy rooted in Jackson Heights for over half a century,” Segarra told QNS, adding, “His mentorship continues to this day.”  

Off-Brand was curated by JHAT (Jackson Heights Art Talks) in partnership with A.R.T.  A frustrated creative with a vision, Ganjian decided to address the lack of exhibition venues and meeting places for Queens-based artists and art lovers, so she founded JHAT in December 2016. Since then, over 50 artists representing diverse ages, cultures, and perspectives have been invited to present their work on the second Wednesday of most months, at Espresso 77 café, in Jackson Heights. The project is currently led by Beck, Wasserman, and Krause. In 2022, JHAT was supported by funds from the NY State Council on the Arts, Statewide Community Regrants Program, with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the NY State Legislature and is administered by Flushing Town Hall – with the Jackson Heights Beautification Group as a fiscal sponsor.

“After organizing informal art talks at Espresso 77 for over five years, I thought it would be fun to put together a show in the neighborhood featuring artists who have given talks in the past, or have worked with A.R.T.,” Ganjian noted.

The exhibit’s opening on Dec. 10, will kick off at 7:30 p.m., with a live performance by John Bjerklie, a.k.a. “BigHat.” This interesting character and his subjects will be painting each other’s portraits simultaneously, sitting across from each other in a mock studio installation constructed of easels, pallets, and drop cloths. “BigHat” will conduct several live performances over the course of the exhibition. 

Helen Quinn – mockup of Hare, 30’’ x 10’’ x 14’’ – papier mache and lime paint. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

“Jackson Heights is diverse and unique. Having a space where neighbors from all walks of life feel safe and celebrated in pursuing their interests and passion in art, is of the utmost importance. I love seeing them come in and get lost in the store, feeling encouraged to practice art, and becoming regulars that we look forward to seeing,” Segarra added. “And being a Queens native, I am dedicated to providing art to every single person in this community, and I am very excited to continue fostering this community art space that this neighborhood deserves.” 

Nitin Mukul – Anemone, durational painting, 22-minute loop, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Participating Off-Brand artists include – Marina Kappos, Carla Lobmier, Laura Fayer, John Bjerklie, Helen Quinn, Ivana Larrosa, Suran Michelle Song, Norma Markley, Sandra Mack-Valencia, Pierre Obando, Erick Teran, Jesse Lambert, Carlo Nieva, Damaris Chamorro, Jonathan Feldschuh, Will Kaplan, Jennifer Williams, Stephanie Beck, Christen Clifford, Evie McKenna, Derick Melander, Nitin Mukul, Eung Ho Park, Mary Valverde, Linda Ganjian, Deborah Wasserman, and Paul Krause.

Marina Kappos – Color Wheel and Drawing Wheel, 12’’ x 12’’ – acrylic on wood panel. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

 For more info. about A.R.T., please visit: instagram.com/artretailtherapy.