Kew Gardens is a small, diverse, close-knit community located in central Queens. It is graced with tree-lined streets, old lovely homes, Tudor style apartment buildings, Forest Park, and easy access to public transportation.
Kew Gardens is an urban village with a BIG HEART. It’s a safe, welcoming neighborhood, and a good place to bring up children, with PS99, an excellent elementary school. It’s a place where neighbors greet each other on the streets, and mom & pop business owners miss you and inquire about you if you’re out of town. Kew Gardens is an innovative, creative, artsy place where residents enjoy getting together at the local flea market or at a community event.
As you walk around Kew Gardens you may stop and look at the two 60 foot murals that span both sides of two LIRR bridges. They were designed by local artists and painted by community members of all ages. In Kew Gardens Cinemas Park there is a 10-panel film motif mural with each panel painted by a local artist, 17-80 years old. Framed and installed at the LIRR station, there are 200 tiles depicting life in Kew Gardens painted by community members and fired at the Potter’s Wheel. As you walk along, you might also see a sign that announces an art show’s opening reception at Austin’s Ale House or news about the upcoming 8th annual Kew Gardens Community Arts Day.
These art initiatives have been funded by NYC Council grants awarded to the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts, Inc. by Council Member Karen Koslowitz and Citizens Committee for NYC Neighborhood Grants awarded to the Kew Gardens Improvement Association, Inc. Both of these Kew Gardens organizations have been supporting and advocating for the community for over 50 years.
This year because of the COVID-19 health crisis all of our upcoming art events were, of course, cancelled. We were generously given an opportunity by our funders to create new programs with social distancing. Cognizant of how the arts can help communities to heal, we grabbed the opportunity and decided to launch an outdoor banner project. Thirty-five adult artists and twenty-two young artists 4-14 years responded to the Call For Artists and sent in their designs. These were printed on large banners and in mid July hung on gates and fences in the village area of Kew Gardens. Kew Gardens residents will not have Kew Gardens Community Arts Day to enjoy this year, but they will be able to safely walk around the streets of Kew Gardens to experience Here, There and Everywhere: Art in Kew Gardens during Summer 2020.
With deepest gratitude to all the talented participating artists and to our funders that made this exhibition possible!
Peace & Thanks,
Behind the facades of Kew Garden’s many homes and apartment buildings live a host of artists thinking, feeling, experimenting, laboring and creating in a range of mediums and styles. In their unique ways they reflect –and reflect on the realities they experience, the lives they live and the people, places, and things they love. These experiences and perceptions they transform through the mediums of clay, paint, paper, canvas, camera or computer and the alchemy of art into the images that make up “Here There and Everywhere: Art in Kew Gardens.”
This show was born of the present epidemic, economic stress and political division. With shops shuttered, occupations lost or on hold, neighbors separated and families unable to gather, normal life seems to have come to a halt. How do you cultivate hope and strength, remain positive and affirming, when everything around you seems to point in the opposite direction?
It is in these times of apparent hopelessness that art reminds people of the beauty of the world, its strangeness and its transience, the power of imagination and experience to shape sensibility and response, to provide respite and hope.
The meticulous reflection of reality found in the images of Ed Kaplan and Jorell Rivera; the whimsy and fantasy of Christopher Blosser and Geovanny Lopez; the souvenirs of travel by Lynne Muchensky and Liana Shemper; the mind maps of Paul Brainard; the reimagining of historic art of William Jackson and the transmutation of of everyday objects and places into new realities of Anthony Mavilia speak to the diversity of approaches and mindsets of the artists brought together for this show and from there to the importance of every individual felled by the present plague.
This diversity was also the inspiration for the theme of this show: Here, There and Everywhere. Wei Min Mo very directly exemplifies “Here” with his plein air paintings of Kew Gardens and the surrounding neighborhood. Nonetheless, for many artists “Here” has a meaning that transcends geography, taking in home, family and the domestic sphere with all its implications. Maritza Farnan conveys “Here” in the drips of paint found on her window ledge: a record of a history of habitation that precedes her own tenancy. “Here” in Robert Murphy’s “Lily at Rest” is the domestic tranquility and security of home reflected by his sleepy cat, Lily. Margaret Rose Vendreyes’ painting “Elia and Ariel” places “Here” with family. Regardless of physical location we are most present “Here” with people we love and care about.
“There” has always been a powerful motivation for art new (or fondly remembered and now distant ) scenes, people and places move the artist to respond and move beyond the usual round. Images of those places now provide solace and hope at a time when return to a home land or new experiences abroad have become impossible –Taos, Venice, Cinque Terre, Cuba and Greece. All places to visit or return to …… someday.
Everywhere” speaks not only to places but the diversity of art and artists, styles, mediums and formal approaches brought together here. “Everywhere” also speaks to where the artists are in terms of their commitment to art; some are professionals earning their living and exhibiting widely, others are starting out on what may be a lifelong practice or studying art as a way to broaden their sense of self and creativity. All are doing what they do from a deep sense that making images is important and personally meaningful and a desire to communicate their vision.
As noted at the start -this show was born of the Coronavirus -19 epidemic. It is not only an attempt to bring humanity to a time marked by an inherently inhuman tragedy but a concrete solution to the cancelation of the much loved annual Kew Gardens Community Arts Day. For those of us involved the question was “How do you bring an art event to the community when “Social Distance” is the order of the day?” Reproducing art by local artists in the form of weather proof banners and lining the Village area seemed a way to give residents a “destination”, enlighten a blighted time and area, and publicize the creativity of our community. We hope that you agree and return over and over –masked and observing social distance -to the area to shop, take out food and get relief from quarantine and isolation . We hope that you check out the artists on line, see more of their work and perhaps even support them with a purchase.