Tag Archives: artist

5Pointz artists transform August Martin HS in Jamaica

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Over a hundred 5Pointz artists volunteered their time this weekend to make the hallways of a high school in Jamaica shine once again.

August Martin High School was filled with laughter and music on Saturday as 5Pointz curators Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen and Marie Cecile Flageul invited aerosol artists from near and far to cover the interior of the school in one-of-a-kind artwork.

The 5Pointz crew worked together with a team of students of the nonprofit The Future Project Dream Team at the school, who came up with the idea for the project called “Operation Skittles.”

The project — in which artists paint the school’s hallways, staircases and elevator doors — came after the team surveyed 500 students and found out that their fellow classmates unanimously felt the white walls of the school needed to be changed to enhance the atmosphere.

“I still believe that the classrooms should be kind of free of art so you can focus but why not have the hallways awesome. Why not have a school that you can brag about?” Cohen said. “Its cool because [5Pointz is] kind of inside out, it’s almost inverted. The students have a little treasure that not everyone will have.”


On both Saturday and Sunday, over 100 artists are volunteering their time and paint to transform the school, located at 156-01 Baisley Blvd. They have been given the freedom to choose the art that will go on the walls, and each will have an inspirational word.

“Being able to use the power of art to inspire the youth is amazing and I know these kids that go here are looked at as disappointment because of their graduation rate but as time changes so does our methods of getting these kids into school,” Cohen said. “You just have to give them a little bit of inspiration.”

Along with being seen as the “rebirth” of 5Pointz, which saw its Long Island City home be whitewashed in 2013, organizers and school staff also hope this project will give the school which some call “the worst in New York City” a second chance.

“This alone might get [students] to school and create a sense of pride for their school that a lot of them didn’t have before,” said Syreeta Gates, The Future Project Dream Director at August Martin.

According to the school’s principal, Gillian Smith, August Martin is still considered an “out of time school” meaning it hasn’t made any academic progress in recent years and has a 39 percent graduation rate.

However, Smith, who welcomed the idea of the project with open arms, hopes a project such as coming together with 5Pointz artists will help build a sense of pride and push students to do better.

Some artists have offered to participate in future workshops for the students, and the 5Pointz curators also hope to continue being a “part of the family” with the school.


“We want students to be so inspired that they want to stay in school because now they can see that dreams can happen and dreams can come true,” Smith said. “It’s a difficult journey; it’s a lot of work. But I think all of these little steps matter. To see this happen in a weekend all of a sudden makes you feel like, ‘I got it, the world is mine. I can do this.’”

Students involved in the project said they are excited to see their classmates’ reactions on Monday when seeing the hallways.

They also added that they think this project will help change the way people view the high school.

“It’s a sense of hope and pride because people talk so much crap about August Martin, it’s going to change how they look at the school, and students here are going to have so much pride coming here and saying ‘5Pointz did my school.’ Who else can say that?,” said 11th-grader Trivella Osborne.


When asked what they would say to the artists volunteering their time to transform their school the students on the Dream Team burst out in thank yous and cheers.

“They’re making history right now,” said ninth-grader Latoya Mann. “It’s a resurrection of August Martin and 5Pointz.”

The completed project will be revealed to the public on June 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. during an art show at the school. Some artists will also be selling their work on canvas in order to raise money for the high school.


Local resident starts writing group in Ridgewood

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

A writer’s struggles can be daunting, but a Ridgewood writer hopes to help locals overcome difficulties with their literary labors.

Amy Wilson, who moved to the neighborhood from Michigan in July, founded Ridgewood Writers so local authors could offer each other support.

“I’m aware of how difficult it is for people to pursue their own writing careers,” Wilson said. “This will give myself and the members of the group a new perspective on our work and can help us grow as writers.”

The group was started at the beginning of September and already has seven members. They are having their first meeting this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at The Spot, a restaurant located on Madison Avenue and Fresh Pond Road.

Wilson, 26, said that she already noticed how tight-knit Ridgewood is and believes the group would be a great way for her to get more involved and in tune with the community along with helping her begin a more serious writing experience.

“My personal goal for the group is to get a deeper connection to Ridgewood and grow a support network when writing,” Wilson said. “I am still working on a lot of different things and this group will give me the accountability I need to keep writing.”

She has written novels and poetry and is hoping to start a compilation of essays that will be based on her experiences.

Wilson said that between work and life she has yet to attempt to publish her work, but she is hoping that this group will help her and all of the other members get published.

She hopes that as they grow, the group will be able to work with local visual artists and start their own collection of writings and arts about Ridgewood.

Wilson encourages writers of all skill levels to become members and hopes to work with writers of varying styles.

“Don’t be intimidated to join the group based on your level of writing skills,” Wilson noted. “I want people to have a fun experience and want any writer who wishes for a more serious path in writing to join.”

To find out more about the Ridgewood Writers group, contact Amy Wilson at ridgewoodwriters@gmail.com.


Painting helps connect Ridgewood resident to his home

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

The simple act of painting his surroundings helped draw a Texas transplant closer to his new hometown of Ridgewood.

David Nakabayashi, 52, has been painting since his early childhood. He moved to Ridgewood from Texas in December and right away began painting the landscape of his new area.

“This takes me out of the studio and connects me to my neighborhood,” he said. “It’s a great area to paint.”

Nakabayashi can be spotted throughout the neighborhood about two to three times a week as he does his paintings of Ridgewood en plein air.

He picks a spot to set up his paint stand and illustrates the scene taking place in front of him on a tiny 7-by-7-inch canvas.

During his usual four to five hours of painting, in which he finishes about two to three canvases, locals stop to admire the work and talk about the history of some of the buildings or scenery he may be painting.


“There are times where I’ll be painting a building and people come up to me and start talking about different stores that used to be there or the different people that once lived there,” he said. “If I hadn’t been out on the streets I would have never learned so much [about Ridgewood].”

Nakabayashi is a self-taught painter. He relies on his artwork as his main source of income but does it for more than just monetary purposes.

“I feel it is my civic duty if I’m a talented guy to give back to my neighborhood,” he said. “Although my paintings are about the neighborhood what’s really important is the connection between me and the art.”

He described Ridgewood as a tight-knit community and said he has never had a bad comment come from any resident who passes by to watch him paint.

“Ridgewood has been super nice to me,” Nakabayashi said. “It’s an ideal place to paint because there is so much diversity in the area.”


He said he has held many “normal” jobs throughout his life, mostly in Texas and New Mexico, but none have given him more pride than painting. The art scene in New York drew him to the city as he is now just a train ride away from some of the most famous art museums in the world. He believes that Ridgewood has been the place for him to live all along.

“I never had the experience of being able to go anywhere and see art all over,” he said. “I think this might be home. I like it here.”

To check out more of Nakabayashi’s work go to www.davidnakabayashi.com.


Apollonia NYC Gallery set to open in Sunnyside

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Sunnyside will soon be home to a new antique shop, also serving as a gallery and cultural event space, looking to showcase emerging, established and local artists.

The Apollonia NYC Gallery, located at 48-14 Skillman Ave. and named after owner Garry O’Calloghan’s late dog, will hold its grand opening on July 20 starting at 4 p.m.

The site is expected to feature handmade and distressed furnishings, lighting, paintings, prints, photos, record collections, antique cameras and other home décor items.

Along with being an antique shop, Apollonia NYC Gallery is expected to also host “salon-like” gatherings for musicians, poetry readings and artist talks through the year.

“I wanted to create a mythological and magical place like the shop in the Gremlins that gives guests the feeling of being in a secret place where they can find one-of-a-kind treasures,” said O’Calloghan, who is also an artist. “This is also a wonderful way to meet interesting people and celebrate the vibrant local arts scene.”

In June, the space held its first preview event for the unofficial afterparty for the annual The Queen of Angels Art Fair, organized by Sunnyside artists.

Apollonia’s grand opening, which according to organizers coincides with the ancient feast day honoring the Greek god Apollo, will feature music by Le Petit Pepinot and The Sunnyside Social Club. Guests are welcome to dress in their favorite vintage clothing.

The opening will also include samples from Murphy’s Lobster Grill, meet-and-greets with Apollonia’s owners, and international and local artists, and the debut of a new mural on the space’s ceiling.

Apollonia NYC Gallery will be opened Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 8 p.m., and weekends from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/ApolloniaGallery.



Looking into the artwork of LIC artist Luba Lukova

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Aeroblue © Luba Lukova

What was only supposed to be a one-week visit to New York for an international exhibition has turned into about 25 years of success for Long Island City artist Luba Lukova.

As a young girl in Bulgaria, Lukova never had a doubt as to what she wanted to be when she grew up. Influenced by her grandmother who was an artist, Lukova began to attend art classes and then graduated from an art academy.

Through an invite from Colorado State University, where school officials had seen some of her early artwork, Lukova came to New York for an organized exhibition featuring artists from all over the world.

Her initial idea was to stay in New York for a week and then return to Bulgaria, but she decided to stay indefinitely, and in 1991, she began drawing illustrations for the book review section of The New York Times. She then moved on and drew for the publication’s Op-Ed section covering subjects such as the Middle East.

These illustrations opened up doors for Lukova, exposing her to a larger audience, which got her into theatre work creating posters, and years later she even got a call from then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign to use one of her images months before his inauguration.

“It was just a miracle. I never went back [to Bulgaria],” she said. “For a young artist, it was a mind-blowing experience and when I saw the reaction of the people, it was really very exciting for me.”

Lukova’s pieces, whether they are on a canvas or theatre poster, all convey social and political issues in what she calls a “simple and accessible way.” She tells a whole story with just a few colors and images and creates visual metaphors for viewers to take in.

“[My artwork] involves thinking and the viewer’s participation,” she said. “All of my work is like that — it’s always provoking stuff. I try to make it accessible and bring something to the contemporary viewer that can stop them and make them think.”

Her “Social Justice” poster portfolio, the first publication from her own publishing company, has gotten her national and international acclaim. Currently some of her work is part of a show at the Museum of Modern Art and Denver Art Museum.

After moving out of Manhattan following 9/11, Lukova has been working and living in the booming art scene found in Long Island City. Last year she took part in the LIC Arts Open festival, which introduced her to a community she has now become a part of and loves.

“I think it’s a great group of artists with a lot of energy,” she said. “The art community here is growing and it is so huge.”

This year Lukova designed the poster for the LIC Arts Open, and her exhibition “Drama on Paper: Posters for the Stage” can be found at The Local at 13-02 44th Ave. throughout the festival.

     LIC ARTS OPEN POSTER © Luba Lukova

“I’m excited to be a part of it again,” Lukova said. “I think what [the festival organizers] do is very admirable and I hope we will keep the community here and we will expand. Because New York without the arts would be a very sad picture. We don’t just want New York to be the city with museums; we need the real art here.”



LIC plumber uses tools of the trade to create unique art pieces

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Orestes Gonzalez

When Long Island City resident Cristian Torres is on the job as a plumber, he sees more than just pipes and pressure gauges.

The 41-year-old Argentinian native has been a plumber since he was 17 years old. He made his way to the United States for the first time in 2001. Since then he has been creating pieces of art from material he knows and uses on the job.

“When I was young enough I was doing little things: I always had the [desire] to build little stuff,” said Torres, who remembers first building small pieces for his nieces and nephews. “Every time I see something I think, ‘with that thing, I can make this, I can make that.’”

When he isn’t plumbing, Torres, who has been living in Long Island City for the past four years, is an artist/sculptor specializing in pipe design. He used to work out of the Davis Street building shared with 5Pointz.

The father of two uses materials such as pipes, aluminum shields, copper coils and gauges to create lamps, light fixtures, sculptures and other art pieces.

Yet Torres creates these pieces with more on his mind than just adding to his collection. The artist said he uses the struggles he personally faces or sees happen in life to influence his various pieces.

“I create things always with the concept of not just using the plumbing material, but having the concept of anxiety,” he said. “I’m trying to express what I’ve seen in my life. It’s more than what they look like.”

One series Torres has been working on for the past seven years follows the theme of expressing anxiety, and was influenced by Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The artwork in the series is set on copper shields, with pressure gauges and other metal pieces welded on to form the screaming face.

Torres also creates light fixtures and sculptures with sewing machines from the 1900s and temperature/pressure gauges, which he uses to symbolize time.

“I felt like I was liberating myself from a lot of stuff,” he said. “One of the major traumas [of] the [human] being I think is time because we think we are never going to die or get old. That’s why I’m trying to use gauges all over.”

Torres currently works on his pieces in a building shared with numerous other artists, as part of the nonprofit Long Island City arts group known as Local Project, located at 11-27 44th Road. He plans on showing his pieces at upcoming art shows, but dates are still to be determined.

“I hope people just appreciate it [my art],” he said. “It’s not just something functional, because when you buy something like this, handmade or created by someone, it’s always a little bit more than that.”

Even though he has created various pieces of artwork with meaning behind each piece, Torres said he calls himself a plumber before an artist. 

“I enjoy what I do,” he said.

To see some of Torres’ pieces visit his website and if you are interested in purchasing an item, contact the artist at plumbingart1@gmail.com.



Elinore Schnurr goes from artist to curator in LIC

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


After 52 years as a painter in New York City, Elinore Schnurr has a new profession in the art world—curator.

And her experience as an artist helped her land the gig.

She has been renting studio space in Long Island City from Diego Salazar for over 20 years. When he decided to move his antique frame business from his building at 21-25 44th Avenue and open an art gallery in its place, he knew Schnurr should curate it.

“She is a wonderful artist and is truly the perfect person to help with the show,” he said.

The inaugural exhibit, which opened in May, features 30 artists that have studios in the same building that houses the gallery, including Schnurr.

“It was just so much fun to go around and see [the work] other people were doing,” she said.

Schnurr moved into her current art studio a year-and-a-half ago. Previously, she rented a loft at another of Salazar’s buildings for two decades. Then, when he sold that building, she moved to a studio in Greenpoint for five years. When that building was sold, she again rented from Salazar.

On September 20 the gallery will have a Latin American show, featuring local emerging and established artists, with another curator.

But Schnurr will curate the next show, which opens at the end of October, featuring longtime Long Island City resident and painter Arthur Hammer, who passed away in March, and a holiday show with mostly artists from Long Island City, including some from the gallery’s first exhibit.

She will also likely continue to curate shows for the gallery on an ongoing basis.

What’s interesting about being a curator, said Schnurr, is seeing art on the other side.

“I’ve always been asking to show my work and now, here, I am asking other people to show their work, and there’s a different dynamic,” she said.

Passionate about painting since she was 10 years old, Schnurr attended the Cleveland Institute of Art. A post college trip to Europe further inspired her to become a figurative painter.

She moved to New York City in 1960, which was the right and wrong place to pursue that style of painting.

“I was quite fascinated by the movement of the people on the street. I always painted people on the street or in bars and cafes, places that were public,” said Schnurr. “I painted them in a way that expressed a certain disconnectedness between them,” she continued.

Though New York City was full of “disconnected people” to paint, the art scene was not initially accepting of figurative painting.

But in the late 70s the market changed, and she started selling her work.

For the past six years Schnurr has been working on a series called “Outside Looking In.” A little more abstract than her previous work, the paintings depict the various reflections in the windows that look onto Times Square. Some of those pieces are currently on exhibit at LaGuardia Community College’s Atrium Lobby Showcase Gallery East.

The artists in her building, like her, are established professionals that don’t fall into one of the two categories of artists that frequently have shows in New York City—big names with high-priced art, or younger, up-and-coming artists recently out of school who show at smaller galleries.

Older, established artists that never made it to the high money market, but are talented need a chance to show their work, said Schnurr.

Filling that gap is what she wants to accomplish as a curator, while showcasing Long Island City’s artist community.

Joel Shapiro Receives LIC Arts Open Lifetime Achievement Award

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Jesse Winter

World-renowned sculptor Joel Shapiro was honored with the inaugural LIC Arts Open Lifetime Achievement Award.

Shapiro, whose work has been on display in galleries across the globe, was born in Sunnyside and has a studio in Long Island City.

“[Shapiro’s] work is iconic,” said Richard Mazda, director of the LIC Arts Open. “There is something about his work that speaks very directly to art lovers, but there is also a common touch to it. It is very distinctive.”

Mazda went on to say that Shapiro was one of the pioneers of the art movement in L.I.C., keeping his studio in the neighborhood and leading by example.

“There are false impressions of Queens which are beginning to be altered,” he said. “Queens is not the Queens of 50 years ago. We have inherited a lot of art institutions, but it has taken along time for people to realize Queens is a borough that is more than a place filled with people. A lot of it is driven by the arts community, including Joel. By putting his large studio in LIC, Joel indirectly influenced many other artists to do the same.”

The award was presented during a fundraiser for the LIC Arts Open on March 26 at Manducatis Rustica, located at 46-35 Vernon Boulevard. The fundraiser was a quintessential L.I.C. event, with the award donated by Green Mountain Graphics, the food provided by LIC Market and M. Wells and a sizable donation made by the Court Square Diner.