Tag Archives: Arts

LIC’s Secret Theatre to stay open after surpassing fundraising goal


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Orestes Gonzalez

The show will go on at one Long Island City theatre thanks to a successful online fundraising campaign.

Last month Richard Mazda, founder of the Secret Theatre, located at 44-02 23rd St., started an Indiegogo campaign looking to raise enough money to help keep the doors of the theatre open.

The fundraising site came after Mazda said the theatre had to deal with financial difficulties starting in late 2012 after the Department of Buildings (DOB) found the landlord’s certificate of occupancy was out of date.

The goal of the Indiegogo campaign, which ends Sept. 4 at 11:59 p.m., was set at $10,000, and as of Thursday afternoon $10,860 had been raised.

“I feel really good about it,” Mazda said about seeing the overwhelming amount of support. “Coming out and saying we’re in trouble was not easy. I feel very luck that so many people did rush to help.”

The Secret Theatre opened in 2007 and has since produced weekly children’s theatre shows, held classes for students, provided coaching services, produced in-house shows and co-produced productions.

Along with raising the money to pay for expenses, Mazda also said the funds will go toward renovations such as putting a restroom inside the Little Theatre, which had to be moved to an alternative spot in the 23rd Street building after violations were found by the DOB.

He also hopes to turn the theatre into a nonprofit organization.

Mazda said he plans to start the Queens Theatre Fund, a small organization which brings together the Queens theatre community to create funding for “exceptional and emergency circumstances,” such as the one in which the Secret Theatre found itself.

“I tried to be very transparent and sincere and a lot of people have said to me that what I was saying to them hit home. They understood from the way that I communicated the message,” Mazda said about the overall fundraising experience. “I think they realized the Secret Theatre is a resource for the community.”

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Jackson Heights to celebrate arts during day-long festival


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Carlos Martinez, Hibridos Collective

Jackson Heights will bloom with the arts on the first day of summer.

For the second year, the Jackson Heights Arts Festival is slated to bring the community an all-day public event featuring free art workshops, music and outdoor art exhibitions during a Summer Solstice Celebration. The event will take place on June 21 at Diversity Plaza, a pedestrian plaza located on 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets.

The outdoor festival is organized by the Friends of Diversity Plaza, a community partnership of local organizations and residents committed to re-envisioning Diversity Plaza as a space opened to the community.

Co-organizers of the festival are Hibridos Collective, an interdisciplinary collaborative co-founded by Carlos Martinez and Beatriz Gil, and Jackson Heights artist Nitin Mukul.

“In collaboration with the Friends of Diversity Plaza we want to build on the local arts community, increase the visibility of artists that live and work in the neighborhood, promote community-based arts and open a dialogue for empowerment through the arts,” Gil said.

The day-long festival will kick off at 11 a.m. with two art education workshops, followed by hourly musical performances starting at noon as part of Make Music New York. Artists performing include Bethany Wild, CoCo Wade, Roopa Mahadevan, Nova Safra Bateria, AC Haley, Roberto Buscarsi, SA, and The Live Cultures.

“Our community represents one of the most culturally diverse ZIP codes on the planet. There is no better way to celebrate that diversity than the arts,” Mukul said. “This exhibition brings together community artists in a public space, creating both intentional and accidental intersections as a metaphor for the strong, vibrant, eclectic community we are.”

 

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Block party to be held at Kaufman Astoria Studios


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File Photo

To start off the summer, the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) will host a block party in the newly formed Kaufman Arts District filled with local artists, food and much more.

The QCA Block Party, which will take place on the first day of summer on Saturday, June 21 from 4 to 10 p.m., will be located at the backlot of Kaufman Astoria Studios and feature musicians from Make Music New York, a barbecue throwdown by local restaurants, a poetry slam and an evening film screening.

In March, Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image and the Queens Council on the Arts announced the designation of the Kaufman Arts District, the first of its kind in the borough.

The Kaufman Arts District spans from 31st Street to the west, 34th Avenue to the north, Steinway Street to the east, and 37th Avenue to the south.

This block party, which is expected to be the kickoff of more upcoming Astoria events, is QCA’s fourth Moveable Feast Artist Dinner event, which serves as a fundraiser to support the High School to Art School Portfolio Program.

Admission to the QCA Block Party will be $35. For more information click here.

 

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Citywide initiative to help cultural nonprofits, art funding


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/PHOTO BY ALEXA ALTMAN

The infamous moniker of “one percent” gained an innovative, positive meaning among the arts community.

At MoMA PS1 on Tuesday, January 8, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer announced his support for the One Percent for Culture campaign, a citywide initiative aimed at increasing funding towards art institutions and impressing upon the city the value of cultural nonprofits. The coalition, containing 245 members thus far, seeks to ensure that nonprofit cultural establishments, responsible for assisting the city to generate billions in annual revenue, are granted one percent of the city’s annual budget.

Currently, arts and culture organizations receive a quarter of one percent of the city’s yearly budget.

“We know that that number and the billions in revenue that get spun off because of that could not happen without culture and the arts,” said Van Bramer. “The economy of the city of New York could not stand without culture and the arts. It simply could not.”

Arts and culture bring in $7.6 billion for the city of New York every year and provide jobs for roughly 100,000 New Yorkers. According to Van Bramer, the tourism boom, recently announced by Mayor Bloomberg, is in thanks to art institutions that entice visitors from all over the world, adding that culture and the arts is one of the few areas of the city budget that generates revenue.

Cultural leaders from across the city joined Van Bramer to announce the initiative and speak on its behalf, including Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1 and Eric Pryor, executive director of the Center for Arts Education. Charles Rice-Gonzalez, executive director of Bronx Academy for Arts & Dance (BAAD!) said increased funding for arts organizations creates a symbiotic relationship between culture and community, which serve to nourish and inspire each other.

“One Percent for Culture is about giving this vital segment, the arts of our city, a chance to come up to speed with the rest of the industry,” said Rice-Gonzalez. “We have managed to make a great impact with modest amounts. Imagine what could be done if one percent of the city’s budget is given to culture?”

Sheila Lewandowski, executive director of Long Island City playhouse The Chocolate Factory, said that with extra funding, she could afford to increase wages for the 100 artists on her payroll, purchase better equipment and decrease ticket prices.

“If we don’t value [art], we might lose it,” said Lewandowski. “One Percent for Culture is very valuable to my organization, a small very experimental organization, because it says we’re valuable. It’s the city saying ‘we see what you give back to the economy, to the quality of life, to everything.”

While Van Bramer called the announcement “a very exciting time,” the councilmember added that it was imperative to secure “the expense funding to follow the capital funding.”

“We have to be aggressive as a community. We have to know our value to the city of New York and make sure others know it too. Not everyone knows that we are keeping the city running. No one should ever doubt the power of art and the power of artists.”

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Woman dragged into Hunters Point parking lot and raped by group of men


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Woman dragged into Hunters Point parking lot and raped by group of men

Cops are hunting for a group of men they say raped a woman on a dark Queens street early Sunday. The 20-year-old woman was walking near Vernon Boulevard and 10th Street in Hunters Point when two men grabbed her and dragged her into a parking lot at about 3:45 a.m., police said. As the two suspects held her down between two cars, a third man — who is in his late 20s and about 5-foot-10 with blond hair and blue eyes — raped her, cops said.  Read More: Daily News

Queens rape victim was falsely imprisoned for robberies; now she sues city cops for falling for her attacker’s story

A QUEENS rape victim who was locked up for robberies she didn’t commit is suing city and Long Island cops for falling for her attacker’s “preposterous hoax” of a revenge plot. In a federal lawsuit, Seemona Sumasar claims NYPD cops protected her attacker, Jerry Ramrattan, because he was secretly funneling them information about other crimes while working as an informant. Read More: Daily News

Parents and officials say Department of Education has turned back on Jamaica High School

Even though the Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to close Jamaica High School was finalized in February, current students are still hoping for a quality education. Currently in the process of being phased out, Jamaica High School no longer accepts new students and is expected to close its doors for good in 2014. Read More: Queens Courier

At Top Public Schools, the Arts Replace Recess

All of this concentrated learning — activities parents commonly think of as enrichment — was taking place not after school hours, but during recess, the once-unstructured midday break that for some elementary school students is slowly being squeezed out of the day. Jump rope, freeze tag and the jungle gym have some new competition. At some of the city’s highest-rated public elementary schools, recess is now being seen by parents and educators as a time to pack in extra learning. Read More: New York Times

Giants, Mets Trade: New York Trades Angel Pagan To San Francisco For Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez

Walking across the hotel lobby, New York Mets manager Terry Collins smiled. “We rebuilt our bullpen in one day,” he said. In a rapid-fire series of moves at the winter meetings that took 1 1/2 days to put together and 1 1/2 hours to finalize, the Mets agreed to trade center fielder Angel Pagan to San Francisco for outfielder Andres Torres and pitcher Ramon Ramirez, and reached agreements with free-agent relievers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Read More: Huffington Post

Ex-corrections officer acquitted of attempted murder charges in Queens

A former correction officer who was facing up to 25 years in prison for shooting two men outside of a Queens bowling alley was acquitted of double attempted murder and assault charges. “His defense was one of self-defense,” said Michael Lavecchio’s trial attorney, Stephen Worth, after a jury cleared his client of all charges on Monday night. Lavecchio, 55, was working as a security guard at the AMF bowling alley on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights on February 6, 2010 when he asked Justin Donaghy and Gerard Hourigan to leave the building.  Read More: New York Post

MTA forgot about stranded blizzard train

The MTA’s subway boss admitted yesterday that transit officials got so overwhelmed during last year’s Christmas-time blizzard they “forgot” about an A train stuck on the tracks for nine agonizing hours with 500 passengers on board. Read More: New York Post

Astoria Boulevard: Voices in Motion


| bdoda@queenscourier.com

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Astoria Boulevard – one the most popular indie folk/pop acts in the New York City circuit – was never meant to be a band. It happened by chance. Founding members Dan Scott and Phillip Drennen, who met while on the national tour of Altar Boyz – a mockumentary musical of sorts – passed the time between shows by fooling around with a ukulele and writing music. By the time they got back to New York, they had enough solid songs ready for to be recorded.

“We played them for the cast and they thought we had something special going,” said Drennen. “We immediately got ourselves into a recording studio and self-produced a five song EP entitled ‘One of These Days.’ Our friends seemed to respond very positively to our music, so we put together an EP release party.”

Before they could perform their songs for the first time with a full band, they needed someone who knew his way around the acoustic guitar while adding a third part harmony. Through cosmic intervention, they both knew the right man for the job. Max Demers went to high school with Drennen. They sang in several groups together and later met Scott singing in the “Voices of Gotham,” a New York City barbershop quartet. He also turned out to be a great songwriter, according to his band mates.

“When we got together for our first rehearsal, the sound of three voices singing our music seemed to be the missing link. From then on, our duo was a trio.”

While the introspective storytelling, feel-good songwriting and unsuspecting old-school vibes are core strengths of the band, their ability to “hook-up” during moving harmonies gives Astoria Boulevard a decisive edge. When listening to their first full-length album, “This is Astoria Boulevard” listeners will hear that no one part is greater than the whole. For a band comprised of 20-somethings, it’s the vocals that are mature beyond their years.

“All three of us started harmonizing at a young age,” said Drennen. “Much like dancing or painting, there is a natural skill that people are born with, but if it’s nurtured at an earlier age, it becomes second nature. . . The only way to keep our harmonies tight is to listen to each other. Before shows, we sing through songs just to listen and lock chords, even songs we’ve been singing for a couple years. That being said, we knew there was quite a strong chemistry between the three of us from the first time we sang together.”

Like other emerging Queens artists, the band members are supportive of the local scene citing other acts like Aaron Lavigne, The Yes Team and Mat Snow.

“[The Queens music scene] is up and coming at the moment,” said Scott. “There are many great bands and singers and songwriters just waiting to be discovered.”

“When we first started out, we played an open mic night at Waltz Astoria,” Drennen continued. “It’s a great place for emerging artists to try out materials and get comfortable in front of an audience. It’s a gracious crowd.”

After playing more and more shows, the gracious crowd is beginning to reciprocate the love the band feels for their audience by singing along to songs like “Just So You Know” – the first song they wrote together and “Pappy Van Winkle” – a staple at their live shows and self-professed buddy-drinking anthem.
“The ultimate goal of any artist is to have some sort of impact on people’s lives and give them an outlet to deal with the emotions they’re feeling, be it good or bad,” said Drennen. “Early on, a friend of mine posted “Just so you know, I like my coffee black” (a line from “Just So You Know”) on his Facebook status and I got major butterflies in my stomach. It’s very rewarding to hear people say “I know how you feel,” or “Did you write that song about me?” It means we’re able to take something specific and make it accessible for the general public.”

With bands like The Shins, The Avett Brothers, The Decembrists and Mumford and Sons bringing folk rock back to the forefront of the music scene, the timing could not be more perfect for Astoria Boulevard to make their mark. Currently, they are focusing on playing live shows in New York City with aspirations of branching out to other cities like Philadelphia and Boston. Like their laid back album, the band is taking things as they come and is grateful to be invited to play venues and events.

Their music is available on iTunes and on their website www.astoria-boulevard.com. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to learn about upcoming gigs. For a band that almost never was, they are certainly happy to have a fan base that gets their music and feels the universal themes in their songs.

“Our goal for every show we play, every song we write is never to say, ‘look how cool we are, look how high we can sing, look how trendy our clothes are.’ It’s to say music should be fun, stories should be told, and as humans, our basic emotions are all the same. . . Maybe we won’t change the world with our music or solve your problems, but I bet you’d forget about them if you came to our show. And I’m sure you’d be smiling,” said Drennen.