Tag Archives: Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

Jamaica cultural center diversifies programs

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Asha Mahadevan


The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning is making a conscious attempt to diversify its programming. During the 2014-15 season, the center will be hosting concerts of Latin music, gospel music and doo-wop, and performances of Brazilian dances, nutcracker ballet and William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Cathy Hung, who joined the center as its executive director in April, said it has always been the aim of the 42-year-old organization to support the community and serve its needs. “Diversity is key,” Hung said. “The society is changing so we have to evolve and support the evolving society. We try to honor the different genres, but they are not planned for specific communities. We don’t want to send anyone out. We want to blend everyone in, support every community.”

There is something for everyone — children, adults, seniors — in the 2014-15 season. Putting the lineup together has been a learning experience for Hung, who worked at the Flushing Town Hall before she joined the center. “I am new to the community and learning about the community organizations,” she said. Her first step is “to inject meaningful content so that the community can talk about the center and the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.”

Hung is working with educational institutions and tying the center’s programming to the school curriculum. The Brazilian dances and the Nutcracker ballet performances are for grades K to 12 while “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is for grades 3 to 12 and a puppet show about Greek mythology is meant for grades 3 to 8. “If teachers want more, we are here to offer it,” she said.

Hung’s aim is to work more closely with other cultural institutions that can make best use of the center’s space. This aim is evident in the exhibition that is ongoing at the center, “Titled Women of the Diaspora,” which portrays art related to women of color. An exhibit within the exhibition is called “We Be Rational” and features fashion illustrations of black women. Stephanie PhaFar Roy, a self-described “artivist” — artist who is an activist — worked almost a year to put together the 60 illustrations to show women of color in a way they are not represented in fashion. The outfits are inspired by street fashion and African garb but they are not traditional African outfits.

“Some of the prints mimic African art,” said Roy, who is of Haitian descent.

Collaborations and co-presentations are the way to “slowly push the organization where it should be,” said Hung. And where is that? “It can be anything,” she said. “It can be the BAM or Lincoln Center of Jamaica. The sky is the limit.”


Celebrate ‘Hollywood in Jamaica’

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Get ready to dress to impress and celebrate the arts at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC).

The Spectacular Fall Arts Gala will be held Friday, October 11 and promises to be a night of art appreciation and neighborhood pride at JPAC, 153-10 Jamaica Avenue, that will benefit both JPAC and the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL).

The evening will honor Borough President Helen Marshall, WASA Architects and the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC).

Event organizers wanted to thank Marshall for the “support she has given to both JCAL and JPAC,” said Philippa Karteron, event organizer and avid supporter of Jamaica arts

“This is our first gala and our first shout-out, thank-you to those who made it possible,” Karteron said.

Special guests will feature Percy Ellis Sutton, Keisha Sutton James, Vy Higginson, Hariette Cole, Deborah Gregory and Bernard White.

“This is something we had been planning over the years but never came to fruition,’’ said Tonya Cantlo-Cockfield, JCAL Board Chair.

Cockfield said Councilmember Leroy Comrie pushed for the fundraiser so JCAL and JPAC could get the exposure they need.

With that, Cockfield and her team got to planning, and what is set to emerge will be an “art formal,” black tie event on an evening that will be filled with surprises.

“We’re calling it, ‘Hollywood in Jamaica,’” Karteron said. “But the evening is really about Jamaica.”

VIP tickets are available for $150. The evening will start with a VIP cocktail reception from 6 to 7 p.m. in the “Noire Gallery” where guests can admire various works of art as well as a live painter.

After the VIP reception, those with VIP tickets will be ushered up to the “duplex skybox” where attendees can view the performances to come.

The Edge School of the Arts, ESOTA, the Carl Bartlett, Jr. Sextet, Soprano singer Mari-Yan Pringle, Braata Productions, and members of the Vissi Dance Theater will be performing from 7 to 10 p.m. for attendees to enjoy.

General admission ticket holders as well as the VIP will enjoy the evening of performances, local vendors, food from the Brownstone and of course artistry. There will be high and low tables, several stages, food and art stations and more.

“We want to show artists’ potential, support new and emerging artists as well as those who have a reputation,” Karteron said. “This is a smorgasbord of the arts.”

Sponsors of the event are JetBlue, TD Bank, Resorts World Casino, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, Astoria Federal Savings, RCGA+DM, Health First, EmblemHealth and Brownstone.

General admission tickets are $100, and students with identification can purchase $50 tickets. To purchase tickets online, visit web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/9812569. To become a sponsor, call 718-658-7400.



Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning offers space to cultural institutions

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) is opening its doors to the city, inviting other cultural organizations and working artists to use any of its many available performance spaces.

“We began to realize that we had untapped resources that weren’t being utilized,” said JCAL’s Executive Director Carl Fields. “A lot of folks go into Manhattan [or] Brooklyn to find suitable rehearsal space. Now they’ll be able to find something closer to home.”

Fields added that cultural organizations such as JCAL get funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs, but have seen cuts over the past couple of years. With the new space initiative, JCAL will charge cheaper prices than the standard rates for rehearsal and performance sites, in the hope of boosting the center’s own revenue.

The Jamaica YMCA recently signed on to use some JCAL space for its new youth program, the Y Roads Initiative. JCAL’s space initiative should be in full swing by the summer.

“The availability of JCAL for use by a wide range of arts groups is of terrific benefit to Jamaica,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “Cultural activity [is] a key element in the revitalization of Downtown Jamaica.”

Fields said that JCAL has a responsibility to cater to the artistic community of southeast Queens. The center hopes that others will use the rehearsal space, perfect their craft and give performances for the community to enjoy.

Four dance studios and two theaters along with music rooms are available.

“We think we have enough to meet the demand for space,” Fields said. “One thing primarily is it’s going to give an option that’s first class, safe and closer to home.”

JCAL has already had informal talks with “a number of people” who have indicated they would like to come and use the space, according to Fields. The site will be open until 9 p.m. every night, but hours are subject to change depending on need.



New program helps put youth back on the right road

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow

The southeast Queens community is coming together to help put their youth back on the right road – the Y Road.

The Jamaica YMCA, in partnership with Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT), is launching a new program, the Y Roads Initiative, geared towards giving youth ages 16 to 24 the little push they may need to get their lives going in a productive direction. It is designed to support roughly 300 young people who are neither employed nor in school and gear them towards a fruitful life.

“We want to build a plan for each student,” said Clare Dwyer, the Y Roads Center Director, “and figure out how we can get them to be successful.”

OBT staff and the YMCA have collaborated over the last several months to create a comprehensive one-stop service facility, building off of the Y’s strengths in youth work, counseling service and leadership development.

Y Roads will additionally provide job training and a GED model within a simulated corporate work environment.

Emergency housing units are available to participants, as well as mental health and lifestyle counseling, and recreational programming and childcare services.

“We really feel like the all-encompassing pieces are coming together,” said Dwyer. “Now we can offer all of the pieces, and that’s really what makes Y Roads special.”

The program will be held at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning on Jamaica Avenue. OBT has raised half a million dollars, which puts it 2/3 of the way towards its funding goal, and is enough to open the doors to the public.

“We think we have something that works,” said Peers. “This is really exciting. I think Jamaica has a really good advantage. This is where we want to be, we’re ready to roll.”



A focus on inclusion: JCAL opens new art exhibit

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Vida Sabbaghi

The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) kicked off its new exhibition, “An Inclusive World,” showcasing artists of all different backgrounds in one common forum.

The traveling exhibition, created by curator Vida Sabbaghi and sponsored by COPE NYC, was inspired by how art transforms lives in many different ways and promotes the idea that there are variations of norms for any given individual.

It is also meant to affirm that there are many artists who can be creatively linked – the exhibit houses works from both formally-trained artists and those who are self-taught, all displayed without a label.

“You are able to just judge the work for what it is, not for who the artist is,” said Shari Lin Fischberg, a contributing artist.

Fischberg, an adjunct professor of art and design at the Pratt Institute and a trained artist, has two pieces in “An Inclusive World.” She combined encaustics, applying melted wax to a surface, and photo transfer to wood.

“It’s a very open-ended process,” she said of encaustics. “There’s a certain amount of the piece you can control, but there’s a certain amount of things you can’t control. It’s not a very precise medium, but sometimes it leads you into really interesting backgrounds.”

Fischberg was happy to contribute to the exhibit, especially happy to be a part of such a diverse group.

“I like the idea that people can hopefully just experience the art for what it is, not for who the artist is,” she said.

Fellow featured artist Juan Nolasco echoed this sentiment.

“[The exhibit] brought a variety of artists with enormous talents together,” he said.

Nolasco contributed a mandala, which he described as a piece that resembles looking through a kaleidoscope.

The self-taught artist loves working with geometric shapes and forms, and also has an interest in eastern cultures, from which the mandala originated. Through his piece, he hoped to convey the passage of time, specifically linear time.

“I find the work to be therapeutic and healing,” he said.

Nolasco’s mandala is a part of a two-piece display, paired with another artist’s mandala.

“It’s such a beautiful piece,” he said of his co-contributor’s work.

Since the exhibition took off, the two have been able to sit down and share ideas with each other.

“It’s an excellent medium to meet other artists,” he said.

The exhibition will be at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, 161-04 Jamaica Avenue, until April 23. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special thanks for the exhibit go to Alice Wexler, Roger Ricco, Janos Marton, Hands Across Long Island and Vicki Schneps.

For more information, visit www.jcal.org.