Tag Archives: JCAL

JCAL to host showcase for Queens-based artists

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Salimah Ali

Queens artists will be taking over the walls of the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL), as the center gets ready to host its second annual Artists Co-op, a showcase of work by artists living in the borough.

Originally a membership-based program, the showcase was reimagined as JCAL’s annual event to  provide local artists with a venue to curate, produce and present their work, according to Executive Director Cathy Hung. The 15 artists were chosen through an open call by a panel of fellow artists and their work ranges from photography, painting, textile, mixed media works and sculptures.

Sandra Mack-Valencia is one artist who was chosen to showcase her work. Mack-Valencia, a Columbian-born painter who grew up in her father’s art studio, started painting at a young age. She attended the Escuela de Arte Eladio Velez when she was 16 and received her BFA from the Universidad de Antioquia. She moved to New York and received her MFA at Hunter’s College, and her work has been exhibited in museums, galleries and institutions in Colombia, New York and Japan.

“As an artist, every time our work gets chosen for an exhibition,  it feels encouraging, and it adds meaning to what we do. We spend a lot of time by ourselves in our studios creating the work, but when it gets out to the world is when it feels complete,” Mack-Valencia said. “We need an audience. I create paintings with the intention of awakening reactions and sparking conversations.”

Photo courtesy of Sandra Mack-Valencia

Photo courtesy of Sandra Mack-Valencia

The pieces she is exhibiting at JCAL were inspired by the fantasy of the American dream, she said, and of the stories she heard as a child in Columbia about how life in America was supposedly easier. After moving to the United States, Mack-Valencia realized that the definition of success differs for every person and that having a good job and owning a home was not necessarily her definition.

“The beautiful fantasy of The American Dream shattered as I grew older and found my own dreams,” Mack-Valencia said.

Other artists include Salimah Ali, a Jamaica-based photographer who has had her work showcased at places like the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Soho Photo Gallery. Ali graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a photography degree and has photographed celebrities such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle and more.

JCAL holds several events and artists residencies throughout the year to provide Queens-based artists with free space to work and showcase their creations. They’ve also partnered with Exploring the Metropolis, a nonprofit dedicated to workspace issues for the performing arts, to provide free residencies to choreographer and dancer duos.

“Artists Co-op II” will run from Sept. 10 through Oct. 31. JCAL is encouraging people to attend the Artist Talk on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 1 p.m. to meet and greet the artists. For a full list of participating artists, visit JCAL’s website.


Jamaica Flux to transform public spaces

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of JCAL

Jamaica storefronts, sidewalks, parks and vacant lots will be transformed by 19 artists as part of “Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016,” a public art project organized and presented by the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL).

The project, which is curated by Heng Gil Han and Kalia Brooks across downtown Jamaica, was previously mounted in 2004, 2007 and 2010. Next year’s project focuses on emphasizing public engagement and contemporary art as a vehicle to examine and discuss solutions to critical issues in the community, according to a press release.

The 19 artists were chosen by a selection panel of nine people, including JCAL Executive Director Cathy Hung.

“[Jamaica Flux] could not have come at a better time, with the public sector focusing on downtown Jamaica revitalization and tourism,” Hung said. “Through this effort, Jamaica faces a number of critical challenges that can benefit from artists’ creative ways of thinking. It has been my priority since I resumed the role of executive director that JCAL provide artists with resources to use art as a vehicle to examine critical issues in the community and to combat negative public perception.”

The commissioned artists will visit the neighborhood to investigate the sites that will be home to their art and this research will be the basis for their public artwork. Artist will explore topics such as the urban conditions of Jamaica, public interaction and engagement, community empowerment, environmental concerns and wellness.

The project will serve several purposes including giving artists resources to produce experimental art in public spaces, aiding community members in combating negative public perceptions of southeast Queens through art, and acting as a forum to discuss meaningful community involvement.


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.



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.