COMMUNITY SERVICE: Ten years ago Carolina Peñafiel founded Local Project, a nonprofit arts organization. It has housed its headquarters and gallery space inside the warehouses of 5Pointz in Long Island City. Local Project gives back to the community by showcasing local artists and holding events with local groups.
“It is a very welcoming space, it’s open and free to the public,” she said. “You walk in, you’re welcome and there is always someone talking to you. It’s an easy access space and we get to live in one of the hottest spots in New York City.”
Peñafiel also co-owns an up-and-coming thrift shop called The Fancy Fox out of the space.
BACKGROUND: Peñafiel also became a self-taught production assistant, helping behind the scenes on some shows. She was also a photographer taking self-portraits as a tool to express herself. Together with Local Project, she has worked with community groups such as the Queens Museum, Flux Factory, and many others curating art shows.
INSPIRATION: Starting the organization at such a young age and not having much knowledge of the art world, Peñafiel said there was no big inspiration at first, but now the impact the organization has made serves as her motivation.
“My inspiration to continue is the impact we have on the public and the people,” she said. “I get inspired by people, I like to be around them, that’s what keeps me going.”
FAVORITE MEMORY: Peñafiel remembers the group getting its first grant from the Queens Council on the Arts and being able to continue serving the community and local artists.
“When people tell me about their experience with Local Project, that makes me believe in what we’re doing,” she said. “When we see a result of all the work we put into things, there are always good memories to build.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: One of the newest challenges Local Project and Peñafiel have had to deal with is finding a new home for the organization once it was announced the property owners were selling the warehouses to construct two high-rise apartments. Yet, the nonprofit received the help from a local supporter and found a new home.
“The biggest challenge was trying to keep Local Project in Long Island City and then the angels came down to us,” she said.
- Star of Queens: Walter Mugdan, president Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, Westmorland Association
- Star of Queens: Janet McCreesh, president, Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association
- Star of Queens: Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies, Community Board 11 member