Guided tours of historic landmarks, theatrical and musical performances, local library offering free educational and cultural programs along with deals at restaurants from across the neighborhood are what the Jackson Heights Arts festival is know for. The annual event is back this month, along with, as usual, the unique talent of the local artists, who show their painting, sculpture, and photography.
The month-long series of events began in 2010 thanks to Councilman Daniel Dromm, who wanted to make neighbors and tourists more active in the area. For this year’s event, Dromm collaborated with a volunteer group called Hibridos Collective, which describes itself, according to the website, as “an interdisciplinary collaborative working to re-envision spaces through community-based arts practices.”
Dromm has allowed Hibridos Collective to create an all-day public event on Saturday, June 22, called the “Jackson Heights Arts Festival: Re-Envisioning Spaces Through the Arts.” Two volunteers from Hibirdos Collective, Carlos Martinez and Beatriz Gil, are co-directors of the event. Families can come to Diversity Plaza, a pedestrian plaza on 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets, to participate in free art workshops, music, outdoor exhibitions and beautification activities. If it rains on Saturday, the festival will be rescheduled for the next day.
“The day is really in two pieces. In the morning we’re going to kick off the event with a beautification activity. We’ll be doing some clean-up, painting, and planting in the planters. It’s to make the community come out and take ownership of the plaza, and make it a more colorful, friendly, place,” says Gil.
Following the beautification activities, the artists will come out to perform, or set up exhibits or workshops for the community to learn about their work.
The application process allows any artist to apply to participate at the festival, but the directors prefer that the artists live or work in Dromm’s district, 25, which covers Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona.
In the afternoon, the artists will give musical performances, exhibit artwork, and provide free art workshops to families.
“It’s really about empowering the community to re-envision or to use art as a way of looking at the neighborhood differently and seeing what’s possible in other ways for communities that are so diverse to really come together and integrate rather than always just claiming, ‘The borough is so diverse,’ ” observed Gil.
“We always hear that,” she continued. “But we want to create these spaces where there’s going to be this cross pollination of cultures really speaking to each other and being engaged with their neighbors. It’s really about getting neighbors and people to talk to each other about some of the things that are happening, and the vehicle and language being used is picking up a paintbrush or a colored pencil. It’s to express that.”
When Diversity Plaza was constructed in September of 2011, some residents and merchants were concerned that a pedestrian plaza could be detrimental to the economic and social vitality of the area. In opposition to this belief, Hibridos Collective submitted a press release stating, “We believe that the community can help change this perception and successfully implement arts and culture programming that will make this business corridor thrive in collaboration with Sukhi, an organization currently working to improve the pedestrian plaza.”
Partners with Dromm and the Hibridos Collective include the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, the Queens Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Citizens Committee for New York City.
Jackson Heights Art Festival at Diversity Plaza (37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in Jackson Heights; www.jhbg.org) June 22, 10 am to 4 pm. Free.
Allison Plitt lives in Queens with her husband and 7-year-old daughter. She is a frequent contributor to this publication.