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Boro joins in celebration of New York arts, culture

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“Oh, this is where they’re hiding the Queens exhibits,” I thought after walking all the way around Bryant Park for the NYC Inc. CultureFest held there last week to promote art around the metropolitan area (and beauty, as there were a lot of botanical gardens represented) and make people feel a bit better about things.

The Queens booths were tucked away along the Avenue of the Americas between 40th and 42nd streets, rather too close to the Staten Island, Brooklyn and Mount Vernon booths. The rest of the park was dominated by the institutions of Manhattan, including Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and other worthies, which all had booths set up among the soaring trees and plantings of ivy and yellow chrysanthemums.

In the Queens “section” of the festivities, one could get one’s portrait done at the P.S. 1 booth — it would be mailed later on. Kids were invited to plant a peanut at The Queens Botanical Garden booth. At the Noguchi Museum booth the kids did artsy-craftsy things with colored construction paper, and what seemed to be a piece of the diorama was displayed at The Queens Museum of Art booth. Here, too, children were engaged in making little paper houses.

Animals made out of tiny glowing lights were set up outside the Queens Zoo booth, and The Queens Theatre’s booth was full of playbills and had a free raffle drawing.

The Flushing Town Hall booth displayed old and new photos that delineated the history of the building and a map of the fantastic Jazz Trail in Queens, which boasts the houses of many jazz greats including Louise Armstrong, Lena Horne and Count Basie. Beside it was a table featuring all kinds of cool Louis Armstrong stuff, including a magazine called The Dipper Mouth News

(“Satchmobile Hits the Road” ran the headline). Satchmo T-shirts and postcards were on sale as well as the recipe for his favorite dish, red beans and rice. A pleasing five-minute video highlighted the musician’s life as best as it could; I nearly drooled over the gold bathroom fixtures, and the elegance so refined one can almost smell it, of Pops’ soon to be museumified house.

I almost overlooked the Socrates Sculpture Park booth, which was hidden away in a corner, but they were getting ready to leave anyway; a woman put the last of the pumpkins in a box, a little dog, his leash tied to a table leg, nosed around the ground.

The Queens Council on the Arts had spread upon its table a huge map pinpointing all the borough’s must-see cultural stuff, and brochures promoted the Queens County Farm Museum, the New York Hall of Science, and the new SculptureCenter on lonely little Purves Street.

All the while two bands played through the mild evening on opposite ends of the plush lawn in the shadow of the great New York Public Library. One band played rock ’n’ roll and the other played standards like “Blue Skies.”

It was a great way to spend an evening in a city on the mend.

Reach Qguide writer Arlene McKanic by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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