QCA grant recipients celebrate the arts

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Ninety grants, worth a total of $225,000 were awarded to a diverse group of...

By Betsy Scheinbart

Hundreds of past, present, and future recipients of Queens Community Arts Fund Awards gathered in celebration of the arts at the New York Hall of Science last Thursday evening.

Ninety grants, worth a total of $225,000 were awarded to a diverse group of 70 individual visual, performance, and music artists and artistic programs in the borough, including the Springfield Gardens-based youth theater group Teach Enlighten, Empower, Motivate Productions Inc. known as TEEM.

Queens Borough President Claire Shulman kicked off the awards, which are funded with public money from the New York State Council on the Arts and the city Department of Cultural Affairs through the Greater New York Arts Development Fund.

Claudia Aldamuy, the creator of TEEM, received four grants for more than $10,000 for her playwriting, stage equipment and new theatrical productions.

“It’s mind-boggling! We have never had that much money,” Aldamuy said of the grants, which will help TEEM produce “Guys & Dolls” and “Taming of the Shrew” this year.

The after-school theater programs are held at various schools in the School District 29 covering Laurelton, Cambria Heights, Rosedale, St. Albans and Hollis, but TEEM’s headquarters is in Aldamuy’s Springfield Gardens home.

Aldamuy created the program five years ago after her husband, Cheyenne, asked her to write and produce a play for his third-grade class.    

At the time, Aldamuy was working for a public relations firm, so she started leaving her job early to produce the play, until the project eventually consumed all her time.

“Since I was about 8 years old I have wanted to have my own youth center because I was a latch-key kid and I used to live in my youth center,” she said.

Aldamuy also created TEEM for her daughter, Crystal, who was in high school at the time.

“She says I’m her inspiration and she created it for me because I was into dance, but now it’s like my life,” Crystal said. Even though she is now a sophomore at the New York Institute of Technology, Crystal still makes time to help with the TEEM productions.

Since the production of Aldamuy’s first play, “Smagniola Spoils the Drop!,” TEEM has touched the lives of 400 school children and the production schedule has grown to five shows a year. One of the new grants will allow a sixth show to be rehearsed on Saturdays and produced this year.

The shows are for elementary school, junior high, and high school students, and the actors’ ages vary depending on the productions.

The student officers of TEEM, who accompanied Aldamuy and her family to the awards show, said they think of her as a mother.

“We are all brothers and sisters,” Crystal said of TEEM President Auset Mitchell, 14; Vice President Jenna Shands, 14; Treasurer John Cameron, 14; and her biological brother, Chad, 12.

The Queens Council of the Arts administers the Queens Community arts fund.

The event was held at the Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park with additional support from the Chase Foundation SMARTS Regrants Program and Shulman’s office.

The awards ceremony concluded with performances by past recipients of Queens Community Arts Fund grants.

The Latin Jazz Coalition played a set, followed by the Trinity Players of Queens performing a scene from “Richard II.” But the Ballet Los Pampas stole the show with several Argentine tangos and an elaborate performance on the accordion.

“Next year, maybe it will be us,” Aldamuy said after the performances, prompting her jolly theater troupe to laugh and throw their arms around each other.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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