Artists receive grants to produce work for Queens

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Artists from across Queens gathered at a Hunters Point restaurant last Thursday to receive a rare treat — a paycheck.

The Queens Council on the Arts held its annual awards dinner at Water’s Edge, where it dished out grants to individual artists, organizations and school programs totaling about $127,000, although it said all Queens residents will receive some of the benefit.

“We provide funds to artists in Queens, but also for Queens to experience the art,” said Katie Tuss, arts fund coordinator for the council.

Queens residents benefit because there is one catch to the grant. The organizations and individuals can use the funds however they like, but the final product has to be displayed for the community to see, Tuss said.

“It’s important to recognize the artists in their own borough,” she said.

The atmosphere at the restaurant did not suggest starving artists, however.

Servers in black ties bused small plates that held the remnants of pasta, cheese and olives and cleared away empty glasses of wine with the skyline of Manhattan glittering as a backdrop. But the view also reminded the artists in attendance that they were across the East River in Queens.

And some of the artists, such as Rona Chang, grew up in the borough.

Chang received the grant for her photography project entitled “Moving Forward, Standing Still,” which explores how residents of certain areas uniquely interact with the landscape surrounding them. For example, Chang took a photo of a Chinese man shaving on a riverbank — a scene that would be rare in this country, but common across the Pacific.

“The still photographs look like they’re set up, but they’re not,” she said.

Chang will be turning her lens on several ethnic neighborhoods in the borough, including Flushing, Corona and her native Jackson Heights, in an attempt to capture Queens and its people.

A high-school classmate of Chang’s, Justine Reyes, also received a grant for her photography project “Home, Away from Home.” Reyes takes photos of her aging mother and uncle inside their home and in hotel rooms around the world to explore their increasing fragility and Reyes’ fear of their inevitable death.

“I’m very proud to be a QCAF grant recipient,” she said, referring to the arts fund. “The QCA has had a big impact on my development as an artist and are great supporters of my work.”

Other recipients included the Quintet of the Americas, a music group directed by Barbara Oldham that will bring contemporary composers from all over the hemisphere to the borough, where their music will be performed.

Esther Palmer also received a grant and is working on an interpretive dance piece for Green Space Dance Studio, at 37-24 24th St. in Long Island City, that will explore how people identify with their bodies in a collective sense as a society as well as on an individual level.

The funding for the grants was distributed to 18 artists, 44 organizations and seven school programs.

The artists have a year to complete their projects before displaying them for the community.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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