‘Art in the Parks’ grant winners announced

Local artists Sherwin Banfield and Haksul Lee each receive $5,000 grants to create temporary art installations in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“In addition to supporting Queens-based artists, we look forward to activating the park with new artworks as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Masella of the Parks Department. “Both artists’ work highlights eco-friendly technology like solar and wind power, while honoring the park’s past, present, and future.”
The “Going Back to The Meadows: A Tribute to Queens Hip Hop Legend LL Cool J” and “Performance at FMCP” by Banfield will be located at David Dinkins Circle near the boardwalk ramp entrance to the park from the 7 train at Willets Point.
Banfield describes it as “a sculptural sonic performance artwork that evokes the feeling of Flushing Meadows Corona Park as an event space, channeled through the sonic frequency and artistry of Queens hip-hop legend LL Cool J.”
Banfield’s recent exhibitions include sculptures for the Queens Central Library, Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, Socrates Sculpture Park, and the Factory LIC Gallery.
“The Giving Tree” by Lee will be located on the lawn bounded by Herbert Hoover Promenade, United Nations Avenue North, and Avenue of the Americas.
Lee describes it as taking the form of a tree, “to bring awareness of the environmental concerns in the Queens community.”
The main structure will be made of recycled materials collected locally. The top of the sculpture will function as a wind turbine to power a charging station in the tree’s trunk.
Lee’s work was recently exhibited in The Immigrant Artists Biennial, at the Korean Embassy in Beijing, and the Phyllis Harriman Gallery.
“The grant is intended to help transform these selected sites into art destinations through a series of rotating exhibitions with supporting events and programs,” said Alliance for FMCP executive director Janice Melnick.

Filmmaker discusses time, change & COVID-19

Catalina Kulczar has always made sense of life’s difficulties through the visual arts.
Born to Hungarian parents in Venezuela, Kulczar moved from Caracas to South Florida and then finally to North Carolina, where she went to school and began working as a photographer.
“I started documenting everything as we travelled,” Kulczar explained during a phone interview this past week.
While in Charlotte, Kulczar met her life partner Juan Miguel Marin, a musician and member of the Brooklyn-based band LEGS, and the two decided to move to New York to pursue their passions. They eventually settled in Greenpoint, a neighborhood that felt like a natural fit for the aspiring artists.
“Greenpoint used to be warehouses and graffiti everywhere and I loved it,” said Kulczar. “It was one big art gallery.”
However, the area has changed greatly since Kulczar arrived, as the warehouses gave way to new development and the artist community slowly moved elsewhere. Then last year the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, dramatically altering life for Greenpoint and its artists once more.
“Everything had to pivot with the pandemic, including the art,” Kulczar explained.
To make sense of COVID, Kulczar turned, as she always does, to the visual arts. This past March, she released a short film titled “When We Paused” on Vimeo. The project documents the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Greenpoint and was shot using 16 mm film to highlight the timeless quality of the neighborhood’s landscape.
“I started the project with film so it would feel natural,” said Kulczar. “Digital can’t compare with how analog film feels, and I wanted this project to show how I felt and how the community felt.”
Kulczar recorded the footage for the film during a series of walks last April. Throughout its entire runtime, only three other people are shown on screen, a far cry from the usual vibrancy of Greenpoint.
“I remember seeing no one,” said Kulczar. “You could hear the silence. I remember only hearing the birds.”
Despite the empty streets, “When We Paused” shifts in its second half to focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and the social action that came to Greenpoint in the wake of George Floyd’s death last May.
Kulczar’s camera captures BLM murals as they seamlessly integrate with the timeworn Greenpoint landscape, a stunning visual of resiliency and compassion that inspired the artist.
“The art in Greenpoint became political, which I absolutely loved,” said Kulczar. “People really started taking action. Just look at the McCarren Gathering. They are the perfect example because they still haven’t stopped.”

“When We Paused” was released this past March as a retrospective on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. However, more time has passed since the film’s release, bringing with it even more change.
Vaccines are now readily available and New York City is slowly opening up, bringing hope after such a difficult year.
“It’s remarkable to believe that I lived through that,” said Kulczar, “A few days ago New York had no new COVID deaths for the first time since the pandemic began. We have come a long way.”
However, the sobering memory of all those lost in the past year remains. Kulczar is currently working on another film about the pandemic, a personal documentary that will detail her own experiences.
As more time passes though, “When We Paused” will continue to bear witness to Greenpoint as it was during the pandemic and to how resilient the neighborhood and its people have always been.
“It was a time capsule,” Kulczar explained of the film. “It was my love letter to Greenpoint. We lost a lot during the pandemic, but we still had so much.”

To see more of Kulczar’s work, go to catalinakulczar.com or to Instagram @catalinaphotog.

Art contest doubles as cancer fundraiser

A virtual art contest and breast cancer fundraiser broadcast from Ridgewood Savings Bank in Forest Hills last Friday attracted 33 artists.
Money raised from the event benefited Elmhurst Hospital and local nonprofit Paddle For The Cure (PFC).
It was produced and co-hosted by this columnist and PFC founder Leah Salmorin. Technical support was provided by Michael Wechsler.
“Salmorin is a former patient of our Hope Pavilion Cancer Center, where our excellent team of cancer specialists provide more than 12,000 visits a year treating people with cancer,” said Ruchel Ramos, associate director of Public Affairs & Community Engagement for Elmhurst Hospital.
“Faith, Hope, and Goodness” is a drawing by Judy Pesantez, a Middle Village resident who immigrated from Ecuador.
“The faith of cancer patients, represented in the background behind a pink ribbon, has a large sun for everyone to grasp,” she explained. “Hope is represented by the pink ribbon. Goodness is represented by caduceus on an evergreen field, which symbolizes the work of health professionals and first responders.”
“Unravel My Heart” by Forest Hills resident Nelly Lester took top prize in the painting category.
“My canvas is mostly filled with bright acrylic colors and clean designs,” she said. “My preference is usually flowers, women, and children in abstract form. My artwork tends to represent reality and true happiness, and that’s a sign of freedom.”
Photographer and animator Amy Lipson was the winner in the photography category with “N.Y. City: Home Base.”
“The symbolism of a strong foundation surrounded by plant life relates to the resilience of New York City and the comforting power of nature that my home base of Forest Hills provides during these trying times,” she said. “Staying local this past year allowed me to profoundly explore its beauty and peacefulness while on my daily walks.”
David Chatowsky, an artist and owner of three galleries from Rhode Island, entered his painting “Hope.”
“It features a young woman harvesting dates from the Judean Date Palm, which was extinct until recently when it was cultivated from 2000-year-old seeds,” he said. “The sun rays represent a blessing on her of health and security, and they go back into the rising sun, which represents a hopeful new day for all creation.”
The winner in the drawing category was 17-year-old Tina Zhao of Elmhurst.
“Tina decided to draw my older sister Panny because she has so much respect for her,” said her cousin, Amy Zhao. “Panny is an emergency room nurse who had to work countless hours. Being surrounded by death and mourning families and being separated from her loved ones just to keep them safe took a toll on her mental and emotional health.”
“I jumped out of my seat when I heard I was one of the winners,” said Glendale resident and Poland native Dorothy Stepnowska, who owns Flower Power Coffee House NYC.
Stepnowska won in the mixed media category for her installation “COVID-19 Memorial.” She donated her $100 prize to Elmhurst Hospital.
The prizes were made possible thanks to a donation by Ridgewood Savings Bank.
“Ridgewood Savings Bank believes that banking is all about people, helping them obtain their dreams, and making a positive impact on each other and the communities we share,” said Forest Hills branch manager Nancy Adzemovic.

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