1999-10-30 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance

Palmer Doyle, president of the 100 Precinct Community Council, presenting Geoff Rawling with the award honoring him as president of the Rockaway Artists Alliance for his creative contributions throughout the community.

By Susan Hartenstein

Interdependence. Partnership. Two themes repeated again and again at the 100 Precinct Community Council’s Oktoberfest breakfast. The ceremony honored two people who recognize the power of the individual working in union with other individuals to make a difference in a community. Honorees Geoff Rawling, president of the Rockaway Artists Alliance, and Barbara Eisenstadt, president of the Rockaway Music and Arts Council, also have in common that unique ability to be a leader. They are able to inspire and cajole others into working for a common good.

In the four years that Geoff Rawling has been president of RAA, this enormously talented artist and this organization have grown into highly respected contributors to the Rockaway community and to the city. As Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer stated, RAA is helping to put Rockaway on the map as the organization’s work and name are branching out to the rest of the city. Rawling’s versatility is seen in the murals he has created throughout Rockaway and the city, and in his paintings, KidsmART artist masks and Rockaway Theatre Company scenery. His dedication to enrich the lives of children and adults is evident in the faces that light up as a result of this teacher’s unique ability to draw out of people, artistic talents they never dreamed they had. His recognition of what art and an artists’ organization can contribute to a society is evident from the RAA arts education program he has helped to define and expand, and from his willingness to help countless Rockaway organizations that ask his assistance in projects that benefit the entire community. His understanding of what an arts organization can do for individual artists can be seen in the experts and advisors, such as QCA’s Teri Osborne, he brings to the RAA table. For all these contributions and more, Geoff Rawling was honored.

In the words of John Musumeci, Barbara Eisenstadt never stops working to improve the quality of life in Rockaway. She is a trustee of the Rockaway Museum, a board member of the Belle Harbor Garden Club, has been a volunteer at Junior High School 180 and Public School 114 and as president of the Rockaway Music and Arts Council, she organizes RMAC’s annual arts and crafts festival. That’s not even a full list of her contributions. Ms. Eisenstadt states that her volunteer work is done to help restore the quality of life Rockaway once knew and to make it a place of which to be proud. Barbara, may I say that we are proud of you and of Geoff and thank you both for all you do for the community we love.

Geoff Rawling and RAA vice president Chris Jorge had the great honor and pleasure of being invited to the 1999 New York State Governor’s Arts Awards at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Attended by, of course, Governor and Mrs. Pataki and such luminaries as Beverly Sills, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jason Robards jr., State Senator Roy Goodman, Kitty Carlisle Hart and so many others, the ceremony was an extraordinary event.

RAA had nominated the Queens Council on the Arts for this award and we were so proud and thrilled when they were chosen to win it. We were equally proud when, in her acceptance speech, the amazing Executive Director of QCA, Teri Osborne, singled out the Rockaway Artists Alliance for praise.

In presenting the award to Ms. Osborne, Schuyler Chapin and sculptor Mark diSuvero applauded QCA for reaching out to the vast cultural diversity that is Queens—celebrating and supporting it, thus enriching the cultural lives of all the citizens of the borough. In diSuvero’s words, it is specifically the arts which bridge the different cultures and draw from each, giving the society a special vitality.

Since 1966, QCA has supported and promoted the diverse arts organizations and individual artists in the borough through grants and a variety of highly praised public programs, education programs, exhibitions and guides such as "Take the A-Train to the Rockaways". Teri Osborne thanked Governor Pataki for his strong support of public funding of the arts in New York State. She also thanked Borough President Claire Shulman, whose vision and support for QCA and Queens arts organizations has made the borough the multi-cultural capital of New York. Osborne graciously thanked the arts organizations of Queens, especially RAA, which make Queens "a great place to live, work and play."

Do we sense a theme in this column? I hope so. Each individual and group that was presented an award proved that theme. Individuals uniting into a group, uniting with other groups, given grass roots support by the community can make a positive difference to that community. Governor Pataki strongly believes in the vital role the arts play in the economic and intellectual health of a community. Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center—started as an abandoned icehouse turned by artists into a gallery and then a factory turned into a nationally known arts center for art, theater, music and more. They received local support and public and corporate funding. Abandoned buildings at a fort in Rockaway turned into…Dreams do come true!




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