2000-04-01 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance

By Susan Hartenstein

Long Island City may have MOMA, but Rockaway will soon have the Met. Yes my friends. As you know, P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center in Long Island City recently became an annex of the Museum of Modern Art. But now, thanks to an anonymous donor whose identity can not as yet be revealed, and the efforts of RAA, the courthouse on Beach 91 street and Beach Channel drive will soon be converted into an annex of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

RAA, a short time ago, learned that the Met, not to be outdone by MOMA, was seeking a Queens site for an annex of its own. RAA leapt into action. Last year, to remind you, Philipe duh Montebellow of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was so impressed with my skills as publicity director for the RAA that he offered me the same job at the Met at twice my present salary. Though it was a difficult decision, I had to decline out of loyalty to the RAA and the fact that multiplying zero by two doesn’t boost the sum by much. Even so, Phil and I remained pen pals. In the course of our correspondence I cleverly dropped the fact that Rockaway had a perfect location for this annex in a beautiful seaside setting. Well, Monte loved the idea, being an avid surfer himself. He instantly responded that he would personally come here to check Rockaway out. After all, he said, the place would have to be "posh" enough to satisfy his "uptown" colleagues at his venerable old institution.

So, recognizing that what counts is not what something is but what it appears to be, RAA began shopping around for a benefactor to foot the bill for an Oprah-type makeover. Understand. We don’t have time to make enough real changes to Rockaway. We just have time to create the illusion of real change. After all, Philipe is on his way. I am pleased to announce that a person of great generosity has come forward, wishing for now to remain anonymous. But thanks to him/her RAA now has a signed blank check for us at Pearl Paint.

Philipe is coming to us by waterway. So, in order to make him think there is a fast, easy water route to the peninsula, RAA members are building one side of a ferry out of balsa wood and painting it red, white and blue. We don’t need to waste funds building both sides, since we’ll make sure he speeds by fast enough not to notice the deficiency. We are also constructing a Styrofoam pier where the "half-ferry" will be placed.

Turning our attention next to the 116 street shopping area, RAA artists will repaint the front of the abandoned Park Theater to look like a Barney’s Noble bookstore and its attached Starcups coffee shop. In the finest tradition of trompe l’oeil, we will paint a portion of the front wall to appear to be a large glass window facing out upon the ocean. Also, the front of the abandoned jewelry store will be painted to look like Tiphony’s jewelry store. In addition, one of the 116 street stores has generously consented to have its façade repainted as a Nordstrom’s Department Store. Rockaway Theatre Company actors have agreed to play salespeople who will come out from around the counter to hand Philipe his purchases, should he insist upon actually entering the store. Geoff Rawling is, even now, busily converting previously owned plastic grocery bags into Nordstrom’s shopping bags.

Sparing no expense, RAA has hired Christo to wrap our beloved sewage plant on Beach Channel drive in Morning Breeze scented wrapping paper, exclusively for this occasion.

Montebellow’s next stop will be the courthouse itself. We had taken some before and after photos to let you see the miracle RAA paintbrushes have already wrought upon the exterior. However, instead we will allow your own imaginations to run free. Just think. How could Philipe resist such a visually renovated edifice? After checking out this destination (we’ll be sure not to allow him to go inside) RAA staff will motor Montebellow rapidly down the remainder of the peninsula.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Upon the empty lots of Rockaway Beach, RAA carpenters and set designers are constructing and painting facades of a Disney-like theme park complete with water slides, castles and restaurants (no buildings or infra-structure, just the facades). Philipe will be so impressed! We will also construct a façade to look like the Dakota apartment house. Phil will feel right at home.

So, there it is my friends. A foolproof plan to bring the culture and prestige of the Met to our modest little peninsula. Prosperity is just around the corner. Oops, maybe it’s a trompe l’oeil corner. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s true and what isn’t—especially on the first day of April.

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