2001-12-29 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio Rockaway Artists Alliance

By Susan Hartenstein

From The Artists Studio
Rockaway Artists Alliance

It seems that most of this year happened in the last few months. Was there anything before September 11? If so, it tends to fade into the background. In writing a 2001 RAA retrospective, as would be true for any organization, the end must therefore serve as the beginning. That unbelievable day in late summer halted time and restarted it again. For our community and that of the Dominicans, November 12 reinforced the agony and the human drama of September 11.

As always, arts have played a large role this year in our nation’s healing process. Gratefully, the Rockaway Artists Alliance has been able to contribute, as much as have any of this community’s citizens, to this process. The traumas of Rockaway are acutely understood in our organization. Members include firefighters at ground zero and friends and relatives of those lost in the tragedies. Parents in our education programs are grappling with the pain of loss and with their children’s pain. In response, RAA and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development recently sponsored a workshop for RAA teacher artists and invited Pre-K educators from the area. The workshop was designed to help them identify and deal with the traumas of the children in their charge. Included were meditation and stress-reduction techniques and hands-on writing and art projects. Future workshops will be offered to parents and other community members. Each day through the mediums of creativity, teaching artists in our programs are helping children express their deepest emotions about recent events. Murals by Geoff Rawling and by Alex Guzman and ALPS students have brought people together in grief, tribute and celebration of the human spirit. This year RAA has expanded its collaborations with local businesses, including Multiviz Health Center, to bring the beauty and solace of art into our neighborhoods. Recognizing the unique contribution the arts could make in the weeks following the 9/11 tragedy, RAA decided to proceed with its month-long festival, ARTSPLASH 2001. Hundreds attended. For the second year in a row, RAA brought artists from outside the peninsula to Fort Tilden and exposed the beauty and art of our home to others.

ARTSPLASH also helped solidify Rockaway’s position as a growing center for culture in the city. Indeed, Art Frenzy, a two-day event uniting the efforts of art and business sponsored by the Queens Council on the Arts, will be held in Rockaway on June 8 and 9, 2002.

Eight months preceded September and were filled with activity. Each monthly meeting of RAA in 2001 saw the addition of new members, bringing fresh artistic energy into the group. Year 2001 saw the rising of The Rockaway Moon. This elegant and charming structure that was once a Broadway set is now an outdoor stage standing between sTudio 6 and building T7 (for now, sTudio 7.) "The Moon" has been used for a variety of dance, music and spoken word events and the possibilities for its future are endless. Camp kidsmART grew this year from 75 to 120 children and expanded from 3 to 4 days per week, much to the joy of its participants and their parents. "Movies by Moonlight," RAA’s outdoor film event, was an even bigger success this year than last. "MxM" was made possible this year by the sponsorship of Blockbuster Video. (This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.) Our July fundraiser was also a great success. Special events and receptions for RAA gallery exhibitions drew growing numbers of visitors from various areas of our city and beyond.

This is the year that one of our own ran for public office. RAA vice president and arts education project director, Chris Jorge, ran for city council. She wanted to make this district a better place in which to live for all its citizens and most especially for its children. Chris didn't reach the city council, but one could never say she lost. With her intelligence, profound knowledge of the issues, articulateness and dedication to principles, she won the respect of those who watched the campaign. Through the best and the worst of it, Chris Jorge is a class act.

Since the founding of RAA, Martha Killian has been a board member and the treasurer. Martha remains on the board, but steps down as treasurer. Thank you, Martha for your invaluable work and your good sense. All organizations undergo transitions. This change reminds us that RAA is not just a group of individuals. It is an ideal and a passion that will continue well beyond the tenure of its individual members. And it now has a home – the Rockaway Arts Center. In 2002 RAA looks forward to expanding its use of Fort Tilden, bringing new and interesting programming and exhibitions to the public.

None of us knows what 2002 holds. My wish for us all, however, is that it brings us fulfillment, strength and wisdom.

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