2007-05-25 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance Transformation - From Tavern To Treasures in Glass
Commentaryby Susan Hartenstein

Rockaway Artists Alliance
Transformation - From Tavern To Treasures in Glass

Commentaryby Susan Hartenstein

A portion of the mosaic, designed by Patrick Clark, just installed in St. Rose of Lima Church on May 20.A portion of the mosaic, designed by Patrick Clark, just installed in St. Rose of Lima Church on May 20. Next RAA Exhibitions: Saturday, June 2-Sunday, June 24.

Planet Animals. sTudio 7 Gallery, Fort Tilden, RoCA.

The Latest from Shannon Elliott . A solo show featuring the most recent works of this upstate artist. sTudio 6 Gallery, Fort Tilden, RoCA.

Opening reception for both shows: Sunday, June 10, 1-3 p.m.

Ellen Hoyt will be conducting a two session watercolor workshop

on successive Fridays, June 15 and June 22, 2007, from 10a.m. - 2p.m. Contact RAA for information and to register. 718-474-0861.

Upon entering the Palm Gardens Pub on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 115 Street, one is instantly aware that this is not the Palm Gardens of old. Even though every day, usually in the morning, someone sticks his or her head in the door to ask if the bar is open, ye olde tavern ain't ye olde tavern any more. This is the new home of stained glass master Patrick Clark's Sunlite Studios. The transformation is subtly dramatic. Remaining on the left are the solid wooden bar and shelves, the warm bass-toned wood paneled walls, the stools, the tones and textures of any neighborhood pub. All is in keeping with Clark's love of the tavern's ambiance and his commitment to preserve an old Rockaway icon.

On the right, however, where the tables and chairs once stood, are the trappings of a working, productive art studio/workshop. Now, being fabricated here are beautifully crafted pieces of stained glass and mosaic art. And proudly displayed on the walls of this first president of the Rockaway Artists Alliance are the paintings and photographs of fellow Rockaway artists. The work and spirit of his friends and colleagues fill the atmosphere of this space.

Design plots, work tables and supplies, stained glass and mosaic pieces in various stages of completion continue into the back rooms, as do the displayed artworks.

Even as we sat speaking for this interview, Clark was working diligently on a project. I asked what his studio is now fabricating. Clark just completed a mosaic for the face of the altar of Saint Rose of Lima (scheduled to be blessed the next day), which is to be the centerpiece of that church's celebration of the 100-year jubilee of the building. Patrick and his shop are also working on a stained glass window for the music room in a church in St. Albans, Queens. Simultaneously he is designing a huge etching in St. Raymond's Cemetery that they will be doing in about two weeks.

Just as he chose Rockaway as his home many years ago when he first came to this community to create a commissioned work, Patrick Clark has chosen a new home for his Sunlite Studios.

He calls finding this new location for his studio a happy "fluke of fate." After the house in which the former headquarters were located, on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 117 Street, was sold, Clark ran into Owen Baxter, owner of the Palm Gardens, who had closed the bar and was looking for new tenants. Thus, a great prospect for both men materialized. The artist liked the idea of remaining near the business street where stores like Brown's Hardware supplied the variety of projects on which he and his assistants work at any given time. Primarily, however, Clark's choice of location was about remaining in and contributing to the place for which he has such a passion.

After an arduous month and a half moving process, the shop is all set up in what Clark describes as a great, comfortable space that is very open. His neighbors are friendly. New businesses, Clark is pleased to state, are opening around him all the time - for example, a new lighting store and a new carpet store. Because Sunlite is not a "walk-in" business from which he sells his work, and 90% of its clients are in the other boroughs and Long Island, its location in Rockaway was not a necessity. But for Clark, "It's exciting to be on a street that looks like it is coming back to life - [akin to] the trend in other parts of the city where exciting, quirky shops are opening in a disadvantaged area bringing that area back to life." Indeed, when Clark first moved in, he was nervous about the reputation of his immediate area as a bad neighborhood. However, he has found this to be "a false illusion, a stereotype." In the seven months he has been there, he reports, he has never seen any crime, violence or vandalism.

The next project for his shop, Clark says, will be a new stained glass sign for the street identifying the new occupants, and the removal of the Palm Gardens canopy. Perhaps this will discourage those morning visitors seeking "a jar"…or, perhaps they will become connoisseurs of fine stained glass.

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