Trigger Warning: Behind The Scenes of Shooter

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Trigger Warning: Behind The Scenes of Shooter, An Immersive Theater Project on Gun Violence

Shooter will premiere August 3, 2019 at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.

Shooter will premiere August 3, 2019 at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.

By ACP Art Producer, Sharon M. Chin, founder of Creative Sanctum

At the corner of Sutphin Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, the summer daylight is beginning to fade and I feel anxious as I prepare to watch Shooter, an experimental theatre experience on gun violence. With my pulse running more rapidly than usual, I’m uneasy, knowing that the fourth wall is about to break as participants are asked to role-play in an incident of  gun-violence.  Developed by immersive arts playwright, Y? Guayadin (Yogi Guayadin), and divided into two Acts, Shooter explores the complex power dynamics between victim and perpetrator in a gun violence incident. Staged at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Act 1 audience members actively role-play as the "Shooter" or the "shot," probing on the question “With gun violence, who is the victim: the Shooter or the shot?” Act 2 continues to explore this dynamic through Y?’s own harrowing and often painful autobiographical experiences with friends, family, mentees, and gun violence.

In the wake of Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Parkland,  and far too many similar headlines, American artists feel increasingly compelled to confront gun violence and police brutality. With gun violence often a brutally political and divisive topic, artists recognize the power of their medium to open up more welcoming places for dialogue, to create spaces less for judgement and more for listening, questioning, and empathizing. Y? fully subscribes to this opportunity and notes that “success as an artist is defined not by an audience commenting on a piece they’ve seen but by an audience internally reflecting on what they’ve seen.” Y? purposefully designed Act 1 to accelerate introspection as each audience member is thrust into a  scenario where one is patted down by security, asked to follow rules with no questions asked, and confronted with a gun. After walking through caution tape and staring into bright heady police lights, one finds oneself with a heavy-weighted realistic pistol (prop) in hand and an anonymous voice directing you to shoot the stranger, the person before you. As you move between the roles of the Shooter and the shot, as you stare into the eyes of the person before you, you feel uneasy, forced to determine how to act, and to confront the emotions elicited by this intense immersion.

Y? is a recipient of the Queens Council of the Arts Commissioned Arts program as a playwright. Y, however, notes “I’m not a playwright. I got paid to be a playwright. But, art is everything, and everything is art.” And Shooter, which is reflective of his own autobiographical experiences with gun violence, is also a culmination of Y’s  cumulative artistic toolbox from 12 years as an artist. As the child of West Indian immigrants who encouraged more practical vocations over creative ones, Y?’s artistic beginnings began as an adult who studied musical instruments and audio engineering. Attending audio school, Y? intended to make audio engineering his profession;  the technology of the industry, however, abruptly changed and this specific professional ambition disappeared. Y felt compelled to continue to work creatively and discovered Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Taking the message “theater is a tool of liberation,” Y? discovered teaching artist work and began to work with students on responding to critical issues through art. Y? was given the opportunity to design his own immersive program with BEAT Global (Bridging Education and Art Together), where he initially focused on the issue of gun violence, and this experience with students inspired him to further grow his work. Y? also began to work with the Playback theater, primarily from a sound perspective, and once had to play the part of a cast member who did not show up. Y received very positive feedback on his acting, which gave him the courage to put himself on the stage. Y? began to invest in the “power of theater as an umbrella” to capture his love of music, immersive experiences, and acting and decided to move forward with the long form art of playwrighting and immersive art.

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As Act I gives way to Act II, Shooter Act II continues to be an intense experience. Presented by Y? himself, the piece follows Y’s repeated experiences with gun violence. We begin with Y? as a child who remembers the sounds of Jamaica, from playing with cap guns and throwing glass bottles into the sky until “they crashed to the floor like diamonds.” With some profanity and 90s hip hop, the piece follows his “troubled” childhood vis-a-vis his original childhood ambition-- to “be a cop to fight the bad guys.” As Y? matures, Y? has encounters with authority that challenge his perception of good and bad. His tale poignantly follows a friend lost to gun violence, a police officer family member who commits suicide by gun, and a student who becomes a victim of gun violence upon moving to “safe suburbia.” Y? uses rap, spoken word, visual imagery, dance, and a hip hop and rap soundtrack based on both original composition and the nostalgia of his youth to share these experiences. Y? found catharsis and healing in producing Shooter, noting “If you don’t learn a lesson in life, it’ll keep hitting you hard until you get it.”

In terms of creating Shooter, Y? retreated to his “shed- an internal place for thought, solitude, and effort” to write the work. While Shooter may at times feel like a one man show, Y? involved many collaborators in the development of this work- trusting their feedback and experiences as a guide. And notably each collaborator possesses their own story with gun violence-“ I picked each collaborator strategically for their gun violence experience- from a friend who served 5 years for using a gun in self defense against rape to individuals with martial arts and military background where gun use was normalized.” The genesis for Shooter also began several years ago during a roadtrip to Florida; Y? and eventual collaborators, Ayano Hirose (Projection and Set Design) and Anthony Irving (Light/Sound/Production) were pulled over by two officers on I95 for essentially driving while colored. After being held and interrogated for an extensive time, Y? notes “We were supposed to feel lucky we were let off with a warning, but really we were held without cause and had our rights violated in every sense of the word. It made me so angry- that we had to deal with this mindf*ckery-and I sat with that feeling. I was questioning who were the actual thugs in this scenario- - and with Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and all the other gun violence and police brutality issues on social media, I felt compelled to write.” And indeed, Y? wrote, with lyrics from these incidents pervading his work. He writes “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Till he can’t breathe- get your hands off me / You better listen to me/You got that weed.” Y? would emerge from his shed- having written his long form work- and would run it by his collaborators with 2-3 iterations or variants. He would take feedback seriously until the strongest form of his writing found resonance with his audience. He would also trust in his collaborators- including Michael “Theatrics” Grant- for a dance piece- to allow movement to continue to say what words could not fully express.

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 As Act II nears completion, we end with the song Shooter. There is a powerful hook, where Ayano, a female voice, sings “If I saw you as my brother would we understand each other/ If I saw you as my brother/ My brother/ My brother.” The music of the piece crescendos and rests into silence during this piece and it is easy to get swept up into thought, to reflect on what we’ve just seen, and to reflect on how the choices made by various Act 1 participants when confronted with a gun in hand. As Shooter Act II concludes, I am reminded of historian Simon Schama who once noted “The power of the greatest art is the power to shake us into revelation and rip us from our default mode of seeing. After an encounter with that force, we don’t look at a face, a color, a sky, a body, in quite the same way again. We get fitted with new sight: in-sight.” Shooter with its immersive of Act 1 and the catharsis and empathy created by Act II,  prods us into contemplating how deeply unacceptable and disturbing gun violence is, and of the myriad factors that make us all victims of it.

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Based on 10 runs of Act 1, Shooter will officially premiere on August 3rd at the Jamaica Centerfor Arts and Learning leading with an exhibition and the official version of Act II. The show will be free and Y? hopes that people from the community will show up in force. “I want people to see quality art from people in our neighborhood- from people who look and speak like people from Jamaica. I want people who have trauma to see this show. I want people to know they can make this journey and come back stronger.”  And with Shooter offering introspective questions over defined morals and answers, audience members are asked to reflect on the root causes of gun violence and to witness art as a response for healing trauma. Y?, with a grin, also notes that, “every Act II can have an Act III, so there may be additional surprises for Shooter.”

More from Y?


Where Can We See You NextShooter will be at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning on August 3rd. The performance is free! Follow us on for future performances.

Who are You Watching: “I study people for both their career and for their artistic output- and my top influences are Lin Manuel, Miguel Pinero, and John Leguizamo. Lin Manuel-Miranda in inspiring to me for his paving the way and opening up doors for multidisciplinary artists like me. For their specific artistic outputs and craft, I admire Miguel Pinero, founder of the Nuyorican Poetry club and writer of Short Eyes, and John Leguizamo who originally bought his one man show to Broadway. Jon is from Queens and I relate to his stories.”

What Are You Influenced by: “I’m also a musician and enjoy how music reflects emotion. I listen to a lot of instrumental and classical music, music without words- and it’s amazing to me how orchestral music with 77 instruments can amalgamate their individual sounds to be one thing. I especially like Jazz (Johnny Payte- arranger for Curtis Mayfield; Adrienne Younge for scoring)  and rachet trap (Tierra Whack) .”

What Has the QCA Grant Meant to You: “I learned so much on how to produce work- from an end to end long form perspective- through this grant. I hope to continue to see people of color earn grants to realize their artistic ambitions and bring their voices to the stage. This is my first grant and I intend to keep iterating my work. Shooter will be my Hamilton- the piece that puts me on the map.”

How was NYC or Queens Influenced Your Work: “All these stories are more or less within 1 mile of the JCAL- right by Suphtin Blvd. My opening line begins with the sounds of the streets of Jamaica and I than use stories based in Manhattan and other parts of NYC. “

How did you become Y?: “I was born Yogi and as a music artist, I used to be Why?- until another artist with the same moniker became more famous than me. I was forced to rebrand and became the essence of contemplation with Y?”

One Fun Fact: “Monday is my favorite day of the week-and I use it to work hard on my passions. It means I do what I love.”

Published on 7/30/19 at The Creative Sanctum. The Creative Sanctum is a digital magazine, shining a spotlight on the creative process and behind-the-scenes efforts of innovative and adventurous artists. Via in-depth artist interviews and engagement with both finished and in-progress works across all mediums and forms, Creative Sanctum offers insights and deeper conversation on the current projects, artistic development, and passion behind today’s inspired artists



5 Tips for Your High School to Art School Application

Thinking of applying to our High School to Art School program? Helping our student or child put together the application? Here are a few tips to make your application stand out.

But first, more important than any of these tips is the deadline:
be sure to get your application in by June 1!

be thorough


You don’t have to write a novel, but roughly a solid paragraph per question can’t hurt - enough to give us a sense of who you are and why you want to attend this program. When we see one or two incomplete sentences, we wonder if you really invested in participating in this program. Also, be sure to use formal language rather than something you would put in a text message or email. Capitalize your “i”s, use punctuation - edit your writing the same way you would if you were submitting an important paper for school.

2. don’t be shy about sharing why you need the program


Everyone likes to be needed, and our program is no exception. In fact, the purpose of the program is to make an incredible arts education accessible (and get you into a great art school, of course). So if you want to be part of High School to Art School because your school doesn’t offer many art programs, or your parents can’t afford to send you to a tuition-based program, tell us! These are things that we really care about.

3. it’s not all about the portfolio (really)


We would much rather have a student that is passionate, committed, and wants to learn than someone who has it all figured it out (because no one does). Or maybe you do have it all figured out, in which case we applaud you, but then why do you need the program (see point #2)?

You can say, for instance, that your observational drawing skills aren’t where you want them to be right now, and that you’d like to work on them. That’s a good reason to apply to this program! We honestly look more for interest and dedication than a perfect portfolio.

4. do your homework


Before applying, make sure to read through our High School to Art School Page, and get a sense of what session is right for you (spoiler: it could be all of them; we have students that start with us in the Spring, and continue on through our Summer and Fall Sessions, and we welcome that). But think about it: if you’re convinced, say, that the Summer Session is perfect for you, and you tell us why, we’ll be more likely to agree.

5. check your email


While this may hardly feel like a tip, but we have students that make it all the way to our interview process - or are even accepted into the program - and we never hear back from them. And we have to give away their spot to another candidate. How else are we supposed to get in touch with you? We don’t have the budget for a carrier pigeon.

Now that you’re armed with the best information, take the next step!

All researched and ready? Go ahead and apply for the Summer Session here! We just ask a few questions and for some images of your work.

Learn about what the Summer Program has to offer, review the program schedule, read about our accomplished alumni, and more.





Cecilia Lim, 2019 SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence

Cecilia Lim, 2019 SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence

The SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence program places artists in senior centers across the city in an effort to improve the quality of life of our city’s elders. This year socially-engaged visual artist Cecilia Lim was a SU-CASA Artist-in-Residence at JSPOA Theodora Jackson in Jamaica, Queens. Cecilia’s final event with her students culminated in “Queens Elders Rise!”, an exhibition of visual art. The presentation shared the elders’ work in drawing, writing, storytelling, and book-making. The final event also featured a video of the students’ progress throughout their classes and the impact that making art has had on their lives (you can check it out HERE).

Cecilia and her students

Cecilia and her students

To learn more about how the arts can positively impact the quality of life of older adults, please join us on May 15th for our second annual Creative Aging Conference, “Aging with Dignity through a Creative Lens.” We will cover topics including resources and best practices in creative aging; the impact of the growth and changing demographics of New York City’s older adult population; and ways that artists and institutions serving the older adult population can work together. It’s open to artists, arts educators, social services, workers, and anyone committed to serving our city’s elders. RSVP HERE.


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Hustle For Your Worth: Behind the Scenes with Art Producer LaNeese Ray

Jamaica-based Art Producer and visionary behind upcoming Artist Commissioning Program event Hustle for Your Worth sat down with QCA to talk about the role of an art producer, professional development for artists, and the relationship between arts practitioners and community.

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Held on friday, May 3 from 5 - 7pm
at Jamaica Central Library,
Hustle for Your Worth
is a free professional development event
for artists and community members
covering the topics of Art Law, Branding,
Finance, and Networking.
Read more and RSVP below!

QCA: Tell us about yourself! What made you want to be part of the Artist Commissioning Program?

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LaNeese Ray: I am a dancer and choreographer who was born and raised in Queens. I grew up training and finding my love for dance and the arts here, so this is where it all started for me. The Artist Commissioning Program is a great way to connect with fellow artists, provide support to them using the knowledge I've learned over the years, and develop myself on the opposite side of the art.

I started college and my career at the same time outside of New York and it took me leaving home to ignite a fire in me because I no longer had my comfort zone. It was great for me to leave but I feel it's always great to give back to a community that gave so much to you.

For more about Laneese, read her full bio here.

The Artist Commissioning Program is a great way to connect with fellow artists, provide support to them using the knowledge I’ve learned over the years, and develop myself on the opposite side of the art.
— LaNeese Ray

QCA: After selecting the artist grantees through a panel process, the ACP enters this sort of artist-support and event-planning phase. What sorts of things have you been up to recently as an Art Producer representing Jamaica?

As art producers, we have the experience of being invited to see the creative process of the grantees’ projects .

LaNeese: Right now I have been working on organizing the Hustle for Your Worth event.

 I've booked speakers and guests for the event that I think will benefit the community. I've also been able to collaborate with some of my fellow art producers and the grantees for the event as well.

As art producers, we also have the experience of being invited to see the creative process of the grantees' projects and we're starting to see what the artists have been working on since they received their grants. We give any feedback or assistance that they ask for to make their premieres a success.

QCA: As an art producer, you were tasked with organizing an event for the Artist Commissioning Program. Why did you decide to organize a professional development workshop? Do you see professional practices for artists as a discrete need in our field?

When I was brainstorming the type of  event that I wanted to organize...I knew I wanted to do something not only for the grantees but for the artist community. Professional Development is so important for artists because we work in an industry that is constantly evolving with the times.

LaNeese: When I was brainstorming the type of  event that I wanted to organize, I felt the most passionate about having a professional development workshop.

I knew I wanted to do something not only for the grantees but for the artist community. Professional Development is so important for artists because we work in an industry that is constantly evolving with the times. No matter how great your message is or how great your work is, if you don't adapt with the times that you live in it is easy to not find the connection with the audience that you want to reach.

Artists are always working on their art and I wanted to have an event that helped to give resources that help developed the business of their craft as well. It can take years to find out exactly how you want to introduce your art to the world and there will be many trials and errors to get to a place where you not only see growth but also build longevity.

QCA: For your event, Hustle for Your Worth, you chose to focus on the topics of branding, vision boards, art law, and finance for artists. What made you decide on these topics?

LaNeese: Being around artists that were trying to establish themselves, some of the biggest discussions that always occur were the lack of knowledge on how to negotiate or draft a contract that works for them. Artists also struggle finding ways to promote themselves and their work using the technology that is out now especially in New York where there is a huge saturation of artists. It can be really frustrating and scary because sometimes you don't know where to start. We're in an age where getting the information is so easy because of Google and smartphones, but can we say it's always truthful and helpful information?

QCA: What can participants expect for the Hustle for Your Worth event? How do you see the evening unfolding?

LaNeese: Participants can expect to ask questions and find out information about topics such as Art Law, Branding, Finance, and Networking from people that truly live and breathe it and know it inside and out. They can also expect to be introduced to the Artist Commissioning Program Grantees for the Jamaica community (Kerri Edge and Y? Guyadin), learning how these artists were able to create a brand that resonated with the art producers, and will get one-on-one time to talk to them.

QCA: What do you hope that Jamaica-based artists and community members walk away with after this workshop?

I hope [artists] walk away feeling like they found a community... sometimes people need to find their tribe, and I hope any Jamaica artists that attends realizes their own community wants to support what they do.

LaNeese: I hope that they walk away feeling like they found a community that genuinely will help and support them. I hope that they not only find some information to enhance their work but find a network of like minded people through not only the speakers but the other guests that attend as well.

Sometimes people need to find their tribe, and I hope any Jamaica artists that attends realizes that their own community wants to support what they do.

LaNeese’s Artist Commissioning Program (ACP) event, Hustle for Your Worth,
will take place at jamaica central library (main plaza) on may 3, 2019 from 5 - 7pm. event is free and open to the public.

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Lonnie Harrington on Creative Conversations

St. Albans-based musician Lonnie Harrington recently attend our Creative Conversations in Jamaica. The prolific multi-genre artist talked to us about what motivated him to join us. Check out this quick video and learn more about Lonnie and his music at



Meet ArtSite Artist Chemin Hsiao!

Interview with artist Chemin Hsiao by ArtSite Program Manager, Marissa Lazar


What inspired you to apply to ArtSite?

As I’ve worked with Queens Council on the Arts for a few past projects, I really like the collaborations with QCA & venues, how each particular culture project influenced its targeted audiences, and how visitors responded to the artwork. Therefore, I always look for announcements from QCA.

Artistically, I’ve always been looking for opportunity to paint a mural because it’s such a different setting compared to small scale work I usually do in the studio. Also, as a continuation of my previous series of larger paintings, I think ArtSite provides a wonderful cause, for the piece will be about the locations and the community I live in or walk around very often.


Please discuss your connection to Queens.

Since my arrival to New York City from Taiwan to pursue my artistic career 10 years ago, I’ve always live around the area of Jackson Heights (Elmhurst, Grand Ave Station, Rego Park and Corona) because I depend on the Asian food & grocery options so much. Sometimes a warm noodle soup similar to my hometown could give me lots of strength moving forward in life. I also walk a lot in-between these areas, sometimes just for walk and get out of my studio.


Briefly describe your ArtSite project and what inspired your idea?

“My Journey to the West III: Playground” will be the 3rd piece of my large painting series “My Journey to the West,” which interwoven with an old Chinese tale about a monk going from East to West to get the essence of Buddha with the help of Monkey King and other disciples. I place myself in the position as the monk, going from Taiwan to New York City to pursue my artistic career. I combine the Asian scroll narrative painting tradition to tell a story about the environment, its people and explain to me the meaning of certain period of time in life.

 As the series is always about the locations I live and experienced, it fits perfectly with the mission of ArtSite, “to establish an ecosystem of local artists and art producers to create new work that reflects the diverse cultural stories particular to the communities of Jamaica and Jackson Heights.”

Thinking of Jackson Heights, everyone living in it surely knows it’s about the diversity of people & ethnic groups. When I think of Jackson Heights, I see different people with different cultural backgrounds, all play together in one place. There is an unspoken rule that everyone just lives together without interfering with each other’s business. I would like to portrait that in the idea of “Playground.” The narrative painting grew from a playground setting, where various animals symbolizing various ethnic groups play together with each other.  


Where will your project be exhibited and why did you choose this particular site for your ArtSite project?

The piece was painted on the exterior rolling gate & interior wall on canvas at the (former) Zaytoun Restaurant, located at 40 -13 82nd Street, Flushing, 11373. The rolling gate is visible to the public when the current pizzeria closes each evening. The interior piece could be seen during the store hours.


In my proposal stage, I visited the store for gathering information purpose and found out the location owner is very kind, supportive to art & creative projects, also, the rolling gate & interior wall space is perfect for the large narrative painting I plan to do. Therefore, it’s a perfect match.


Will ArtSite be your first public art project? What are some of the key differences between your normal practice and working in the public sphere?

Yes, ArtSite will be my 1st public art project. 

Working onsite with people passing by was such an interesting experiences. It created a different atmosphere than working in a private studio space, which I normally did. The energy of the community becomes a part of the project, and I really enjoyed the instant support from the community while working on the piece.

 The large piece allows me to work physically into the painting, compared to the small watercolor pieces onsite I usually do, it is simply rewarding to get to paint this way.

Obviously, compared to works presented in a gallery setting, public art is much more accessible for people, I found this setting very intriguing at the moment.


How do you want/envision the public to interact with your work?

When the store closes during weekend, the pedestrians could pass by the rolling gate piece, maybe stop for a moment, and have a smile to-go in their daily life.


See more of Chemin’s work!


What sets the ArtPort Program apart from other Residencies?


What sets the ArtPort Program apart from other Residencies?

(Left to Right) Studio views of Brian Soliwoda’s residency space (open now until April), the Landing Pages “kiosk” (ArtPort Session 1) and Sherwin Banfield’s studio for “Passenger Relief” (ArtPort Session 3)

Artists, regardless of where they live and work, often are looking for two things that are always in short supply: funds and affordable studio and exhibition spaces. When we first started the ArtPort Residency, I thought that that would be the biggest draw for artists interested in the program.

At face value, I saw it as an opportunity for artists to have a free space and receive a stipend to make new work – who wouldn’t want that? While that partly is the case – ArtPort artists will have access to a dedicated studio for 3 months as well as a stipend of $6500 – the residency program offers something even more valuable:  access to a unique location and audience.

 When the ArtPort Residency was in its planning stages, LaGuardia Airport General Manager Lysa Scully set out to start a program that enhances the airport environment by providing an artistic and cultural experience that will engage the traveling public with unexpected and participatory encounters. The mission to activate a “non-traditional” space like an airport rotunda makes the ArtPort Residency a unique program with rewarding benefits that exceed space and money.

Most importantly, ArtPort artists will have access. Access to the airport that visitors normally wouldn’t have, and access to engage the hundreds of people that go through the Marine Air Terminal every day.  

We hope that by working in an airport, artists are inspired by the particularities of this place – La Guardia’s s facilities, its history, its energy – and create works that enliven the space. Past ArtPort projects really took into account aspects of the airport to create work that was insightful and conscientious about what it meant to work in LaGuardia.  

ArtPort artists will have access. Access to the airport that visitors normally wouldn’t have, and access to engage the hundreds of people that go through the Marine Air Terminal every day.  

Inspired by LaGuardia’s history as an airport for Clipper seaplanes, current artist-in-resident Brian Soliwoda is constructing a biodegradable sculpture of a clipper ship, with seeds woven and embedded into its sails and structure. Each seed variety highlights a different plant with a role in New York City’s immigration history.  At the end of his project, Brian will be breaking down the sculpture and then planting it on airport grounds with help and permission from Port Authority.

Sandra Lopez-Monsalve and Sherwin Banfield both also worked with the team at LaGuardia to gain access to typically restricted areas. Sandra made recordings of ambient noises throughout the airport, including the rooftop of the MAT and the airplane runway (listen here). Sherwin also explored the tarmac, creating some sketches as research for his final bas-relief mural. Both Sandra and Sherwin were escorted by Port Authority staff, who gave them a rare look into the inner workings of the airport.


Prepatory sketches by ArtPort Resident Sherwin Banfield on the tarmac of LaGuardia Airport

Guided tours of the tarmac and other private areas can inspire new artist projects, but another aspect of the residency that is equally valuable is the number of new people artists can engage with while in studio.

Along with her ambient recordings, Sandra created a series of man-on-the-street recordings where she spoke to travelers at LaGuardia and asked them to reflect on what it means to travel.

For their project “Landing Pages”, writers Gideon Jacobs and Lexie Smith opened their studio to travelers about to fly. They were invited to give the Landing Pages team their flight number and contact information. Once the plane is airborne, Smith and Jacobs had the duration of the flight to write the traveler a new piece of fiction. The project was so successful that it was featured in major publications like the New York Times and Hyperallergic


ArtPort Artists Sandra Lopez-Monsalve (left, in blue) and Lexie Smith (right, in white) speaking with visitors to the studio space.

Artists have exposure to a large number of people who they normally wouldn’t interact with under typical circumstances. An artist can introduce visitors to their work, involve them in the project, or simply give them an insight into the artistic process. This engagement has a twofold benefit: first, it sets out to enliven the airport experience. Second, it allows artists to create innovative projects. 

This past year’s residency projects were all thoughtful about the location they worked in as well as the population they would be interacting with each week. They really did activate a normally “art-less” space to enliven the airport and engage a group of people who probably didn’t intend to see art while traveling. With the second year of the residency about to begin, we hope that the next group of artists continue the tradition of insightful projects that take full advantage of the airport and its travelers.

Interested in applying?


Want to learn more about the ArtPort Residency?

Visit our website for program guidelines and application here

For questions, email Dan Bamba, Grants and Residencies Manager at

The QCA ArtPort Residency is a program of the Queens Council on the Arts, Queens Art Fund that is supported in part by the NYC DCLA, Greater NY Arts Development Fund, in partnership with the NYC Council and in partnership with the PANYNJ.


Since its founding in 1966, QCA has evolved into a wide-ranging arts service organization fostering live cultural experiences and providing grants, professional development, and education services throughout the borough including The Queens Arts Fund, Artist Commissioning Program, Su Casa Residency program, Professional Development workshops, Artist Leaders Circles, LAB and High School to Art School Portfolio Development Program.

More information can be found at


Founded in 1921, PANYNJ builds, operates, and maintains many of the most important transportation and trade infrastructure assets in the country. The agency’s network of aviation, ground, rail, and seaport facilities is among the busiest in the country, supports more than 550,000 regional jobs, and generates more than $23 billion in annual wages and $80 billion in annual economic activity. PANYNJ also owns and manages the 16-acre World Trade Center site, where the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center is now the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. PANYNJ receives no tax revenue from either the State of New York or New Jersey or from the City of New York. The agency raises the necessary funds for the improvement, construction or acquisition of its facilities primarily on its own credit. For more information, please visit


SU-CASA 2019 Artists-in-Residence

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SU-CASA 2019 Artists-in-Residence

SU-CASA is a community arts engagement program that places artists in residence at senior centers across the five boroughs of New York City. Over the past 8 years, QCA has administered the program in partnership with more than 100 Queens-based senior centers. This year’s SU-CASA Artists-in-Residence include: Deborah Wasserman, Shenna Vaughn, Karl Lorenzon, Carol Sudhalter, Anthonia Akinbola, Aurora Reyes, Wojciech Gilewicz, Adam Weisehan, Evie McKenna, Radha Singh, Katya Khan, Alacia Stubbs, Valerie Skakun, Justin Cimino, Cecilia Lim, Simona Minns, Mari Meade, Sandra Vucicevic, Guillermo Severiche, Barbara Westermann, Che Min Hsiao, Aileen Bassis, Bao Ru, Yvonne Shortt, Sherese Francis, David Mills, Emma Brown, and Jinyu Li.

SU-CASA, funded in FY19 by the New York City Council, provides grants to artists and organizations for the creation and delivery of arts programming for seniors. Teaching artists engage participating seniors in an art project or series of cultural programs over the course of the residency, which takes place January 1 - June 30, 2019. The program includes a public program component – an exhibit, reading, performance, open house or other cultural interaction open to the surrounding community.

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Art Producer Brittany Wilson On Representation, Equity, and Community

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Behind the Scenes of the
Artist Commissioning Program Panel

After the Artist Commissioning Program panel, we sat down with Jamaica, Queens-based art producer Brittany Wilson for her thoughts on issues of representation and inclusion that arose during the panel. A Queens native, Brittany is a dancer, teacher, choreographer, arts administrator, and funder who began her training at Jamaica’s Edge School of the Arts. For more on Brittany’s background, as well as her fellow art producers, check out her bio here.

Jamaica & Southeast Queens Art Producers & Artists at the 2018-19 ACP Kickoff Party From Left: Tyra Emerson, Darrell Bridges, Jesus Ward, LaNeese Ray, Brittany Wilson, Y? Guyadin, Kerri Edge, Linette Townsley, Brendez Wineglass, and Yolanda Johnson

Jamaica & Southeast Queens Art Producers & Artists at the 2018-19 ACP Kickoff Party
From Left: Tyra Emerson, Darrell Bridges, Jesus Ward, LaNeese Ray, Brittany Wilson, Y? Guyadin, Kerri Edge, Linette Townsley, Brendez Wineglass, and Yolanda Johnson

I am a firm believer that representation breeds courage and innovation.
— Brittany Wilson, ACP Art Producer

QCA: As a 2018-19 Art Producer, you were recently part of a panel representing Jamaica and Southeast Queens. What are your thoughts on how issues of representation were handled during the panel?

Brittany: Disclaimer, my thoughts around representation are purely my own interpretations based on experience.

In the last few years this idea of representation has started to become apart of many conversations. First starting with the big screen and inevitably trickling down into the commercials, workspace and now the arts. I am a firm believer that representation breeds courage and innovation.  If I see don’t myself, an African American women, represented in a hair product commercial, it is unlikely that I will purchase that product. The same can be said for my application review process. While reading through the 30 + submissions I realized there were certain stories that these artists wanted to tell without representing those who were most affected by said story. I found this unsettling but also understand that even with there being a larger conversation, we still have a ways to go. Nonetheless, I was less drawn to those submissions because of the lack of representation.  I personally believe it is very important that we as artists are in tune and responsible with stories we are trying to tell.


QCA: With these issues in mind, what is your advice for 1) future Artist Commissioning Program (ACP) applicants, as well as 2) artists submitting grant proposals in general? 

Brittany: A piece of advice I would lend to future ACP and other grant applicants is to allow those outside their circle to read their submission before they submit. During the review process I found myself wondering if the applicant allowed “other voices” to read what they wrote. I think this would have greatly cut down on the privilege driven approach. This also goes for the supplemental materials they choose to share. Some of the more sensitive topics that were being tackled (gun violence, #MeToo movement, etc) were not always successfully supported by the work samples because they seemed to be contradictory.  On a more technical note, I would advise artists to check their links and any other attached documents to be sure they are working properly. Sometimes something as small as faulty or incomplete links can disqualify a qualified applicant.

QCA: In the spirit of enabling community members to make decisions for their own neighborhoods, this panel was comprised entirely of individuals from Jamaica & Southeast Queens. How do you think this local lens impacted the panel’s conversation and priorities?

This idea of the local lens connects directly back to representation and why it is important. As someone who was born and raised in Jamaica/Southeast Queens, I know what my community experiences.
— Brittany Wilson, ACP Art Producer

Brittany: This idea of the local lens connects directly back to representation and why it is important. As someone who was born and raised in Jamaica/Southeast, Queens, I know what my community experiences. I know what my community will respond to. I know what my community will come out to see because they will see themselves in it. Not everything will resonate with everybody. With this in mind, me and my fellow panelists were pretty much always on the same page. Our first question was, will our community connect to this topic? If they did, our next question was, was our community being represented in the applicants’ narrative? This guided us rather smoothly through the process. And to clarify, although Jamaica/SEQ is made up of predominantly Black & Brown families, we were not looking strictly at color. We were considering experiences and what we want the children of our community to be exposed to in order for the important conversations to be continued.


QCA: Part of the mission of ACP is to democratize who can become a “gatekeeper” in the arts, a role traditionally reserved for the privileged few. How does expanding who can become an arts patron change the type of art being created?

Brittany: It wasn’t until very recently I started hearing people use the word “gatekeeper” as a way to describe those who choose what gains mass support and what doesn’t.  I don’t consider myself a gatekeeper; far from it. This process of democratization isn’t about passing the gate keys; it’s about leveling the playing field. I may be an art producer/patron but that doesn’t make me any less of an artist. With this in mind I’m already on the same page as the artists I am helping to fund. I’m not above them, and I’m not below them. Therefore there is no privileged bias or decisions driven by envy. I’m there in the trenches with them. I also believe that because I am a working artist, I have a pulse to culture that the privileged few do no possess which changes the type of art that is being funded. It won’t always be safe and fluffy because the reality of my community is not always safe and fluffy. Artists and entrepreneurs as art patrons make for realistic work being funded. Parents and teachers as arts patrons make for holistic work being funded. It’s time to change up who we have in the room.


QCA: As an artist, arts administrator, and emerging arts patron, how do you want to foster a more inclusive creative sector?

Brittany: In my work as an artist, arts administrators and emerging arts patron, I have learned a valuable lesson about change. It’s not going to happen overnight, over a decade or quite possibly over a lifetime. It will be messy, and possibly get much worse before a glimmer of light. With this in mind I like operating from a place of acquiring more knowledge for myself that I can eventually share with others. An inclusive creative sector starts with having knowledge for myself. I would like to foster this type of environment by creating spaces for learning and sharing. It is hard to create spaces of inclusivity if you don’t understand people's experiences.



Meet QCA's Gala Honoree - Himanshu “Heems” Suri


Punjabi-American rapper, founder of Greedhead Music, and native New Yorker, Himanshu "Heems" Suri launched his solo career while a member of alternative hip-hop group Das Racist.

QCA had a chance to interview Heems.
Check it out below!

How are you inspired by the artistic communities of Queens?

I'm inspired by the world around me and Queens is a perfect microcosm for this world. I'm inspired by immigrant journeys and this is where it all begins for people coming to New York. In Queens I found a community of like-minded creatives who like myself straddle multiple identities. 

How does your work address a need for cultural equity?

My work is intended to make noise, to be seen and to be heard. While South Asians in this country are equated with professional success we're often limited to this role in capitalism instead of the other facets of our lives, work, and experiences. I hope to give these facets a voice and existence and to shatter stereotypes of Asian-Americans in the process.

What has been your experience as an artist/advocate living/working in Queens?

In Queens I've found a community of artists coping with the same issues I am in a post-9/11 America and a constant source of inspiration for the stories I tell. 

Which of your projects would you like to tell our readers about?

I think my work on Eat Pray Thug and on Swet Shop Boys' Cashmere does a good job of setting my first-generation experience to music. 

QCA will honor Heems at the 2019 Gala - Bollywood Carnival!

Join us! It will be a fun and festive celebration of our borough's artistic community. 
Come and experience the customs and cuisine of a rich culture. 

Thursday, February 7th, 2019
7pm - 10pm

The Knockdown Center
52-19 Flushing Avenue
Maspeth, NY 11378
~ festive attire ~