Four-year Forest Hills resident Doug Leblang, a commercial designer, illustrator, and art director, was raised in Middle Village, where his family first called home in 1912. Leblang has created over 200 works of art, which incorporate various forms of media.
Audiences can appreciate the craftsmanship of historic synagogues, such as the restored “Eldridge Street Synagogue,” which first welcomed a new wave of Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century, or venture internationally to the “Great Synagogue in Plzen,” which is the third largest synagogue worldwide.
One can become a nature enthusiast by discovering his “Central Park Rainbow” or by experiencing his “Cape Cod Vision.” Fans will want to acquire his vision of “Theodore Bikel,” who played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, or encounter “Bob Dylan” who performed at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.
In 2005, he coordinated the “Middle Village of Old” exhibit at the Queens LIbrary, which reflected the neighborhood’s simplistic charm which he always embraced. He memorialized sites such as the famous trolley stop, Neiderstein’s, the Arion Theatre, and his father’s business, Leblang’s Pharmacy, which opened in 1924.
Beyond Middle Village, he painted other unofficial landmarks such as Eddie’s Sweet Shop and the NYS Pavilion.
Local activists joined Transportation Alternatives for a Winter Wander march along Queens Boulevard on December 14 calling for a safer and aesthetically pleasing revitalization of a banal thoroughfare. That inspired Leblang.
He envisions placing signs on Queens Boulevard’s central median between Woodhaven Boulevard and Hillside Avenue reading “Welcome To Queens” in the most commonly spoken languages. He would then have sculptors from those countries do an ethnically inspired work.
“Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world, and with at least 138 languages, there are more languages spoken here than in any other area in the United States,” Leblang said.
Leblang teaches a painting class at FEGS in the Bronx, works with psychiatric patients in Queens, and directed a sixty-foot group painting depicting seasons at Bronx’s Morningside House.
Two of Leblang’s works were selected by the City Health and Hospital Art Collection for the "JAZZ and the Visual Arts" exhibit at the Queens Hospital Center.
Leblang’s passion for art originated as a child.
“I didn’t want toys, but had an infatuation with paper and shirt cardboards,” he said. “I wanted a pencil, so whenever my mom’s friends came over, I would draw their portraits. In day camp, I won a brotherhood contest where I showed different colored hands shaking each other’s in a square.”
He pursued his studies as an art history major at Boston University, and received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts. He expressed much gratitude to its president, Milton Glaser, who he studied with. “In order to become an artist, you have to be really passionate about your work and take criticism,” Glaser taught him.
After college, he became a professional musician for five years, but could not help himself from sketching portraits of his band. In 1974, he realized art was his calling.
“On Facebook, someone commented on my work, and said they see a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “A good painting people will be drawn into, and escape their environment to be in the environment of the painting.”
He believes everyone is an artist, and the artist within should be embraced.
“An artist creates things that weren’t there before,” Leblang said. “Everyone decides what to wear each day, and if someone lives in a humble place, how they style it is their creation.”