Now in its fourth year, the Queens Art Intervention originally began when Rego Park Green Alliance Studio founder and executive director Yvonne Shortt received funding from the board of directors to do artistic outdoor interventions around the borough.
While Shortt used about 10 percent of the funding for her own art interventions, she commissioned other local artists to create their own pieces as well throughout various neighborhoods in Queens.
Over the course of the last four years, interest in the art interventions steadily grew and Shortt honed in on the concept.
Last year, the Queens Art Intervention worked on a research project involving the building of a tiny house. The program aimed to form networks through empowerment, skill building and information sharing for women.
Upon completion of the tiny house, it was transformed into a tea and zen garden catalyzing conversations around feminine dwelling.
The tiny house build inspired this year’s theme of dwelling. Over 80 artists submitted their ideas, and Shortt chose 13 to work on 11 interventions. Each artist was given $250 to develop their ideas into pieces.
“This year, besides wanting to do interventions on the streets of Queens, I had written up a proposal to the Queens Museum asking to have Queens Art Intervention be one of the installations that would be at their partnership gallery, which is for community organizations and community groups,” she said.
Shortt curated the pieces into an interactive exhibition, which opened to the public in December.
On the opening day of the exhibition, the group unveiled a one-day intervention centered around “connection based on instruction and food,” Shortt said.
During a sit-down dinner, participants discussed questions revolving around dwelling. Fifty people participated.
“The food is the tool that we used to build the community connectedness,” Shortt said. “At the opening reception for other installations, there’s usually wine and cheese, but that’s not what we were doing. This was really about sitting with somebody you don’t know and connecting with one another.”
The exhibition begins with an explanation of the Queens Art Intervention and the work that has been done on the streets over the years.
“The museum is where it ends, but it really talks about the idea that all of these projects were done in public spaces on the street,” she said.
The exhibition further explores the tiny house build. Cedar siding left over from the tiny house build was used by 25 women to create an art piece.
Two photo boxes showed women constructing the tiny house depictions of women and tools throughout the years.
“Some of the ads showed women in lingerie holding a drill while strong, bulky men were shown really using the tools,” Shortt explained.
Artist Niizeki Hiromi’s “Dwelling with Thousands Windows” featured recycled envelopes. On September 27, Hiromi and the community built the piece together in Murray Playground using the plastic envelopes that she had been collecting for years.
“They built this beautiful structure that rustled in the wind and the stood on one side and then stood on the other side and talked about what they saw,” Shortt said. “From a curatorial perspective, I wanted to do more than just take what was there, I wanted to add to it.”
When they placed the structure in the exhibition, people were asked to stand on either side and reflect on how their viewpoint changes. A notebook placed at the exhibition allowed people to communicate their thoughts.
“We’ve learned with the journal that a lot more introspective thoughts have come up,” Shortt said. “Bringing the piece to the Queens Museum was important because it allowed her to go beyond as an artist.”
Nearly all of the pieces at the museum are interactive, which allows visitors to take part rather than just observe.
Another installation is Michael Kannisto’s “Home Is Where the Heart Is.” Kannisto based his piece in Queensbridge Park, where he asked the community to reflect on their earliest memory and to draw or illustrate them.
At the museum, they set up panel canvases and markers so visitors can illustrate their earliest memories.
“When he was doing the intervention onsite, he felt like many of the memories people said were kind of sad, but at the museum, there was an upbeatness to it,” Shortt said. “The kind of responses were different based on where he was, and that’s been very interesting to see as well.”