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Queens Art Express is ticket to artistic diversity

This spring, your MetroCard is more than just a ticket to ride.

For three weekends between May 29 and June 14, the Queens Art Express rolls into the borough, bringing cultural performances and exhibits from local artists and nonprofit organizations to a No. 7 train stop near you.

The cultural extravaganza, which features poetry readings, dance and musical performances and site−specific installation art, is organized by the Queens Council on the Arts in partnership with the MTA and funded by other public and private organizations. It was planned in conjunction with the Queens Council on the Arts publication “International Express,” which focuses on the No. 7 train and the communities it passes through, said Queens Council on the Arts executive director Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer.

“It’s a Gothic, metaphorical train,” she said. It “cuts through almost every demographic community. The Queens part goes through hundreds of neighborhoods.”

Working with the MTA and enlisting the services of a freelance blogger and online marketers, the Queens Council on the Arts developed a multimedia marketing strategy that allows straphangers to send a text message to a designated number while riding the No. 7 train to learn of ongoing exhibits, said Krakauer. The MTA printed out service alerts that are available in subway stations to inform the public about the exhibits, she said.

“We wanted to make sure that this was really targeted towards the 400,000 riders of the 7 train, to convert them from commuter riders to cultural tourists,” said Krakauer.

The full roster of events includes such showcases as the Corona Diversity Festival, a dance and folkloric music celebration organized by the Queens Museum of Art and Corona Action Network, in Corona Plaza June 13; “Bridging the Arts: A Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Queensborough Bridge,” a dance performance featuring Queens−based artists, at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City June 6; and “100 Degrees,” a site−specific installation created by Jackson Heights−based new media artist Hector Canonge and Taiwanese artist Chin Chih Yang, at the 33rd Street−Rawson Street station in Long Island City June 6.

Canonge and his collaborator came up with the name “100 Degrees” for their multimedia project because the temperature signals distress, no matter whether it’s measured in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, said Canonge.

“We wanted to address ecological and environmental problems,” he said.

The two artists will be on site at the 33rd Street station from noon to 9 p.m. June 6, interacting with commuters and inviting participants to write messages on green recycled construction paper. The leaves will then be placed inside a clear sphere with a tree inside that represents nature and humanity’s ecological roots, said Canonge.

“The more people that create the leaves, the greener it becomes,” he said. “The greener the tree, the better for our planet.”

At 6 p.m., video montages with text will run on a continuous loop until 9 p.m., and will feature footage from nature shows, as well as clips from popular culture that deal with the environment. The real−time camera will also focus on the audience’s reaction, said Canonge.

St. Albans−based poet and teaching artist Kahlil Almustafa will partner with students from IS 145 in Jackson Heights on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. to deliver a poetry reading at the Queens Botanical Garden.

His poem “WE,” which focuses on many cultures uniting to form a common humanity, meshes well with the No. 7 train’s centrality to the Queens Art Express event.

“I think the 7 train is the most diverse train in the system, so it is an appropriate poem,” Almustafa said. “My students put together an anthology entitled ‘Written and Revealed: Poems from the 7 Train.’”

On Saturday, June 13 from 2−5 p.m., Men of Distinction, an a cappella group with gospel, soul and doo−wop influences, will perform with Quake USA, a Caribbean folk choir, at the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, located near the 103rd Street−Corona Plaza stop on the 7 train.

Queens Art Express not only puts the borough’s cultural offerings on the map, but also, in partnering with the MTA, gives people affordable access to stimulating and enriching events during the economic downturn, said John Crow, community associate for the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center.

“When you’re stressed, and you look at a piece of artwork, or fish in a tank, or go to a concert, for that hour and a half, it takes you to another place,” he said.

If You Go

Queens Art Express

When: May 30−June 14

Where: Various locations along the No. 7 subway line

For More: Visit queenscouncilarts.com⁄artexpress for the full schedule and interactive content, or call 347−505−3010

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