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The Reel Queens: Documentary explores patchwork quilt of arts in LIC

A Long Island City filmmaker said a documentary he is shooting in western Queens is not only meant to give a glimpse into the community’s art world, but is also an attempt to prevent artists from being pushed out of the neighborhood by high rents.

For the past six months, director Dwayne Buckle has been filming “The Long Island City Arts Project” in the community in which he was raised and plans to have it completed and edited by early 2011.

The documentary focuses on 10 individual artists and arts institutions in Long Island City, including one who works with honeycomb and another who uses resin and paint to create three-dimensional pieces. Also profiled in the film are graffiti art space 5 Pointz, the Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park and Troma Entertainment, an independent production company known for its outrageous low-budget films.

Each artist or institution will have their own 15-minute sequence in the film.

“It’s a very artistic community and I think it’s one of the strongholds of New York City art,” Buckle said. “We want to showcase the beauty of the neighborhood and the diversity of its art. We want more artists to move into the neighborhood.”

Buckle, who is making the movie through his production company, 360 Sound and Vision, said he has seen Long Island City change drastically over a period of years from a manufacturing area that provided loft space for artists into a gentrified hot spot for luxury apartments.

“I came up with the idea for the film as an artist who grew up in Long Island City and who was concerned about the changes I’ve seen over the years,” said Buckle, who also draws and paints. “We’re trying to preserve the neighborhood.”

Upon completion, Buckle will shop the film around to film festivals and eventually release it on DVD. But he also wants to have it shown in galleries throughout the five boroughs as well as on independent film stations, such as the Sundance Channel or IFC Channel.

He said he hopes the film will help prevent artists from being forced to leave the community amid skyrocketing rent prices.

“A lot of condos are being built in the neighborhood, so it’s causing the prices to go up,” he said. “A lot of artists are not going to be able to live there anymore. The trendiness of the neighborhood was built upon the artistic integrity of the neighborhood. It’s not completely gentrified yet, but it will be in about five years. We are at a crossroads, so we want to make a statement about it now.”

Buckle recalls being exposed at a young age to art along the streets of his community.

“There used to be sculptures on Vernon Boulevard, but not anymore,” he said. “It inspires people to become artists. Young people who want to channel their energy into art no longer have as many outlets.”

Buckle said he and the artists profiled in his film hope to use the documentary to convince Long Island City developers to designate spaces in their buildings for art studios as well as display the work of local artists in their lobbies.

“Not to say that all the development is bad, but artists will eventually move out and Long Island City will become like other neighborhoods like SoHo, Williamsburg or Hell’s Kitchen,” the filmmaker said. “It’ll be filled with Starbucks and banks.”

Buckle will preview scenes from the film during a June 5 event at the Dean Project, which is located at the back right corner of Long Island City’s P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center. The event will begin at 7 p.m. Admission will be $10. The screening will accommodate 150 people and will be first-come first-serve.

Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at criticalconditions.net.

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