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Astoria Mardi Gras celebration helps out Jamaica group

Dozens of Queens artists, from comic book illustrators to fashion designers, donned beads and boas at a Mardi Gras celebration in Astoria Saturday night in an effort to raise money for a Jamaica nonprofit’s upcoming service project trips to New Orleans and Romania.

The Wonderland LLC, an artist collective on 23rd Avenue, hosted the fund-raiser during which individuals munched on Cajun food, painted graffiti on canvasses and cheered Reconstruct Art’s decision to travel to New Orleans and Romania to help communities there.

Reconstruct Art is a nonprofit based in Jamaica that serves hundreds of disenfranchised youth in the city through music, visual arts workshops, culinary arts training, art therapy and other cultural programming.

“We want to bring free art workshops to New Orleans,” said Kate Lacour, program director at Reconstruct Art and a comic book artist. “We want to use art to keep kids out of trouble.”

The Jamaica nonprofit plans to travel to Louisiana for at least two weeks this summer and to Romania in 2011. In Romania, Reconstruct Art will bring art therapy and workshops to Romanian children, including developmentally delayed orphans at the Fara Charity group home in Bucharest, the capital.

FM World Charities, a nonprofit that partners with Reconstruct Art, will work with the Jamaica group and offer music workshops in Romania.

Individuals at Wonderland LLC, home to about 20 artists, decked themselves and the space out for the fete — Lacour was dressed in a cow ensemble she bought in Amsterdam, feathered masks abounded and gold, green and purple streamers waved above the dance floor.

As Babatunde Ajiboye, a fashion designer from Jamaica, painted gold glitter on Jamaica makeup artist Flory Ramoreboli, he said he wanted to support the fund-raiser because he has seen first-hand how his students at Reconstruct Art have changed due to the group’s efforts.

“They have more productivity and courage,” said Tunde, who lives at Chashama, a nonprofit in Jamaica that is home to about nine artists.

Ramoreboli, who studied art in England and Germany and now lives in Jamaica, said she has been grateful for the professional support and advice from Reconstruct.

“They teach you the business part of being an artist, and Lawrence is really a spiritual mentor,” Ramoreboli said of Reconstruct Art’s founder and CEO Lawrence Joyner.

Joyner said the vision for Reconstruct Art began in 2000 and the group officially became a nonprofit in 2006.

“I did a lot of research about how an organization can be effective in a community, and I saw a lot of kids that were suffering from a lack of arts education,” said Joyner, of Rego Park. “You can use art to empower young people.”

Lefrak City resident Rodney Black, who helped to cook Saturday’s cuisine, said Reconstruct Art’s culinary arts training program, Creative Vision, is especially helpful for troubled youth who hope to land a steady job that pays above minimum wage.

Alongside helping individuals learn how to cook, Black said Reconstruct Art hopes to soon offer nutritional classes for children and their families.

“We want to work with working parents and get kids away from McDonald’s,” Black said. “We want to teach people how to go grocery shopping.”

For more information about Reconstruct Art, visit reconstructart.org.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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