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Art To Take Over Old Bank Building in Queens Plaza

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 21, 2012 9:08am | Updated on December 14, 2012 11:06am

QUEENS — This bank is state of the art.

A new art exhibit will examine the topic of money and value in tough times, taking over the long-vacant Bank of Manhattan Building in Queens Plaza as a symbol of the decay of the financial system.

Twenty-six artists from 15 countries, including Cuba, South Africa and Peru, will show their work on the former bank’s three floors, including inside its vaults, as well as its clock tower in No Longer Empty's exhibit “How Much Do I Owe You?”

“The building has a really cool history,” said Lucy Lydon, 23, a communications manager for No Longer Empty, an organization founded in 2009 as a response to vacancies created by the financial crisis. The group says its aim is to beautify the cityscape and to create opportunities for artists to show their work.

The Bank of Manhattan, which was one of the city's first banks — established in the late 18th century — contributed significantly to shaping the banking industry. Built in 1927, the building has been vacant for 30 years.

“It was this symbol of the developing financial market in New York,” said Lydon. But the building’s emptiness illustrates the industry's current problems, Lydon noted.

During the exhibit, scheduled to run for three months, artists will look at the new economic landscape after the financial crisis as they transform the bank into a massive art hub. There will be more than 30 free public programs, family days and school tours.

One of the local artists, Sol Aramendi, will tackle issues of immigration and labor in Queens in her project “Dark Treasure," looking at how immigrants who culturally enrich the borough, are often not recognized for it.

Another artist, Shaun Leonardo, will transform part of the space into “The Tiki Tiki Club,” hosting a dance party similar to popular events organized at many bars in Queens, in which women dance with men for $2 a song. This time, it will be women asking men to dance.

Erika Harrsch will create huge butterflies made out of international currencies to symbolize the fragility of currency markets, and Colleen Ford, who is obsessed with playing the lottery, will show a series of glass piggy banks filled with her failed lottery tickets, connecting a symbol of saving money with evidence of waste and lost hope.

Up in the clock tower, Chris Jordan, an artist based in New York, will project images that can be seen from the nearby elevated subway trains.

There will also be programs for families, including “No Longer Bored Family Days,’ during which children and families will be able to explore the exhibition during hand-on workshops, and "ArtsConnections," a program in which high school students will be given space to curate their own show of teen artists.

This will be the 14th exhibit by No Longer Empty, and the first in Queens.

Their previous exhibits have taken place in spaces including the former Tower Records store in SoHo, an old belt factory in Brooklyn, and the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx. They transformed each site into a hub of art, culture, and education.

Complete program information will be posted on the organization’s website soon.

“How Much Do I Owe You?” will take place at The Clock Tower at 29-27 41st Ave., Queens Plaza North. It will run from Dec. 12, 2012 to March 13, 2013.