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Video Artist Highlights Queens Scene With Public Access Show

By Katie Honan | March 28, 2016 8:41am
 Mari Fernandez (behind the camera) films a segment for her show.
Mari Fernandez (behind the camera) films a segment for her show.
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Mari Fernandez

QUEENS — Mari Fernandez first learned about the power of art — and the way it can connect people around the world — as a young girl growing up in the Philippines.

Her hometown, Cagayan de Oro, was popular as a tourist destination and she encountered many visitors while growing up in the 1960s. 

When she was 7 or 8 her mother sent her out to get bananas. On her walk back from the store a couple stopped her, asking if she could pose for a photo.

"This picture will travel around the world," the photographer told her — and from then on she searched and searched for the photo, taking note of other people in books from around the world.

"Something in my past relates to what I see," she said.

Fernandez, 54, now lives in Woodside and produces "ArtistSpace," a program on Queens Public Television that highlights one artist per segment, hopefully inspiring others living in Queens who pursue their passions throughout their life. 

"I want to serve the artist community," she said. "Hopefully I can empower them."

Fernandez features segments on painters, writers and others throughout Queens that also appear on her own website.

She moved to Queens four years ago, after a brief stint in Minnesota in the early 1990s as part of a teaching exchange program in which she taught art in a homeless shelter. From there she moved to Bloomington, Indiana, but neither place was the right fit for her.

"I love New York," she said. "I love Queens. I love the diversity...it's a rich experience."

She became a trained producer at QPTV in 2013, creating Empyre Media Productions, which focused on artists. 

She also had a show with a few other women that she described as the "Filipino version of 'The View.'"

Last year she began working on "ArtistSpace" with features on the web and longer segments on QPTV.

Fernandez has interviewed 20 artists so far, talking with them about their life, their work and their art.

"There are challenges for artists," she said. "They have a 9 to 5, then they have to do art. They do it for themselves. Being an artist is not where you get money."

She'll often hear from artists, "I do something great for people during the day, and in the evening I do something great for myself."

The artists are inspirational, especially the immigrants who came to the borough to pursue their passion.

"It's very inspiring to me," she said. She's learned lessons from them — like "never quit."

"You always have the hurdle, the roadblock," she said.

Fernandez hopes to one day create a feature-length documentary on the borough's art scene.

"Hopefully, I can empower the artists the way they inspire me," she said.