QUEENS — Jamaica has been struggling with the problem of trash for years. Now, a series of upcoming events will give locals a reason to help clean up the neighborhood, turning garbage into art.
During three workshops called "Art Yo' Trash" residents and a group of artists will build a sculpture made of litter.
The workshops will be held as part of Jameco Exchange, an art exhibit currently held in downtown Jamaica, which is organized by No Longer Empty, a nonprofit that transforms vacancies into art spaces.
The group teamed up with the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District to launch the interactive exhibit in a former women's apparel store at the 165th Street Mall, a popular pedestrian plaza filled with shops offering clothing, footwear and jewelry.
Annalisa Iadicicco, a Long Island City-based artist who makes pieces from reclaimed materials, already built a base for the sculpture from discarded car bumpers that she found on the street. Residents will help finish the sculpture with things they found abandoned throughout the neighborhood.
The goal, Iadicicco said, is to show people that “we can transform things around us."
"But it’s also a neighborhood issue," she noted. "If we come together, we can make a change and create the community.”
The sculpture will be later transported to Local Project Art Space in Long Island City, where it will remain on display until July 30 as part of its "Paradise in the City" exhibit.
During the workshops artists will also talk about repurposing various materials and special guest Dalia Baassiri, a Lebanese visual artist and graphic designer, will discuss her artistic project responding to the trash crisis in her native country.
Other artists participating in Jameco Exchange also tackled the issues of garbage, recycling and reusing materials.
One of them, Queens-based artist Antonia Perez, crocheted her pieces from plastic bags. She also teaches visitors how to crochet functional objects from this unexpected material.
Margaret Rose Vendryes' "African Diva Project" (DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska)
The exhibit borrows its name from the etymology of “Jamaica," which came from the word "Jameco," used by Native Americans who used to live in the area for beaver.
In total, 16 artists presents their works there, addressing a variety of issues related to the history and heritage of Jamaica, as well as its economy and identity.
Margaret Rose Vendryes' "African Diva Project" invites participants to go into changing rooms, where they can try on a gown and a mask, before getting on a small stage and singing one of the songs picked by the artist.
Ezra Wube's "Words of Wisdom" creates a portrait of the neighborhood by painting the streetscape of the mall where the exhibit is located and collecting inspiring quotes from local business owners.
A thrift store with nostalgic object and a café offering organic coffee sourced from Zapatista farms are also part of the exhibit.
"Some of the works kind of require the participation of the people to complete them," said Rachel Gugelberger, the show's curator, adding that education and social engagement are important components of the exhibit.
"It’s all about exchange — exchange of ideas, exchange of stories through objects, through artworks, through interactive pieces that really require that people kind of hangout," she said.
Jameco Exchange runs through July 17 (Thursday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.) at 89-62B 165th Street (between Jamaica and 89th avenues). To check the complete schedule of workshops and other programs go here.
Two Art Yo' Trash workshops, scheduled for July 2 and 8 (from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), will be held at the downtown Jamaica location. The final workshop will be held on July 19 (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) at Local Project Art Space at 11-27 44th Road in Long Island City where the sculpture will be transferred and will remain on display until July 30 as part of "Paradise in the City" exhibit.
Ezra Wube and his "Words of Wisdom" (DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska)