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Art Int: James T. Walsh, Ridgewood, NYC

photo by Melissa Elizabeth Stewart

James Walsh at First Nature shoot, photo by Melissa Elizabeth Stewart

With the housing market slowly pushing renters further and further into the outerboroughs of New York City, more and more neighborhoods are seeing an infusion of young artists whom have come in search of inexpensive housing. The consequence of this influx of younger renters in cheaper neighborhoods is gentrification, as was the case in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Fort Greene, Carroll Gardens, etc. One of the newer neighborhoods that is seeing an influx of youth these days is the solidly working class Ridgewood, Queens, situated next to the newly blossoming, but still rough, neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Photographer James Walsh recently began the Queens Artists’ Resource Collective in order to bring together some of these newer artists to the borough that are looking for support and give them the opportunity to interact with other artists of various mediums. Walsh lives in Ridgewood, where he also often throws events for QUARC, and was kind enough to tell us where we can go to get a feel for the art being made there.
What should we know before we go to Ridgewood?

I think the first to know is that contrary to what many people think, you don’t need to pack a lunch for the journey. It’s 20 minutes from 14th Street, 25 from Downtown and maybe a half hour from Midtown. People on the UES and UWS can stay up there for all I care.
Seriously though, Ridgewood is a wonderful, ethnically diverse neighborhood with beautiful architecture, parks and views of the city.
I think in the next few years as the Bushwick crowd continues to push north you’re going to see Ridgewood popping up on more people’s radars as a destination to hang out in and live in.

Ridgewood_Veterans_TriangleWhat is QUARC currently working on?

We’re currently putting the final touches on a music video that we produced for local band First Nature. Portions of it were filmed at the Market Hotel, which was one of the best DIY venues in NYC before it closed last year. I’m actually working with Todd Patrick and some other folks at Market Hotel Projects trying to make it a legitimate home for art and music.
It’s fitting that we ended up shooting at that location, because a lot of what QUARC aims to do is DIY. Our mission is to provide amateur artists with the tools and resources to create and exhibit their art. A typical event is very organic. One of our members will have an idea for an event, or will have access to a cool venue for a photo or video shoot, or an exhibit, or whatever, and they will share it with the group. Then we put our heads together to flesh out an idea and a few weeks or so later we have an event.
We’re also starting to plan the follow-up to our successful inaugural art show and will be asking for submissions shortly.
Are there any art events in Ridgewood we should put on our calendar?

The Myrtle Avenue Street Festival, in spring and fall is always a great time. Bushwick Open Studios, an annual event which just passed, is pushing out with events in Ridgewood. QUARC is also in preliminary talks to stage some open mic nights where writers can perform their work.
DiGioia artWho are some of your favorite local artists?

I’m a big fan of the painting of Paula DiGioia and the illustration of Haley Robinson, two friends of mine and members of QUARC. I’m also in love with the work of Lisa Lebofsky, a painter who works predominantly in oil on aluminum. Her pieces are haunting, and I mean that in many ways. All of her work stirs an emotional response that lingers with you, whether it’s a sense of peace, of sorrow, or of joy.
Is there an arts community/scene vibe in Ridgewood?

There are some great small galleries, like Famous Accountants on Gates Avenue which, sadly, tries to sell itself as being in Bushwick. Don’t let them fool you, they’re at least a block from the Brooklyn-Queens border. Quarc was started, in part, to try and counter the notion that you have to be associated with the established scene in Williamsburg or the burgeoning scene in Bushwick to be relevant.
What is your favorite place to see art and where should we go to eat around there?

I don’t know if there is a single place, but I like to view art in the company of other people who enjoy viewing art. While the emotional reaction that makes a piece of art resonate with the viewer is a unique and personal experience, I find that sharing that experience with others tends to make it more powerful and more enjoyable. I’m always partial to the intimate setting, however, so if there is a bar, coffee shop or other small venue showcasing a band or artist I’m more likely to go there than, say, Terminal 5 or the Met (although I do love the Met).
What’s your perfect day out in Ridgewood?

There’s so many beautiful things to see in Ridgewood. Being primarily a photographer, I like to grab my camera and walk around, taking shots of things that typify my surroundings. I also like spending time in my backyard gardening, laying in my hammock, or sitting in front of a fire. It’s pretty great having outdoor space in NYC.
What my eyes beholdAny other musts to see and do in Ridgewood?

The Ridgewood Reservoir is a great place to lose yourself for a few hours. It’s kind of wild and unkempt but it’s really beautiful. Bloomberg wanted to turn it into baseball fields recently but luckily the city ran out money or support. It would have been a shame.
I also like the Linden Hill Cemetery. There are a lot of cemeteries in the neighborhood. Houdini is buried in the Machpelah Cemetery in Glendale, just steps from Cypress Hills Street which runs through it. I went there on Halloween to take some photos and it was fun.
Besides Ridgewood of course, what is your favorite city to travel to for art and why?

The arts scene in New Orleans has got to be number one for me. Besides the historical association with jazz culture, the innumerable small galleries and the live music, there is just a sense of appreciation for art and music that I don’t see that often. Honorable mentions go to Austin, TX and Portland, OR.
Anything else?

QUARC is always looking for people who are interested in keeping amateur art thriving and who are looking for interesting new people to stimulate them artistically. Check us out on twitter and facebook and at our website www.quarcnyc.com.

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