It’s that holiday celebrating American workers–the ones who make the cars and run the hospitals, plus the creative geniuses who draw and write and paint. We’ve still got plenty of those, even if fewer of us have actual paying jobs.
On this weekend dedicated to workers, don’t forget local artists–those in the community who create for a living, or just for the fun of it. It IS work. It takes great dedication and passion to perfect one’s craft, and many artists never expect to achieve commercial success. They may hope to make a living, and contribute something exceptional for posterity. They often suffer the slings and arrows of setbacks repeatedly, without giving up. They do it for the love of the art form, and to achieve a sense of personal satisfaction. Sometimes they do crazy things to get noticed.
Take Rockaway Artists Alliance member Gary Russo, a/k/a “The Subway Sinatra,” who decided to set up his karaoke machine during lunch hour at the Second Avenue subway construction site where he makes a living. Complete with his hard hat, he belted out a few tunes every day, and catapulted within a week from singing in the shower to gigs on Good Morning America, Access Hollywood, and at the famous Manhattan music venue, The Blue Note. As you can imagine, he’s also a sensation on You Tube.
Gary performed a free concert from the bow of the magnificent paddle-wheel houseboat, Elena, Queen of Arts, at the pier in Sheepshead Bay on Sunday, September 4, 2011, at 7:30 p.m. He was joined by fellow RAA member Apryl Green, a talented torch singer in her own right, who has a local children’s entertainment group called The Silly Dilly Band. The captain of the Elena, Jan Nebozenko, also an RAA member, filmed the concert duo, who pleased a crowd of onlookers along Emmons Avenue, free of charge, for over an hour. From Gary’s now-classic rendition of Summer Wind, to Apryl’s passionate performance of At Last, it was a perfect end to the summer for me.
Over the Labor Day weekend, RAA also welcomed the community to a fun exhibit at their Studio 7 Gallery in Ft. Tilden, showing that the local group is quite capable of “wowing them” in two boroughs, at the same time! The show was curated by RAA board member Sophia Skeans, principal of Art Adventures and More, who has built the Annual “Paint Out” on the Rockaway boardwalk into a cherished local tradition.
With the help of many friends, neighbors, and colleagues from RAA, Sophia assembled a stunning collection of artworks and artifacts documenting the history of local lifeguards, surfing, and beach culture, which was displayed on September 3, 4 and 5, with a lavish reception on Sunday from 5 – 9 p.m.
Surf scenes by local artist Reid were on display; there was also a television showing a documentary about Rockaway’s surfing pioneers. Local collectors and history buffs Dean Georges and Eddie and Dorothy Sullivan loaned items for the show. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of the classic film footage shot here on the peninsula, and many also appreciated having the chance to mingle with neighbors and remember the old days. All in all, the crowds at Ft. Tilden seemed to be just as happy as the onlookers in Sheepshead Bay.
The first day of September was also a milestone for Rock Viv and Oy Vey Rockaway–we’re celebrating the anniversary of a year in operation. Thanks to all my friends, neighbors and colleagues who have supported me and complimented my efforts. Hopefully, the future will bring bigger and even better things for us!
Text and Photos Copyright 2011 Vivian R. Carter