Just hours after Kew Gardens Kids Art in the Park! event came to a close; a fun-filled day of art activities funded by the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts and hosted by Kew Gardens Cinemas Park, the park’s community mural was vandalized! But not merely vandalized, the painted panel, “Whomping Willow,” (drawn from a scene in the Harry Potter film series) one of ten images contributed by Kew Gardens artists in a collaborative community project that was unveiled in the fall 2008, was stolen right off the park’s brick walls! Read all about this special public art project….

The Daily News Mural Article July 2009 b
Click here: Queens Chronicle – Painting stolen from park is returned

A community mural consisting of ten unique panels designed with a cinema theme will soon be permanently displayed in Kew Gardens Cinema Park.

Every successful story has interesting characters, a setting, a good plot and a meaningful theme. Coming soon to Kew Gardens Cinemas Park is a community mural, the last chapter of ‘The Kew Gardens Mural Project’, a story that took almost two years to complete.

The Plot: Two retired women, a social worker and a teacher, envisioned a mural that would cover a section of graffiti in a popular Kew Gardens vest-pocket park. Although they had no particular design in mind, they hoped for a bright and colorful mural which would establish the existence of the neighborhood’s talented art community while giving Kew Gardens residents something to be proud of. They posted a few hand-made ‘Call for Kew Gardens Artists’ signs and before long they had twelve interested artists and a wonderful computer rendering of what the mural would actually look like in Kew Gardens Cinemas Park. The chosen design pictured a 32 foot wood structure enhanced with a film strip motif and covered with ten large panels each having a different cinema theme. The artists began to prepare their sketches and the retired social worker and teacher set out to find funding and a contractor for the project. It was at this point, that difficult challenges arose which needed to be resolved. The project was finally funded generously by an anonymous Kew Gardens donor and the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts along with art material donations from J & B Paint, Home Depot and the Studio at DFB. A contractor was hired who sincerely cared about the success of the project and each of the artists created fabulous panels which portrayed their special connection to a cinema memory. Although each artist painted separately, as a whole the piece flows to become a filmstrip that is united in its effect.

The Characters: The heart of the mural story lies with the artists. Each one has an interesting and very different life story; seventeen year old twins who painted their panel together hand over hand, a full time UPS delivery person revealed to be a serious painter, a senior citizen who is thrilled at this point in life to have her art displayed in a public venue, a celebrated children’s book writer and illustrator, the project’s lead artist who fell in love with painting in the Poconos when she was six years old, an artist who is obsessed with bizarre celebrity caricature, a painter and mixed media collage artist who created the mural design on her home computer, two good friends who painted together- one an experienced painter who guided the other in his first attempt to express his creativity with paint, a letter artist who is a world traveler and a Kew Gardens artist who loves painting landscape murals and fathering his two year old son. Along with their differences, each of these very unique artists have a strong common thread. They appreciate their neighborhood, enjoy the cinema and have an obvious passion for art.

If the artists are the heart of this project, Harvey Elgart, the owner of the Kew Gardens Cinemas and Kew Gardens Cinemas Park, is the soul. His flexibility and support were invaluable and his only request was that the park be dedicated in memory of his mother-in-law. Two Kew Gardens 16 year old childhood friends are currently working on a dedication plaque in her favorite color, periwinkle blue.

The Theme: A Community is what its people make of it. There is nothing quite so satisfying as community people coming together to work for and care for the places they call their home. Extraordinary things happen when ordinary people collaborate.

On Friday, October 17, weather permitting, the 10 mural panels will be installed in Kew Gardens Cinemas Park. The park’s devotees, mostly seniors who spend hours there socializing, relaxing, and looking after the park, are anxiously awaiting its arrival. Beyond a doubt, the Kew Gardens Cinemas Park mural will give each passerby something new and interesting to talk about!



Homeowners visiting the Post Office on Austin Street may have been wondering about the ten colorful paintings – simulating a film strip – mounted on the wall in the little vestpocket park (a/k/a Kew Gardens Cinemas Park).  Now it can be told.

The entire project was coordinated by two Kew Gardens friends, retired school teacher Carol Lacks and retired social worker Rosemary Sherman.  While sitting in the park one day, musing about Kew Gardens , they  had a brainstorm: wouldn’t a bright and colorful mural look good there and provide a vehicle for our local creative art community!  Wasting no time, they advertised for local artists via a few handmade posters and recruited several companies as materials donors (J&B Paint, Home Depot, Studio at DFB).  Financing was launched by a most generous contribution from Kathryn and Alfred Brand (KGCA’s Chairman of the Board) and, as unanticipated expenses occurred, by the Kew Gardens Council for Recreation and the Arts, Inc.  Of course, nothing could have been done without the permission and complete cooperation of Harvey Elgart, the owner of the theater and the park property.

The parameters given to the dozen artists who volunteered their services were that the overall design was to be a 32-foot “mural” with individual panels, each having a different cinema theme.

As one walks through the park, the art panels as seen from left to right are:

Let’s Go to the Movies by Nicholas-Kim Olivieri. He says, ”My art is meant to bring forth truth.  In my work you can see bits and pieces of my soul.”

Come Fly With Me (Frank Sinatra) by Pierre Green. & Green, with a degree in English, is a text artist, world traveler and guitar player.

Popcorn by David Ezra Stein.  David has become a very successful author-illustrator of children’s books.  In 2008 he was the recipient of the prestigious Ezra Jack Keats award for “Leaves.”

Hollywood Pieces by Linda Hernandez and Mike Rendino. After a 20-year lapse, Linda, a Spanish interpreter for the N. Y. court system rediscovered painting and finds that it is therapeutic and a good outlet for her creativity. Mike is a statistician who writes plays and loves cooking.  This is his first attempt at painting.

The King and I by Alexandra Chipkin and Rebecca Chipkin . Twin 17-year old sisters, immersed in art culture by their artist-parents, continue to be totally absorbed by it.  They will be starting college in the fall.

Whomping Willow by Carla Reyes. Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) graduate, BFA in Restoration and Fine Art, Carla’s work, exhibited since 1999, can be seen on www.carlaereyes.com.

Homage to Casablanca by Isabel Stein. After having studied art at the Art Students League, Cooper Union and NYU, Isabel says, “One of the nice things about this show is getting to meet other artists in my area.”

Cinem a Landscape by Pearl Wolf. Pearl, now retired and still painting, studied with Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Reginald Marsh; she now also has time for creative writing.

An Outside Look at Kew Gardens Cinemas by Danny Alter. Today a very proud father, Danny has been drawing all his life and has done several noteworthy landscape murals.

Buster Keaton by James Jajac. With a BFA from the School of Visual Arts , James is a freelance illustrator and can be seen on www.jamesjajac,com.  Recently graduated from Queens College with a degree in Arts Education, he is looking forward to being a full-time teacher.

Pictured above is Carla E. Reyes’s depiction of the “Whomping Willow” tree in the Harry Potter series of films. The mural theme is based around the cinema, as the park owner is also the proprietor of the cherished Kew Gardens independent film theater. The actual “Whomping Willow” appeared in the film as a more sinister, dark image, but Carla’s interpretation is brighter, more lush, and friendly for the enjoyment of her neighbors viewing the mural while spending time in the park. This piece is also a textural collage in painted relief using strips of tree bark, dried moss, dried plant material and seeds, and sand. This work is consistent with her style of painting, but in a representational format rather than her usual textural abstraction.


More information about the mural in the below Queens Courier article…