meet the artists
artist commissioning program
Queens Council on the Arts is pleased to announce the four selected artists for the inaugural year of the Artist Commissioning Program.
Judith's work combines humor, pathos and a love of the absurd. For over twenty years, she has been creating interdisciplinary works in audio and theatre, portraying voices often ignored by the mass media. Her ACP project, It Can Happen Here, is a reference to the Sinclair Lewis novel It Can’t Happen Here, which chronicled the fictitious election of a power-hungry politician who stirred up fear by promising a return to patriotism. Judith comes from lineage of Jewish refugees, and growing up, she often heard the phrase “it can’t happen here”, in reference to Hitler and the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Over the past 20 years, she has been documenting and portraying stories of immigrants, refugees, and people threatened by changing demographics. Her ACP project builds upon this practice by interviewing people who once thought "It can't happen here,” including Hurricane Sandy survivors who lost everything in the storm, DACA recipients struggling with current and changing policy, refugees from military dictatorships, second and third generation children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, university students and older women who have been victims of sexual assault and rape. These interviews will inform a series of monologues which will culminate in a concert/performance of stories, song and music with a live band in the genre of a “dark cabaret” honoring the depth of the stories and finding humor in the chaos. As the bombardment of attacks on democratic values in the U.S. fly in our newsfeeds on a daily basis along with stories about predatory abusive behavior, and the impact of climate change on hurricanes and fires, this work challenges us to stay engaged and interconnected with our neighbors. Just as chaos and hate has taken hold, a practice of compassion, empathy and collaboration can also happen here.
Landon Knoblock composes music to tell a story. His ACP project will give A Voice for the Voiceless by creating a collection of musical compositions inspired by and developed with homeless children in New York City public schools. Concerned with the rising levels of homeless youth in Queens County, Landon wrote, “Homeless children often have no voice in our communities, and housing instability creates serious challenges for these students in developing supportive connections in schools.” For his project, he will work with social workers, guidance counselors, teachers, and guardians to create recordings of individual homeless students. Students will be allowed to speak freely, sing music, and/or rap poetry of their own lyrics. Their contributions will inspire music compositions utilizing rock, hip-hop, pop, and various electronic styles.
A proud native New Yorker and second generation American, Neil is a guitarist, sitarist, and oud player who blends jazz, funk, flamenco, rock, Indian, and Latin music into his music. Neil has performed at a variety of venues around the city and co-authored the score for The Passion of Noor Inayat Khan, a play about a Sufi woman who served as a spy in the French resistance. His ACP project employs this intersectional approach to music: “Walk down Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens, and you hear Bhangra and Bollywood on one side, Cumbia and Bachata on the other,” says Neil. “What would happen, I wondered, if we all brought our instruments out and had one big block party?” His project, Salsa Masala: A Jackson Heights Block Party provides the soundtrack for this fusion. Inspired by the music of Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, and Black music of the US, Salsa Masala creates “that special mix”—the Spanish and Hindi translations of the work’s title. His project speaks to the role places like Queens play in an increasingly diverse America: creating connections across communities that demonstrate that “we all feel similar emotions and rhythms, even if they're in different languages."
XiaoChuan Xie is a Chinese-born immigrant artist who came to this country for its freedom of expression. Her choreography project SHED uses dance, sculpture, costumes, and light to reveal hidden textures and colors, creating dialogue on the collective migrant experience. The work will be presented in a gallery setting, allowing the dancers to slowly emerge from sculptures under UV-light. As the dancers move, the shells of their costumes will begin to crack. Without the comfort of normal light, the viewers will have a new experience disassociated from prejudice. “We want the audience to experience the progression of getting to know the truth underneath and the multilayered human spirit,” writes XiaoChuan. “In such a charged political climate, it is easy to see divisive cultural fissures growing by the day. The simple notion of cracking as a celebrated action to reveal diversity and beauty challenges typical notions of division. If our country is a melting pot, it is a colorful one; we must celebrate our differences, and embrace the complexity of our cultural skin.”