Saturday, January 19, 2008

Artist Finds His Niche Teaching Kids

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...the future of America!"

The voice of teaching artist Andrew Ronan booms unexpectedly from the cavity of his wiry frame.

Ronan, 32, is working with 17 high school juniors from the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights to create a 40-minute performance addressing incoming freshman fears of hazing, sexual pressures, drugs, and gangs. The ran January 10 and 11 at Queens Theatre in the Park.

"[Teenagers] have a voice worth hearing," said Ronan, a native of Jackson Heights, who encourages teenagers to validate their thoughts and feelings through artistic expression. "We actually care about who they are and what they think.”

Students Katia Roma and Daniel Laverde summon Ronan over as they discuss a character named Ivie "Ghetto" Rivera. As he scrunches down to listen, they brainstorm about her insecure body image, why people can't pronounce her name correctly and the details of her personal history.

"We wouldn't be as far as we are right now personally and as a group [without Ronan]," said Laverde, 17, who has been working with Ronan for two years. "It's a challenge, it's more than reading. What you write comes from your heart [but] you're not afraid to express yourself."

This story was published in the Queens Tribune.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Living The Hip-Hop Life In Corona, Queens

At first glance, a high-end urban lifestyle boutique seems out of place above the Kennedy Fried Chicken on Junction Blvd. in Corona.

The wafting odor of fried chicken and the high-pitched sounds of electronic toys of the Chinese wholesaler next door could easily distract from what’s in between: a minimalist 10-foot-wide brick wall painted black.

Two brass-potted shrubs flank the glass entrance, and except for a black-and-white flag on the building’s second floor, All the Right boutique is almost invisible.

Owner George Landin said All the Right has transitioned from a record store with a recording studio and barber shop to a high-end apparel boutique in accordance with hip-hop’s four elements: DJ (disc jockey), MC (Master of Ceremonies), B-boy (break dancer), and graffiti.

Since 1998, All the Right has been a fixture in this working-class, mostly Latino neighborhood, attracting local rappers and graffiti artists and generating buzz by word of mouth as far away as Japan. Landin, who grew up in Corona, is now in the process of expanding All the Right’s vision and vibe to Los Angeles where he is scheduled to open another store in late February.

This story was published in the Queen's Tribune.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Handball: All it Takes is a Dollar and a Wall

Video by Lisa Biagiotti and Michele Wilson

It’s easy to find a ball and a wall in Elmhurst.

On any mild day at CC Moore Homestead Park on Broadway and 45th Avenue, teenagers play handball, smoke cigarettes and hang out. Because of limited park space, handball is a popular recreational sport in the neighborhood. Outdoor handball courts empty out during colder months when hands begin to sting from slapping the ball.

But serious handball players take the sport indoors and train at the Elks Lodge on Queens Boulevard, as part of a new Elks’ membership initiative. These players credit handball with keeping them out of trouble, and several players have become nationally ranked by the United States Handball Association (USHA), in Tuscon, Ariz., where officials recognize Elmhurst players by their first names.

This story was published in the Queens Tribune.