Venue Spotlight: The Queens Kickshaw

When owners Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim conceived of The Queens Kickshaw in 2011, they originally saw it as a mobile coffee cart. But when they found their space on Broadway, function followed form, and the husband and wife team decided to create a gathering space with a grilled-cheese driven menu and extensive wine and beer program.

The Astoria Art Festival venue has plenty of wall space, but a very unique way of displaying art: local artists are given a long sheet of white paper and are invited to create. “I think when we first opened, it looked a little incomplete, but that was part of our esthetic. It was a year and a half later that we figured out the mechanics,” Lim says. A permanent frame holds the artwork, which changes every few months.

Art by Haydee Naula hangs at TQK.
Art by Haydee Naula hangs at TQK.

“We have a lot of people who use this as a workspace during the daytime, so they’re here many hours a day,” Lim explains. “I think it’s nice to have a visual break from what you’re working on, whether it’s your computer screen or your script. It’s good to look up and have someone else’s creativity in your face.”

In addition to hanging art and showcasing live music, Sandler and Lim see the Astoria Art Festival as another way to contribute to the art community in Astoria. “It’s something that brings us joy,” Lim says. “Our day-to-day is running a business, so it’s nice to indulge in other people’s passions and have the ability to nurture them.”

From the start, Sandler and Lim have envisioned The Queens Kickshaw as a place where people can gather and make use of the space. “I feel like this is the kind of place where it’s easy to come and do your work for hours with your coffee, a meal or a beer at the end of the day,” Lim says. “I hope it fosters creativity.”

The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway
(718) 777-0913
thequeenskickshaw.com

Venue Spotlight: Queens Comfort

Stepping into Queens Comfort on 30th Avenue is a bit like becoming a kid again. On a recent night at this Astoria Art Festival venue, 90s hip hop filled the room, Christmas lights enlivened toys behind the counter and Kill Bill was playing silently on the big screen.

“We draw from our childhoods,” explains owner Donnie D’Alessio. “Nostalgia is so important to us – from the toys in the restaurant, to the ingredients we use.” The Atomic Fireballs, for example, are deep fried mac & cheese nuggets with Sriracha and ranch dressing.

Nostalgia can also be felt in the innumerable family photos that cover the walls. “It’s sort of like a never-ending art project,” D’Alessio says. Last year he painstakingly took down each frame for the week of the Art Fest. This year, the lively illustrations of Brendan Carroll will be showcased amongst the family photos, many of which were brought in my customers.

“We’ve been doing the Art Fest since the beginning, and I love watching it grow,” says D’Alessio, who has a background in film and a lifelong passion for the arts. “Being an artist, it makes me feel good to be surrounded by a growing artist community in Astoria.”

In addition to serving as a venue for the 10 day Astoria Art Festival, Queens Comfort will once again host an evening event with donuts and a DJ. As D’Alessio says of the restaurant, “I just want it to be a party all the time.”

 

Queens Comfort

40-09 30th Ave.

(718) 728-2350

queenscomfort.com

 

Venue Spotlight: The Sparrow Tavern

Astoria institution The Sparrow Tavern may not deck its walls with paintings, but since the inception of The Sparrow Film Project in 2009, the bar and restaurant has become a hub for the neighborhood’s art scene.

Sparrow has always been a gathering place for local creatives; musicians, writers, actors, painters and stagehands make up a large share of the regular crowd, as well as the staff. Now that the rock and roll bar has garnered attention for it’s European-American menu, new customers are regularly drawn to the corner of 24th avenue and 29th street.

“Any restaurant can be a good place to hang art. It’s good for emerging artists because if you’re not established yet, people won’t necessarily travel to see your work, but people will always travel to eat good food,” says owner Evangelos Roumeliotis. “It’s a great way to get exposure.”

The Sparrow Tavern has participated in the Astoria Art Festival from the start, getting creative with the limited wall space to showcase more alternative art forms. Last year the restaurant was covered in Instagram photos from local artists, friends and family. This year, The Sparrow Film Project, in it’s fifth year, is a sponsor of the Art Festival.

“Anything that brings people to the community is good for business. With the Art Festival events, people who have never been here before wander through,” Roumeliotis says. “More so, it’s a fun thing to do. Artists get to share their work and we get to see new faces. It’s a great event.”

The Sparrow Tavern

24-01 29th St.

(718) 606-2260

thesparrowtavern.com

Venue Spotlight: Fatty’s Cafe

Since its opening party in 2003, Fatty’s Cafe in Astoria has enhanced its colorful walls with collections from rotating artists. At their new location, owners Fernando Peña and Suzanne Furboter have carried on their tradition.

“I’d worked in the East Village in the late 80s and early 90s in a couple places that showed art,” explains Fernando. “It changed the place, was fun and there was an ability to support the community.” With this inspiration Peña and Furboter reached out to their artist-friends and within a year of opening were able to showcase a growing number of local artists.

Although bittersweet, moving into a new space has allowed them to take this relationship to the next level. “We actually took the concept of a gallery and incorporated it into our design. We have lighting devoted to the art and big open wall space,” Fernando explains.

Latin-inspired fare in generous portions and fresh mojitos have made Fatty’s a neighborhood favorite for over ten years. Now on 28th Avenue, Miami teal walls and palm plants make Fatty’s feel like endless summer. But as Suzanne points out, “New art always gives our place a fresh design.”

“They’ve helped us out, and we’ve helped them. It’s a nice, symbiotic relationship,” say Peña and Furboter, who take no commission from artists. “They make us look good, and we sell a lot of work. It’s a good thing.”

Fatty’s Cafe
45-17 28th Ave.
                                                                                                              Astoria, NY 11103
                                                                                                              718-267-7071

fattysastoria.com

 

Caryn Cast’s Creative Advertising

CarynCast_RavenIf you ever stroll down Broadway, the whimsical chalkboards outside of Astoria Wine and Spirits and Astoria Bier and Cheese are likely to have caught your eye. Those imbibing critters and familiar cartoon characters are the work of artist Caryn Cast, whose paintings will be on display at Astoria Wine and Spirits during the Astoria Art Festival.

Caryn was one of the first employees at the shop after having moved to Queens from Nashville, Tennessee almost five years ago. “I was drawing wine tags at first, and then it turned into drawing chalkboards,” she says. Now Caryn’s murals enliven the walls at the wine shop and both Bier and Cheese locations. “I’m really lucky, because they let me get crazy in there,” she says.

In the last few years, Caryn’s paintings and illustrations have become political, but all of her work – chalkboards included – reflect her sense of humor. “I want some of it to be nostalgic and some to be hilarious,” she says about her inspiration. “This community is well versed in culture. I want people to stop and chuckle a little.”

Each chalkboard drawing can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to create, depending on the level of detail, and they last about a month. “Sometimes late at night I’ll walk by a chalkboard and see it has a smudge, and if I have chalk on me, I’ll fix it,” Caryn laughs. Her talent has gained attention, and Caryn now does chalkboards for other businesses on Broadway.

This will be the second year Astoria Wine and Spirits joins the Art Fest, but Caryn’s first year participating as a contributing artist. “Art makes a community, and I’m excited about what’s happening in Astoria,” she says. “There’s a lot of talent in art here, and I think people need a place to show it. The Astoria Art Festival provides that. I’m happy to be a part of it.”

View more of Caryn’s work at: CarynCast.com

CarynCast_WallE