Welcome Back - A Look at What’s Coming and Where We’ve Been…
On the Horizon - Exhibitions, Classes, Print Studio and More
Rockaway Artists Alliance, in conjunction with the National Park Service, is pleased to announce “School’s Out for Summer (School’s Out Forever)” curated by Christopher Saucedo and on display June 17 - September 3, 2023.
This survey exhibition features over two dozen mid-career artists from all corners of our nation working both to broaden the definition of painting, drawing, sculpture and photography and also to build upon the well-established traditions of each medium. The show borrows its name from shock-rock musician Alice Cooper’s 1972 hit song that captures that elemental feeling of crossing the scholastic finish line, catching one’s breath and then relaxing into the endless and unconstrained days of adolescent summer.
Although the relaxing vibe of summer may dissipate on Labor Day Weekend, the beauty of fall in Fort Tilden and the visitors who throng there while the weather is still glorious will be able to visit RAA’s Salon Show for select weekends during the fall season. This show will be announced shortly with an open call for artists and is open to submissions from artists of the local, city, state and global art communities.
Beginning in an online format and progressing to in-person classes, RAA has formed a partnership that will enable experienced artists and beginners to participate in a variety of painting and drawing workshops that explore different techniques including painting with acrylics, drawing with pastels and charcoal and more. A full list and schedule of classes will be available before mid-summer.
RAA’s Current Print Studio will launch an editioning program in the autumn of 2023 which will work with four to six established and emerging visual artists annually. This program will assist the print studio in achieving the goal of becoming self-sustaining while bringing a range of dynamic artists to our community.
The plan will expand to include children’s print workshops full of hands-on art making as well as advanced demonstrations by master printmakers for adults. Print enthusiasts will also soon have the option to rent time in the print shop with the collaborative assistance of RAA’s master printer who is a Columbia University LeRoy Neiman Fellow among other accomplishments.
RAA is also making plans to partner with the Rockaway Film Festival for some film screenings and with other institutions of higher learning to provide programming at the intersection of science and art.
Where We've Been...
Rockaway Artists Alliance, Inc. (RAA) has been a mainstay of cultural activities and events on the peninsula for over twenty-five years. The founders, a group of committed artists and community members, worked tirelessly to make their vision of a cultural space in Fort Tilden become a reality.
Through the years, via volunteer efforts, state and city contracts and grants, RAA grew into a full-service arts organization that provided in-school, after-school and camp programs to thousands of local youth; multiple visual art exhibitions annually; year round and seasonal employment to dozens of professionals, artists and youth; music, literary and special events; classes and workshops for adults in a variety of mediums and more.
RAA thrived for over a decade (2004-2016) when city funding for youth enrichment programs was more widely available and RAA's successful kidsmART programs earned accolades and repeated contract renewals. This support enabled the agency to use other unrestricted funds earned by the summer camp to support important and engaging, but less financially viable programming. Additionally, the post-Sandy environment that leant itself to the "discovery" of Rockaway brought partnerships with renowned cultural institutions and international artists to RAA's Fort Tilden doorstep. The organization reached many significant milestones in terms of audience outreach, quality of exhibitions and demand for its programs in its first two decades.
Sadly, in 2016 the shift in NYC's paradigm regarding the purpose of after-school programming - from an enrichment perspective to one of childcare - ended the funding stream that had provided a significant amount of RAA's funding base. An after-school site closed and there was a significant reduction in RAA workforce at all levels. Due to conservative fiscal management during the times of impactful funding, the organization was able to continue to offer a wide array of programming even if the scale was smaller and the budget tighter for a couple years after the funding ceased. However, like most community organizations, RAA was not prepared for the sudden depletion of funds and had difficulty pivoting and identifying and forging relationships with donors or grantors with the similar ability to provide long term funding in large amounts.
In 2019, new directors joined the Board and RAA began a painful and enlightening process of change. Some key staff members moved on to their "forever" careers and programs were peeled apart to examine their viability and responsiveness to the needs and interests of the community. In the midst of this, the world as we know it came to stop with COVID 19. For RAA, which relied on public-facing programs in public schools and a federal park, all overseen by government agencies, for revenue, the closures of some programs lasted as long as eighteen months.
When the restrictions were lifted, RAA hosted an exhibition that received an audience of over 500, but it was made possible only by volunteer efforts, the support of lifetime members and the generous partnership of other local nonprofits. Without any paid staff, the remaining board members have focused on working to reopen an inclusive RAA that will be fiscally viable and culturally engaging and responsive to children and adults through a variety of art programs.