Background of Project

I began this project in June 2011 with the help of the organization Create Change, through their Laundromat Project.

 Create Change Project Overview:
Project Title: A Woodside Walk - Bubbles and Books

This current project exists in three (3) stages:
1. As a book cart "library" that exists at the local Laundromat
2. as once a week Storytime for neighborhood children and
3. as a coloring/activity about the neighborhood to be passed out to neighborhood kids.
Project description:
There must be something else to do beside stare at clothes going round and round, I thought, watching children at the local Laundromat begging for quarters to jam into gum and toy vending machines.

As an only child growing up, I always retreated into books. I learned how well books occupy time when grownups aren’t available. I recently began a series of children’s guidebooks and would use this grant to create editions of books for local families to bring along on neighborhood explorations.

Q & A (from grant application)
1. How is your Create Change project socially relevant to the community in which you live?
Living on 54th Street between Roosevelt Avenue and Queens Boulevard for the past four years has opened my eyes to the many different cultural pockets on every block in the City’s most diverse borough.  My work highlights the small elements, such as the difficult-to-spot medallion four blocks away from the Laundromat which indicates that Woodside is the true geographical center of New York City; the beautiful landscaping of a neighbor’s 10-square foot lawn, the many languages and flags, the endless food shops and their fun and funny hand-painted signs.  My hand-illustrated activity books are structured as pictorial treasure hunts. There are many children’s books about all the world famous sites of Manhattan, such as the Empire State Building, all the Museums, etc.  For once I would like to show the children in this neighborhood that we too have some amazing things they pass everyday.
Library closings and reduced hours are, sadly, common in all the boroughs, as addressed in a past Create Change project. Our local library, the Woodside Branch of the Queens Library, which happens to be across the street from “55 Laundromat and Cleaners,” is no longer open on weekends, a time when working-class people need it most. I would like to extend some of the customary Library services to the Laundromat by providing free books and reading programs.

2. Are there any specific community partners with whom you would like to collaborate to realize this vision ? If so, have you already secured these partnerships?
The main collaborators and distribution points are the Laundromat and the Library.  My activity/coloring books would also be given out at area merchants which have a waiting component structured into their operations: beauty parlors, nail salons, restaurants, and the like.

3. How will your Create Change project use the physical space of this Laundromat in an interesting way? What relationship do you have to your local Laundromat?
I visit the library at least three or four times a week with our 3 year old son, who loves reading.  We are very friendly with the librarians and staff. I do not have a relationship with the Laundromat’s management beyond being a customer. “55 Laundromat and Cleaners” is a neighborhood hub.  It is quite large, with almost 100 machines, and several seating areas. I would like to ask the management if I could build and donate a custom table for children’s books and puzzles, and bring in some pillows and a throw rug and host several Story Time readings there on several weekends during the Create Change project.

4. How will you engage your neighbors in your creative process at the Laundromat itself?
My activity/coloring books would be available for free for children who have to accompany their parents and guardians to the Laundromat. While waiting for the dryer to finish, children can read information and see illustrations of neighborhood highlights and fill in their responses to questions about their favorite sites on their block.  At the end of the project, I will compile and distribute the neighborhood children’s answers in a free, co-created Treasure Hunt book.

5. What kind of support and resources (material, human, or financial) do you need to realize this vision? If it requires more resources than we can offer, what is your strategy for mounting a project anyway?
The only resource I would need, aside from the use of the Laundromat’s space, is financial, the money to create the editions of activity/coloring books and treasure hunt books.

6. In what ways have you demonstrated an investment in your neighborhood?
In 2007 we purchased and renovated a 1930 car mechanic’s garage that had been turned into a one-family home.  Aside from investing our life savings in the home and property, my mother fell in love with the area and left St. Louis, Missouri after 33 years and purchased an apartment four blocks away.  I attend and participate in Community Board and Police Department meetings.  My husband and I have organized neighborhood petitions and teamed up with neighbors to clean local streets. I have contacted 311 and had a dead tree replaced with a Japanese Zelkova sapling.  I regularly donate books to our local library, bring our mulch to the local pit on a weekly basis, and try my hardest to shop exclusively in our neighborhood.  Perhaps most importantly, I am very active in the local “Sunny Moms” group, a group of close to three dozen local (and very international) families with children around our son’s age.  We are interested in building a safe, smart and caring neighborhood, in large part because we know our kids will soon be running around these streets and parks without our constant supervision. 

7. Please share with us (on a personal level) why you want to participate in Create Change.
As an artist, a teacher, a bibliophile and a mother, I would like to promote reading and make this neighborhood a fun place for kids to live. And for our son, who has Japanese and Russian-Polish-Viennese Jewish blood, I would like to celebrate the myriad of other cultures that make up his neighborhood.

8. How has your past work prepared you to create a work of art in collaboration with your neighbors?
Most recently I held a workshop in conjunction with an exhibition titled “Paper & Pulp: Gathering a Community”, which my artist book,  A Woodside Walk, was a part.  I helped families make pop-up books with techniques akin to the ones used in the work I had on exhibit.   Some of my recent work has included large-format sculptural books-within-books which have been acquired by The Brooklyn Public Library and the Newark Public Library.  The general public is free to handle these works, all of which have moveable and removable parts that can be rearranged to their heart’s content. Some of these complex books are available for checking out for standard loan periods.  It is inspirational to watch the public read and play with my artist books, and see them excitedly following along with treasure hunt clues and links to related books.  I wish to continue engaging even more with the public, particularly so close to home.

9. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the residency? What are your goals for this project in terms of your community, as well as yourself?
I hope to generate positive neighborhood awareness and highlight the unique elements of the different cultures in Woodside so that our polyglot neighbors become more aware of each other.  The goals for the community and myself is to secure the fiscal support that will instill pride of place and by putting my books in the hands, hearts, and minds of our neighbors.