Last weekend, Astoria held it’s first ever art festival featuring over 30 artists at 14 different locations throughout the area.
The festival was created by Lizbeth Nieves, a founding member of “in bloom collective,” which works with local artists. In an attempt to keep the festival as local as possible, only artists from Astoria and other parts of Queens were chosen to showcase their work.
On the last day of the event on Sunday, Nieves was attending an art showing and wine tasting at Astoria Park Wine & Spirits. She said that over the course of the weekend, hundreds of people came out to view art across Astoria.
Nieves went on to say that the community was what helped drive the festival and make it successful. “It became bigger than I imagined it to be,” she said.
Nieves said that her goal is to now make the Astoria Arts Festival an annual event to “bring awareness to Queens artists,” who she believes are overlooked because they live in Queens.
Nieves said she was inundated with phone calls from artists who wanted to take part in the festival, mostly hearing about it by word-of-mouth. And she said it’s not only artists, but possible venues as well.
Amanda Cleary, owner of Astoria Park Wine & Spirits, said she can’t wait for next year. Cleary’s shop is no stranger to the art scene, as the store features new art every month.
Mary Ann Benedetto is a local artist is Astoria and was chosen by the collective to have her artwork featured at the festival. She said,
“I think this is really good,” said one participating artist, Mary Ann Benedetto. “I see this as an opportunity.”
Benedetto is originally from Brooklyn, but moved to Astoria and claims that the art scene in her new borough trumps that of her old one. She said that certain areas of Brooklyn have an, “influx of people who aren’t natives,” which she fears works against the art community.
She became aware of the Astoria Arts Festival because she is acquainted with the organizers. In her view, the “tight-knit community” of Astoria nurtures artists and their work.
Nieves already has her hands full with next year’s festival. Nieves said that some businesses were asking her to run a similar event sooner than next year.
“Annual,” she laughed. “Definitely annual.”