Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reflection: My Memories with the Rockaway Artists Alliance by Sandra Proto

This year is the 20th Anniversary of the Rockaway Artists Alliance, an arts organization, which has helped me establish myself as an ‘Artist.’  I joined the organization when it was six years old.  I was not a visual artist—although I studied under artist and Rockaway Artists Alliance member Esther Grillo.  Ms. Grillo was an Art teacher in my high school and one of the art projects I remember her teaching my class was how to draw a clown.  Even though, I think I did a good job at my art projects under Ms. Grillo—I was not that kind of artist.  I was a Literary Artist.  I dabbled in words not paint.  I had learned the term, Literary Artist, when Susan Hartenstein—a board member as well as a writer and artist—spearheaded the movement of incorporating the literary community into the organization.  The Literary Artists would conduct readings of their work (poetry, short stories, and essays) at the opening of the art exhibits as well as host events at Jan’s Restaurant (on Beach 113th St.) and Pier 92 Restaurant. This newly established ‘Literary’ scene enhanced the organization with the aspect of live entertainment.


In 2002, I was asked to be Performance Arts curator for the upcoming summer event, Artfrenzy.  Artfrenzy was a huge borough event sponsored by Queens Council on the Arts and the then Borough President Helen Marshall. Artfrenzy was spread out all over Fort Tilden with different events (including art galleries courtesy of the Rockaway Artists Alliance).  Fort Tilden was chosen because of the growing arts community that was housed there (the Rockaway Theatre Company located next to the Rockaway Artists Alliance had been running for five years).  This was the second time an event with this magnitude was held (the first one I believe was held in Astoria or Jackson Heights).

When I was asked to curate, I was very happy to do so.  I had years of Stage Management experience in professional and community theatre. I was used to coordinating a multitude of people to fit a specific time frame and space.  For Artfrenzy, I scheduled performances of dance, music, theatre, and Open Mics in the T-6 and T-7 art galleries as well as on the Moonstage, an outdoor stage that Jan Nebozenko, board member and Broadway sound engineer, helped to acquire and install.


In the fall of the same year, the Rockaway Artists Alliance had decided to have their own event similar to Artfrenzy but on a smaller scale.  The events would only be in their art galleries and the Moonstage. Once again, I was asked to be the Performance Arts curator.  This time, I scheduled not only music and dance performances, but also went a step further with a video presentation.  ArtSplash had established itself as a ‘Multimedia’ event.
(Top Left) performing with Hudson's Hope(Bottom Left)
 reading of A Harlem Story at ArtSplash 2005 (Right) poem 
Land of Play featured in the Salute to Rockaway art exhibit

Spoken Word, Artist, and Artwork

Going back to what I said about the Rockaway Artists Alliance helping me establish myself as an ‘Artist.’ During the integration of the Literary Artist into the organization, I participated at the art exhibits and other events (including Artfrenzy and ArtSplash 2005) by reading my poetry and short stories.  I kicked it up a notch and had ‘Rock Star’ moments with reciting my poetry while T-7(House band) and Hudson’s Hope played their funky rhythms. I even had my poetry displayed at different exhibits such as Palindrome, Remembering, and Salute to Rockaway.  

I had some memorable moments with the Rockaway Artists Alliance in the past and I know I will continue to.

But right now, I want to wish them a Happy 20th Anniversary and more years to come!

To Learn More about the Rockaway Artists Alliance: 

I will be participating in WordWaves; an evening of inspiration, poetry, comedy, storytelling and song, curated by Victoria Barber this Friday, August 7th The event runs 7pm-10pm.  I will be joined by other artists: Chris Cipollini, making his maiden voyage to the Rockaways. Riding in on theA train, songwriter, NYC Subway Girl aka Cathy Grier will charm us with her folked up blues. Special guest artist and poet Puma Perl brings the East Village home. Comedian Sarah Fearon from Irish American Writers and Artists and a few friends weave unique tales. Lineup includes poets and writers Micheal Kusen, Stephan Barry,Mary Lannon, George C Pizzo, Kathleen Donohoe, Patricia Hannon, Dan Guarino and songwriters John Simonelli, Frank Robbins, Johnny KnoWhere, Jon Kiebon, Brandon Dawson and Jon Rosado.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story, and your transition.
    Sounds like I came into the Rockaway Artists Alliance a year or two after you. So there is much of its rich back story which I did not get to experience.
    Thanks for bringing it to life.

    1. Dan, thanks for stopping by. The experiences were new and exciting. I had a blast.


About Me

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Sandra Proto debut poem at the age of twelve was entitled, The Late Great April, giving homage to the first time it snowed in April. She wrote Late Great April as an English class assignment and her teacher was so impressed by the poem that he tried to get it published. After this experience, Sandra became a "Bedroom Poet" who composed Blackberry Beauty,Light, Compositions, and many others. Blackberry Beauty (her signature poem) was featured in SaSi's Production of Identity @ Space at 24 in 2000. Sandra has performed with the funky, folky, reggae rock band Hudson’s Hope. Her poetry is featured on VAMPIRE LESBIANS and ALL I CAN SEE IS HER EYES tracks of their demo CD. Sandra is also, a fiction writer, playwright, and an essayist.

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