Museum Highlights Jamaica As Cultural Destination

By Kelsey Brow

Jamaica Avenue is not a legally-designated cultural corridor, but it might as well be. If you were to start at Merrick Boulevard and end at the AirTrain, you’ll pass over half a dozen sites of arts and culture–ranging from fine arts to live performance and poetry–which include artist studios and numerous historic buildings, the oldest of which is King Manor inside Rufus King Park.

Although parts of the museum date back to the 1750s, their mission is to keep things fresh and relevant. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the “New York State on Pause” executive order included museums in the state-mandated closure, meanwhile, King Manor’s staff took advantage of the opportunity to finish cosmetic repairs and reorganize their storage in order to open up the second floor to the public.

Most of the rooms at the Manor had been closed since a fire devastated the building in the 1960s. This newly-opened space includes three rooms of gallery space, which have played host to several contemporary art exhibitions since 2020 and featured primarily works of local BIPOC artists.

Visitors to King Manor this month will have the chance to view a wide range of abstract works in different media from critically acclaimed artists.

The museum also serves as a satellite venue for the South East Queens Biennial. This year’s exhibition on the theme, “Formations,” was curated by Rejin Leys, a local artist and member of the South East Queens Artist Alliance, in collaboration with Margaret Rose Vendryes, and Nicholas Fraser.

Leys writes of the exhibition:

“The well-known maxim, “form follows function,” coined by the late 19th-century architect Louis H. Sullivan, is useful when approaching the built environments of abstract visual art. Abstraction is founded on formations. Function requires not only the intent of the artist, but, and perhaps more importantly, the perspectives their viewers bring to work. The takeaway from engaging with abstract art is individual, singularly personal, and often magical. The 2022 Southeast Queens Biennial will be populated by artists whose primary focus is abstraction in all its diverse manifestations.”

Even if you don’t think you “get” abstract art, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the colors, patterns, and textures of these brilliant pieces. The art-curious, art connoisseurs, and even families with children will be drawn to the installations at the York College gallery and at King Manor. It might be just what we need to make sense of the world around us in these pandemic times.

Jeanne Heifetz, one of the featured artists, writes “[there is a] universal human drive to create beauty, order, and ritual in the face of our own mortality.”

This exhibition marks the first time King Manor has entered into a formal partnership with York College’s Art Gallery. Both venues hope that this partnership will encourage visitors to “make a day of it” by patronizing the wealth of small businesses on Jamaica Avenue on their way from one gallery to another.

The York College Art Gallery is located at 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. and King Manor is located at 150-03 Jamaica Ave. To learn more about visiting and to book your free tour, go to

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