African art exhibit opens at QCC
By car: Long Island Expressway to springfield blvd (exit 29) At the light, turn right onto Springfield Blvd and go to 56th Ave.Turn right at the light and go one block to QCC's main entrance on the left..
Ends: September 30th 2005
By Radmilla Suleymanova 05/19/2005 İTimes Ledger 2005
The African art collection of Gary Schulze, entitled Artists and Patrons in Traditional African Cultures, was unveiled Saturday at the Queensborough Community College Art Gallery in Bayside.
"I would like this exhibit to give students and visitors a chance to understand and appreciate African art," Schulze said, "and to see how creative people on the African continent really are."
Schulze's interest in African art increased when he joined the Peace Corps and in 1962 was among the first group of volunteers to travel to Sierra Leone. It was there, he said, that he gained an appreciation for diversity and began to understand the importance that art has on culture and education.
He has since dedicated more than 40 years to collecting the exhibit's almost 200 pieces that represent more than 30 different cultures, spanning 15 countries. Many of the artifacts are extremely rare and have distinguished aesthetic value. The oldest piece in the collection dates as far back as 500 B.C.
"The amount of work, thought and passion that went into planning this event is unbelievable," Schulze said during his thank-you speech at the exhibit's opening on Saturday.
Hundreds of longtime friends, family members and colleagues studied the works as they sipped on wine and listened to musician Yacouba Sissoko play the African Kora instrument or what he calls "the music of peace, love and happiness."
Professor of English at CUNY's Baruch College, Dr. Tuzyline Jita Allan said he found the exhibit stunningly beautiful with rich variety. "My favorites are the pieces from Sierra Leone but that's a biased opinion because I'm Sierra Leonean," Allan joked.
The artifacts on display include masks, precious miniature figures, costumes, statues and a prized collection of rings representing the different cultures of Africa.
The ambassador from Sierra Leone to the United Nations and longtime friend of Schulze, Sylvester E. Rowe, attended the opening to support the exhibit that he says brings the people of Africa together.
"One of the most interesting things is the cultural link of some of these countries no matter of their colonial background," Rowe said. "This gallery shows you that."
James V. Sheahan, who was Schulze's housemate in Sierra Leone in 1962, said "I really admire what he's done. I don't know many volunteers who have dedicated so much time to something so important."
Winifred Armstrong, who worked for John F. Kennedy in 1959 when he was in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, was responsible for sending this very first group of volunteers to Sierra Leone in 1962.
"This group has really stuck together through over 40 years," Armstrong said. "It's nice to see this art exhibit bring them together in another manifestation."
The gallery's director, Faustino Quintanilla, said that the newly renovated building is a place for students and visitors to experience world class art. This is the first African Art exhibition in the Queensborough gallery and Quintanilla said he is hopeful that it will attract a new and wide ranging audience.
The exhibition includes a catalogue which contains reproductions of some of the objects that are on display, along with an essay by the African historian Donna Page.
The exhibit, which has been planned for five years, is now open to the students of Queensborough Community College, as well as the public.
It will be on display through the summer until Sept. 30, 2005. The college expects close to 5,000 people to attend.
QCC Queens Art Gallery
Queensborough Community College