As part of the Museum of Woodhaven History project, the WCHS is paying tribute to four artists who either called Woodhaven home, or found Woodhaven to be an inspiration for their work.
Stephen Csoka was born in Hungary in 1897 and trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. In 1934, he moved to the United States with his new wife, Margaret, and over the next few decades his paintings and etchings won many awards.
He taught art for many years, both at Hunter College and at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and today his work can be found in the permanent collection of over 34 museums both in the U.S. and abroad, including the Brooklyn Museum, The Met, The Whitney and the Library of Congress.
Respected in art circles around the globe, Csoka was also a resident of Woodhaven for almost 30 years, creating many of his pieces from the studio in his home on 87th Street, just north of Jamaica Avenue.
Artist Madeline Lovallo has painted hundreds of different landscapes in her lifetime, many of them near her home in Howard Beach. But around these parts, she is very well-known for her paintings of Woodhaven landmarks.
Madeline’s most famous painting is the one she did of Lewis’ of Woodhaven on 85th Street. The painting includes Scaturro’s, the elevated train with Christmas lights, pedestrians, a sidewalk Santa, and lots more Woodhaven details for residents to enjoy.
Over the years, Madeline’s Woodhaven collection has grown to include the Forest Park Carousel, Oak Ridge, the FDNY Dispatch building on Park Lane South and Woodhaven Boulevard, and most recently a beautiful rendering of Emanuel United Church of Christ on 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.
Artist Jose Moya was born in Peru, but called 76th Street in Woodhaven his home. I first met Jose back in 2011 when he dropped off a few photographs of his work. I was stunned by the first painting, a view of 85th Street and Jamaica Avenue.
Jose’s portraits are so detailed that they will serve future generations by giving them a real sense of what Woodhaven looked like in our times, in ways that even the best digital camera could not capture.
And 88-year old artist Hank Virgona makes the long journey from Woodhaven to his Union Square studio. Along the way, he passes the time by making sketches of his fellow passengers on the J Train.
As an exercise, Google the name “Hank Virgona” and you’ll see how much art he has created and how well regarded it is. Last year, he was the subject of an award-winning documentary “Nothing Changes: Art for Hank’s Sake,” which details Virgona’s daily journey, his work, and his life.
Inspired by these artists, the residents of Woodhaven are breaking out their paint brushes and creating beautiful pieces of art that pay tribute to our community.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has been sponsoring art classes twice a month, led by artist, and Woodhaven resident, Natalia Laszkiewicz, the owner of Beaver Tattoo. Residents have been painting local scenery, such as Strack Pond and the Wyckoff-Snedeker Cemetery. It’s very interesting to see how a group of 15 people will have 15 very different (all beautiful) interpretations of the same thing.
This project was made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Queens Council on the Arts.
And finally, the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has started a program supporting the arts in our local schools. Two of the schools, PS 60 and PS 97, accepted our offer to join the program and were provided with supplies to create art.
The dividends from that investment are just starting to come in and the results are beautiful. The resulting artwork, by the residents and the students, will be featured in separate shows in the coming weeks.
But samples all of this great work will be on display along with a tribute to these four artists at the launch party for the Museum of Woodhaven History, Thursday May 3rd from 4 pm to 8 pm at the Woodhaven Manor, 96-01 Jamaica Avenue. We hope to see you there.