Jan. 23, 2018 By Tara Law
A Jackson Heights artist has created a series of artworks—currently on display at a local bakery— that juxtapose the neighborhood’s architecture with stories from its residents.
Artist Linda Ganjian interviewed 10 longtime Queens residents and incorporated quotes into illustrations of Jackson Heights archways. Titled “Griffins’ Tales: Stories of Jackson Heights,” Ganjian’s work is on display at Lety Bakery and Cafe at 77-07 37th Ave until May 1.
Ganjian, a sculptor, painter and graphic designer, was awarded a $2,000 grant from the Queens Council on the Arts towards the artwork. Ganjian set out to create a project celebrating the neighborhood’s architecture. The project title uses the word “Griffin” because the mythical creature is often depicted in Jackson Heights architecture.
Ganjian initially focused on the neighborhood’s physical change, but she gradually realized that it was important to depict the way the demographics of the community had also shifted. She then conducted a series of interviews with her older neighbors.
“I love my community, and I have a lot of elderly neighbors,” said Ganjian. “I love talking to them.”
The interview subjects described watching Jackson Heights transition from an upscale, overwhelmingly white and Protestant neighborhood to the diverse area it is today.
While some of the artwork deals with discrimination, it also depicts positive narratives.
“I wanted to balance the ugly side of some people with other topics, like tolerance in the neighborhood,” said Ganjian.
One of Ganjian’s interview subjects, Councilmember Daniel Dromm, spoke of his experience during the first Queens Pride Parade. The parade took place after the murder of Jackson Heights resident Julio Rivera, who was killed for being gay.
Dromm told Ganjian that people were afraid that the parade would provoke violence. The police stationed snipers on rooftops to protect the marchers.
“Because of the murder of Julio, we didn’t know what reaction we would get,” said Dromm. “But we were welcomed by the sound of tumultuous applause.”