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Liana Shemper. Click on image to view slideshow.
A Touch of Soho on Austin Street

as 50 Artists Exhibit their Works

A touch of Soho came to Kew Gardens on April 25th with the opening of an art show at the Austin's Steak & Ale House on Austin Street that featured works by about 50 artists. Several of the paintings and drawings, some of which are for sale, will remain on display there over the next five weeks.

The show, at which complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres were served, was hosted by the restaurant but was the inspiration of Liana Shemper, a Ukrainian-born artist and art teacher who lives with her husband Alex and their two children, Faye, 4 1/2, and Victor, 3, on 80th Road.

The eclectic mix of about 250 oils, watercolors, pastels, and drawings were all works by her students, who range in age from five to seventy-five. (An age exception was Faye's painting of a bowl of fruit done when she was three.) "I wanted to give my students the opportunity to exhibit and perhaps even sell their work," Ms. Shemper said.

The overflow crowd on opening night included proud parents and other relatives and friends, but it also attracted neighborhood residents and out-of-towners who had heard about the show and had come to take a look.

Freddie Salgado was there from Long Beach, for example. He has been working on construction projects in the area, he said, and came after he saw the show mentioned in a local paper. "I'm very impressed by the talent in this room," he said.

About 20 of the paintings were sold at prices that averaged around $150, but were often as low as $65. "A lot of people will buy a Van Gogh or a Picasso print for $150," Ms. Shemper said, "not realizing that they can buy wonderful original art for the same amount or less."

Christine Gelormino, who lives on 118th Street, sold four of her paintings. A C.P.A. by profession, she has been painting for 20 years, she said, but this was her first exhibit. Among her works was an oil still life of wine bottles that she labeled "The Rehearsal." Another still life was of a vase with flowers. Her other works included a Catskills landscape.

"She is extremely talented," Ms. Shemper said, "but she didn.t believe in herself until she came to my class. Her dream was to sell at least one painting, and now she's sold four! I am so thrilled that she now has confidence in her talent."

Ten-year-old Itzak Goldberg whose works at the show included several abstracts, a picture of a lighthouse, of a clock and candleholders, and a cartoon sketch of a donkey that he labeled Hee Haw. He had a buyer for Hee Haw, but his parents said No. "They didn't want to part with it," Ms. Shemper said.

Elazar Kramer, also 10, stood proudly in front of his watercolor of a prayer book, a candle and a wine glass called Jewish Artifacts, that he didn't want to part with, either. He has been taking lessons with Ms. Shemper since January, starting with watercolor. Oils and acrylics are easier to master, Ms. Shemper explained, because they are easy to correct, whereas watercolors are not.

Ms. Shemper prefers children to be at least five before enrolling in her children's classes, which run an hour and a half per session and which cost $15. Adult classes run two hours and the cost is $20. No enrollment is required. Classes are given daily and students can come as often as they wish. For details, call Ms. Shemper at 718-544-4728.

This is the third art show to be held at the Austin's Steak & Ale House. A previous exhibit featured works only by Ms. Shemper. Another featured Lisa Zicker, also a Kew Gardens artist. Another show by Diane O'Connell, who specializes in dogs and cats, is scheduled to open in June, said John O'Hout, the restaurant's manager.

"It's a nice thing to do for the people in the community, and it's also nice for us," Mr. O'Hout said. "We have to close the restaurant for the opening night, but we schedule the opening for a Wednesday night, which is usually a quiet night, and the hope, of course, is that people will get to know our restaurant and will come back."

The staging of art shows, musical events and the like holds the promise that Kew Gardens could become a vibrant center for the arts as the idea catches on. Ms. Shemper, for example, hopes to bring her next show to a newly-opened café on Metropolitan Avenue where a classical guitarist performs Friday concerts.

The community already has a permanent treasure, the Kew Gardens Cinemas on Lefferts Boulevard, whose outstanding film fare rivals that shown at the Film Forum, The Angelica and other prestigious venues in Manhattan, and has made Kew Gardens a destination point for lovers of serious films.

"It's all part of the magic of this historic neighborhood," said Herbert Gingold, a psychologist and Kew Gardens resident who attended the Austin's Steak & Ale House show, marveling at the participants' "hidden pool of talent."

Earlier Articles:
  •   Kew Gardens Merchants - The Bliss Café
  •   Kew Gardens Lights Up for the Holidays
  •   Queens Borough Hall Garage in Kew Gardens
  •   The House on 116th Street
  •   New Development in Kew Gardens
  •   Autumn Scenes in Kew Gardens
  •   Lantern Festival at Maple Grove Cemetery
  •   They Lift Up their Voices Every Friday