The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL), founded in 1972, is a multidisciplinary arts center based in the diverse community of Southeast Queens. It devoted its mission to offer quality visual, performing, and literary arts, and to provide accessible education programs to encourage participation in the arts.
AN INCUBATOR FOR CREATIVITY
Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) is a 47 year-old multidisciplinary urban arts center located in the diverse community of Southeast Queens. More than 52,000 people of all ages and backgrounds participate in our wide array of education, performing arts, and visual arts programs annually.
Our programs for children, teens, and adults include a multicultural series of music, theater, and dance performances; film screenings and lectures; contemporary visual arts exhibitions; in-school artist residencies; a series of nearly 50 different arts workshops; and free or low-cost after-school and summer programs.
In 1967, a group of local artists, business leaders, and community members came together to restore the decaying commercial corridor along Jamaica Avenue. They acquired the abandoned Queens Register of Titles and Deeds Building – a New York landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places – and transformed it into an urban cultural center that would serve as a symbol of Jamaica’s reawakening and act as a magnet for businesses, shoppers, and residents returning to the downtown area.
JCAL was founded in 1972 as part of this large-scale effort to revitalize the declining Jamaica business district and encourage participation in the arts. Throughout the past four decades, JCAL has come to surpass that purpose, earning a reputation for inspiring the youth of the neighborhood to take an interest in the arts, showcasing the talents of up and coming local artists and performers, and creating dynamic multicultural programs and workshops that have been embraced by the community. Each year, tens of thousands of visitors of all ages and backgrounds pass through its doors to attend classes and workshops, view art exhibitions, and attend performances.
Central to JCAL’s success are its two landmark buildings. JCAL’s headquarters building, which recently underwent a $10 million renovation with funds provided by the City of New York, features a 1,650 square foot visual arts gallery, a 99-seat proscenium theater, three painting and three dance studios, a ceramics studio, a computer lab, and a newly renovated music studio. Our programs for children, teens, and adults include a multicultural series of music, theater, and dance performances; film screenings and lectures; contemporary visual arts exhibitions; in-school artist residencies; a series of nearly 50 different arts workshops; and free or low-cost after-school and summer programs. In addition to on-site workshops and events, our pioneering alliance with nearby schools initiated one of the first Arts in Education programs in the country. This award-winning program has helped to establish the educational viability of collaborations between schools and community based organizations nationwide.
In addition, JCAL manages the state-of-the-art performance venue (formerly the First Reformed Dutch Church of Jamaica) Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC), which is located three blocks away from JCAL's headquarters. Recently opened in 2011 and awarded the Lucy G. Moses Award, the NY Landmarks Conservancy’s highest award honoring outstanding achievement in preservation, JPAC is a multi-functional venue in the heart of Queens, NY. Consisting of a 400-seat theater which can be configured to accommodate various events, JPAC showcases local, regional, and national performers along with concerts, fashion shows, film festivals, parties, weddings, and private events.
Arts Education: Since its founding, JCAL has been committed to offering dynamic educational opportunities for the people of Southeast Queens. In particular, JCAL has unmatched experience using arts education programming to reach the at-risk youth in our community. Our comprehensive array of in-school, after-school, and summer arts programs that supplement academic learning and provide young people with opportunities to explore and refine their artistic talents; increase their cultural understanding; and build academic, critical thinking, interpersonal, and cognitive skills. JCAL’s youth programs have impacted the lives of countless young people.
Additionally, each year JCAL offers a wealth of classes and programs through its Arts Center Workshop (ACW) Saturday Program. ACW has received high marks for its general program offerings and for the quality of its teachers, the majority of whom have worked as professional artists and educators and who teach a wide range of classes including ballet, ethnic dance, guitar, keyboard, drawing, painting, and theater arts to more specialized areas like quilt making and ceramics. Additionally, JCAL’s artist in-residency/workshop program offers custom-designed workshops in dance, theater, music and visual arts to schools and other organizations.
Visual Arts: While JCAL is proud to support the community through a diverse range of educational programs, no program has received as much attention over the course of JCAL’s history as its visual arts program. Each year, JCAL mounts multiple exhibitions that explore issues in contemporary art and culture. JCAL additionally serves local visual artists by providing free/low cost work and exhibit spaces. Over the years, the Center has presented exhibitions of leading contemporary artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Adolph Gottlieb, Bob Thompson, David Chung, and Emmett Wigglesworth. The Center has also presented the works of hundreds of local artists both in its galleries and in community art installations such as Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows which features 25 artworks displayed along Jamaica Avenue. Since its creation Jamaica Flux has had a major impact on the Downtown, demonstrating that Jamaica is a home for artists and creative endeavors. Through such art installations and exhibitions, JCAL seeks to bring contemporary art to the public on daily basis.
Performance Arts: JCAL has also established a proud tradition of presenting emerging performers from the community. These programs celebrate Queens’ rich cultural diversity and attract audiences from all over the City and Long Island – although with a focus on serving Jamaica and southeast Queens. Numerous emerging and well-known artists have at one time or another shared our theater stage with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Eartha Kitt, Dizzy Gillespie, Big Nick Nicholas and Tom Browne. In addition, JCAL produces large scale festivals such as Making Moves Dance Festival, a dance festival that features performances by emerging contemporary dance companies every year, and Downtown Jamaica Jazz Fete, a music festival that highlights the rich jazz heritage from Southeast Queens and reaches for new generations. In an effort to reach broader audiences, JCAL partners with many cultural institutions, such as Carnegie Hall, Queens Theater, Lincoln Center, to bring a diverse array of programs.
Artists Residencies: JCAL is proud to have a long history of supporting both established and up and coming artists through year-long arts residencies, workshops, and lecture series. Through our residency program, talented visual artists, choreographers, and creators work for free onsite at JCAL’s studios in order to create moving works and contribute to the artistic culture of Jamaica. Next Stage residency provides dance companies with an opportunity to create/rehearse new works with a small stipend and chances to be showcased at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. Making Moves Dance Festival, an annual dance extravaganza, gives emerging companies rehearsal time and the opportunity to be featured at the dance festival. In partnership with the NYFA, JCAL also provides year-long studio space for artists to create their work for free and to be exhibited at the JCAL Miller Gallery. Previous artists who have worked in-residency at JCAL include Lorenzo Pace, Otto Neals, and Emmett Wigglesworth.
First Friday: JCAL further supports emerging artist through the First Friday Series, which aims to be an incubator for creative individuals who are in need of a platform to exhibit or perform their work. Through this series, musicians, poets and writers, performers, and visual artists are welcome to submit concepts of unfinished work to be refined at JCAL. Selected artists will receive one month of free rehearsal or work space at JCAL and an opportunity to present their art on the first Friday of every month.
Help Keeping Arts Affordable and Accessible
PLAY A PART
Donor support allows our artistic community to thrive. Thanks to our generous supporters, we have continued to host vibrant, quality performances since 1972. Make sure the cultural experience continues to shine in Southeast Queens by contributing today. We would love to count you as one of our valued sponsors.