No Longer Empty-Jameco Exchange-Jamaica-QueensPhoto courtesy of No Longer Empty/Whitney Browne

In an old storefront on 165th Street in Jamaica, Queens, is an unobtrusive art exhibition in a sea of clothing stores and food carts. Passersby stand in front of the clear glass doors, while expressions of confusion and amusement cross their faces as they try to decipher the colorful installations within. Inside the four walls of the repurposed building is Jameco Exchange, a site-specific art exhibit that celebrates the rich history and diversity of Jamaica.

No Longer Empty-Jameco Exchange Artwork-Jamaica-QueensWorks by Rico Gatson and Ezra Wube – Photo courtesy of No Longer Empty/Whitney Browne

Jameco Exchange was created in partnership between the non-profit organization No Longer Empty (NLE) and the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District. The exhibit was curated by Rachel Gugelberger, an associate curatorNo Longer Empty. The exhibit gets its name from the Jameco Native Americans, the first settlers in the area that is now Jamaica. The mission of NLE is to put public creative spaces into neighborhoods, many of which Gugelberger says “aren’t frequently visited.” On June 23rd, the organization welcomed their new Executive Director, Carol Stakenas, with an exhibit walkthrough by some of the artist and curators of the exchange. Currently, there are works featured by 22 individual artists and groups ranging in age from young teens to adults, working with a variety of mediums.

No Longer Empty-Jameco Exchange Jimmys Thrift Shop-Jamaica-Queens“Jimmy’s Thrift of New Davonhaime” by Azikiwe Mohammed – Photo courtesy of No Longer Empty/Whitney Browne

A section of the exhibit called “Jamaica Vibes” features works created and curated by teens and young adults from the NLE Y.Lab. Sara Guerrero, the Director of Education and Public Engagement for NLE says that the age of the youth artists and docents range from 14 to 21. “We ask that the artists in the program work 2 to 4 hours a week, but most of them come in 10 to 20 hours,” says Guerrero. The teens are paid a stipend and come from a number of Jamaica schools.

No Longer Empty-Jameco Exchange Jamaica Vibes Youth Art-Jamaica-QueensPhoto courtesy of No Longer Empty/Whitney Browne

In addition to curating work, No Longer Empty creates a curated map of creative spaces, restaurants, cultural hubs and historic landmarks in each of the areas where they open up a major exhibition. “We consulted with our Community Advisory Council and included our own favorite spots in Jamaica.” Gugelberger says that the map aims to give a taste of what life is like outside the exhibition.

Gugelberger says that the building which houses the exhibit will be converted back into a store once Jameco Exchange vacates it. “Our goal isn’t to transform the space,” she says, “We wanted to respond to the building and make it as much a main character as the art.” She says that NLE did not want to convert the space into a bare, white gallery, but instead aimed to make modifications based on the artists’ needs.

Next, check out 13 Outdoor Art Installations Not To Miss in NYC June 2016. Keep up with the author @jen_bagcal.