Exhibition: BQE (Brooklyn Queens Elite) @Powerhouse Arena and interview w/Yvette Hidalgo

Photos and words by Laurie Markiewicz

(Wedneday, August 19, 2014) – A day before the highly anticipated August 7th Brooklyn Queens Elite (BQE) exhibition at Powerhouse Arena, I snuck in to see the show’s curator Yvette Hidalgo. With the understanding of the madness behind these shows, I started to wonder if people on the outside had any understanding as to how much work and detail goes into producing such events. At first glance, Yvette had the crunch-time look across her face. It was 2:30pm the day before the event, work hadn’t been hung yet, some pieces had to still arrive, and one of the names on the wall was spelled wrong. A lot of us have been there. Determined, Yvette was going to make miracles happen. And she did.

The BQE exhibition was packed with people and enthusiasm. Everyone (even the kids) grooved to the sounds of DJ’s Dr. Brown Celery, DJ Kilz, Nasty Vaz, and O. Incredible (also of Brooklyn/Queens). On the main wall KEO XMEN pieced “Brooklyn Queens Elite” bringing all of the artists together on one wall under their respective borough. Each artist had their own wall space through Powerhouse and filled it with as much work as they pleased serving as a perfect blend of creative minds.

(Photo courtesy of Angie LM Vasquez)

Now in the show’s final week, I caught up with Yvette to discuss her motions before and after the show.

596: When I came to visit you before the show we had briefly discussed what inspired you to put this show together.  You mentioned you were working in Dumbo on 9/11 and running down to the block Powerhouse now stands on to see what was happening and like so many that day being so struck with intense emotion. Is your memory of 9/11 and also the  Brooklyn/Queens annual celebrations from your youth what made you want to have BQE in Dumbo?

YH: The Powerhouse block will always be a part of me. I started working at the present, 45 Main Street on January 2001 and when  September 11th occurred it forever changed my soul. I stayed on that block with the Oasis company until 2002 and moved to So Florida. I moved back to NYC in 2006 and went back to Oasis which had still remained on Main Street. A year later, in 2007, I attended the 25th Anniversary Wild Style Event at Powerhouse and was in awe at the fact the space was pretty fresh to have an event. I had just started to get involved with Younity around that time. I said to myself, “One day I will have a fly show at this venue”.  Since I was just learning some things of the art business I was not able to curate on my own. That summer night I was touched by an angel that kept me on the path. My vision evolved and falling in love with someone from Brooklyn, Antonio KEL 5MH, made the Brooklyn Queens connection. (I am from Elmhurst, Corona, Lefrak City, Queens) Yup i grew up on Junction Blvd and 57th Avenue where all those hoods met.) In the fall/winter of 2013, I had approached CAM, Craig Anthony Miller, to possibly have a show at reBar. DUMBO was most definitely the place for BQE. At this point since about 2010, I kept saying that I wanted to do a Brooklyn Queens Day event. When I had a meeting with CAM about what I had in mind he was down and gave me that opportunity to curate my 1st show. DUMBO was most definitely the place for BQE.

 596: As the curator of this show what did you feel was the greatest challenge and greatest success while putting the show together?
YH:  As the curator I had many challenges during the process. Once reBar closed down in May, I faced a homeless art collective.  I knew that somehow it will happen. Whatever was meant to be it will manifest.  This chapter in my life needed to be completed with this show being the highlight.  I threw out the idea to Kel about the fact that Powerhouse was a dream space. The Dumbo community offered help to all misplaced events that were supposed to occur at reBar. Since we had to figure out where to go next, the one venue was Powerhouse. Since Kel had already showcased at Powerhouse during the BK Hip Hop festival, Kel went ahead and reached out to my Mr. Power.  Everything else just meshed. I took over the deal with the manager and started the process to make this show happen for August. Back on track I was able to continue that successful mission.

596: What was your process of selecting the artists?

YH: First and foremost the artists had to be native New Yorker’s. Specifically from BK/Queens. I did my research and since most of the artists in the collective are my personal friends I knew that each one will bring a certain style to the showcase. It was also a homage to their talent that concluded my final decision. At reBar’s the Walkway,  I was only going to have 9 artists. The space at Powerhouse came along with more walls to fill up. I needed to add those additional talented artists to the lineup. Which a few times I was told that I had a heavy hitters collective. For it being my first show, and already being told I had a heavy hitters collective, why not give myself the challenge. I always want to see how far I could go.

596: It feels as though your faith in this show was what made it transpire, what factors helped you keep moving forward it making it all happen?
YH: I pushed my vision everyday out into the universe, spoke with influential people about the idea and knew that when the time was right it will not be a disappointment.  I was feeling vulnerable in other areas in my life, but, I felt very strong about this project. The overall love of the boro’s, the people involved, the arts, the music, the fashion, and the hip hop culture of my generation was my driven source.

596: What was the funniest moment while putting the show together?
YH: The funniest moment was the first day of installation. I had no clue how to mount certain paintings onto the walls. I was seriously in need of help trying to use this drill. Shiro and one of my youth assistants started with some of the hangings. I laid the whole show out and worked with the artwork that had arrived on the 1st day.  Thank goodness my good friends Ron and Marie are professional installers. It took one phone call, they came in on the 2nd day and nailed everything out in a matter of a few hours. What a relief. A total of about over 85 paintings could have taken another day. 
596: Leading up to the opening hour, there were probably many things on your mind, what were at least three of them.
YH: Up to the hour I was still working on the gallery book. Kel was running around getting ice and water for the nights refreshments. I was still in my work clothes at 10 minutes to opening waiting for my stylist/designer, Marne J to get me dressed
and dolled up. She arrived and the rest was herstory.. 

596: During the opening, what was your favorite moment?

YH: My favorite moment was seeing my immediate family. My mom, brother, sister, my in-law’s and my little boy, Sonny dance his little heart off. Only missing was my older boy, Mikey, he was away with his dad.

596: Usually exhibitions take a lot of momentum and work, BQE had a huge successful turnout and was obviously a result of such drive. The house was packed, the music was live (especially some choice freestyle joints), the work was presented extremely well, and overall the vibes were positive and enthusiastic. The day following the event, what were you mentally going through?
YH: The following day I was upset about little things that were minor for the public to notice. However, for me it was the biggest deal. It now just goes to show that on the next production I will be more attentive to those details. 
596: Do you feel you achieved your initial goal? Do you see yourself putting together another Brooklyn/Queens Elite line up again next year?
YH: Yes, I achieved the initial goal and new ones as well.  I’m in awe at the fact that I was able to pull off such a production. I had always worked for everyone else and this time it was only me. Kel was a big help and everyone involved with the show from the community sponsors, the youth, my close friends who came together at the final hour to see this flourish. It validates that I have an amazing support system who believe in me. Although, I do plan to continue this BQE collective,  now its time to get back on track with my family before I plan the next one. My vision for this collective is at whole other level. With baby steps it will continue to grow into that bigger picture!

596: Is there a closing party or night?

YH: No we will not have a closing. However, this Saturday, August 23rd from 7PM to 12AM there will be a  screening and reception at Powerhouse featuring a new surf film Strange Rumblings — Trailer: http://www.surfingmagazine.com/video/strange-rumblings-trailer/ . The people having the screening are neighbors at a store called Aegir Boardworks.  I’ll be inviting people to this event to have a last shot to hang out there. The final day to see the show is Sunday, August 24.

What’s happening the day before the BQE show:

Kel adding a finish…

Thanks Yvette!



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